By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Local leaders concede it's too late for Havre to compete for a new Department of Homeland Security air base planned for Great Falls, but want the Hi-Line to be considered for future development opportunities.
"We just need to keep squawking to let them know we are here on the Hi-Line," Havre City Council member Allen "Woody" Woodwick said today. "I don't think we were even considered. We're kind of like the forgotten children up here."
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that included an amendment to allocate $54 million in 2005 to build the air base. It originally had been planned for 2007.
A press release from U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who proposed the amendment, said the base could create about 39 jobs in Great Falls next year.
Barrett Kaiser, spokesman for Baucus, said today that Baucus initially advocated getting a base in Montana without preferring any community. Once Homeland Security selected Great Falls as its location, he pushed to move funding the air base to 2005 instead of 2007, Kaiser said.
"He will actively look to see if there are any other opportunities, as we continue to move forward with protecting the northern border, for communities like Havre and other communities on the Hi-Line," Kaiser said.
Bear Paw Development Corp. executive director Paul Tuss said he doubts there is much chance of getting the new base in Havre or on the Hi-Line.
He added that the Great Falls location is still a benefit to north-central Montana.
Tuss said he is still concerned that officials in Havre, with its proximity to the border, were not contacted about the air base.
Woodwick said he thinks Havre would have been a better location. It is closer to the border, and is a small, friendly town, he said.
"One of their concerns is security. We have a pretty easily secured town," he said.
He said people on the Hi-Line need to make sure their communities are considered for other projects.
"If something else comes down the pike, we may be considered," he said.
Tuss said the Hi-Line probably will have more chances. With the focus on homeland security and on increasing the security of the northern border, other opportunities will probably arise, he said.
The Great Falls base will be one of five on the northern border to enforce immigration and customs laws.
Havre is a sector headquarters for the U.S. Border Patrol, which also flies patrols along the border, and has a local FBI office and a Coast Guard station north of town.
The Border Patrol is considering building a new multimillion-dollar sector headquarters in Havre.