$158K for state border fence so far

2011-08-08T14:00:00Z 2011-08-08T16:11:39Z $158K for state border fence so farBrady McCombs Arizona Daily Star
August 08, 2011 2:00 pm  • 

Through 18 days, the state website to collect funds for a border fence has raised $158,430 — an average of $8,801 a day.

The pace has slowed down considerably since the brisk first two days when $80,000 came in.

The total includes $120,420 from 2,663 online donors, said Mike Philipsen, spokesman for Senate Republicans. The rest, $38,010, has come from 658 mail-in donors, he said.

The website went live at 12:01 p.m. on July 20 under a bill passed by the Arizona Legislature in April and sponsored by first year Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa. Smith said he won't accept the federal government's stance that there are enough barriers along the border.

His goal is to raise $50 million.

At this current pace, it would take about 16 years (5,681 days to be exact) to reach that goal.

It would take 20 months at this pace to raise $5.2 million, which it would take to build two miles of the type of border fence Smith envisions.

Smith said his wish would be to build an 18-foot-high steel beam fence such as the one up along 6.24 miles of border west of the San Pedro River in Cochise County. That fence was built by Kiewit Western Co. under a $16.6 million contract in 2008 - an average of $2.6 million per mile, information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows.

It cost between $2.6 million to $7.4 million per mile to build hundreds of miles of new fencing in Arizona over the last five years. The most recent project, replacing 2.8 miles of old fence in Nogales, cost $4.14 million per mile.

Smith expects a state-supported fence to cost less because the state would use inmate labor at 50 cents an hour and because he expects competitive bids from construction companies.

More than four-fifths of Arizona's 378 miles of Mexican border have some type of border barrier already. There are 123 miles of pedestrian fences, 12- to 25-foot-high barriers designed to stop, or at least slow down, people. There are another 183 miles of vehicle barriers, waist- to chest-high barricades designed to stop cars.

Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, who chairs the Joint Border Security Advisory Committee created in the bill, said last month that would rather use some of the money contributed by people across the nation to purchase underground sensors.

When I spoke with Smith last month for a story on the fence, he said he's aware of the magnitude of the project but said that standing by and accepting the federal government's refusal to build more fences is not an option.

"Somebody has to put the first foot on the ladder and start climbing," said Smith. "Border security is the name of the game. That's why we are doing this."

 

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