LIVE COVERAGE TODAY: AAF bond hearing in Tallahassee

Publish Date: 
Monday, April 20, 2015 - 7:30am

TCPalm
Treasure Coast leaders and All Aboard Florida opponents are here today for a public hearing on the proposed issuance of $1.75 billion of tax-exempt funding for the $3 billion high-speed passenger rail project.

The Florida Development Finance Corp. — the quasi-governmental agency that would issue the bonds — will hold the hearing from 9 to 11 a.m.

Treasure Coast Newspapers will cover today’s meeting live. Look for real-time updates on Twitter, Facebook and tcpalm.com throughout the morning.

Whether the organization agrees to be the conduit for All Aboard Florida’s funding has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing controversy over the project, which would run 32 trains a day through the Treasure Coast, beginning in 2017, on their way from Miami to Orlando.

In August, the finance corporation tentatively agreed to issue the bonds which All Aboard said would be used to purchase equipment and pay for track improvements and construction.

But four months later, its board was determined to be improper — members never were appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, as required by law — and its August decision was invalidated.

Last week the finance corporation scheduled this meeting to revisit the issue and accept public comment.

It’s unclear, however, if the finance corporation must take Treasure Coast comments seriously. Its authority extends only to regions mentioned in its bond application.

The Treasure Coast is the only region between Miami and Orlando that All Aboard Florida excluded from its bond application.

Local issues related to the project — such as safety, zoning, development and land use — are outside the scope of the finance corporation’s responsibilities. The quasi-governmental agency has “nothing to do with anything other than financing,” Bill Spivey, executive director, said in an earlier interview.

In fact, by planning to use the bond proceeds in five of the eight counties along its route — but not Martin, St. Lucie or Indian River — All Aboard Florida, in its application, was able to avoid mentioning any opposition.

The application asked, “Are you aware of any reason why any local government unit (city, county, special district, etc.) would not want Florida Development Finance Corp. to issue bonds in connection with this transaction?” All Aboard Florida marked “No, ” adding: “AAF has received clear and consistent support from each county in which proceeds from the private activity bond will be invested.”

Work on the Treasure Coast, an estimated $387 million, would be paid for by parent company Florida East Coast Industries, according to All Aboard