Journal of the San Juan Islands


Economics, logistics ignored by US Customs critics | Letters

December 16, 2013 · 8:53 AM

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a moderate liberal with a pragmatic way of viewing the world. Regarding the Customs and Border Protection relocation situation I’d like to offer my take on this situation.

First of all, the CBP officers here on the island are not a jack-booted Special Forces Team parachuted here in the dead of night to wreak havoc on the citizens of San Juan Island. They are neighbors and friends. Their children attend school with your children, they go to church with you, they help in community programs, and they deserve your support and respect.

They have dedicated their lives to protecting the country from terrorism, drug smuggling, the illegal importation of counterfeit goods, collecting tariffs, just to name a few. The only difference between us and them is that daily they put their lives on the line to make our country a safer place.

As far as the location goes, when the former tenant vacated the space the local economy was in a downward spiral. No tenant could be found to pay a “market rate” for a space designed to accommodate 20 real estate agents.

Gordy and Howard struck a deal to lease the space at a much reduced rate until a suitable tenant, willing to sign a reasonable lease, could be found. Gordy and I do not see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but he and I have managed to voice our differences in a civil manner.

One thing I absolutely support him on is his right to lease his space to anyone for any legitimate use. If opponents of the relocation of CBP think this is such perfect retail space, why hasn’t someone taken the deal?

It has always been known, even though Howard was there, the space was available. There even was a huge “This Building is For Lease” sign on the pillar.

CBP in Friday Harbor clears more boats a year than any other port in the country. It is necessary they have a facility close to the water. They can’t drive two miles back and forth from an industrial park on Beaverton Valley Road or even from an abandoned lumber yard in town every time a new boat arrives.

Think about it, we would have CBP vehicles making scores of trips a day and down the major streets in our town. At the Spring Street location their vehicles would be in underground parking and they would be able to continue to do their job on foot. Which one really has a more detracting effect?

Ironically, the new location is less than 50 feet from where US Customs had its office on Spring Street for many years. Is the space more than they need? Probably so, but they will be paying for the location which is their absolute need.

Finally, US Customs has had a constant presence on San Juan Island since 1853. If they were to leave Friday Harbor the economic impact on this community would be devastating.

There would be no more International Ferry. Over 20,000 boats cleared here last year, and if opponents get their way, they would be forced to clear in Bellingham or some other port of entry.

If you figure conservatively, each one of those boats represent $100 of spending in town, that’s over $2,000,000 annually. That’s quite a burden to bear for an already stagnated economy.

I urge those who oppose the move to the Spring Street location to give it a second thought.

Gayle Rollins/San Juan Island

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