26 de septiembre de 2017

SIERRA VISTA : Buscan autoridades y empresarios participar en modernización de Aduana de Douglas

County, Sierra Vista eager to help Douglas port rebuild

Sierra Vista, AZ.- Unless invited by Douglas officials to participate, Cochise County, Sierra Vista and at least one private investment company will likely have little to do with the modernization of the city’s Port of Entry. However, all three entities are keenly interested in the long-anticipated project that is expected to bolster local economic development efforts. Mayor Rick Mueller said Monday he will meet this week with Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe and other city officials to discuss the port project. “I wish Douglas good luck on this,” Mueller said.

“If this is done right and we get the cooperation of all the resources that are available, we’ll get the downtown port renovated and a commercial port built and that needs to be done.” Mueller said he was invited by the Douglas mayor after a conversation on the significance of the project to Sierra Vista and other municipalities in Cochise County. “The potential for a commercial port in Douglas to be an inland logistics center that offers safe and fast transport of goods going into and out of Mexico, and coming by truck, rail and even air can happen there,” he said. County supervisors toured the Douglas Port of Entry on Sept. 19, meeting with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection on what needs to be done at the facility.

 “It was an amazing opportunity for open communications with CBP about the port,” County Administrator Ed Gilligan said Monday. “They’re doing great work in a very confined space.” Douglas has been petitioning for an upgrade of its downtown port — constructed in 1933 and remodeled in 1993 — for years. 

Two previous applications for federal funding for the project have been denied by CBP, the most recent decision rendered in June 2016. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Ann English said Tuesday that Cochise County will delay its proposal to develop a master plan for the Douglas port until after a federal feasibility is completed, scheduled for July 2018.

 Earlier this month U.S. Rep. Martha McSally announced that federal funding for a feasibility study has been approved for the current fiscal year by the General Services Administration. The congresswoman said the study represents a significant step toward planning for a modern facility that meets the needs of CBP. GSA officials are expected to visit Douglas later this year to review the scope of the study and discuss its timetable. Cochise County has set aside about $200,000 in the 2017-18 budget to develop a master plan for the project, proposing two separate ports of entry. In April, county officials met with representatives of Ardent Investments, a private company that owns about 370 acres just outside the Douglas city limits. 

Paul Fiel, managing member at Ardent, and his brother, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, proposed their property be used for a “commercial only” port that would handle truck and possibly rail cargo entering the country from Mexico. English said county funds are still available for the project, but will not be allocated until the feasibility study has been completed. She said county officials initially thought of doing the master plan sooner, but changed that plan when the GSA announced the timetable for the study. “We were advised that it would better serve the interests of the project by waiting to do the master plan,” English said.

The chairwoman said she favors a two-port plan — renovating the existing downtown Douglas facility and constructing a “commercial only” port west of the city. English said she also favors building the commercial port before starting work on the downtown building. “Where are they going to put the traffic when they’re working on the existing port?” English asked. This will be the second feasibility study authorized by the GSA, and the fourth to examine the Douglas port. The agency completed its first study in 2007, the Arizona Department of Transportation did one in 2013 and Gov. Jan Brewer’s office had a feasibility study completed in 2014.

 Fiel had no comment on the GSA feasibility study on Monday, saying that his company is anticipating direction from Douglas officials on what will happen next regarding the modernization effort. “Ardent Investments has decided to has stand down from the Douglas C-LPOE initiative until further notice,” Fiel said. The city plans to donate 80 acres it owns for the construction of a commercial port, utilizing the new Unified Cargo Processing program that Douglas City Manager Russell has said would significantly reduce inspection times from hours to about 20 minutes. Russell said the traffic design of the port would relieve “congestion inside the commercial compound,” and that CBP and the GSA will pay for all improvements and security at the site.