BY BUDDY NEVINS
Tiny Southeast Ranches is facing an estimated $2 million in attorney fees after an appeals court ruling.
It’s the latest chapter in the long battle over the construction of an immigration detention center in the town. And this chapter could hit the residents of the leafy, horsy town hard. In the pocket.
Why some homeowners may even have to sell their horses.
For roughly 15 years Pembroke Pines has fought against the construction of a federal detention center for 1,800 immigrants near its western suburbs in Southwest Ranches.
Southwest Ranches wanted the center, which was planned for town land in a sprawling industrial park. After years of sniping in the media and lawsuits, the federal government pulled the plug on the proposed center.
Southwest Ranches sued Pembroke Pines.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals earlier this month affirmed a jury’s earlier finding that Pembroke Pines was not liable for damages to Southwest Ranches for the federal decision not to build the facility.
“The taxpayers of the Town of Southwest Ranches will now be responsible for paying the attorneys’ fees of both their own attorneys as well the attorneys for the City (of Pembroke Pines), a total amount of fees which will likely exceed $2,000,000,” crows a news release from Pembroke Pines.
That kind of money could hurt Southwest Ranches. The town has only 7,500 residents. Its total operating budget for 2022-2023 is $18.8 million.
The tiny town is expected to spend over $800,000 for “prosecutions and lawsuits” in the 2022-2023 budget year, the budget states. The ruling could push that figure, already large for a small community, much higher if the town indeed has to pay Pembroke Pines’ legal fees, too.
All this is contingent on the appeals court ruling holding up. And the $2 million figure from Pembroke Pines is correct.
Regardless, the Southwest Ranches Town Hall crowd should face a blistering quizzing by residents.
The first question. Why did Town Hall keep pushing this lawsuit after losing a similar one filed by the Corrections Corporation of America over the same issues?