Airlines to get hit with tougher security costs | SteamboatToday.com

Airlines to get hit with tougher security costs

Frances Hohl

— Airline carriers that use Yampa Valley Regional Airport can expect to pay for heightened security, according to county officials.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner is actively trying to fill three deputy positions.

Those deputies will be assigned to provide security at the airport, hopefully by the time winter travel kicks into full gear.

Warner anticipates that by mid-December he will have to assign two deputies to work 10-hour shifts at the airport.

“Right now, we have one deputy working per shift,” Warner said. “That is 30 percent of my patrol staff.”

To pay for the increased security at the airport, the county is increasing airport fees for 2002 to raise $490,000.

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Half of the fees airline carriers will pay will be for airport security, which is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Airline carriers that use the Hayden airport will split a security fee that totals $282,000.

Airlines that use the airport include American, Continental, Northwest, United and Air Wisconsin.

The airlines were notified of the security fee about a month ago, said Jim Parker, airport aviation director.

“We have not had a chance to meet with the airlines and discuss the fee,” Parker said. “We expect we will meet with them within a week.”

Since the airport reopened Sept. 14, four National Guardsmen have worked at the airport. The guardsmen are working in pairs.

Gov. Bill Owens placed guardsmen at 14 airports across the state, including Hayden, following the attacks.

“The National Guard will be here for six months, so that will take us through ski season,” Parker said.

Warner said the National Guard’s presence has been helpful.

“These guys have been invaluable,” he said. “I’m thankful we have them here.”

Because it is uncertain whether Owens will continue to station guard personnel at airports, the county is taking measures to ensure it can meet the FAA requirements if the National Guard is withdrawn.

According to the 2002 proposed budget, the county will create five positions at the airport to provide security, a move budgeted to cost about $300,000.

Warner said he is optimistic his office can meet the security mandates by hiring three deputies.

“I think we can do it with three,” Warner said. “We are hoping to get these positions filled as quickly as we can.”

The first jet flight into the airport is scheduled for Dec. 13, and air travel is expected to increase the following days, Parker said.

Parker said the airport is ready for the ski season, the busiest time of the year.

Parker also said the airport is working with the airlines on meeting guidelines set by recent federal legislation calling for airports to check all luggage that is checked in at a ticket counter.

The Aviation Security Bill was approved in November and is supposed to kick in within 60 days.

“It is uncertain when this will begin,” Parker said.

“We have had some discussion with the airlines. It will be their primary responsibility to check luggage. There are various ways they can do it, including a hand search.”