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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials August 27, 2015

8/15/2013 6:01:00 AM
Editorial: Pricy project could boost Arizona town
The Daily Courier

This was in the news last week: The federal government spent an average of more than $600,000 each to build 21 new homes for Customs and Border Protection personnel in Ajo. The project cost a total of $13 million.

A lot of folks around here know about Ajo, a former mining town known for the big "A" on the mountain and gigantic tailings piles left over from a copper mining operation that once was one of the state's largest. Now, it's more or less a town we pass through on the way to points south, or stop in to buy Mexican car insurance.

It's notable, though, that passing through Ajo gives a real sense of how communities rise and fall in unison with the industries that settle there. Along the highway and on the surrounding streets stand row after row of houses put up during the heyday of the mine, most of which have fallen into various states of disrepair and neglect. According to the Arizona Daily Star, houses similar in size to those now occupied by CBP people go for less than $100,000. Even that seems high, if one doesn't consider the recent rise in demand created by the nation's enhanced desire for border control.

In fairness, the $13 million that CBP spent to build its latest subdivision didn't all go for the homes and land alone. Included in the cost are such amenities as appliances and furnishings, paved streets and solar panels.

The agency has stated that the buildup of agents on the southern border has created housing shortages throughout the Southwest, and that many of the agents stationed in Ajo commute from the Phoenix area, or from Tucson or Gila Bend. Now, at least 21 more border agent families will be able to live near their work and, as a result, contribute to the economy of a town that has fallen far from its prime.

Twenty-one new homes hardly constitute a boom, at least in the classic sense of a land rush, but it is interesting to note the effect an infusion of federal money can have.

Sometimes you get waste and corruption. But in this case, the bottom line seems to be an increasingly safe border along with dollars that keep on circulating in a once-forlorn little town.

We get that the idea of depending on government money for economic recovery is, for some, a bit too close to socialism. But it sure seems nice when, once in a while, fulfilling the wishes of the people - in this case for safer borders - can have a dual benefit.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: J K

Thank you "I Am Not Sure What The Editor Had In Mind".
A very informative bit of research you passed on and I suspected that was the case. I have found that providing facts moves MOST of them along to complain about the government or the hopelessness of everything on the next letter, editorial or article. It appears that creating and passing along conspiracy theories is a full time proposition. The Prescott chapter that provides this service appears to have an abundance of well qualified members, but they are hard to identify in public. Seems they are required to wear their tin foil hats in the closet.

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: CHARLENE CRAIG

COMMENT BY Bigger Picture Revealed

There are many shades of gray to this story that are not revealed by the info provided. Here are some facts on the Ajo housing from someone who resides there part time and lives 1 blocks from these new homes:
1) These houses were built to replace substandard agent housing with security issues right on the border at Lukeville.
2) These very "Green", low footprint use houses are built to very strict LEED standards for max energy & water efficiency. That added an extra level of cost, but also a desirable sustainable housing community.
3) Additional houses are expected to be built in future phases so the cost/ unit will be reduced. A large percentage of cost went towards acquisition and sight prep so this figure skewed and accentuates the perceived cost excess. More meaningful is knowing the cost /unit as it compares to you or I buying that same house without all the infrastructure.
4) These properties are being rented out & generate income so their true cost will be reduced over many years.
5) This investment in Ajo was a far greater use of taxpayer dollars than the extremely high per diem $75-180/day payment by the US government for agents and officers to pay for hotels and local rental housing.
6) Yes, housing is much cheaper in Ajo but realize most currently available housing stock here was built 40-80 years ago and averages less than 900 sq. ft. with few of the standard amenities (A/C's dishwashers, tile floors, more than one bathroom) you would expect to find in today's modern houses. This is not a good comparison to what was built.

I hope this fills in important details and offers greater insight on this issue.

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: I Am Not Sure What the Editor Had In Mind

When this editorial was written. It seems they are backhandedly trying to expose gov't waste, so the $600,000 per unit was thrown out there. I went to the GSA website and checked. There was no available housing in Ajo when these were built, agents were living in motels. The reason the costs were so high per unit, was because they had to buy land, build roads, water, sewer and power systems for only 21 units. A typical subdivision spreads those costs out over 100s of units. It wasn't cheap but it solved the problem. I am against gov't waste, but mindless gov't bashing is not helping.

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Why is this a Daily Courier editorial? There is nothing here except another example of wasted tax dollars.

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: timmeah timmeah

I love it! The wingnutters want the militarized border guarded against all the horrible brown people and all you can do is gripe! Of course you mouth breathers have never been to Ajo (or anywhere else in the state except Phoenix for doctor's visits) and have no idea what obstacles present themselves to construction in the middle of nowhere. Of course it's expensive, It's the FEDS! when has ANYTHING been done on the cheap with the federal government involved? Remember YOU are the ones who want the border to look like a war zone!

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: Holy Cow

A 170000 - 200,000 average home is not good enough! Really, we need to impeach the flippin federal government, they are out of control.

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: common senzi

$600,000 each to build 21 new homes

That seems like a lot but apparently it includes the refrigerator and stove.

Maybe they could bring costs down by hiring illegals?

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: Remember The Alamo

Is it any wonder why we are $17 trillion in debt?

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: An American

Cry me a river, we all have jobs, Oops, some of us have jobs, and we must provide for our own housing and transportation to these jobs. If as our Federal government keeps bragging, that our borders are now safer than ever, I fail to see the need for this waste of taxpaters money. I am also not ignorant of the governments end game..
Only the government can spend $600k per unit in Ajo, a town that when I was growing up held the dubious honor of selling more alcohol per capita than anyother town in the nation.

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: There You Go Again

You are all out of other people's money. We do not have the money for 'nice to do' projects. The leftists have crushed the economy with over taxation and regulation, there is nothing left.

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