County may be forced to hire another officer

Extra deputy will patrol YVRA

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— Security mandates the Federal Aviation Administration has imposed for airports across the country could force Routt County to hire an additional sheriff's deputy.

Sheriff John Warner is requesting the Routt County Commissioners to hire an additional sheriff's deputy for Yampa Valley Regional Airport because the FAA has required all airports to increase their security.

Warner will make the request during a meeting with the commissioners next week.

The FAA mandated the heightened security at airports because of the Sept. 11 tragedies where hijacked airplanes were used to crash into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

To comply with the requirement of providing armed law enforcement personnel inside the terminal at the county-operated airport, the Sheriff's Office has undertaken the task.

So far, Warner has been able to assign a deputy to the airport but is concerned with the impact the requirement is having on his staffing.

With a deputy at the airport, Warner has one less patrol deputy out on the road and responding to calls, he said.

Warner is also concerned additional deputies may be needed because of the upcoming winter months, when air travel is expected to increase at the airport.

"This has really put a cramp on us," Warner said. "We are managing it OK now, but my big concern is what happens when the commercial flights start landing in the winter."

Since the airport reopened Sept. 14, a law enforcement officer is at the airport as flights land and depart, Warner said.

Because of this, Warner assigns a deputy to work at the airport during the day and night.

"Before this happened, we did not need to have a deputy out at the airport," he said. "But because of what happened, we have to have an armed officer every time a plane lands or departs."

When the snow starts to fly and air travel increases at the airport, Warner expects a second deputy will be needed because of the number of travelers.

"With two deputies at the airport, we will need additional officers to supplement our normal staffing," he said.

Warner is requesting one officer because he expects to hire a deputy in October to bring his patrol personnel up to full staff, which is 11 deputies.

Through a presentation that will be given at 3 p.m. Monday in the county meeting room, Warner is hoping to convince commissioners an additional officer will be needed later this year.

"We are heading into the busy season of the year because of hunting," Warner said. "We always have calls for lost or injured hunters. To take two of our deputies away during hunting season will put us in a real crunch."

If the commissioners agree with Warner, two major issues arise.

The first is who will pay the salary for the additional deputy.

"This is an unfunded federal mandate," Warner said. "Is it fair for the taxpayers to pick up the tab or should it be picked up by the airlines?

"My position is the airlines should pick up the tab and not the taxpayers."

The second issue is hiring someone to take the job without being able to provide that person job security.

"We don't know how long the increased level of security will last," Warner said. "Will this last a year or end in six months? How do we hire someone? I would hate to hire someone and then two weeks later have to lay that person off."

Warner is looking forward to the meeting with the commissioners and airport administration.

"These are issues we will have to sit down and discuss," he said. "This is an unanticipated mandate by the FAA. It has the potential to have a fiscal impact on the way we do things around here."

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