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July 6, 2018

Customs and Border Protection considers new facility in Old Town

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is talking with Old Town officials about relocating its Air and Marine Operations Unit from Houlton to DeWitt Field at the Old Town Municipal Airport.

Airport Manager Lance Farrar told the Bangor Daily News that negotiations, which are still preliminary, include a 15-year lease at $5,500 per month, with the city paying an estimated $1.3 million for construction of a 70 by 70-foot hangar and a command center. John Priddy, director of Northern Border Operations for CBP, told the newspaper the agency has long been considering moving its aviation division in order to enhance its accessibility to Maine's western and southern borders. The agency began soliciting offers in April.

"It brings another employer to the city," Farrar said.

According to the CBP website, Houlton Border Patrol Sector's operational area includes the entire State of Maine. The U.S. Border Patrol was established in Maine on May 28, 1924. The Border Patrol in Maine was under the direction of District One, located in Newport, Vt. Houlton Sector consisted of nspectors in Calais, Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent, Houlton, Jackman, Mars Hill, Van Buren and Vanceboro. In 1965, it moved to its present location at 96 Calais Road, in Hodgdon. Today, Houlton Sector maintains stations in Calais, Fort Fairfield, Houlton, Jackman, Rangeley and Van Buren.

The negotiations between Old Town and CBP are in sync with Old Town's aim to spur economic growth and job creation. Earlier this year, new federal legislation, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-District 2, removed deed restrictions on land at the Old Town Airport, allowing it to be used for business development. The law was designed to allow the airport to move forward with the project of developing the land to attract new businesses and jobs to the area. The town has invested more than $1 million in infrastructure improvements to help bring job creators to the site.

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