Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The new patrol station for U.S. Border Patrol is set to open early next year, slightly delayed from the planned opening date. “We will move in as soon as the building is complete, right now we are looking at February to take possession,” said Jade Matzel, spokesperson for the Havre Sector Border Patrol, adding that the exact time the facility will be ready is not yet known. Matzell said the station, which was originally advertised in Fed Biz Opportunities in October 2007 to be opened the first part of this month, was expected to be opened the first part of January 2008 after the deal for its construction was completed last spring. Slight delays in construction have put that behind schedule, she said. The new station, located north of the Havre Middle School on 16th Avenue West, will replace the patrol station now located on Bullhook Drive near The Parthenon and Rod’s Drive In, probably in late January or early February, Matzel said. The station, which will include the latest technology as well as a helicopter pad, is designed to provide work space for up 50 agents and can be expanded to house up to 100 agents. It is part of a push to upgrade facilities on the northern border including a similar station, housing 50 agents and expandable to 100, being constructed at the Port of Sweetgrass north of Shelby. Jason Ciliberti, supervisory Border Patrol agent in Washington, D.C., said Border Patrol is working to upgrade facilities as part of a national initiative to improve security on the northern border. “The national strategy is to get the right mixture of people, technology and infrastructure on the border ,” Ciliberti said. “We’re not just looking at throwing agents at it, we’re also looking at putting better infrastructure on the northern border.” The work to improve security on the northern border recently came under close scrutiny as a result of legislation sponsored by Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. As required by the legislation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security presented a report to Congress in February discussing security needs on the northern border. The report discussed the need of increasing manpower and improving technology and infrastructure. In October, the Government Accountability Office presented its report as required by the legislation, analyzing the Homeland Security report. The GAO found that Homeland Security was “not fully responsive” in its report, failing to give details such as precise recommendations, additional resources needed or time lines to implement changes. The work being done in north-central Montana was under way before the reports were presented to Congress. New patrol staTions have been constructed in Shelby, Malta, Plentywood and Scoby, designed for 20 agents with expansion to have more agents. As are the new stations in Havre and Sweetgrass, the stations were constructed by private businesses and leased to the Border Patrol for its use. Matzel said that while new agents are being hired for the Havre Sector, which has its headquarters in Havre, she could not comment at this point about how many agents will be stationed in the new Havre facility. At the moment, it will include the agents now working at the station on Bullhook Drive, she said, which is a crowded facility in need of upgrading. The Havre Sector office, located south of town by the Havre Ice Dome, is in charge of 452 miles of U.S.- Canadian border. It oversees operations of multiple patrol stations in the sector, including in Billings. Matzel said the opening of the new patrol station has no impact on the sector office, which will remain in its current facility. Ciliberti said Border Patrol is continuing to recruit new agents, although it has met and exceeded its goal of 6,000 new agents for this year. He said the typical process for new agents is to work on the U.S.-Mexican border first before being transferred to other locations, although interns have been used to fill spots on the northern border as needed. “Usually, senior agents are sent to the northern border, more seasoned agents ,” Ciliberti said. “Your agents on the northern border usually are a more experienced group of agents.” Matzel said that when the new Havre patrol station is ready to begin operations, Border Patrol will have an open house and grand opening. “The whole town will be invited,” Matzel said.