US Border Patrol looks to Fredonia in security project

Property owned by the village of Fredonia may soon house a self-standing tower to help the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department’s Buffalo sector in improving its surveillance of illegal immigrants across the Great Lakes.

As part of Monday’s village board meeting, Matthew Densmore, patrol agent in charge of the Buffalo station, and Michael Fay, operations officer, as well as Jennifer Janik of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, gave a presentation on a federal endeavor called the Maritime Detection Project.

The completion of this project would entail building a medium-sized surveillance camera/radar tower on land located at the village’s wastewater treatment plant in the town of Dunkirk, the spot project developers agreed was the most ideal location for one of three towers along the far eastern Lake Erie watershed.

“What we’re trying to do is set up technology for intelligence collection to do some detection that we are unable to currently carry out,” Densmore explained. “All we have right now, the farthest one out is the Coast Guard station right outside the mouth of the Niagara River; that’s all we have for permanent technology (to see people crossing the border with Canada using Lake Erie) and we’re looking to expand.”

The detection project, started in 2011, is directly funded by Congress, with a one-time lump sum of $5.5 million given. The village board last December gave permission to the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a survey and exploration of the wastewater treatment plant grounds to determine if the site is an ideal location for placing the tower.

“Right now, it’s extremely difficult to detect anything coming across the border,” Fay said. “This is a flip of a switch for us and we won’t have to be pulling everybody over, stopping everybody, and trying to figure out what’s actually coming across.”

Two other towers are also in the works: one at Sturgeon Point in Evans and another in Ripley. The towers would be at most 180 feet tall and would resemble a cell tower.

“We would be securing about 81 miles on the border with this project,” Densmore remarked. “With a tower, we can know exactly what’s going on at any giving time, if someone is crossing the border and coming from Canada.”

Densmore added Fredonia and surrounding areas could benefit financially from the tower (in addition to the added security provided) in that if the village currently has an antenna up on another tower and has to pay rent for it, the Border Patrol tower could be used to re-locate that antenna free of charge with no rent. This would apply to antennas used by law enforcement and/or public safety entities.

In order for the tower to be erected, the village board must pass a resolution giving the go-ahead for the project to commence and for the federal government to enter into a lease agreement with the village. Fredonia Attorney Samuel Drayo indicated he would like to see reassurance that the tower would not interfere with sewage plant operations before the board acts on anything.

“We don’t want to have a situation arise where the tower interferes with the village’s use of the plant now or possibly in the future,” Drayo said.

Also during the meeting, Brian Luce and Scott Mackay were appointed to the Planning Board for five-year terms each. Trustee Susan Mackay abstained from voting.

Trustee Janel Subjack announced Fredonia’s preliminary municipal website should be up and running beginning today. The temporary web address is www.villageoffredoniany.com, with the ending changing to “.gov” once the full website goes live.

Adam Mcadoo of Cassadaga and Timothy Mason of Fredonia were appointed as part-time police officers on an as-needed basis at a rate of pay of $12.25 per hour. The hires are replacements, not additions to the police force.

Lindsay Seddon of Fredonia filled the position of seasonal recreation attendant at $8 per hour.

The board entered into executive session to discuss matters leading to the employment of a particular person in the fire department, as well as to discuss proposed litigation.

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