Use Agreement Clears Way for Formal Purchase of Community

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 29, 2004 – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and Congressman Steve Pearce today announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has formally committed to using the town of Playas for training purposes, a move that clears the way for New Mexico Tech to purchase the community to establish a security training center.

Domenici and Pearce were informed by DHS officials Wednesday that they have finalized a five-year use agreement with New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology to use the small Hidalgo County town. New Mexico Tech plans to establish a National Emergency Response Training, Research and Development Center there. The use agreement will make the DHS the first client.

“The use agreement is a key step in the quest to find a new, innovative use for this community and its infrastructure. I am very pleased the Homeland Security Department sees the merit and potential in the training that can be carried out there to improve homeland security,” Domenici said. “I am committed to moving this project forward, and the use agreement is welcome news.”

"This announcement is great news for Southwestern New Mexico and a unique opportunity to play a very important role in our nation's homeland security by training first responders from across the country. The training center will create new economic opportunities for the region by utilizing New Mexico's unique infrastructure while providing a realistic training environment," Pearce said.

Domenici, who serves on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, has advocated development of a training facility at Playas for homeland security needs since Phelps-Dodge announced that it was discontinuing use of the community.

New Mexico Tech is leading a collaborative effort to establish a center that would provide DHS and other federal agencies a facility that offers, among other things, standardized emergency operations training for first responders, and advanced training for emergency operations and medical personnel.

The FY2005 Defense Appropriations ACT includes, at Domenici’s request, $3.0 million to install the primary instrumentation grid for the new homeland security and emergency responder facility at Playas. The funding for instrumentation will give all of the operations at Playas the critical data necessary to complete vital training and research that will begin in 2005.

The town of Playas was developed in the late 1970s by the Phelps Dodge Mining Company to provide housing and services for approximately 500 workers employed at its nearby copper smelting operation. The town has been almost empty since the Phelps Dodge copper smelting operations were suspended in 1999. The community includes 259 homes, 25 apartment units, a community center, bank, gas station, post office, fire station, medical center, and recreational facilities.



CONTACT: MATT LETOURNEAU/Domenici (202) 224-7098
RICARDO BERNAL/Pearce (202) 225-2365

Matt Letourneau
Deputy Press Secretary
U.S. Senator Pete Domenici