"No Meeting" Meeting Leads to Silent Site Visit

DERBY LINE – Government officials are considering taking more action to stop people from entering the United States and failing to report at the Derby Line, VT, Port of Entry.Derby Line officials met with U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and General Services Administration (GSA) representatives near the U.S./Canadian border Friday and conducted a site visit – of sorts.Friday, village trustees waited outside the village office until Tom Eberhardt of GSA and CBP officials emerged from the customs building. The group walked north and looked around briefly by the border at the top of the hill and then went back inside. The federal government officials said very little while in public except that there was "no meeting."However, Vermont law requires that when a quorum of the trustees get together to review or discuss village business, that constitutes a "public meeting" that must be warned.Trustee Keith Beadle went inside the customs office and then came back out to update the group that waited outside. He said that when a plan is developed, U.S. officials would provide an update.Eberhardt had requested the meeting with trustees to talk about the possibility of a gate or other options to deal with the crossing issues.Some people are still coming into the United States on Route 5 in Derby Line (Maine Street) and not stopping, and traffic build-ups at the border station continue to be a problem, according to village clerk Karen Jenne.A couple of years ago, a sign with flashing lights was installed over the road and directed people to check in at the port, but some motorists are missing the sign. Another sign was placed at the top of the hill, when coming into Derby Line, and directed motorists to stop and wait until the line is clear to proceed to report, but on many occasions the sign is ignored. Now village officials are hearing that a gate is being considered.Beadle has already said that he doesn’t want a gate and would prefer some other measure to deal with the issues. Trustee Perry Hunt doesn’t even like the sign with the flashing light. He called it a “monstrosity.”When travelers are seeking to enter the United States on Route 5 in Derby Line, they first enter the country and then continue for about 50 yards before coming to the customs building on the right because of the location of the bridge across the Tomifobia River. Travelers sometimes continue on past the port of entry or turn into a gas station across the street without checking in first.The customs building, a GSA-owned facility, was built more than 100 years ago and served its purpose in recent eras. However, times have changed and the building has to change to meet new needs, explained Shelbe Benson-Fuller, a spokesperson with CBP. Benson-Fuller promised that the community will be included in discussions on infrastructure changes.“CBP and GSA conduct periodic meetings to discuss a myriad of facility improvements from minor repairs to possible infrastructure changes that meet current operational, safety and technological requirements. If an operational infrastructure change is needed to minimize the risk at our border and allows CBP to manage our resources with greater efficiency and flexibility, CBP will collaborate with our partners, stakeholders, and the local community for review and comment as we work together to find a solution that balances security with the needs of the local community,” Benson-Fuller wrote in a statement.