Email from Lisa McNiel to Site Trustee Roberto Puga regarding One Month Extension for Save the Stacks Group

Roberto Puga’s response is bolded.

Dear Mr. Puga,

I was hoping that I had misread the newspaper articles but apparently not. Did you see the fiasco on the front page that the pro-smoke stack group wants for our city? We will not only be the laughing stock of Texas but of the entire country. Please take the safety message off your site because safety is not your priority or the Save the Stacks group either. The first words that come out of their mouths is not, “We will do everything we can not to cut corners and to ensure the public’s safety,” but instead, “What if I told you that maintaining the stacks will cost half?” This is a direct quote to one of my friends by the pro-smoke stack leader.

A year ago you PROMISED no more extensions, and don’t even tell me that the group has met the conditions because they haven’t. They would not need so many extensions if they had. You have broken your promises. I guess the 80 per cent of us who are concerned with public safety and not private enterprise, the 80 per cent of us who do not want to pay to maintain the smoke stacks, the 80 per cent of us who can not wine and dine city officials or big money, DO NOT COUNT. I have emailed the mayor, my city reps, and anyone else I could think of. I am attaching my letters to the editor that will probably not get published, but at least I am exercising my freedom of speech. I apologize for the bluntness of my remarks, but you are probably used to that by now. I hope I didn’t yell too much on your cell, but quite frankly, I feel betrayed.


Lisa McNiel

Roberto Puga’s response:

Dear Professor McNiel,

Thank you for calling and writing me about the one month extension that I granted to the Save the Stacks Group. I do understand your frustration with my decision.

As I explained to the Save the Stacks Group and the members of the media that contacted about the extension, the extension was granted wholly as a courtesy to the Mayor of El Paso. In return for the extension, the Mayor promised that if on December 4, 2012 the Save the Stacks Group did not have a viable plan submitted to the Trust, he would gladly receive and expedite the Trust’s application for the demolition permits necessary from the city.

On December 4, 2012, the Save the Stack Group must submit a proposal that meets all of the following criteria:

  1. There must be a physical inspection of both stacks, as well as an engineering report by a qualified structural professional engineer certified to practice by the State of Texas, which demonstrates that the two stacks are structurally sound. The report must be stamped by the engineer responsible for the evaluation. The structural engineering report must include an evaluation of both seismic and wind loads on the stacks, using the most current available data. As part of that engineering certification, the engineering report must certify that the stacks and the site conditions comply with all the following requirements:
    1. The American Concrete Institute (“ACI”) “Code Requirements for Reinforced Concrete Chimneys” as found in ACI 307-08;
    2. The International Building Code (IBC);
    3. “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and other Structures” as found in ASCE 7-10 as published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (“ASCE”) and in the USGS’ current seismic event estimates for the El Paso region;
    4. A determination if the foundation of the Stacks would comport with the wind and seismic loads found at the Site as outlined in “Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete” ACI – 318; and
    5. The requirements for continued and ongoing maintenance of the Stacks as set out in the guidance document – “Chimney and Stack Inspection Guidelines” published by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  2. The engineering report must include an opinion on the structural stability of the stacks, identify any retrofits or repairs that may be necessary to comply with the requirements set forth in Section 1 (a) through (e).
  3. The Save the Stacks Group must provide an estimate for the following costs (i) the total cost for all retrofits, and repairs identified the engineering report, by a qualified company in the business of retrofitting and repairing similar stacks, (ii) the cost of insurance (either by policy or set reserves if self-insured) and assuming a surrounding commercial mixed use development, and (iii) the cost for on-going operation and maintenance to maintain the stacks over the next 50-years from a qualified company recognized in the business of maintaining similar stacks.
  4. The Save the Stacks Group must provide the corporate documentation for any private entity (or the name of the state or federal entity if it is a public entity) that is proposed to take over the stacks. The proposed entity must provide, in writing, a commitment to comply with the requirements set forth below:
    1. Pay for the costs necessary for retrofit and repair the stacks to meet the qualifications of 1 (a) through (e) above, and to conduct any on-going operation and maintenance for the stacks as established in the engineering report.
    2. Obtain and pay for insurance on the two Stacks by an insurance company authorized to do business in the State of Texas to prevent any liability to the Trust, the Trust beneficiaries, any future purchaser of the ASARCO property and any neighboring landowner for the next 50 years. If self-insuring, identify the amount to be reserved the financial vehicle to be established to segregate the reserve.
    3. Provide an Indemnification to the Trust, the Trust Beneficiaries, any future buyer and all adjacent landowners for any property damage, personal injury or any other loss occasioned by:
      1. any adverse health effects from the stacks
      2. or from any physical failure of the either stack, up to and including a collapse of any stack; and
      3. from any act or omission of such entity.
  5. Any public entity that Save the Stack gets to agree to comply with the requirements above must demonstrate, to the Trust’s satisfaction, that such entity can administer and finance the requirements set for herein for at least 50 years and provide a binding letter of assurance that it is willing to meet each and every requirement, and verify that it has the ability and mandate (if a public entity) to meet those requirements.

If the above minimal requirements are not met by December 4, 2012 to the Trust’s satisfaction, the Trust will move forward with plans to demolish the stacks.

You mentioned that your concerns about the stack debate will not be heard. Reporter Robby Gray of El Paso, Inc. is very interested in the story, and I have taken the liberty of mentioning to him that you had misgivings about the stacks and my decision-making. He may contact you for comment. Additionally, your e-mail and my response will be posted to the blog section of our website.

I hope that this response sheds some light on the recent dynamics of the stacks debate.


Roberto Puga

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