The TC Palm: St. Lucie antes up $500,000 to stop All Aboard Florida
Posted on May 6, 2015
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — The County Commission Tuesday allocated $500,000 to its fight against All Aboard Florida, ending two months of hand wringing over whether it really was committed to stopping the high-speed passenger railroad.
In a 5-0 vote, the commission approved transferring the money from the general emergency fund for legal costs in the effort to block All Aboard Florida, the $3 billion project that would connect Miami and Orlando. Beginning in 2017, All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, would send 32 trains a day through the Treasure Coast, at speeds up to 110 mph. There would be no stops north of West Palm Beach.
In making the commitment, the commission was following Indian River and Martin counties, which in February set aside $2.7 million and $1.4 million, respectively, for legal costs to fight All Aboard Florida.
The commission initially balked at spending the money, saying it needed a plan for how it would be spent and then saying it could not afford added expense because of its $4.7 million deficit.
However, opponents of the railroad sent the commission dozens of emails blasting them for not budgeting the money and questioning county officials’ resolve to fight All Aboard Florida.
“This is not a case of how much money to spend toward All Aboard Florida,” said resident Ingrid Van Hekken said, “ but for our survival. This is your opportunity to do the right thing and join our neighbors to fight and stop All Aboard Florida.”
The commission in June passed a resolution calling the All Aboard Florida “a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.”
The county has spent more than $15,000 fighting the project, paying a Tallahassee law firm to research legal options. It also shares another Tallahassee law firm with Indian River and Martin counties, researching shared concerns.
“Maintaining this allocation in a separate fund apart from the County Attorney’s Office budget isolates these expenses and allows for ease of tracking the expenses incurred for the legal fight against All Aboard Florida,” Budget Director Asheley Hepburn wrote in a memo to the commission.
The commission will continue discussions in July, during its annual budget session.
If the commission wanted to set aside $1 million to pay for legal expenses, it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $6.43 a year in property taxes.