The city is adding its voice to a growing chorus opposing federal plans for a new cross-border truck inspection facility in Nogales.
In a resolution passed on Wednesday, the city council echoed language used by the Santa Cruz County supervisors and local business owners in their opposition to the plan, which would build a dedicated truck inspection facility at the Mariposa Port of Entry for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The FMCSA currently inspects vehicles in a space rented from the Arizona Department of Transportation near the Mariposa port.
“Having two separate truck safety inspection facilities would only contribute to the congestion at the port of entry and create a redundant system of repetitive inspections,” the city wrote in the resolution.
Approximately 337,000 trucks crossed into the United States in Nogales in 2018, according to Bureau of Transportation data.
The new facility would increase the FMCSA’s capacity from two to eight truck inspection pits.
Osmahn Kadri, who presented the government’s plans at a public hearing last month, said that the new space was needed to ensure the FMCSA has capacity for the future, with cross-border truck volume expected to increase.
But local officials are worried that more inspection areas would mean a higher proportion of trucks are sent for inspections, which some say are frivolous.
“Additional unwarranted and overzealous inspections with excessive fines would make Nogales’s $30 billion-a-year importation business less competitive and encourage industry to look to Texas and California over Nogales, Arizona,” the city added in its resolution.
Both the city and the county, which passed its own resolution opposing the new facility on July 17, are asking the federal government to continue co-locating the FMCSA inspection area in the existing ADOT building.
But at the public hearing on July 18, Kadri said that the federal government had been unsuccessful in previous attempts to secure a long-term lease with ADOT.
With the council’s latest move, the city and county appear to be lining up in unified opposition to federal plans for the facility.
Other ports- and trade-related issues, such as the use of fees collected from overweight trucks crossing into the country, have exposed divisions between the two local government bodies.
Last year, the county gifted $150,000 to the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Port Authority to be used for the construction of cold storage rooms at the Mariposa port – a project that local produce importers have long requested – saying that the funds would come from the county’s share of overweight fees.
The city has not put any of its share of the overweight fee revenues towards the cold storage rooms and has also resisted calls to use those funds exclusively for repairs on roads used by produce trucks.
Owner not informed
One person who has yet to make a public statement about the plans is the owner of the property on which the government plans to build the new inspection facility.
Andra Higgs, a spokesman for the General Services Administration, which is overseeing the project, said in an email to the NI two weeks ago that the government had not identified the owner of the property.
The NI reached out to Jorge Zaied, a Nogales, Sonora businessman, who controls a U.S. company that owns the property.
Zaied did not respond to phone calls and emails asking if he was willing to sell the land.
But Greg Droeger, a lawyer for Zaied in Nogales, Ariz., said that Zaied had never heard of the project before he was contacted by the NI.
Higgs did not respond to the NI’s questions about why the GSA had not contacted the property owner, or whether the GSA had contacted the owners of property involved in other sites in a larger project, which includes plans for five other FMCSA inspection facilities at ports in Arizona and California.
Last November, the GSA acquired another piece of land near the border when it purchased Ed’s Border Parking Lot, next to the DeConcini Port of Entry.
The GSA paid $1.26 million for that property, which had a valuation of $629,855 for the 2019 tax year.