Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Steamboat Springs Travelers passing through Northwest Colorado's only commercial airport will begin to see signs of heightened security today as America goes to war with Iraq.
Officials at Yampa Valley Regional Airport were making preparations Wednesday to comply with a new security directive from the Transportation Safety Administration. The instructions came down from the federal government as the country remained on an orange terrorism alert.
"The only thing that the public will notice is random vehicle searches. We'll also have additional law enforcement patrols," Airport Director Jim Parker said. "We're not required to do it around the clock."
Drivers of private vehicles arriving at the airport east of Hayden could be contacted by airport personnel, and their trunks and rooftop cargo boxes could be searched.
Armed security personnel or law enforcement officers will begin making random tours through the public areas of the terminal. Prior to the new directive, the only armed presence was a private security officer at the passenger screening station.
Routt County, which owns the airport, contracts with a private security firm called Specialized Protective Services for security at the airport. The county is reimbursed for the cost by the TSA.
Bob Saltzmann, deputy director for Specialized Protective Services at YVRA, declined to discuss the new directive. However, he said he did not anticipate it would necessitate hiring more security personnel at the airport.
"We're staffed at a level where we can handle all of the directives," Saltzmann said.
SPS has 48 employees at the airport, 13 of them permanent residents of the area. The rest transferred here from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Melbourne, Fla.
Parker said he would meet with airport security officer Tyler Whitmore to discuss options for meeting the new directive.
The airport briefly searched vehicles earlier this winter when the nation was at an orange alert. That program was delayed while the outcome of a legal challenge to the searches was determined. As a result, very few searches took place.
The airport used existing rescue and fire personnel to search vehicles at that time.
Parker said it's also possible the airport will ask law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions in the county to carry out the additional patrols in the airport terminal.