U.S. Border Patrol Facility at Why, AZ to Open Late Summer, 2012

May 12, 2012 by Linda Sharp

Travelers heading north out of Rocky Point will observe a new, large U.S. Border Patrol facility in Why, AZ on the east side of Highway 85.

Facility Description: Millions have been spent on this new facility, which has been enclosed with a security fence, information and warning signs. At this time, requests for the exact amount required for a completed project have not been available.

This new facility falls under the direction of the Tucson Sector, Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security with Secretary Janet Napolitano, Arizona’s former governor, being the top official.

Animals are part of the Why Border Patrol operations and will continue. K-9 dogs and horses for agents working the desert will work with this station year-round. K-9 dogs have been part of law enforcement work for decades, and nowhere is the demand greater than in drug smuggling operations.

Dogs are believed to have 1,000 times the ability to detect odors than a human. Do you think you have a sensitive nose and pick up odors quickly? Imagine if you were to have l,000 times that ability. Intense and specific training is required of the K-9s working with border drug enforcement.

The Tucson Sector, U.S Border Patrol operations includes about 90 square miles, with headquarters being located in Tucson.

The facility in Why will comprise 59,500 s.f., with an additional 8,400 s.f. of storage. It is designed to accommodate 300 – 400 agents. In order to increase and decrease staffing with demand, the Tucson Sector moves its staff from one part of its area to the other, sometimes changing assignments without notice. Further, the entire U.S. Border Patrol is able to provide trained officers to the area with the greatest need by making temporary assignments.

Staffing: Ajo, AZ, about 13 miles north of Why on Highway 85, has seen a small increase in rentals and home sales by the increased staffing at the Why facility, but not nearly what most Ajoites anticipated when Public Relations with the Border Patrol announced in 2008 that staffing would swell and the new facility began construction.

The Border Patrol, like any government agency, does not dictate where staff will live. It is believed that more than half of the Why staff live either in the Tucson, Phoenix or Maricopa areas. A commute of 4 hours each work day is required for most who make those choices. Officers interviewed about their choice to live so far away state family matters, including spouses who have good jobs in the cities, school-age children – and believing that Ajo schools don’t meet family expectations, and general life-style choices.

Government Housing: GSA (U.S. agency General Services Administration) decided to attempt to counter-act the reluctance of experienced officers to accept a transfer to the Lukeville-Why areas by offering low-cost, brand new housing in Ajo. Without any legally required public notice for RFPs, construction or materials, the GSA brought in 20 small trailers to Shadow Ridge RV Park in Ajo in 2011, offering very low rents to officers willing to live there. The GSA has paid more than double for the Shadow Ridge units, compared to what would be spent for identical or superior trailers in Palm Creek RV Resort in Casa Grande. In addition, in 2010, GSA began an Environmental Assessment process with the goal of bringing in 56 new two-bedroom 1300 s.f. manufactured homes at 55 Sahuaro Street in Ajo. Almost all public speakers, those writing the GSA and letters to theAjo Copper News editor have objected to the environmental, social and economic justice of the estimated $35,000,000 project at 55 Sahuaro. It is estimated that these small manufactured homes will cost approximately $600,000 each, while a private contractor could have easily provided the equivalent quality of either new homes or updated and fully renovated existing home purchases in Ajo of $150,000 each.

Further controversy is the GSA’s complete refusal to acknowledge that it is creating a further decline in housing price sales in Ajo, already hurt by the housing downturn in Arizona. GSA officials have justified their decisions by the “urgent need for quality housing” for government workers in Ajo.

One wonders why government workers the GSA proposes to house would need better housing than other government workers in Ajo, or snowbirds or general homeowners in Ajo, plenty of whom are discriminating owners taking pride in their homes.

GSA’s decision to bring in new, overpriced housing for government workers has not changed the desire of Border Patrol workers to live in Tucson, Phoenix or Maricopa. Ask the officers along the road who have the temporary Border Patrol stops where they live. The majority will say something other than Ajo or Why.

Location: When driving north out of Rocky Point to Ajo, keep your eyes open as you pass thru Why, 87 miles north, on your right. The new facility will be an amazing project when complete and operating.

PHOTO CAPTIONS

*55 Sahuaro, Sh Ridge 007*

55 Sahuaro St. Ajo, AZ where the GSA is building 21 more 2 br

manufactured homes @ $600,000 each to rent to year-round government workers living

in the area. To be ready for occupancy October, 2012.

*55 Sahuaro, Sh Ridge 001*

The 20 tiny 1 br. trailers GSA hauled into Ajo in August, 2011 and

rents for $65/month to year-round government workers in the area.

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