U.S. Customs Office for land and sea possible in Martin County

Martin County Commissioners heard from both sides over a proposed U.S. Customs Office that would allow both airplanes and boats to clear customs locally.

Those in favor of having a customs facility  at Witham Field said having an international airport and marina will draw in more dollars.

Those against it said it could have a negative environmental impact, and might eventually lead to this small facility turning into a commercial airport.

Proponents, like pilot Sam Douglas and marina owner Scott Watson, said the benefits include a possible increase in tourism, and convenience for area residents who currently have to fly or boat in from far away.

"Convenience and money," said Douglas. "We have to stop at either Fort Pierce or Palm Beach, and these stops cost us, not only in time, but they cost money. "

"Convenience part for the people that live here, that come down to visit us, our tourists, would make it much more user-friendly," explained Watson.

Opponents, including David Shore, are concerned about the high price tag, loud noises from jets, and the potential for heavy traffic around the airport.

"Economic numbers that, we feel, just don't add up," said Shore. "It certainly will have a huge impact on our community, negative impact, in increased flights, increased pollution, and ultimately we think it may lead to Witham Field becoming a scheduled commercial airport. "

In the meantime, commissioners voted note to vote, and urged airport director George Stokus to keep a watchful eye on the bids that could come in.

"It's a four to six week process that goes in local papers, other softwares and media public bid," said Stokus. "We open those bids, and then we'll report that back to the board of commissioners."

While the airport director can ask for bids, only the county commissioners have the power to vote on whether or not construction will begin on the project.


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