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Commission appeals suit dismissal

Pinellas County commissioners decided Tuesday night to appeal the recent dismissal of a county lawsuit against a group of water activists.

A Hernando County Circuit Court judge dismissed the suit, filed more than a year ago by Pinellas County. It sought to stop the activists from filing a class-action lawsuit against Pinellas seeking compensation for alleged environmental damage at well fields in Pasco County.

The suit cost Pinellas $150,000 in legal bills and drew considerable public criticism.

The appeal, according to the county's attorney on water issues, will add another $25,000 to $30,000. But if the county wins the appeal, it would avoid having to compensate the activists for their legal bills, estimated to be $150,000.

Commissioners also agreed Tuesday to pay more than half the cost of a $165,000 West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority project that will funnel about 1-million gallons of water a day from the Hillsborough River in Tampa to consumers in northwest Hillsborough County.

Commissioners two weeks ago balked at funding the project, from which Pinellas will get no water, in the hopes that the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority would fund it out of its reserve funds. But after hearing that the authority does not have enough in reserves to pay for the project, the commissioners agreed to pay the $92,000 requested.