Aroundtown...

Published on Thu, Jul 20, 2006
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Around town...

DHS to provide new bomb response vehicles
Whatcom County will shortly have a new bomb response vehicle thanks to a 2005 grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the county’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM), a part of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s office.
The vehicle, a 2007 Ford F-450, will be operated by the Hazardous Devices Unit of the Bellingham Police Department through the county. DEM deputy director Don Boyd explained that the bomb response vehicle is part of a matched set. “We got a robot a couple of years ago to use in situations where we don’t want to put a deputy at risk, for example to inspect vehicles or deliver a phone or radio in a hostage situation,” he said.
In return for the Bellingham Police Department’s providing county-wide hazardous material disposal service, Boyd said, the county provides lake and harbor patrol inside the city limits in Bellingham Bay and on Lake Whatcom.
The most recent incident involving an actual device happened in May of 2003 when Ricky Reed, 43, was arrested for attempting to board a commercial aircraft at the Bellingham airport with two pocket knives and a "seal bomb," equivalent to about a quarter stick of dynamite used by commercial fishermen to scare seals away from fishing grounds.

GSA approves EIS, gives final go-ahead
The long-awaited project to remodel the Peace Arch customs facility is a go, according to Michael Levine of the General Services Administration (GSA). The final environmental impact statement (EIS) was approved and signed earlier this month by GSA regional administrator Jon Kvistad, setting the stage for acquisition of property in the area and beginning construction.
This concludes a planning process that began eight years ago, when officials in various federal border inspection departments convinced congress and the GSA that a new building was needed to replace the current facility, built in the 1970s. Planning was forestalled initially because of local opposition to the GSA plan that would have taken over a part of Peace Arch Park for its expanded campus. New security requirements mandated by DHS required further modification of the plans, as did state and federal highway agencies who pointed out that the GSA had failed to make enough room in their plan to accommodate the need for a reasonable exit into Blaine for traffic southbound from Canada.
The solution they arrived at was to use traffic circles, or round-abouts, at the two lighted intersections where I-5 exit 276 meets D street and also where traffic flowing from both primary and secondary inspection areas.
Although a groundbreaking date has not been set, construction is scheduled to continue into 2009, just a few weeks before the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.