Jun 1, 2010

From Dairy To Pork

A dangerous band of insurgents

In Vermont, the federal government plans to seize a farmer’s land to build a $5 million border post on a quiet country road. The community is fiercely opposed, and the Department of Homeland Security is under fire for planning expensive projects that aren't needed.

The hamlet of Morses Line is just a dot on the Canadian border in the small northern Vermont town of Franklin. A quiet country road leads to the existing brick border station at the edge of a hayfield.

In about two hours on a recent afternoon, one truck and two cars go by. One was a Customs officer arriving for his shift.

“Last night was a little busier because you had bingo at the church in the neighboring town,” says Brian Rainville. The land the U.S. government wants is part of his family’s dairy farm. Rainville goes through a box full of documents and pulls out the architectural drawings for the new border post.

“So we’re looking at putting in a storm water pond, a traffic turnaround, covered parking, three designated traffic lanes, two stages of radiation detectors, a two-story building with a fitness center on the second floor. It all strikes me as a little much for Morses Line,” he says.

“I’m not quite sure how Morses Line, with a traffic rate of 2 1/2 cars an hour, is a matter of national security and utmost budgetary importance…”

Similar controversies are playing out across the 3,000-mile border with Canada, where the Department of Homeland Security plans to spend $355 million to fortify 22 border stations.

Federal money is hard to turn down, but even the Vermont congressional delegation opposes the Morses Line project.

The government says the projects are needed to meet the challenges of a post-Sept. 11 world. “Our homeland security is only as strong as each individual port of entry,” says Marco Lopez, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. “That is why we are committed to making sure that we are able to provide the technology and the infrastructure requirements that this new threat environment demands of us.”

Officials say the existing Morses Line customs building has a leaky roof and not enough space to inspect vehicles or hold prisoners.

I’m willing to bet that the officers manning the post know 95% of all the travelers by sight. If they only inspect those unfamiliar to them, wouldn’t a car port and a handheld radiation detector work. Total cost maybe $25k if bought through a government contract. Less than $5k if bought on the open market.

I also expect this story to end badly, as there will probably be a Federal take over of the family farm by way of imminent domain. I sincerely hope that I am wrong.

Dvorak, for the story.

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