GFIA Gets Fed Money For Security
CASCADE TOWNSHIP — Gerald R. Ford International Airport recently received nearly $700,000 in federal funds to pay for increased security measures already enacted.
The money came from the U.S. Department of Defense, and was made public last week by the Michigan Department of Transportation as part of a $6.4 million package to repay the state’s 14 commercial airports for mandated security expenses.
At the same time, MDOT announced that the Michigan Aeronautics Commission had approved $14.1 million for capital improvements at a number of airports statewide. GFIA did not receive any of those funds.
Airport Manager of Marketing and Communications Bruce Schedlbauer told the Business Journal that the funds are a reimbursement for improved security measures taken at GFIA after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but before Sept. 30. The federal government required that security be beefed up at all commercial airports during that period.
Schedlbauer said that almost 75 percent of the $689,309 coming to GFIA will be used for such increased security services as vehicle inspections and curb patrols that have been performed by D&R Security since the attacks.
Most of the remaining dollars will go toward overtime wages for the airport’s police officers and for new concrete road barriers and guard shacks. Some money will be used for a handful of improvements still to come.
Although grateful for the money, GFIA officials had hoped for more.
“Actually, our request was for about $1.3 million. But because of the size of the airport that we are, we ended up with about 50 percent of that,” said Schedlbauer. “The federal government broke down the airports by their size. The smallest got 100 percent of their requests and medium-sized got 50 percent. A different formula was used for large airports.”
GFIA falls into the medium-sized category.
“They took what we submitted for reimbursement and gave us 50 percent of that,” he said.
Three other West Michigan airports received funds. Muskegon County Airport got $1.14 million as a reimbursement for land acquisition. W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek was awarded $1.12 million for runway construction. And Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport received $762,065 for security costs.
The largest of the 33 awards went to Detroit Metro Airport, which got $3.1 million for security projects, and to Pellston Regional Airport, which received $3 million for terminal construction.
“Safe and efficient air travel is fundamental to our quality of life and economy,” said MDOT Director Gregory Rosine. “These grants will allow public-use airports to continue investing in the services and infrastructure needed to effectively move people and products across our state and beyond.”
At GFIA, air passenger activity was down by 6.6 percent in February from the same month last year. The first two months of the year had 7.3 percent fewer passengers coming and going than for the same period last year.
But total cargo was up by 4.2 percent at the airport this past February from 2001, and was up by 7.6 percent for the first two months of this year when compared to the same period last year.