Ajo, AZ, is a tiny town that is home to about 3,500 people, but it has 21 homes which cost more than five times the average home in the area.
The homes were completed in February 2013 at a cost of $15 million. U.S. Customs and Border Protection built the homes for CBP agents who work on the border about 40 miles from Ajo.
"There are dozens, probably hundreds of good quality homes here in Ajo for sale reasonably priced, or for rent, very reasonably priced," said Linda Sharp. She's a licensed real estate broker in Ajo who has been pushing for an investigation into why so much money was spent.
"I believe that every homeowner in Ajo that wants to sell in the near future is harmed by this and every landlord in Ajo is harmed by this," she continued.
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has opened a probe into the spending.
CBS 5 News estimates the cost of developing the land and building each home equates to about $600,000. However, a statement from the CBP says the cost is about half of that:
"With GSA assistance, the land was purchased and developed for $12.7 million, which currently includes 21 new 2-3 bedroom units as well as water, sewer and electric lines, and the roads for an additional 25 units, at an approximate cost of $340,000 per unit."
CBP also released this statement in regard to the investigation:
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection is cooperating fully with the investigation, but is unable to comment on the case while the investigation is still underway."
Last week, officials with DHS spoke with Border Patrol agents, real estate agents and residents in Ajo. Their investigation into the tab will be available to the public when it is completed, though there is no word when that will be.
"They're inspecting their own employees, fellow colleagues that work in Homeland Security. I'm not happy that's the only investigation going on," said Sharp, pointing out the CBP falls under the Department of Homeland Security. Sharp is calling for a congressional investigation.
Not everyone in Ajo is looking forward to the scrutiny.
"I think I have a different perspective on this," said long-time resident Tracy Taft.
She mentioned she thought the cost was excessive but that this investigation comes too late in the process.
"Today, the houses have been built. What's important to the Ajo community is the Border Patrol agents and the Customs agents move in and come and be part of the Ajo community," she said.
Sharp agrees, pointing out that she is friends with many agents, but is still bothered by the cost.
"The community welcomes [CBP agents] unconditionally. It's the fact they're living in very expensive housing that we, as taxpayers, are subsidizing that is very irritating to some of us," she said.
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
Sunday, March 9 2014 9:32 PM EDT2014-03-10 01:32:37 GMT
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