Airport Eyes Fingerprint Scan

March 22, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Gerald Ford International Airport will purchase live-scan fingerprinting equipment in accordance with a new FAA directive.

The regulation, issued by the FAA Dec. 6, requires the nation’s 429 commercial service airports to conduct fingerprint-based criminal history record checks on all employees seeking unescorted access to an airport’s airfield and its runways, taxiways and aircraft ramps.

The Kent County Aeronautics Board approved Wednesday up to $44,000 to buy and install the equipment and for a contract to service it.

The equipment ranges from $24,000 to $34,000.

The FAA has mandated that all U.S. airports have the live-scan equipment in place by Dec. 6 this year.

In the interim, the Kent County Department of Aeronautics is using inked fingerprint cards.

Results of criminal record checks using electronic fingerprints are usually available in two to three days, while with the ink-based fingerprinting method, the results aren’t available for two to six weeks, said Operations Director Rob Benstein.

Though the equipment will be purchased with airport revenues, the Department of Aeronautics will seek reimbursement through a grant under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program.

Benstein said under the program the airport will be eligible for 100 percent reimbursement.

Also on Wednesday, Aeronautics Director James Koslosky told the board Ford International has fared better than most of the nation’s regional airports in regard to lost activity since Sept. 11.

Flights out of Ford International decreased 14 percent to 15 percent following Sept. 11, compared to the national average of a 20 percent reduction in the system, he said.

“We hope the financials will reflect the better-than-anticipated year end as well,” he added.

Last month airport officials submitted an application for reimbursement of $1.2 million for operating security expenses incurred since Sept. 11, but Koslosky said it’s not likely the airport will get 100 percent reimbursement.

The $1.2 million covers the time period between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30 of this year, said Brian Picardat, finance and administration director. The actual cost the airport incurred between Sept. 11 and Dec. 31, 2001, was about $400,000, he said. The remaining is what is going to be spent between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 this year.

A total of $175 million was appropriated under a Department of Defense supplemental funding to reimburse airports for a portion of their increased operating costs relating to federal security mandates, and the funds have to be spread across 429 airports.

Koslosky said the Department of Aeronautics is tracking all those expenditures in the event that there is a mandate that’s not reimbursed by the federal government.

If costs cannot be recouped through funding sources, they would, ultimately, be recouped through the airline rate base, he said.           

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