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Firm can offer one mile of discount border fencing

A very small portion of Arizona’s border fence project might be realized sooner than expected.

Sen. Steve Smith, the project’s author, earlier disclosed that he’s in negotiations with a fence manufacturer about possibly donating or selling “several miles” of fencing at a greatly reduced rate to Arizona.

Today, a representative from Betafence USA, which is one of the largest manufacturers of fences in the country, confirmed that talks are ongoing between the Texas-based company and Smith, a Maricopa Republican.

“We have been considering donating some border fence that we’ve used in the past,” said Chad Scott, the company’s sales director. The other option is to sell some fence for an “almost scrap price,” he said.

Scott added, however, that it’s only about one mile of fencing that they can either donate or sell at a reduced rate.

Obviously, one company can’t solve it all, he said.

“If we can be just a small part of the solution, then that’s what we are interested in,” he said.

Scott said his company has manufactured fences for the U.S.-Mexico border and it has some excess fencing.

Earlier, Smith said if Betafence donated the fence, his goal is to get something started this year.

“We’re not waiting years and years and years to collect lots of money,” Smith said during a hearing of the Joint Legislative Border Security Committee last month.

Smith also said some fencing might be erected at little or no cost to Arizona.

The state will use inmate labor, and some construction companies have also indicated they’re willing to assist for free, he said.

Also last month, Smith estimated donations to the border fence project to be around $250,000 so far. But that’s only a drop in the bucket for the type of fencing that anti-illegal immigration hawks are clamoring to be erected along the US-Mexico line.

Additionally, while a mile of good fencing is a start for the Arizona project, it’s still a long way from erecting the kind of security line that folks like Smith clamor for.

Actually, some critics consider the border fence project as either political posturing or foolhardy.

Cost estimates vary wildly, but the Congressional Budget Office in 2007 estimated the cost of a double steel fence to be about $1.5 million per mile, while a 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office pegged the average cost at $2.8 million per mile.

All but 61 miles of Arizona’s border with Mexico are fenced, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The border has 123 miles of pedestrian fencing and an additional 183 miles of barriers, which prevent vehicles from crossing but don’t stop people on foot.

But many agree the type of fencing that exists is ineffective to stem the tide of illegal crossers.

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