Customs to lease port space; Border Patrol won’t

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

The port commissioners agreed to give up their meeting chambers to lease and will temporarily use the port’s conference room at the Point Hudson offices until a permanent meeting chambers can be created.
PORT TOWNSEND — U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expected to open new office space in the Port of Port Townsend’s administrative offices building at Point Hudson in January.

“We were a bona fide port of entry for quite awhile,” Port Deputy Director Jim Pivarnik said Friday. “Now, we are a limited status port of entry where they have to call and make an appointment.

“The advantage of having offices close by, especially for Point Hudson, was very important.”

Canadian boaters will be able to call ahead of landing at Point Hudson Marina for an appointment to check in with U.S. Customs, Pivarnik said.

Pivarnik said the port would hire Port Townsend architect Richard Berg to work with the lessees to determine their remodeling needs.

“They are going to do up to $50,000 of renovations,” Pivarnik said.

The port commissioners approved May 25 a five-year lease and a five-year option with the General Services Administration to renew the lease on 1,700 square feet.

GSA had been seeking new office space for the past year for its Customs officer now housed in the historic Customs Building, which also houses the post office, on Washington Street.

The lease will bring $3,060 a month to the port, said Deputy Director Jim Pivarnik, for space that includes former Maritime Center office space that has been vacant for about 18 months.

The port commissioners agreed to give up their meeting chambers to lease and will temporarily use the port’s conference room at the Point Hudson offices until a permanent meeting chambers can be created.

The space is to be leased for a Customs office, not the Border Patrol, Port Executive Director Larry Crockett said after a Port Townsend-area group opposing the build-up of a Border Patrol presence on the North Olympic Peninsula, spoke out at port meetings about their concern that the lease would house Border Patrol agents.

Crockett said last month that in discussions with the director of Customs in Port Angeles, Daniel Horseman, he was assured the space was intended “for the officers in blue and not the agents in green.”

Blue uniforms are worn by Customs officers. Border Patrol agents wear green.

“Once we sign the lease, if they do away with Customs and put in the Border Patrol, we have no control over that,” Crockett said then.

Two members of the Border Patrol Free Network said then that they were satisfied the space was intended to be leased to Customs, but they called for close monitoring.

The Border Patrol Free network, formed in 2008, wants to reverse the expansion of the Border Patrol and Homeland Security on the Olympic Peninsula.

In 2006, four agents worked in the Port Angeles headquarters, which covers both Clallam and Jefferson counties. That number had increased to 24 by April 2009. By last August, the staff was 25.

New expanded headquarters for the North Olympic Peninsula’s Border Patrol are going up on 3.4 acres at 110 Penn St. in Port Angeles.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 05. 2011 7:57PM
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