New border headquarters to be constructed

Published on Thu, Jan 29, 2004 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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New border headquarters to be constructed

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Construction plans are in the works for a new border patrol sector headquarters facility, including a conference room, helipad and pistol range, to be built in eastern Blaine.

�Our plan is to create new sector headquarters and remodel the existing into a detention facility,� said Joe Giuliano, assistant chief of U.S. Border Patrol at Blaine, during a Monday evening study session with the Blaine city council.

Sector headquarters is responsible for 19 counties in western Washington, and all of Oregon and Alaska, and the current facility on H Street has been �home for about 40 years now. We outgrew it about 39 years ago,� Giuliano said.

�Sector headquarters is an administrative center. We essentially run the sector here,� he said, noting intelligence and communications would operate at the new site.

The federal government acquired 11.5 acres south of Sweet and Odell roads, southwest of Nature�s Path, for the new 22,000 square-foot headquarters. The modular-designed facility �had to fit into the community,� he said and will feature a 200-person conference center that can be utilized by the community for meetings and other needs. �Our objective is to open this up to the community to come in and see what we�re all about,� Giuliano said. �We envision a lot of joint operations.�

A helipad will also be on site, located in the southeastern area of the property; however, helicopters will not be based at the site. Giuliano estimated one or two helicopter visits per week, and assured the community would not be affected by noise. As for the pistol range, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel will utilize the facility, but the local police department and other organizations can as well, he said.

Council member John Liebert asked why the plans were so big for a pistol range, considering border patrol seldom have to actually use their weapons.

�Knock on wood we haven�t had to deal with that yet. Thank goodness it�s been quiet around here.� Giuliano said. �The reality is if something happens in Blaine, we�re all going to be in it together ... as things get tighter and tighter on the border, someone may approach more violently.�

The new headquarters comes at a time of growth reflective of post-9/11 times. �We�re at 147 (personnel) today and it looks like we�re going to grow a little more than that,� Giuliano said, adding there were 52 agents in 2001.

The new facility means additional jobs, and most of the support staff will be filled by local people. �We�d rather fill it with local talent,� Giuliano said, adding maintenance services will be contracted out to local businesses.

Council member Bonnie Onyon asked if those who moved here to work for border patrol, specifically agents, are buying homes and living here. Giuliano said, they were.

In addition to employees, Blaine border patrol will receive two 30-foot safe boats for homeland security, but the boats will be berthed in Bellingham at the Coast Guard facility.

�At this point, we hear we are getting boats. Right now, we have three guys detailed with the Coast Guard,� Giuliano said.

Facility construction was hoped to begin in February, Giuliano said, but it will likely be pushed to March. Christmas 2004 was the initial date of completion; however that date will now probably be March to April of 2005.

�We will be the prototype for the northern border. We want it (the facility) to be visible, pretty much a showpiece,� Giuliano said. �The design elements will be used nation-wide.�

Other communities such as Ferndale and Sumas offered to sell land to the government to induce the border patrol to set up shop within their communities; however, they chose to stick with Blaine.

�The bottom line is Blaine is on the border and we�ve always been here. This is the place where we need to be,� Giuliano said. �We need to interact more with the community we�re in.�

Following his presentation to the city council and staff, mayor Dieter Schugt thanked him for the information, and for his sense of humor, noting if others spoke the way Giuliano did, the communication between governments would be a lot better.

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