City to help Border Patrol grow

Published on Thu, Apr 4, 2002
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City to help Border Patrol grow

Additional staff at the border means border agencies need more room. Plans are already in the works to expand the Peace Arch port of entry and the Pacific Highway facility is only a few years old. Now the border patrol is looking for a quick way out of a cramped, almost 40-year-old facility.

“We’re growing, getting more agents and the station is not big enough to accommodate them,” said deputy chief patrol agent John Bates. The border patrol is also expanding communications and intelligence sections to monitor a new camera system with an eye on the border.

In an effort to fast track a new Blaine sector headquarters and a Blaine station, real estate representatives for the Immigration and Naturalization Service have approached north Whatcom County municipalities looking for help. They are looking to move as quickly as possible into a new 20,000 square-foot headquarters facility on 20 acres and a 10,000 square-foot Blaine station.

“We’ve talked loosely with the communities and said we’re going to be looking to move,” Bates said. The advantage for the border patrol of not going through the federal procurement process, having the General Services Administration build them a facility, is a faster, less complicated process.

On March 25 Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic got city council approval to look for a third party to design and build a facility that would be leased to the federal government. “Right now it’s very conceptual,” Tomsic said. “We’re trying to figure out what our involvement might be. One option would be for the city to buy land and pay to build the facility, then recoup the money through lease payments. Another option would be to facilitate a third party financing, designing and building the facility,” Tomsic said. “We’re trying to do it in a way the city doesn’t have to spend a lot of money or assume a lot of risk.”

Bates said his agency would like to stay in Blaine. “We have to look at all options but we’ll look to Blaine first,” he said. “We have a long standing relationship with the city and the police department.”
“We want to make certain they stay in Blaine,” Tomsic said. “They’re such an important influence on our community – part of our economy, our identity. Serving the border is a lot of what our community is about.”..

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