By Alan Sorensen
Modern technology could give Havre residents 24-hour access to the Canadian Border at the Willow Creek Port of Entry into Saskatchewan.
A public meeting was held in Havre Aug. 5 to familiarize area residents with the remote video inspection system (RVIS) that would make around-the-clock border crossings possible.
Jon Weigum, area port director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service at Sweetgrass, said U.S. and Canadian border stations at the Willow Creek crossing would be manned during the regular working hours from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. From 5 p.m. until 9 a.m., the crossings would be operated from remote locations.
Weigum said the new technology allows the inspection agencies of both the United States and Canada to carry on inspections from the remote locations by use of a video camera and special communications equipment. The remote location on the U.S. side of the border would be the Sweetgrass station, he said.
People wishing to utilize the RVIS must complete applications with both U.S. and Canadian authorities to enroll in the system. There is no fee for enrolling.
Forty to 50 people were there, Weigum said. It was a real good reception, about two-thirds of them were Canadian. Real good questions and answers afterwards. Hopefully, we can get it installed.
The large Canadian contingency was possible because Canadian and U.S. authorities kept the Willow Creek Port open until 10 p.m. that night for the meeting.
Weigum said Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette, Sheriff Tim Solomon, and Mario Patacsil of the Chippewa Cree Tribe at Rocky Boy participated in the meeting.
I think it looks good, Bessette said in a telephone interview Friday morning. I think it will serve a lot of the local people.
Bessette, who lives and farms along the St. Joe Road to Willow Creek, said the Canadians had more unanswered questions than the Montanans had.
I think there are a lot of questions people have about what can be taken across, more on the Canadian side, she said. Most of the people up there are agricultural, and they purchase their parts and repairs down here. They have questions about if its considered a commercial purchase and is it going to be able to be taken across after hours.
As far as our side, I think most of the questions were answered. You know, the hockey teams and everyone should be able to get across hockey, baseball, softball, you know.
Bessette said people got in line during the meeting to get application forms for after-hours crossings should the system go into effect.
Sheriff Solomon said it appeared that everything about the extended hours looked good for Havre and the Hi-Line.
I think it would be good, he said. To me, it look like there was more interest on the Canadian side than Havre. Anything that will increase traffic back and forth will help local (business) traffic.
Solomon said he didnt see any immediate law enforcement problems arising from a 24-hour port of entry.
I think they have addressed law enforcement concerns with the response team that works these types of areas. I just think that overall, it would be a good way to address that port.
Weigum hopes even more people can become aware and familiar with the tentative plans for the 24-hour RVIS crossing process at Willow Creek.
We handed (applications) out, but were not to that point (of accepting applications) yet, Weigum said.