Airport relief en route

Hayden could be reimbursed for police costs already incurred

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Relief is in sight for the Hayden Police Department, which has been overwhelmed by the task of providing additional security at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Thursday, Hayden Town Manager Russ Martin and Hayden police officers met with Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan, Sheriff John Warner, airport managers and Routt County Commissioner Daniel Ellison to discuss ways of easing the financial burden on the town.

"What we got out of this meeting was a commitment from the county to make this happen," Martin said.

U.S. airports have been at security level orange since Aug. 10, the day after British authorities foiled a terrorist plot involving planes headed for the U.S. That heightened security level has required that an armed law enforcement officer with the authority to arrest people be present when passengers are being screened at YVRA.

Because the airport is incorporated into the town of Hayden, that security burden falls on the Hayden Police Department. It is straining the resources of the small department, which has four full-time officers and a chief. Often, the only officer on duty in Hayden has to assist with security, which makes the officer unavailable for other calls.

It only takes up a few hours each day for Hayden Police, but it still causes a strain, Police Chief Jody Lenahan said. Once ski season flights start on Dec. 14, an officer likely will have to be at YVRA for 12 or more hours each day.

"We'll be up there almost non-stop," Martin said. "There is no way we can staff that with four officers and a chief."

The details still are being worked out, but the county has offered to reimburse the town for the airport security.

"None of us thought this extra level orange security : would stay in place this long," Sullivan said. "We felt like it was really time to address this issue."

The money would be routed through the county, but the law enforcement costs are passed on to the airlines that use YVRA, Sullivan said.

"We will be able to fund this with contracts through the airlines," Sullivan said.

The town of Hayden also can be reimbursed for the time Lenahan and his officers have already spent at the airport, he said.

Hayden police reserve officers would be used in addition to paid "volunteers" from area police agencies, Martin said. The town has not decided on what the airport officers would be paid.

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