Water board reviews options on leaky reservoir
CLEARWATER - In the aftermath of a crushing defeat in court, Tampa Bay Water's board remains mum about its legal options as severe cracking continues at the regional reservoir. As water drains from the 15.5 billion-gallon C.W. Bill Young reservoir, the soil cement lining the inner walls continues to pull apart. "When it was built there was no expectation that you were going to have anything beyond the normal routine cracking. This far exceeds normal routine," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Tampa Bay Water board member. The agency argues that severe cracking at the reservoir in Hillsborough County was caused by a bad design by HDR Engineering. Tampa Bay Water sued the engineering firm, but the trial ended last week when a jury rejected the agency's effort to force the company to pick up the $122 million repair bill.Board member Neil Brickfield, a Pinellas county commissioner, still feels the sting. "We had a hundred million-dollar trial. We got shutout. Yes, I'm unhappy like every ratepayer in Pinellas County and Tampa Bay is unhappy," Brickfield said. He made a motion at Monday's meeting to fire the agency's trial attorney, Richard Harrison. "Clearly the legal team we've had in place for me hasn't lived up to expectations or the expectations of ratepayers of Tampa Bay," Brickfield said. His motion died when it failed to receive a second. "We bought a reservoir that should drain six inches a day without cracking. If it drains over two inches a day, we get big cracks, not little cracks,'' Brickfield said. "We went to trial. We lost that trial. We're headed for other options, and I believe it's a great time to change our legal team and get a fresh set of eyes, people who are expert in the appeals motion process." Harrison said he wasn't surprised by Brickfield's motion. "There's always somebody who's unhappy,'' Harrison said. "It's always easy to blame the lawyer when you don't like the outcome." The board met behind closed doors to discuss its options, and members remained tight-lipped about the agency's next steps. "Anytime you hand over anything as complicated as this to a jury you could lose, but I'm satisfied that we did everything that we could've done," Sharpe said.