Thursday, July 10, 2014

Noyes Customs Building Up for Auction

While nothing was really mentioned of the history of the depot, it was difficult, yet good to read this article about Noyes today.  A very sad article about Noyes generally, and the old Customs building specifically. There was a beginning, and this is the beginning of the end.

It will be interesting to see who buys it and what they do with it. I could see turning it either into a very interesting residence (granted, it would take a lot of internal remodeling with all that ugly government modernization they did over top of the original early 1930s classic look, i.e., the paneling and indoor/outdoor carpet...), or a Bed and Breakfast with a border theme.  Who knows - it could just end up being a storage shed. Obviously someone wants it for something. Bidding started in May at $5,000 and it's already up to $30,000 with 4 bidders so far, and three weeks to go despite what the article says; there is a notation on the listing that the time period for bids may be extended, which is evidently has been...

Chris Misson, chief Customs and Border Patrol officer, stands in front of
the former Customs and Immigration Station at Noyes, Minn. Wednesday.
The station, closed several years ago, is being sold on an online auction.

[Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald]

Old Noyes, Minn., border station for sale, reminder of closed crossing

By Kevin Bonham (Grand Forks Herald, July 10, 2014)

NOYES, Minn. — When Mary Delaquis first arrived at what then was the U.S. Customs and Immigration Station in Noyes as a customs inspector, her daily commute took her just across the international border to a motel in Emerson, Man., where she lived that first summer in 1984.

Customs and Immigration Station in Noyes as a customs inspector, her daily commute took her just across the international border to a motel in Emerson, Man., where she lived that first summer in 1984.

That wasn’t unusual.

The Noyes border station — located along U.S. Highway 75 but just a 15-minute drive from the Interstate 29 port of entry north of Pembina, N.D. — was more of a neighborhood crossroads than an international port of entry.

“We didn’t see a lot of commercial traffic at the port,” said Delaquis, now Pembina Area Port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations.

“It was an opportunity for locals to use the facility, she said. “They could move more quickly through the border.”

Canadians living in Emerson, Letellier and other nearby Manitoba communities would cross the border to get their mail, buy gas or to buy groceries.

Noyes-area residents, in turn, would drive across cross to eat, have a couple of beers, or to take their families swimming at the pool in Emerson.

“We saw a real local flavor at the border crossing,” said Delaquis.

The Border Patrol building, now closed and up for online auction, is an empty reminder of the past activity.

Station for sale

Most Noyes area residents — the population was about 15 in the 1980s — worked either with U.S. Customs or the Border Patrol, or they were employed by commercial brokerage firms that had shops in the community or at the local duty-free store or U.S. Post Office.

That all changed in 2006, when CBP closed the Noyes station, moving its operations to the Pembina area port.

The port of entry closed about three years after Canada closed its counterpart, ending vehicular traffic across the border.

The Border Patrol kept the facility open until 2011, before moving to Pembina, where it currently shares the Customs House with CBP’s field operations.

A new 30,000-square-foot Border Patrol Station is under construction in Pembina, but it likely will not be ready until late fall, according to Christopher Misson, chief CBP officer and public affairs liaison at the Pembina field operations office.

The old Noyes station, which was built in 1931, is for sale through an online auction, being conducted by the U.S. General Services Administration.

Bidding started May 2 at $5,000. As of Wednesday, the highest bid was $30,000, with four bidders on the board. The bidding is scheduled to end Monday.

Cutting back

When Delaquis initially worked in Noyes, the station was open 24 hours per day. Customs occupied half of the mail building, while what then was Immigration and Naturalization Service in the other half.

The station later scaled back to two shifts, with Customs and INS each taking one shift, with one employee each on duty. After 9/11, each federal agency kept two people on duty during the shifts. Officers rotated between the Pembina and Noyes stations.

In 2003, the federal government combined the inspectional authority and workforces of U.S Customs Service, INS and other federal inspection agencies into U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

That year, the federal government also announced its intention to close the Noyes station.

At about the time it closed, eight years ago today, the Noyes Station handled an average of three trucks, 50 passenger vehicles and 154 passengers a day, according to an article in the Federal Register.

It also handled three freight trains daily on two sets of railroad tracks that cross the border here, the tracks running on the opposite side of U.S. Highway 75 from the border station.

Whistle stop

Today, Noyes has just a couple of occupied houses. Others are abandoned, some of them hidden by overgrown trees.

Other than an occasional sightseer or a wayward motorist forced to halt at highway border barricades, most traffic is from train crews.

Two tracks cross the border at Noyes. CBP operates an automated imaging system that essentially examines all trains crossing from Canada into the U.S. on each of the tracks. BNSF, Canadian Pacific Railways and Canadian National Railway operate on the tracks.

On average, three or four southbound trains stop in Noyes per day, Misson said.

“Every train is met by an officer and every train is X-rayed,” Delaquis said.

A similar number of northbound trains stop at another imaging station, operated by the Canadian government.

The state of Minnesota maintains a tiny native prairie park, with a flagpole set in a fieldstone monument, across the highway from the station.

Misson was part of the officer rotation, starting in 1996.

“We had very little commercial traffic,” he said. “Occasionally, we’d get people driving Highway 75 in the U.S. when they wanted Highway 75 in Manitoba.”

Manitoba Provincial Highway 75 extends from I-29 at the Pembina border crossing through Winnipeg.

We’d get them turned around,” he said. “Other than that, we had plenty of deer crossing here too. That was our nighttime entertainment.”

Delaquis, who lived in one of the handful of houses in Noyes for a few months back in the mid-1980s, noticed a change in the community after the port closed in 2006.

“It was a quiet, little town,” Delaquis said. “What was sustaining it was the border activities. After it closed, we saw kind of a gap, perhaps, in our sharing and community across the border.”