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ORLANDO-Desperate to expand its Sarno Road landfill, Brevard County Commissioners today concede they may have grossly overpaid for a 68-acre tract two years ago when they cut a $7.25 million deal with Melbourne, FL-based Forte-Macaulay Development Co.

The firm paid $1.2 million or 40 cents per sf for the land from an undisclosed seller the same day it sold the dirt to the county for $2.45 per sf–a $6 million profit or a return on investment of 500%.

Melbourne, a space industry hub, is 50 miles south of Downtown Orlando.

Commissioners couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But Commissioner Randy O’Brien tells Orlando Sentinel, “Something stinks. I feel we were snookered. I’m just not sure by who.”

Scott Ellis, Brevard County Clerk of Courts, tells the same newspaper, “If there wasn’t criminal wrongdoing, then this is the biggest mistake I’ve ever seen.”

Area land brokers familiar with the deal tell GlobeSt.com they are not sure why the issue is surfacing two years after the deal was done.

“It sounds to me as if some commissioners want to clear their consciences and names before the next election rolls around,” a Melbourne developer, not associated with the transaction, tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

If that’s the case, it won’t be the first time commissioners suspected they were taken on the deal. Asked to investigate the deal a year ago, Orlando-based Cardwell Law Firm told elected officials they grossly overpaid for the land with taxpayers’ funds.

County staffers advised commissioners to go through with the deal because the county purportedly would gross about $25 million in future sales from the 68-acre expansion of the landfill.

Commissioners also relied on two independent appraisals of $10.2 million and $12.8 million. Ellis, the clerk of courts, disagrees with those appraisals and is valuing the 68 acres for the $1.2 million price Forte-Macaulay paid for the dirt.

Referring to the county staff’s future revenue expectations, Ellis tells the Sentinel, “You don’t appraise a vacant piece of property with a make-believe business on it.”

Ellis says, “Numbers were concocted without backup data to generate a cash-flow analysis of the non-existence business.”

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