‘Flex Responses’ For Airport Security

‘Flex Responses’ For Airport Security

August 27, 2011

By Nicholas L. Dean ndean@post-journal.com , The Post-Journal

MAYVILLE – The county is considering a change to its police support of TSA officials at the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown.
Sheriff Joe Gerace told the Public Safety Committee recently that he has proposed a “flex response” in his 2012 budget rather than continuing full-time staffing of deputies at the airport. The change will save the department between $80,000 to $100,000 annually.

The possible change was met with some question from the local TSA district supervisor, who called Dave Sanctuary, airport manager, on the idea. According to Sanctuary, who was also at the Public Safety Committee meeting, the county’s current airport plan is to have officers on site 16 hours a day, in two shifts. Any change to the five-year plan, which the county is currently in the middle of, has to be approved by TSA.
“We cannot unilaterally change it,” Sanctuary said. “We are included in the federal reimbursement plan which is a national distribution of funding. … We are reimbursed at a maximum level of $165,000 per year.”

Lawmakers on the Public Safety Committee talked rough figures with Sanctuary and the sheriff, noting that the program costs around $200,000 each year. A $25 per hour rate is reimbursed to the county for every hour an officer is stationed at the airport, but even with the reimbursement, in 2011, the local share was something like $86,000.

Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, suggested taking a deputy of road patrol for the position at the airport, but Gerace said that would leave him with few others covering the whole of the county. Going to a flex response means not having officers stationed at the airport, but responding to TSA calls within 15 to 20 minutes whenever there is a need for a law enforcement officer. There is no federal reimbursement for a flex response.
Following extended discussion, legislators on the committee said they were fine with the flex response. Gerace made a point to say he is not fine with the flex response, but because of staff, the department cannot make other possibilities work.

“See, this is exactly what our consensus was a month ago,” said Doug Richmond, R-Westfield, who chairs the committee. “Rather than trying to micromanage, we rely on the opinion of the department head, the sheriff, to make those determinations of how we can amend his budget for our fiasco. I am comfortable with what his position has been because he has done that as a professional law enforcement person.”

In terms of next steps, Sanctuary said the security plan for the airport would have to be changed – which he will work on with the sheriff.
“Joe and I would have to get together and sit down and determine how we’re going to write this up so that it will fulfill the requirements and then present that to the TSA,” Sanctuary said. “Then the TSA would probably come down and meet with us and make sure that it happens and come up with, who do we train, how do we train and so forth. That would be the next step.”

© Copyright 2011 The Post-Journal.

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