Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spaceport Director Meets in Mesquite To Discuss Broken Promises to Dona Ana County for Spaceport Jobs: Says Changes in Procurement Process Needed

Steve Landeene, Executive Director of the Spaceport, met with a group of 14 persons on Wednesday evening, March 10, to hear complaints about the failure of the Spaceport to provide jobs to Dona Ana County firms. Several truckers expressed frustration at seeing out-of-state firms hauling for the Spaceport while their trucks in Dona Ana County sit idle, particularly in light of the promises made by state officials when, three years ago, they came to Dona Ana County asking citizens to vote themselves a tax increase to support the Spaceport. One of those in the audience was Raymond Diaz, business manager of the Sheet Metal Workers of New Mexico.

As Landeene explained it, Gerald Martin, the firm hired by the state to oversee construction at the Spaceport, made a decision to break the work into five packages before he was hired as executive director. Concerned that the five packages were of such a large scale that New Mexico firms would be left out of the bidding altogether, he, Landeene, fought successfully to break the work into 13 separate packages to make New Mexico firms more competitive. As it turned out the work went to out-of-state firms and Albuquerque firms. The bidding process was "low-bid" rather than "best value," as a cost-saving device. Landeene said he was proud that at least some of the jobs landed in New Mexico due to his efforts to break the work into more packages.

One person in the audience voiced concern that materials used on-site is not always up to specifications, Landeene expressed complete confidence and personal assurances that every centimeter of material used was completely validated.

Landeene indicated one thing residents wanting jobs might ask for is for them to work with the Dona Ana County delegation to change the procurement code permitting a "small percentage" of larger contracts to be subcontracted out to local firms.

The larger question is why, after selling the tax increase to Dona Ana residents (it passed by less than 300 votes) on the basis of the "thousands" of high paying jobs promised during the construction phase, the responsibility now falls on those wanting jobs to initiate a difficult and cumbersome process of working out legislation with elected officials, basically, for left-over crumbs, after being promised first-class jobs. Reminds me of the TV ad where a little girl is given a bicycle but not allowed to ride outside the yellow line six inches away. Citizens of Dona Ana County have every right to be irate, but we hear not a peep of concern about this from the rah-rah local promoters of the Spaceport tax increase three years ago. So in the middle of a serious recession with high unemployment, Dona Ana truckers sit idle, after raising their taxes for the spaceport three years ago, while out-of-staters and Albuquerque firms get the jobs. Something wrong with this picture?

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