Secrecy could add to the steep cost of Florida's proposed $1.75 billion buyout of U.S. Sugar.Here's the killer quote:
While state water managers held closed-door talks with U.S. Sugar about buying the company's 187,000 acres, Palm Beach County in April approved a U.S. Sugar plan for rock mining right in the middle of the area targeted for Everglades restoration.
The mining approval likely boosted the value of those 7,000 acres, according to appraisers. That could mean taxpayers will end up paying more for a big piece of the buyout, proposed to re-establish water flows between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Sugar cane land in that area appraises for about $3,400 to $5,500 an acre, compared with up to $11,000 an acre for rock mines, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser's Office.
"None of us knew anything about it," County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said about the buyout, which was announced in June. "Now they bring up this U.S. Sugar deal. ... It's very confusing to the public and to elected officials."