Updated Dec. 14, 1:15 p.m. | Posted Dec. 13, 11:54 a.m.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reducing its hours of operation at two northern Minnesota border crossings next month.
Locals strongly opposed the changes at the ports of entry at Lancaster and Roseau, and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says the decision ignores area residents.
The Lancaster port on U.S. Highway 59 is currently open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. CBP proposed closing the border crossing at 4 p.m.
In response to local concerns, the new port of entry hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer.
"During recent town halls, local community and business owners expressed concern about the reduction of hours. CBP listened to the concerns of the community in determining the final hours of operation," said Michele James, Director of Field Operations in Seattle in a news release announcing the changes.
Lancaster Mayor Mike Olson said he thinks the adjustment in hours will reduce potential economic harm to the community.
"Eight to 4 would have really affected us down the road," said Olson. "But now with 8 to 8 and 6 to 6, it's a win in the right direction. We'll see where it goes from there."
Olson still believes there's no good reason to reduce hours at one of the busier ports in the Grand Forks border sector.
"I don't understand their reasoning. They never give us a distinct straight answer. I guess I'm thinking it is a win for us but I'd sooner have it left alone," said Olson.
Dayton weighed in with a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying he is "extremely disappointed" in the CBP's decision.
"CPB's excuse of 'limited CPB resources' is ridiculous, coming from one of the world's largest law enforcement organizations with over 60,000 employees and a $13 billion annual budget," Dayton said. "The action is a deplorable example of placing the convenience of a public service provider ahead of the needs of the people it is supposed to serve."
CBP did not change the proposed hours of operation for the Roseau port of entry. It will close at 8 p.m. instead of midnight. Local officials expect that change to have a negative economic effect by reducing traffic from Canada.
"The new hours are based upon current and historical vehicle crossing data and limited CBP resources. This slight reduction of hours, will allow staff to be reallocated to nearby ports of entry that have a need for additional staffing during busy times with higher traffic volumes," said James.
The changes at Lancaster and Roseau take effect Jan. 7.
On Thursday, six members of the state's congressional delegation called on Customs to delay the changes and consider using technology to keep the border open.
"I don't know if they have a good idea of the remoteness of that area and the problem they're causing by making people drive," said Minnesota 7th Congressional District Rep. Collin Peterson, whose district covers the affected region. "You're going way out of your way, putting people on roads that may not be passable in the winter time."