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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ah, the Cost of Secrecy

Sometimes, secrecy means that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, as evidenced by this story:

Secrecy could add to the steep cost of Florida's proposed $1.75 billion buyout of U.S. Sugar.

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.

Here's the killer quote:

"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."

More here.

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