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Ogdensburg authority seeks to stem currency exchange losses

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OGDENSBURG — The Canadian dollar seems to be on par with its American counterpart for everyone — except the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority.

The authority accepts Canadian and American currency at its toll booths at the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge, which charge vehicles travelling in either direction. Since the currencies are at par, the $2.75 toll is the same regardless of which currency crossers use, said Frederick S. Morrill, deputy executive director.

“It wouldn’t be fair to charge our Canadian customers more when the currencies are at par,” he said.

However, the OBPA has to pay an additional charge when exchanging the funds at its bank.

“There’s fees involved, there’s a service charge in the bank,” said Mr. Morrill. “They are providing a service for changing money, so they want to charge for that service.”

Currently, the authority exchanges currency every day at Community Bank, which gives a them a discount for both the regularity and the size of the exchanges.

“Their rate for exchanging is not the exchange rate,” said Mr. Morrill. “They give us a concession from what they would give you for going in with a $100 Canadian bill.”

Mr. Morrill said despite Community Bank’s willingness to reduce the charge, the authority has lost around $10,000 so far this year on currency exchanges.

“When the dollar is nearly at par or right around par, it makes it more difficult to pass that service charge along to our customers because they know it is at par,” he said. “That service charge is hurting us because we’re eating it.”

Other border crossing agencies keep Canadian bank accounts. For example, the authority that runs the Thousand Islands Bridge has toll plazas on either side of the crossing.

“We collect Canadian as well, we have tollbooths at both sides of the bridge,” said Robert G. Horr Executive Director of the Thousand Islands Bridge authority. “Our Canadian money is deposited in a Canadian bank so there are no fees. We don’t convert, in other words. We need to have a banking relationship in Canada because we have Canadian employees and assets.”

Mr. Morrill said the authority will try to open an American bank account in Canadian currency, and reduce the number of times a month that it exchanges funds into U.S. dollars.

“We will look for other ways of exchanging or go to a (request for proposals) for our banking, we’ve got to do something,” he said. “This is just brainstorming, in my own mind – maybe we’d put it into a Canadian dollar account and exchange it once a month instead of exchanging it once a day.”

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