The co-chair of an international committee pushing for upgrading a border port north of Havre, after hearing U. S. Customs and Border Protection is not planning to extend summer hours at the port this year, said that the committee will continue to pursue other options in getting an upgrade.
“But it is disappointing that we’re not getting a true test out there, either, after a couple of flawed test periods, ” Havre Mayor Tim Solomon, who co-chairs the Wild Horse Border Committee with Medicine Hat, Alberta, Mayor Norm Boucher, said this morning.
The group has been pushing to have the border port between Montana and Alberta upgraded to a 24-hour port for most of a decade now. The port is open 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. in the winter and 8 a. m. to 9 p. m. from May 15 to Sept. 30. Commercial vehicles must receive a special permit to transport items through the port.
In 2009, and again in the fall of 2010 through last fall, the summer hours on the U. S. side of the port were extended through Oct. 31, and started on March 1. In each year of the trials, however, the extension was not fully mirrored on the Canadian side.
Solomon sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in October requesting another year of the extended hours, to try to get a true test with both sides using the same hours and procedures through the test.
A representative of Customs and Border Protection, who notified the Havre Daily News Feb. 14 that the request still was being reviewed at CBP headquarters, said in an email Tuesday afternoon that CBP had no plans at that time to extend the hours beyond the normal dates of May 15 through Sept. 30.
Solomon said this morning he had not yet been notified of the decision.
He said one focus the group will continue to work on is supporting a provision in the upcoming CBP authorization bill, in which Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., intends to include having some trial 24-hour pilots for smaller ports like Wild Horse.
“We’re still working on possibly being one of them, ” Solomon said.
He said the upgrade advocates on both sides of the border also are interested in pushing for a formal, in-depth two-year study of extending the summer hours, as suggested by Canadian Member of Parliament LaVar Payne of Medicine Hat at a committee meeting in Havre last week.
“We’re definitely requesting, from both sides, as far as going forward with a concept like that, ” Solomon said. “We’re still going to pursue all the options we can, and the Canadian, Medicine Hat side, is definitely on board and supportive of that also. ”