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Tampa Bay Water votes to settle reservoir suit, pay engineers $21 million in legal fees

By Craig Pittman

After losing both at trial and on appeal, Tampa Bay Water's board voted 8-0 Monday to end its pursuit of damages from the engineering company that designed its flawed 15.5 billion gallon reservoir.

Instead, the utility will pay HDR Engineering's legal fees and costs, totaling about $21 million.

"These fees will be paid through funds on hand and they will not directly affect water rates," Tampa Bay Water spokeswoman Michelle Biddle said in a statement emailed to the Times.

The utility's board really had no choice after the appeals court decision last month, explained board members Susan Latvala, Charlie Miranda and Sandra Murman.

"There were no other avenues to take," said Miranda, a Tampa city councilman.

Latvala, a Pinellas County commissioner who chairs the Tampa Bay Water board, said voting to end the suit was "one of the hardest things I've ever had to face." But given what happened in court, she said, "there's nothing left to do but pay up and move on."