COVID-19 Social Transmission Precautions in Columbus, NM vs “The Border Wall” construction

by | Apr 3, 2020

Letter sent To: Rene Romo, Special Assistant to Senator Tom Udall,
State of New Mexico on Wednesday April 01, 2020 @ 15:26 MDT


Hello Rene,

Shortly after speaking with you yesterday [via your phone call with Deborah “Dev” Olliver] I took photos of these [dilapidated] ten bunkhouses set upon temporary concrete blocks foundations placed IN THE MIDDLE of the Village of Columbus on  either March 27 or 28, 2020.

They are located on Jesus Carreon Avenue between Taft and Main Streets; the lots just north of the Village of Columbus Library [located at 112 W. Broadway Ave., Columbus, NM, 88029]: GOOGLE Maps link: Border Wall Project: Worker’s Bunkhouses placed in the middle of the Village of Columbus, NM  GPS: 31.831347, -107.639455 or: 31°49’52.9″N 107°38’22.0″W

Work is in obviously in progress to set them up to put people in the 40 rooms that the ten buildings appear to be able to accomodate; per evidence in the photos that I am making available this via Google Photos link: Ten Bunkhouses plopped in the middle of Columbus, NM for Out of Area Border Wall workers

I went through the whole site and there are NO Permits Posted [which are required and need to be obtained in Luna and Dona Ana County Offices] for the placement of these buildings, foundations, utilities hook ups, etc. NONE.

The bunkhouses themselves are in such horrible condition that I question the ability of the owner of these portable housing units to be able to obtain local Village of Columbus Fire Dept. Inspection Safety clearance; let alone a Certificate of Occupancy  [COO] from the state of NM for each of them [which IS also required by the state] as are many other permits that have not been “Grandfathered in” for prior buildings throughout NM. Construction permits required by the State of NM:

*We also wonder if our Mayor, Esequiel “Bruce” Salas, has sent the Village’s newly hired Code Enforcement officer to address this with the contractor. A “Stop Work” halt order should be issued IMMEDIATELY.

*We would like to know what he and our Village Council of four Trustees are aware of and what they have done to either allow or try to stop this construction project to date.

At this time in our earth’s history, with the national and global crisis of protecting ourselves from contracting and spreading COVID-19; in accordance with the current Federal Guidelines issued for everybody in the USA to continue practicing

“Social Isolation” through AT LEAST April 30, 2020:  There is NO WAY our usually open and friendly populace will be welcoming to 40+ “Strangers traveling in from who knows where” to our little, rural, impoverished Village of Columbus. The nearest [lower level of care] hospital is about 35 miles away. Hospitals with higher levels of care are 85 to 100 miles away.

So far *We have ZERO cases of the Novel Corona Virus [COVID-19] in Luna County, New Mexico and; *We want to keep it that way.

*We do not think that the Federal Homeland Security project for the construction of the southern border wall, continuing from Columbus westwards toward Hachita along NM State Hwy-9; is an acute, emergent need where construction workers from out of the Luna County area need to be brought into Columbus at this time.

*We believe that “COVID-19” Health and Safety precautions takes priority over Federal Projects Construction timelines at this perilous time in protecting our citizens from this communicable diseases, that is proving to be deadly for many; especially for our high percentage of elderly residents in this area.

If in the eyes of Homeland Security, this construction timeline can not be delayed; then we suggest that they move this housing project westwards, onto Federal Lands, [of which there is plenty along Hwy-9]; in an isolated area. “The Feds” or the Contractor can bring in Generators and Water to provide the workers the utilities that they need.

But most of all, *We ask that they be RESTRICTED to their “Work Site Compound” for the entire length of time that they are contracted to work on this project while COVID-19 precautions are in effect.

This means: Put fencing around their compound. Take away their vehicle keys. Do not allow them carte blanche freedoms to go off-site while these FEDERAL COVID-19 Social Isolation protocols are in place. They can send in one or two designated persons daily to replenish their daily needs.  The same one or two people, all the time. Which would limit our community’s risk to potential viral exposure by multiple out-of-area workers.

Yes, unlimited access to the Village would help boost our local economy for a few businesses in these economic challenging times; but remember: There is NO “Economic stimulus” if the populace is sick, dying or dead.

*We simply do NOT WANT people who travel back and forth to “who knows where” visiting their out-of-area friends and family during their down-time, stopping in Columbus intermittently, increasing the risks of bringing the virus here; and exposing it to one of our little Gas Station, Grocery Store or Restaurant staff.

They are PRECIOUS to us. And NOT replaceable.

Mr. Romo, Thank You and Senator Udall’s Office for ANYTHING you can do to help Stop this unnecessary “invasion” of non-local people from outside of Columbus being brought into the center of our precious Village.

[*We or *we in this email means: Many concerned citizens of Columbus.]

Very Truly Yours,

Karen Lee, [aka: k-lee] a Concerned Citizen of Columbus, NM, 88029

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