It would mean closing off part of Mowat Avenue and making Church Street one-way for a couple of blocks but local mill manager Jim Gartshore told town council Monday night an off-bridge Canada Customs facility would be the best way to go here.
And it could be ready in just over a year.
Gartshore had a list of pros and cons for both an on-bridge and off-bridge proposal. If the new Customs facility stayed on the bridge, he noted there wouldn’t have to be any town involvement but added it would make for very cramped conditions.
“Anything we build on the bridge is expensive because you’re building over water,” Gartshore said, noting an on-bridge facility also would require Abitibi-Consolidated and Boise Cascade, which own the bridge, to expand the deck on the Canadian side.
An on-bridge facility also would force Revenue Canada, Customs, and Immigration to build a warehouse for seized or bonded merchandise at a separate site instead of right by the Customs office.
“It would just be too expensive to build it all on the bridge,” Gartshore said. “Plus people would have to be housed at a temporary facility [during construction].
“[Off-bridge] we don’t need a temporary facility,” he remarked.
Still, an off-bridge facility also requires logistics to be taken care of, Gartshore noted. Mowat Avenue south of Church Street would have to be closed and transferred over to the mill’s property.
The old PUC building also would have to transferred to the mill, and then demolished. And there would have to be a proper transfer of sewage and water pipes.
Gartshore said this would have to be done because the proposed Customs facility would “flow” across Central Avenue up to Mowat, taking up land the mill has reserved for expansion.
While the impact to the town is higher with the “off-bridge” option, Gartshore argued it would incorporate a separate truck route for commercial vehicles and would direct visitors’ traffic in a more efficient manner into Fort Frances and Northwestern Ontario.
“The potential exists to build an effective crossing,” he said, stressing whatever gets built likely will have to last for the next 30-40 years.
“Right now, I think off the bridge is the better way to go,” he concluded.
Gartshore said construction of a new facility, either on or off bridge, could start this year and be completed sometime in 2000, depending on how soon the decision is made as to what type of Customs office to build.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon told Gartshore town council would make port of entry discussions with the mill a top priority so a decision could be made soon.
Coun. Sharon Tibbs spoke in favour of the “off-bridge” facility, reminding council Fort Frances is the third-largest port of entry in Canada.
“I think we need to look at putting something here that’s a good design,” she stressed. “I think the ‘off-bridge’ facility, though it does require extra work from the town, is the better of the two [options].”