It was three years in the making, but on Tuesday morning, gold shovels finally dug into the ground at the site of the Yuma Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Division’s new Aviation Maintenance and Operations Center.
Community leaders, airport officials and representatives from federal agencies, including Rodolfo Karisch, acting chief patrol agent for the Yuma Sector, all lined up at the Yuma International Airport with shovels in hand to start construction on the new $8 million state-of-the-art facility.
“We have been working out of a smaller facility for many years,” Karisch said. “We have 14 aircraft and six pilots, so this is going to allow us to grow and move into the future.”
Karisch said that the Department of Homeland Security has made significant investments in border security over the years; however, its facilities have not kept pace with the growth it has had in personnel and equipment.
“We are now starting to catch up in this area, as with this facility here and the new Border Patrol station out in Wellton,” Karisch said. “These types of facilities allow us to increase our operational effectiveness.”
Yuma County Administrator Robert Pickels added, “We are breaking ground on a project that really reflects the kind of combined effort that we are having at the federal level to fight the illegal immigration and drug issues here in Yuma County.
“We are promoting that we are the model for other communities to follow when it comes to fighting crime in border sectors.”
CBP’s Air and Marine Division has been a tenant of the airport authority since the late 1970s. With the arrival of new aircraft and a larger workforce, they quickly outgrew their current lease space.
The new 46,974-square-foot construction will be built in the airport’s Defense Contractor Complex, and will feature a modern aircraft maintenance center consisting of two new hangars, a 10,000-square-foot administrative building and a separate aviation parts storage facility.
The facility is being named in honor of David F. Roberson, a Border Patrol pilot who died in the line of duty.
Pickels also said that CBP’s Air and Marine Division has a lot of new aircraft and a large aging fleet, so the new facility will allow the agency maintain them.
MAC Electric and Pilkington Commercial Construction have been awarded the contract to build the facility, which is expected to be finished in September or October. In all, 12 area companies are involved in the construction, which is the first aviation facility to be built from the ground up for CBP and the Department of Homeland Security.
In 2007, the airport submitted an unsolicited proposal to CBP as to the availability of 8.5 acres within the airport’s Defense Contractor Complex for an expansion of its facilities. In 2009, CBP expressed interest in a hangar that the airport authority had built, and awarded a contract to the airport to design a new aviation operations and maintenance center, which will be based in large part on the new hangar, which was leased to NASA.
“Years of hard work went into making this lease a reality, and we are absolutely thrilled to see construction begin,” said Bill Gresser, president of the Yuma County Airport Authority. “This is what we do. We find out what our aviation customers need and then we don’t stop working on it until all their needs are met.”
CBP’s Office of Air and Marine is the world’s largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.