Asarco stacks: Get true cost of preservation

El Paso Times Editorial Board

El Paso’s “Save the Stacks” group brings up good points regarding memorializing the Asarco smelter smokestacks. And since there are huge differences of opinion on cost factors involved, and who pays, we urge Asarco trustee Roberto Puga to slow down and further explore options.

Puga’s job is to use some $52 million from an Asarco trust to remediate the site and sell it.

He said he plans to bring the stacks down in February or March. That decision came after “Save the Stacks” was given a year to raise enough money to preserve them, especially the iconic 826-foot stack that joins a smaller smokestack on a small part of Asarco’s 153 acres.

Puga’s deadline has passed, but there are still a lot of questions — and a lot of public discussion.

Asarco operated in El Paso for a century and provided good living wages in an otherwise low-wage city. It has been shuttered for more than a decade, no longer belching unhealthy smelter smoke.

There has been no argument to the tearing down of the huge facility and redeeming the land for other uses.

However, as Save the Stacks people note, the stacks could be preserved as a memorial to that important part of El Paso’s history. They also note the 826-foot stack would be the tallest memorial in the United States. They say all that’s needed is purchase of about one and a half acres at a fair price.

Save the Stacks leader Robert Ardovino said the group’s figures indicate the stacks are strong and
that it would cost approximately $50,000 a year to maintain them. He said the large stack has been up for 40 years and there’s “not even one little crack” in it.

Others have figured the cost to save the stacks would run into the millions of dollars. That seems to be guesswork.

Earlier this month, City Council, on a split vote, rejected a resolution by Save the Stacks to purchase the large smokestack, the shorter adjacent stack and nearby land.

But council members approved a resolution to support saving the property, but not spending taxpayer money to do so.

We see no organized group in El Paso nearly as adamant for tearing down the stacks as Save the Sacks people are for keeping them.

But we see two sides, both professing they have experts’ opinions, who differ greatly on maintenance costs.

Let’s take some time to further explore the actual price it would take to preserve the stacks.

Then let’s go from there.

Because, once the stacks are felled, they’ll be gone forever.