FOREST CITY, Maine — Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday that construction of a 4,500-square-foot, $5.4 million port of entry in the rural community is on track for the summer completion date estimated by officials last April.
Shelbe Benson-Fuller, a public affairs specialist with the agency, said that contractors are installing exterior finishes and completing other internal work on the new port, which is being built on the footprint of the current port.
She added that the upgrades will allow the port to meet security and operational standards put in place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as well as create jobs and local business opportunities in the state.
Located in northeastern Washington County on the border of Aroostook County and New Brunswick, Forest City has fewer than 10 permanent residents, with the population increasing to about 30 people during the summer.
Many of those residents were rankled in March 2010 when government officials announced that they had allocated federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Funds to build a new, larger port of entry to replace the facility built in 1962.
The border crossing is considered a “low-volume port of entry” that is open only from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed on Sundays and holidays. An average of 6.6 cars pass through the port each day, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
The plan for the proposed $15 million facility featured enhanced technology and updated infrastructure, along with a four-lane road to cross from the U.S. into Canada. That plan also required the acquisition of some of an abutting landowner’s property to accommodate the project. After pressure from area landowners and intervention from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who also expressed opposition to the agency’s original proposal, plans were scaled back to the current $5.4 million facility.
The new port is needed, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, to prevent illegal activity and provide for better traffic control. It also will enhance safety, as the existing port has no inspection booth or holding cell for violators, inadequate fire and life safety systems, a poor vehicle-entry perimeter, inadequate lighting and the presence of hazardous materials. The new port will have more workstations and office space; holding, interview and search rooms; an inbound inspection booth; a vehicle garage; perimeter fencing; lighting; and gates and other security measures.
The new building also will be more energy-efficient, with more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning, indirect solar heating panels to provide for water heating and plumbing fixtures and high-efficiency irrigation equipment to promote reduced water usage.
Officials anticipate that it will cost the same amount of money or even less to run the new port.
Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection are working out of a temporary port established before the project began last year.