A construction company whose CEO regularly went on conservative news shows to appeal to President Donald Trump was awarded a $1.28 billion contract to build a large section of the border wall in Arizona earlier this month, according to several media reports.
Fisher Sand and Gravel, a firm from North Dakota, was awarded the contract by the Army Corps of Engineers on May 6. The Arizona Daily Star, which was the first to confirm the contract, noted the funds will be used to build about 42 miles of black-painted wall, part of Trump’s campaign pledge to construct hundreds of miles of barrier along the southern border with Mexico before the November election.
The company has drawn scrutiny over its unusual strategy to win the bid. The Washington Post reported that CEO Tommy Fisher was initially passed over when the government requested bids to build the structure, but went on a media blitz on networks including Fox News and appealed to notable allies of the president, including former advisor Steve Bannon.
“Hopefully the president will see this,” Fisher said during an appearance last year on “Fox & Friends First,” pledging to build a border wall quicker and cheaper than competitors.
Trump took notice and began touting the company repeatedly and aggressively in meetings with the Army Corps of Engineers last year. Fisher Sand and Gravel won a separate, $400 million contract last December even though it has little experience building projects like the wall.
“He always brings them up,” North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer (R) told the Post last year, noting Fisher had “been very aggressive on TV.”
The Pentagon said in December it was investigating the $400 million award over concerns the proposals didn’t meet operational requirements, although Fisher said there would be “nothing to find” and said he looked forward to providing “the lowest price and the best value.”
The audit is ongoing.
Raini Brunson, a spokeswoman for the Corps, told The Washington Post the latest contract — the largest wall project ever awarded to a single firm — was based on range of factors but ultimately went to the lowest-priced bidder that was technically able to complete the contract.
“Each project cost is contingent upon its unique characteristics such as geotechnical, topographical, hydrological and hydraulic, underground utilities, final real estate access, and the cost of materials and labor,” she told the outlet.
Fisher’s latest project will cost about $30 million per mile, and the Arizona Daily Star notes that figure is much higher than the $20 million per mile average for other sections of the wall in the state. Part of those increased costs are linked to Trump’s insistence that the structure be painted black to deter climbers, adding some $1.2 million per mile in construction costs, the Post notes.
Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, said last week that the White House hoped to see up to 400 miles of wall completed by the end of this year. About 180 miles have been built since Trump took office, Wolf said.
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