Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said the city has not received any offers on land south of Havre on which the City Council voted on Dec. 3 to entertain offers to buy. “Not a one,” Rice said Wednesday, adding that he had talked to officials from the U.S. General Services Administration and they said they appreciated Havre taking the initiative to make sure the land, which is leased by the Saddle Butte Radio Control Flying Club, was available, but they said nothing else. GSA has been looking for land in or near Havre and near the Port of Sweetgrass north of Shelby on the Canadian border on which to have offices and garages built to house Border Patrol stations. A representative of the GSA said last week that last Friday was the deadline for initial offers on property to house the patrol station. Calls to the designated U.S. Customs and Border Protection asking for comment on the search were not returned by deadline today. Members of the RC club, which has a lease on the property good through 2011, said they were surprised by the resolution and the council’s vote. They held a meeting last week to make sure they all knew what was happening and what the club’s position was, club member Chuck Evans said. “We tossed it around a bit, made sure everyone was on the same page,” he said. The club’s position is it will work with the city as long as it is willing to help replace what they lose, as per the lease agreement, Evans said. Members of the Havre City Council said they will work with the club to find a new location if an offer is made and Havre considers selling the property. The issue of the Border Patrol presence in Havre has been a hot topic since concerns have arisen that Customs and Border Protection might move the headquarters of the Havre Sector out of town, possibly to Great Falls. Customs and Border Protection and GSA have both said the current search for property to lease has nothing to do with that. That search is to replace a patrol station, currently on property on Bullhook Drive, which is too small for the number of agents stationed in Havre. That number will increase under a directive from President Bush to increase the number of agents on the northern border, a Customs and Border Protection official said last week. There is nothing in the books now to move or replace the Border Patrol Havre Sector Headquarters, located just south of Havre by the Havre Ice Dome, the representatives said. The headquarters houses the officials whose primary duty is to administer operations in the Havre Sector, which includes patrol stations in Havre, Shelby, Sweetgrass and Plentywood and substations in Malta, Scobey, St. Mary, Twin Falls and Billings, according to a fact sheet provided by the Havre Sector. The new patrol station in Havre will be the workspace of Border Patrol agents based in the community who patrol the U.S.-Canadian border. The new station will have space for up to 50 agents, and could be expanded for up to 100 agents. The station planned for the Sweetgrass area will be the same design. New stations and substations have recently opened in Malta, Shelby, Scobey and Plentywood, which provide space for up to 20 agents and are also designed for expansion as needed. Customs and Border Protection is seeking private companies or individuals to build the property to the Border Patrol’s specifications and then lease them to Customs and Border Protection, which is what it did with the four new stations and substations. That has proven to be most cost-effective in this environment, an official said. The GSA advertisement soliciting offers in Havre and Sweetgrass said the Border Patrol will move into the buildings by Dec. 1, 2008. Bonnie Keeley, secretary of the RC Club, said the club assumes that if the land is sold, the city will help find a new location. The club hasn’t been contacted by the city about any possible sale, she added. “We’ve had no contact with the mayor at all,” she said. City council members last week said they were not voting to consider an actual offer on the property, but simply to consider offers if they were made they wanted to make sure people knew that the city would consider selling it, they said. Keeley said the club is also not sure that a sale would require the club to move. Saddle Butte RC Flying Club doesn’t use the entire area owned by the city, she said. Evans said the club just wants any sale to treat the club fairly. Members of the club put in a lot of hard work developing the area so the club could use it when it was first leased, he said. “We’re not asking for anything outrageous,” Evans said.