Isleta Lava Block Plant Continues to Burn Money

Isleta Tribe Losing Money with Block Plant

burningmoneyAt the November 4, 2014, Isleta Tribal Council meeting Governor Eddie Paul Torres gave a report to the Council about the Isleta Lava Block Plant.

Torres brought in Robert Lujan, Manager of the Isleta Lava Block Plant; Chip Martin, CEO of the Isleta Business Corporation; Andrew Teller, Treasurer of Isleta Pueblo; and Spiro Vassilopoulos, a contract consultant.

Spiro is the President of Vassilopoulos Resources International, LLC (VRI). Spiro entered a contract with the Pueblo to advise the Tribe on the management and operations of the Lava Block Plant. The Tribe paid VRI to design and assemble the Plant.

The Plant has been operational since 2008. The Tribe continues to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars with this business. It has not yet made a profit for the Pueblo. Initially, the Tribe invested $400,000.00 to begin operations. Thereafter, the Tribe invested an additional $200,000.00 into the plant.

Spiro told the Council that any “shortcomings” at the Plant was his fault. He explained that he has been unable to deliver his end of the bargain because he was experiencing medical problems. He stated that the Governor placed his trust in him and he let him down.

Equipment at the Plant is constantly breaking down. So, the Plant is not able to produce blocks as expected. According to Spiro, the Plant should be capable of producing 6 to 7 blocks per minute or 2000 blocks daily for a weekly production of 10,000 blocks. But, due to equipment failures, the Plant is not able to produce blocks at capacity.

Secretary Verna Teller stated that for the past two years we’ve been hearing the same old song and dance. She said, we have no business plan, no marketing plan and we’re not getting anywhere. We hear repeated promises with no fruition.

Larry Jaramillo, Vice-President of the Council, asked whether the Tribe should hire a full time mechanic to fix the equipment when it breakdowns. Spiro said that it was not necessary to hire a full time mechanic. He said that they will call a mechanic only when needed.

Robert Lujan, the Plant Manager, told the Council that he came into the job blind because he was unaware of all the problems at the Plant. He said, we are doing what we can do with all the mechanical breakdowns.

Governor Eddie Paul Torres told the Council that he was not going to ask for any more money. He said, “things are starting to look good.” He said, that Laguna wants to buy 100,000 blocks and that 15 homes are going up in Hobbs and they want to buy blocks. Torres also said that the Treasurer has been involved since day one and that all the money can be accounted for. He told the Council that they can ask any questions that they want.

Council member Josephine Padilla asked: how can the Tribe sell a 100,000 blocks when it can’t produce the blocks? Secretary Teller also asked: How can you keep up with the orders, if the machine keeps breaking down? She said, the machine can’t keep up with the orders.

Spiro said the Plant is operational and that he would pay for any repairs out of his own pocket. He said that he will make sure that everything is working. Spiro is concerned that the Tribe may sue him for breach of contract.

The Council excused Spiro and debated whether the Tribe should continue working with him as the consultant for the Tribe’s Lava Block Plant. Pablo Padilla, the Tribal Attorney, was providing legal advice to the Tribe concerning its relationship with Spiro. So, to protect the Tribe, I will not discuss or report on the legal advice that he gave to the Council.

Chip Martin, CEO of the Isleta Business Corporation, told the Council that he is working on developing a website to promote the Isleta Lava Block Plant.  He also stated that they do have a business plan for the Plant.

Spat Between Larry Jaramillo & Cougar

Vice-President Larry Jaramillo and Council member Joseph “Cougar” Lucero got into a little spat because Jaramillo did not like Lucero mentioning the Casino during their discussion of the Block Plant. Lucero made a comment that the Council was throwing away good money after bad because they recently allowed the Casino to spend one million dollars. Lucero did not identify how the Casino was using that money. Lucero stated that 10 years ago the Casino was transferring 24 million dollars to the Tribe. Now, it is only able to transfer 9 million dollars to the Tribe.

Community Meeting

Governor Eddie Paul Torres scheduled a community meeting for November 15, 2015, @ 9:00 a.m. at the Isleta Resort and Casino. Torres plans to discuss the following topics as his agenda: 

• Organizational Structure
• Community profile by Census
• Human Resources (regular full time/part time employees)
• Business/Commercial development IBC/ICR
• Infrastructure/ maintenance Public Service Department
• Major Construction Projects
• Education
• Public Safety Police/Fire Departments
• Tribal Courts
• Parks & Recreation
• Community Giving/Participation/Special Events
• Tribal/Federal/State Relations
• Government Expenditure Report

2 Replies to “Isleta Lava Block Plant Continues to Burn Money”

  1. WTH? Governor Torres and the Tribal Council are so free with OUR wallet that they allowed $600,000 to be wasted on an crippled enterprise. I did not see any mention of how much has been paid to Mr. Spiro or better yet how much is Mr. Spiro’s contract for? Things and events happen to us all Mr. Spiro but that does not relieve the Tribe’s coffers ($$$$). What is the status of our coffers Treasurer Teller? A website on a crippled enterprise Chip Martin are you serious? Hiring Robert Lujan? Why would Governor Torres rehire Mr. Lujan after his unethical conduct at the Recreation Center? Could it be for votes in the upcoming election? Legal advice from Pablo Padilla, is like having a fox in the hen house? And why isn’t this topic on the list of topics to be discussed on November 15, 2014? How can these elected officials continue to blow our money so freely? Wake up people and remember when you go vote that these individuals need to eliminated from the presiding in any official capacity of our Tribe.

    Vice-President Larry Jaramillo and Joseph “Cougar” Lucero having a spat is like two juvenile delinquents not getting their way. President Lente should spank them both and put them in time out. Or better yet, send Jaramillo back to driving buses and send Cougar back to the Transfer Station where they both belong. The Council does not have time for this type of behavior or lack of maturity. But then again, after reading this article, this might be best for the Tribe because they are just squandering our coffers away.

What are your thoughts?