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Water board balks at price of study

Officials don't want to pay nearly $1-million to examine the pumping of additional groundwater

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000


CLEARWATER -- Tampa Bay Water board members expected to see a $265,000 contract to study the feasibility of pumping another 4-million gallons of groundwater a day from the Cypress Bridge area.

So when utility staffers instead asked them to approve a $950,138 contract during Tampa Bay Water's Monday meeting, board members balked and ordered staff back to the negotiating table.

"I think it sends a wonderfully positive message (to private consultants) that carte blanche is not available," said Pasco County Commissioner Steve Simon.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms agreed and said that the water board's decision last week to seek a second seawater desalination plant for the area was intended to eliminate the need for groundwater projects such as the proposed Cypress Bridge II well field in Pasco County.

"I'm troubled by spending $1-million or even $500,000 on a project that isn't our priority," Storms said.

Tampa Bay Water General Manager Jerry Maxwell said he thinks his staff will be able to whittle down the consultants' price by cutting elements of the contract but said the increase in price was due to a recent change in permitting requirements by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud.

And even though the water board voted last week to prioritize a second desal plant before considering any new groundwater projects, Maxwell said board members need to keep all options open until the final water projects are picked next year. If the board doesn't go through with the feasibility study of Cypress Bridge II, Maxwell said, it never will know whether it is a viable project.

Board members also:

  • Delayed until next month a plan to slightly increase pumping at two well fields and decrease it at two others to meet demand in northwest Hillsborough.

  • Delayed a vote to review Maxwell's performance and extend his contract until all members have had a chance to study the terms of Maxwell's contract.

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