FRANKLIN, Vt. — Outraged by plans to seize land from a Vermont dairy farm to expand a little-used US-Canada border station, dozens of people turned out yesterday to berate US Customs and Border Protection representatives. Many attendees suggested that the station be closed instead.
Toting signs that read “Eminent Domain Equals Federal Land Grab’’ and “Save the Rainville Family Farm,’’ about 150 people packed Franklin Town Hall, with about 18 standing up to speak — none in favor. One by one, they criticized the plan as wasteful, misdirected, an abuse of eminent domain or all three.
“If this goes forward, it’ll be Vermont’s `bridge to nowhere,’ ’’ said Pat Crocker, 48, of Essex. “And it’ll be disgraceful.’’
The Department of Homeland Security, which got $420 million from the federal bailout to modernize land ports like this, wants to spend about $5 million to renovate and expand the Depression-era Morses Line border station, a small brick building surrounded by pastures and hayfields owned by the Rainville family.
The building occupies about a half-acre of land, and is badly outdated. Its detention area consists of a bench with a set of handcuffs attached to one end, just inside the glass front door.
To upgrade it, federal officials have proposed taking an adjoining 4.9-acre parcel now used to grow hay and corn, offering the family $39,500 for it. The family, which says it needs the land to grow feed for its dairy cows, doesn’t want to sell.
It was recently notified that the land will be taken via eminent domain if no sale is agreed on.
The government, which initially proposed the project at 10 acres and then scaled it back to 4.9, now plans to take 2.2 acres of Rainville property, according to Trent Frazier, director of port modernization projects for CBP.
He announced that change yesterday at the public hearing, and said the proposed “taking’’ is on hold for now.
The changes did little to assuage the opposition, nor did his assertion that about 90 temporary jobs would be created by the renovation.