YVRA expects boost in security personnel

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Denver and Colorado Springs' loss has become Northwest Colorado's gain.

The state's two largest airports face large cuts to their security personnel, while smaller facilities, including Yampa Valley Regional Airport, expect a boost in their workforce.

The Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees U.S. airport security, announced last week that it will eliminate 6,000 security screeners nationwide by Sept. 30.

While Denver International Airport and Colorado Springs Municipal Airport could lose more than 250 screeners, none of those cuts are coming to Colorado's small mountain towns.

YVRA expects as many as 17 new people could check passengers and bags this year.

That's good news to airport director Jim Parker.

The additional staff could bring the number of permanent screeners from 11 to 28.

Peak travel times during ski season demand a larger workforce to keep inspections moving along, Parker said.

More than 40 people screened YVRA passengers during the 2002-03 ski season. Most of those people were brought in from other airports and left when the ski area closed, said Robert Saltzmann, YVRA's deputy federal security director.

That leaves 11 screeners at the airport until the snow flies later this year.

Anticipated additions would bring more permanent workers -- not seasonal employees -- to the airport.

Eleven explosive-trace devices were installed in the terminal lobby last year; each machine requires three screeners.

While 40-plus people are not essential in the off-season, there are other peak travel times when 11 screeners cannot adequately handle high passenger numbers, Saltzmann said.

He stressed that YVRA is not guaranteed 17 new screeners.

The airport will get more people to check passengers and bags, but the TSA's figure is a best-case scenario, he said.

Airports in Aspen and Pitkin counties, as well as in Alamosa, Cortez, Gunnison, Montrose, Pueblo and Telluride anticipate their workforces will grow at the expense of larger airports.

Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is looking at a jump from 14 to 34 screeners, and Eagle County Regional Airport expects its screeners to grow from 11 to 28.

DIA could terminate 197, or 19 percent, of its 1,043 screeners, and the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport could let go 61 screeners, or almost one-third of its workforce.

Congressional concerns about overstaffed airports prompted the TSA to look at cutting its personnel budget.

Eliminating 3,000 positions by the end of the month and another 3,000 by early fall will save the TSA $32 million in 2003 and $288 million in 2004.

Larger airports are concerned the cuts could negatively affect airline flight schedules and impact passenger flow through security checkpoints.


-- To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4203

or e-mail dharrelson@steamboatpilot.com

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