BRADENTON, Fla. — A federal judge has denied Tampa Bay Water’s motion for a new trial in its case involving the design of Florida’s largest reservoir that began to crack shortly after opening in 2005.
The ruling means that the regional water supplier will move forward with an appeal. At the same time, the agency is preparing to sell bonds to pay for a portion of the repairs to the 15.5 billion-gallon facility.
TBW had sought to recover more than $100 million from HDR Engineering Inc. A jury decided in April that the design firm owed nothing for repairs. Before filing suit against HDR four years ago, TBW rejected a $30 million settlement.
The agency’s governing board had already decided to appeal if its request for a new trial was denied. Judge James Whittemore refused to permit a new trial on Aug. 3.
HDR is seeking $22 million for attorneys’ fees and related costs, according to court filings.
Tampa Bay Water’s attorney, Richard Harrison, objected to HDR’s expenses in a filing last month and said that the water supplier has “efficiently prosecuted” its case.
Harrison also said TBW has been billed $5.25 million for the work of its primary legal team, plus another $293,383 for legal fees billed by outside special insurance counsel.
The governing board meets Monday and is expected to receive an update on the case in a closed-door session.
During the meeting, the board also will be asked to approve the sale of up to $85 million of revenue bonds. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the reservoir’s repairs.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch is expected to be the book-runner for the negotiated sale, which is expected to price in early January, according to TBW documents.
The board will also be asked to approve a $129.4 million contract with CH2M Hill for the design and construction of reservoir repairs, as well as five years of maintenance.
Tampa Bay Water provides wholesale water to the public utility systems in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, as well as the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa.
The agency has about $1.05 billion of outstanding revenue bonds rated AA-plus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s, and Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service.