CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay Water directors agreed Monday to prepare for an appeal of the recent federal court decision letting the firm that designed the regional reservoir off the hook for more than $100 million in repairs.
Tampa Bay Water's board voted unanimously to move ahead with an appeal of the April verdict finding HDR Engineering did not breach its standard of care in designing the C.W. Bill Young Reservoir in southeastern Hillsborough County.
The appeal would come only if the public utility loses a pending motion seeking a new trial.
Once the judge rules on that motion, the board has a 30-day window to appeal the jury verdict. The directors decided to have lawyers prepare the filings in case the judge rules before their next meeting.
"We were all pretty much on the same church pew," said Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand, a Pasco County commissioner. "We felt we had a strong case then and we have a strong case today."
An appeal could bring HDR back to the negotiating table with Tampa Bay Water, she said.
The utility serves more than 2 million Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough ratepayers.
Tampa Bay Water has legal fees surpassing $10 million. It filed its original lawsuit in 2008 against HDR Engineering, contractor Barnard Construction and construction manager CDG, due to abnormal cracks in the reservoir's interior lining.
Tampa Bay Water reached a $6 million settlement with CDG in 2010 and a $750,000 settlement with Barnard Construction in 2011. Last fall, HDR offered to settle the suit for $30 million but water officials rejected the offer.