State losing millions of dollars on shipping container sale

Hobbs accuses Ducey administration of ‘wasting taxpayer dollars’
The state is selling the shipping containers it placed at the border at a fraction of the cost it bought them for.
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 5:50 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The state of Arizona is expected to recoup less than $4 million of the roughly $175 million it spent on an ill-fated effort to secure the Arizona border with Mexico using old shipping containers. That is according to an analysis by Arizona’s Family Investigates.

In the final months of his governorship, Doug Ducey, a Republican, ordered state officials to purchase 2,000 shipping containers and send them to the border. According to Ducey’s office, it was an effort to plug some of the gaps left in the border barrier after President Donald Trump lost his reelection bid.

According to the state contract, Arizona taxpayers shelled out $6,700 for each 40-foot container. Last year, Arizona’s Family Investigates found those same-sized containers for sale for $3,000.

Ducey ordered the containers removed from the border after the Biden administration filed a lawsuit, alleging the state of Arizona did not have permission to create its own border barrier on federal land. The total cost of the project was estimated to be roughly $175 million.

Now, Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, is selling 2,000 shipping containers for as low as $500 for a 20-foot container and as much as $2,000 for a 40-foot container. The sale price is well below what the Ducey administration paid but more in line with the current market.

The Hobbs administration sent the following statement to Arizona’s Family Investigates:

“From day one Governor Hobbs has denounced this political stunt as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Instead, we are putting border security money to good use by giving border communities the funds they need to staff up, improve technology and buy additional supplies for their operations. Governor Hobbs will always fight to end wasteful spending and keep people safe, she won’t waste taxpayer dollars on political stunts.”

Hobbs administration

The shipping containers are already available to government agencies and nonprofits. They will go on sale to the general public in October.

The Arizona Department of Administration’s website states that “container conversion can lead to housing, office, classroom and other types of occupancy use.” But it also reveals that the containers are between 10 and 20 years old. Many have significant damage and corrosion.

Ben Powers, who owns High Tech Container Homes and Steel Structures, says the border containers may realistically have little use aside from storage.

His company used to build homes from used containers, but Powers says it became evident that most used containers were too heavily damaged or too small to convert into affordable and livable housing units. He now builds structures from steel beams and panels on a made-to-order basis. “We can build our boxes to 10, 12, 16 feet. That becomes a very livable space. We’re building our boxes brand new out of recycled steel. And building on site. And that makes it financeable,” said Powers.

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