A private security firm will soon replace most of the city police in patrolling Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport.
“By March 9 we should have received which firm,” said William Fisher, chairman of the new Syracuse Regional Airport Authority. In addition to the private firm, the authority will ask the city to provide four police officers to patrol the airport.
The new airport authority was proposed by the Common Council and approved by the New York state legislature in late 2011. Selecting a private security firm is one of its first major action. The change is aimed at lowering airport operating costs and saving the city money on police overtime.
In 2010, airport security’s cost became an issue when Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner received a letter co-signed by seven airline representatives asking her to look into fees the airport charged. The landing fees charged to airlines per passenger were higher than larger regional airports like Rochester. The major difference in operating costs was security.
Turning over security to a private firm also was recommended by the city auditor in early 2011. The change would save $3 million in overtime paid to city police for patrolling the airport, according to then-auditor Philip LaTessa. And the change would potentially lower airfares for passengers by cutting the fees that the airport charges to land, according to the airport officials.
The airport authority has said lowering the security costs would lower the landing fees and that could attract more airlines to Syracuse. They argue that more airlines would mean more competition and lower fares for passengers.
At a meeting on Feb. 10, the airport authority agreed to announce its choice of a private contractor by March 9 and have them provide security by June. Seven private contractors have submitted bids for the job. They are:
- Securitas Security Services USA
- Culpepper and Associates Security Services
- G4S Secure Solutions (USA)
- Global Security Associates
- Global Security Group
- Morris Protective Service
- U.S. Security Associates
The private contractor will take over patrolling the airport. The security company will not take over baggage screening, which is handled by federal employees.
The airport authority so far has no major funding. It seeks to take over the city’s Aviation Enterprise Fund of $29 million for its operations. The fund was created in 1990 to support its operating costs through passenger and user fees and is not part of the city’s general fund.
The airport authority hopes to take over that Aviation Enterprise Fund from the Common Council and the Federal Aviation Administration by June, said chairman Fisher.
(M. T. Elliott is a graduate student in magazine, newspaper and online journalism.)