"BALANCED PRESENTATION" ON ALL ABOARD FLORIDA COMING TO VERO BEACH

Publish Date: 
Saturday, August 9, 2014 - 8:45am

PLEASE ATTEND: Seating is limited: RSVP to: Stuart Kennedy, association vice president, at skken101@aol.com, 11:45 a.m. Aug. 13 Place: Vero Beach Country Club, 800 30th St., Vero Beach

One of the Treasure Coast’s hottest controversies, whether the proposed passenger rail service All Aboard Florida should get to send 32 trains a day through the area at up to 110 mph, will roll into Vero Beach next week in what organizers describe as a “balanced presentation” by both sides.

Rusty Roberts, a vice president with All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries of Coral Gables, will speak for the return of passenger service to the area. County Commissioner Bob Solari is to discuss another side, such as how much the private company’s project could end up costing residents.

“We think this is going to be very heavily attended,” said John Kistler, president of the Taxpayers’ Association of Indian River County.

All Aboard Florida is seeking a $1.6 billion federal loan toward the estimated $2.25 billion project.

The 235-mile route would include stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, but no stops north to Cocoa, where it would head west to Orlando on new track.

The company has approvals to build between Miami and West Palm Beach, but is waiting for the Federal Railroad Administration to issue a statement on its impact to communities north of West Palm before it can complete the route.

Company officials have insisted the project will involve private money, pointing to the federal aid being loans and not grants.

Roberts couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment. But Solari said taxpayers need to be aware because the federal loans won’t come without public costs.

He estimated All Aboard Florida might get an interest rate of more than 5 percent on the $1.6 billion federal loan, while a private bank would charge about 12 percent for the remainder.

“That works out to a subsidy,” he said.

The event is scheduled for 11:45 a.m., Aug. 13 at the Vero Beach Country Club, 800 30th St.

The association, which has played host to lively political forums and heated discussions of Vero Beach’s electric utility, is no stranger to controversies.

But Kistler said this one may bring the tax-watchdog group’s largest audience. About 90 people have already reserved seats for the event, he said.

“We can easily seat 128,” he said. “But this is why we have stressed sending in RSVPs.”

Issue: Whether the proposed passenger rail service All Aboard Florida should be allowed to send 32 trains a day at up to 110 mph through the Treasure Coast between Miami and Orlando

Speakers: Rusty Roberts, vice president with Florida East Coast Industries, in favor; Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari, opposed

Event host: Indian River County Taxpayers’ Association

Time: 11:45 a.m. Aug. 13

Place: Vero Beach Country Club, 800 30th St., Vero Beach

RSVP to: Stuart Kennedy, association vice president, at skken101@aol.com