Fingerprint device would speed security checks at airport

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— The Routt County Commissioners could decide this morning to purchase a $26,000 digital fingerprinting machine that would speed up background checks for airport workers who wear security badges.

The cost of the Identix live scan fingerprint system would be covered by fees already collected from airline passengers, Yampa Valley Regional Airport Manager Jim Parker told the commissioners.

The fingerprinting operation is meant to prevent convicted felons from getting jobs that require security clearance at the airport.

Currently, the affected employees (as many as 200 during the peak of the ski season) are fingerprinted the old-fashioned way and their fingerprint cards are sent to an industry clearinghouse in Washington D.C.

The problem, Parker said, is that about 50 percent of the cards are returned for technical deficiencies that have nothing to do with felonies. The delays on obtaining security clearance for those employees are becoming unworkable.

Typically, cards returned for errors take four to six weeks to arrive, he said.

"I think some of them are just lost at the clearinghouse in Washington. That is not going to help us operationally for the ski season," Parker said.

Employees of Spectrum Jet Center, the fixed-based operator for general aviation at the airport, also need to have the background checks completed.

Owner Jane Harelik told commissioners she has two employees who have been waiting since early summer for their badges to return.

The new digital fingerprint system should eliminate errors and provide a three- to five-day turnaround, Parker said.

The Identix product is the same system used by DIA, Eagle County Airport and Walker Field in Grand Junction.

If the system were installed at YVRA, employees would no longer have their fingers inked for prints. Instead, they would simply place them on a glass platen not unlike that of a flatbed scanner.

The fingerprint would then be transmitted to the clearinghouse over a secure modem line. The prints are run through databases checking for any of 38 felonies. A match to a prior conviction results in a failed test.

Employees who need the security badge are those who have access to the ramp at the airport, including county and airline employees.

Parker said the airport is also held strictly accountable for the badges as employees turn over.

YVRA lays off its seasonal employees each spring and then rehires them for the following ski season, complicating that process and requiring new fingerprint checks each winter, Parker added.

If approved, the money for the live scan fingerprint system would initially be taken out of the airport's existing fund balance. However, Parker has already included a request for $30,000 for the equipment in the latest submission to the FAA for use of "passenger facility charges" collected at the airport.

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