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Tampa Bay Water has decided to hire a German-Spanish consortium to fix its troubled desalination plant for about $30 million, despite concerns over unknown costs that could drive up rates.
The consortium of American Water Services/Pridesa outbid the $50 million offer of its only rival, French-owned Veolia. Tampa Bay Water's board voted 6-1 Monday in favor of American Water.
The utility staff estimates the repair could increase the monthly cost of water for the average customer by 72 cents.
The utility's general manager, Jerry Maxwell, said a contract could be ready for the board's approval Nov. 15, but it could be between $29 million and $32 million. It will be 2006 before the plant is fully operating againthree years after its original deadline.
The $110 million desalination plant, the largest in the United States, has had to overcome three bankruptcies and a series of missed deadlines. Tampa Bay Water decided in February to pay plant builder Covanta $5 million to go away, ending three months of legal wrangling.
Launched with much fanfare in 1999, the desalination plant was seen as the solution to the Tampa Bay region's problem of over-pumping groundwater for drinking water supplies.