Ford To Get Partial Reimbursements

August 1, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intends to reimburse the Gerald R. Ford International Airport up to 80 percent of the personnel costs associated with additional law enforcement officers needed to man passenger screening checkpoints.

Subject to the availability of appropriated funding, the maximum reimbursement for the airport would be $59,400 for the June 1 to Sept. 30 period.

As mandated by TSA, in late February the Kent County Aeronautics Board authorized the hiring of up to seven additional law enforcement officers to staff checkpoints because the TSA didn’t have enough federal officers to fill the spots.

On June 1 the TSA informed the airport that law enforcement officers were no longer required to be stationed at checkpoints, so the aeronautics department implemented a flexible response system to oversee checkpoints as needed. 

Subsequently, the airport is only going to initially hire four new law enforcement officers to cover checkpoints, said Robert Benstein, public safety and operations director.

“The 80 percent ends up being about 16 hours a day that we might need the checkpoints additionally staffed,” he said.    

The agreement also provides for four one-year options. The maximum reimbursement for the first optional year is $183,000, an amount that would increase by 3 percent each subsequent year.

“This is extremely good news,” said Aeronautics Director James Koslosky. “My understanding is that very few airports of our size have qualified for this reimbursement.”

Vice Chairman Kenneth Kuipers said 80 percent reimbursement wasn’t as good as 100 percent reimbursement but that it was “a whole lot better than 0 percent.” 

Koslosky said staff intends to bill TSA for the months that Ford International has not yet been reimbursed.

He said the airport industry has been making good strides with Congress.

“The industry is making an effort to make sure communities are ‘made whole’ on these security costs, the best we can within the constraints of the federal budget,” Koslosky said. “It seems the further we get removed from Sept. 11 the less there’s focus is on funding some of the positions.” 

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