Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Reservoir designer rejects shorter trial in Tampa Bay Water suit over damage

CLEARWATER — When the lawsuit over the cracks in Tampa Bay Water's reservoir goes to trial next month, jurors will have to sit through weeks of testimony about construction materials and techniques.

The water agency's board voted Monday to take a different tack with the case that would have speeded up the trial, slated to start March 12 in federal court in Tampa. But the only remaining defendant in the case, reservoir designer HDR Engineering, wouldn't agree to shortening the trial.

Tampa Bay Water's board wanted to use what's known as a "summary trial." Instead of a parade of witnesses who would be examined and cross-examined, most of the evidence would be summed up by the attorneys. A summary trial just takes three to four days, said the agency's counsel, Richard Harrison.

U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore proposed the idea, Harrison said. Summary trials were popular in federal court until about 15 years ago, when they were largely replaced by arbitration. Whittemore, contemplating a lengthy trial full of complicated, technical testimony, suggested both sides consider reviving it, Harrison said.

However, after the vote, HDR said it would not agree to shortening the trial or eliminating any of the testimony to save time.

The utility opened the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in 2005 to store water skimmed from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Tampa Bypass Canal. The reservoir covers 1,100 acres in Hillsborough County.

Workers discovered cracks in December 2006. The cracks were not deemed to be a safety hazard, but Tampa Bay Water officials have long said they hoped the companies that designed and built the reservoir would bear most, if not all, of the $122 million cost of fixing its cracks.

Their suits against two of the contractors were settled for $6.75 million, leaving only HDR.

A proposal to settle with HDR for $30 million fell one vote short of being accepted last fall. Two weeks later, though, the board voted unanimously to reject the settlement, contending it isn't fair to make the ratepayers foot the bill for repairing a problem the utility says was caused by a bad design.

HDR contends the problem could be solved with a maintenance program for less than $1 million a year.

The board will hold one last special meeting on March 9 to discuss the upcoming trial before it starts.

Craig Pittman can be reached at

Reservoir designer rejects shorter trial in Tampa Bay Water suit over damage 02/20/12 [Last modified: Monday, February 20, 2012 10:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Algae bloom and fish kill confirmed in Old Tampa Bay


    An algae bloom and fish kill have been confirmed in Old Tampa Bay from Safety Harbor to the south end of the Bayside Bridge.

  2. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's former IT worker, his wife indicted in bank fraud scheme

    State Roundup

    U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's former information technology aide and his wife have been indicted on bank fraud charges.

    U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, photographed in her Sunrise office. (Mike Stocker/Sun-Sentinel/TNS)
  3. Long before Trump hired (and fired) him, Steve Bannon was making deals and kindling political fires in Florida


    With Steve Bannon leaving the White House soon, we're re-posting this Leary-Smith look at Bannon's significant, if mysterious, Florida ties.

    Steve Bannon’s voter registration from August 2016 shows he moved from Miami to Nokomis in Sarasota County.
  4. Rick Baker won't recuse himself from city business with his current boss Bill Edwards


    ST. PETERSBURG — If Rick Baker is elected mayor, he said he will not recuse himself from any city business involving his current boss, businessman Bill Edwards.

    Rick Baker and Bill Edwards listen to NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson during a press conference at the Mahaffey Theater in 2013 announcing that Edwards was the team's new owner. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]

  5. Spooky Empire brings Spooky Day in the Parks to Disney World


    Foolish mortals, evil queens and hook-handed pirates finally get their own day this year at Walt Disney World.

    Spooky Day in the Parks comes to Disney World Sept. 22-24.