Email from Mike Rooney to Brenda de Anda-Swann and Eric Huseby of KVIA-TV, with CC to Site Trustee, Roberto Puga

Email Subject Heading: Saving ASARCO smoke stacks — BAIT & SWITCH — What are long term costs and liabilities to City??

Hi Brenda and Eric.

[P] Please THANK Maria Garcia for her report last night — alerting the community about the Save The Stacks group’s plan to ask the City next Tuesday — to apparently take over the ASARCO smoke stacks. In addition, reporter Daniel Borunda added more detail to last night’s report — in this morning’s edition of El Paso TIMES. [See ITEM 1 for that El Paso TIMES article — BELOW].

[P] Kindly examine the El Paso TIMES editorial of two years ago. [See ITEM 2 editorial — BELOW]. Believe that editorial may have been supported by an El Paso TIMES survey — which also seemed to reflect the feelings of participants in a community meeting held by Mr. Puga’s group in the downtown library. What has changed since that time?

[P] That causes me to ask, especially since that editorial states — “Mayor John Cook said he will not ask City Council to raise property taxes to pay for saving the stack. He said it “would be a waste of taxpayer money” — are people playing a “Bait and Switch” game with our community?

[P] What are the long term costs and liabilities to El Paso — if the City takes over these ASARCO smoke stacks?

[P] Below are two e-mails that Mr. Puga was most generous to post on the Recasting The Smelter website. [See ITEM 3 e-mails — BELOW]. One states:

———- “Attended your team’s informative update to the community held on November 3, 2011 at the downtown main library. During the QUESTION & ANSWER portion of the meeting β€” I ASK what would happen if that largest smoke stack were TO EVER FALL DOWN in the future β€” and you said if it fell towards the border with Mexico β€” it would fall across the railroad tracks and Paisano.”
———- “Since Paisano is the likely future route of the Border Highway West β€” you could potentially have a major roadway and railway closed β€” causing noticeable economic impact. Because of your CAUTION to my question β€” I provided the BELOW e-mail INPUT to officials β€” who will be conducting the December 8, 2011 public meeting β€” on the Loop 375 Border Highway WEST Extension Project.”
[P] In the second e-mail it states — “Therefore, it would be PRUDENT TO KNOW β€” if one of those smoke stacks was ever to collapse and fall over β€” how much safe clearance arena is necessary β€” to prevent damage to any future construction on that ASARCO property? Is 1,000-feet around that smoke stack area β€” a safe distance? In addition, if all that concrete mass was to ever collapse and fall over β€” would it create any kind of earthquake like damage to surrounding structures or buildings β€” or would any potential damage simply be localized?”

———- [P] Bottom line — Mr. Puga’s actions to alert City Council and our community — about the potential long term costs of keeping these old ASARCO smoke stacks — certainly seems reasonable and responsible, plus most prudent!

[P] Therefore, it seem most reasonable to ask the Save The Stacks group and City Council — to describe in detail the long term costs and liabilities they envision El Paso undertaking to keep and preserve these ASARCO smoke stacks.

[P] From following this issue — it seems some have done all they could to cast doubt on this earlier projection by Mr. Puga — “A trust overseeing the cleanup of the Asarco area estimated it would cost $14 million to repair and maintain the structure over a 50-year period,” If you divide $14-Million by 50-years — that gives $280,000. When you consider the cost of maintenance, upkeep and insurance — is Mr. Puga’s estimate really flawed?

[P] Now looking at the Save The Stacks economic projection — “but Save the Stacks estimates the cost would be $3.9 million.” If you divide $3.9-Million by 50-years — that would give a $78,000 yearly projection.

[P] Therefore, it might seem a prudent and responsible governmental measure — to resolve these differences in cost projections.

[P] So I hope your reporting staff — along with their fellow reporters in the local news media — will examine and report on this ASARCO smoke stack issue in detail. Again, What are the long term costs and liabilities to El Paso?

———————– THANK YOU and Sincerely, Mike Rooney.

***** POST SCRIPT:

—– Now why did I use such a loaded term as “BAIT & SWITCH” in the subject of this e-mail? As some of you know I’ve questioned the need at this time — for a $90-Million limited area, short distance trolley or street car — when that money could be used to build two Bus Rapid Transit Routes and serve a larger number of transit riders.

—– Attended a November 14, 2012 meeting of the Transportation Project Advisory Committee for the Transportation Policy Board — and discovered the item listed at the first ATTACHMENT. That item shows the apparent cost of the trolley — is $118.4-Million when you factor in inflation. That number splits to $59.2-Million to be funded by the FTA Small Starts program — and $59.2-Million in local Certificates of Obligation.

—– As I recall the public is being told via the news media — that the FEDs will pay the entire $90-Million cost of this limited area trolley — with local property taxpayers only picking up the Operating costs. When I questioned this items during the meeting — was told by a responsible member of the MPO staff — that this was only a “place marker” for accounting purposes.

—– Then I found a most interesting El Paso TIMES article — at the second ATTACHMENT — about New Orleans’ street car initiative — and had to wonder if El Paso is applying for funds under the same FTA program as New Orleans? Therefore, is the City providing the full details on this $90-Million trolley?

ITEM 1 — El Paso TIMES article by Daniel Borunda

********** EXTRACTS from the BELOW El Paso TIMES article by Daniel Borunda:

———- Faced with an approaching deadline, activists fighting to save the Asarco smokestacks are urging the El Paso City Council to take over the towers and spare them from demolition when a resolution goes to council next week.

———- A trust overseeing the cleanup of the Asarco area estimated it would cost $14 million to repair and maintain the structure over a 50-year period, but Save the Stacks estimates the cost would be $3.9 million.

———- Roberto Puga, the trustee in charge of cleaning up and selling the Asarco site, said in an email last week that that his trust duties include taking any appropriate action “to maximize the sale price of the property to help pay for the remediation and cleanup costs.”

———- He wrote that several parties interested in the Asarco land are not interested in purchasing the site if the smokestacks remain.

———- If the city wants to buy the smokestacks, Puga wrote, it will have to pay a price “at least equal to what the Trustee could have received from other interested parties who were willing to purchase the Property without the stacks.”

———- The letter also says that the city stands to lose an estimated $5 million to $5.5 million in tax revenues if it buys the land.

Deadline to save Asarco stacks: Resolution asks for El Paso City Council rescue | El Paso TIMES article by Daniel Borunda

ITEM 2 β€” El Paso TIMES editorial

********** EXTRACTS from the BELOW El Paso TIMES editorial:

———- We say bring down the stack.

———- If it would be cost-effective to keep it, that would be different. Then we could deem it an icon and be done with it. But, at a cost of $14 million for modifications and then maintenance … let’s just say it’s not that much of an icon.

———- Mayor John Cook said he will not ask City Council to raise property taxes to pay for saving the stack. He said it “would be a waste of taxpayer money.
———- If the stack ever collapsed on its own, it would raise a very unhealthy, gagging dust cloud full of pollutants.

Asarco stack: Don’t pay to keep it standing | El Paso TIMES editorial

ITEM 3 — My two e-mails posted on the Recast The Smelter website

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