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The Morses Line Port of Entry


Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome everyone. I am Bill Rowell from Highgate.


Messrs et Madams. Je m'appelle Bill Rowell, au Vermont, nous apprecion pour se faison pour nous aujourd hui, merci. 


We are proud to share this beautiful region with our friends and neighbors from Quebec, and really, we are all quite fortunate to have the opportunity. 

Occasionally, we find ourselves at an unintended destination, which is the case today. 


Ladies and Gentlemen, this morning we intend to demonstrate our need and community support for keeping the Morse's Line Port of Entry open. Morse's Line is a small Port of Entry and does not account for high volumes of traffic experienced at major ports, although it does serve as relief for Highgate Springs during times of heavy traffic, or crisis.


Compare Highgate Springs to Detroit, both are major ports servicing a much greater region but Highgate Springs is paled by comparison. We understand it is about service to the region, not size. Morses Line shouldn't be compared to a major Port of Entry. Morse's Line accounts for much of our local traffic and services an expanded community, which has come to exist in two countries.


Our Federal Government is charged with the responsibility of securing the borders of the United States and requires the Department of Homeland Security to protect national interests by doing just that.


The Department of Homeland Security in the interest of national security recognized a need to update the Morse's Line Port of Entry, here in Franklin Vermont. The proposed project was to cost more than $15,000,000 and would require 10.5 acres of land from Clement Rainville's family farm.


Alternatives included:


1.) A 4.9-acre footprint

2.) Repair and alternations to the existing facility

3.) No action


When negotiations to procure the land proved unfavorable to the Rainvilles, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that if negotiations were not successful the land could be taken by Eminent Domain, in the interest of National Security.


In an attempt to suppress that action, the Rainville family used as a platform "Save the Family Farm".


An informational meeting held here in May signaled strong support for the Rainvilles, which the government misinterpreted as a lack of community support for Morse's Line. A short time later the Department of Homeland Security announced it would begin proceedings to close the port, no meeting had been warned and no dialogue had been established with the Canadian Government.


Since that announcement the community at large, Vermont and Quebec, recognized the need to send a strong signal to Washington, which demonstrates the importance to our region of keeping the port open.


The select boards of Franklin and Highgate along with the North West Regional Planning Commission and Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation have served as a task force to organize today's meeting. They have gathered information from the government (which is a task in itself), developed an Agenda, warned a public meeting and delivered invitations (mostly to government officials).


Neighboring towns immediately recognized the importance of this issue, every board we approached voted in favor. Franklin, Highgate, Enosburg, Sheldon, Fairfield, Swanton Village, Swanton Town, St. Albans City, the Northwest Regional Planning Commission and the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation all understand that closing the Morse's Line Port of Entry would be detrimental to our region and beyond.


1.) Quebec is Vermont's largest trading partner. We are linked together in many ways but sending the wrong signal would have a negative effect on billions of dollars worth of trade and commerce. 


2.) The loss of this port will impede the efforts of many area farmers and business people performing their routine duties. We'll hear from some of these folks shortly.


3.) We expect mutual aid between neighboring communities would be handicapped. During times of crisis, we depend on all emergency services being readily available.


4.) Vermont is a tourist state, many thousands of visitors who also bike , snowmobile and hike on the many miles of recreation trails which we have gone to great effort and expense to develop, will find it  an in convenience and oversight on our part if closed. Many of our towns will experience shrinking revenues as a result.


5.) Eliminating this historic route for the many families on both sides of the border diminishes cultural exchange and discourages family activities.


The community at large finds it difficult to understand how the U.S. Government went from spending over $15,000,000 on a new facility, announcing it would exercise Eminent Domain in the interest of National Security, fail to investigate all options, and then, in the blink of an eye, completely abandon its efforts by announcing a decision to begin proceedings to close the Port of Entry.


There appears to be something of a fly in the ointment here, this isn't a decision we're even remotely interested in. What happened to National Security?


Surveillance will be compromised by a lack of human presence, perhaps it can be accomplished electronically, but lead-time becomes a factor. The Morse's Line Port of Entry is on a well-established route, simply closing the door will become a persistent security problem and it shows blatant disregard for the needs of our region. The southern border is enough of a situation without creating one here.


We recognize a responsibility to support our government; we also recognize government's responsibility to the people of our region. We ask respectfully that the Department of Homeland Security resume its process of discovery, which was interrupted and now threatens infrastructure of the region and leaves our security hanging in the balance.


We ask that the Department of Homeland Security fully explore all options, seek other possibilities, either find or develop a solution that is less obtrusive, yet consistent with meeting our needs in the interest of National Security which instills confidence in us for a more reasonable expense to the taxpayer.


We suggest the Department of Homeland Security confer with the Selectboards of Franklin and Highgate as well as the Northwest Regional Planning Commission and Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation as part of the discovery process to gain a better understanding of our needs.


The community's expectations of government are that of due diligence and integrity, we do not accept being written off as a sleepy little community divided by a border between our countries. If we step on someone's pride it appears disrespectful, doing it to an entire community is irresponsible.


We respectfully ask for your cooperation to resolve this matter.


Thank you.



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