Tri-Cities Airport no longer will use Franklin County Sheriff's deputies for regular security, effective at the end of the year.
The Port of Pasco's board decided to use its own police to patrol the area of the airport outside security as a cost-cutting measure, airport director Ron Foraker said at Wednesday's county commission meeting.
The port already polices the area inside the security check and has paid the county $300,000 annually to oversee the ticketing and baggage claim area, as well as the parking lot.
The port needed to make changes to its budget because of state-mandated improvements to its fire protection service in case of an airline accident. It could have to pay Pasco more than $250,000 more for its fire contract next year than it now does, Foraker said.
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"It's an increase in manpower that obviously comes with a price," he said.
The port and county signed a five-year agreement for sheriff's services in 2010, but the contract has a clause allowing either party to withdraw at the end of a year with 90-day notice, Foraker said.
The port plans to add one new officer to the nine mostly part-time officers it now has so it can meet the demand of patrolling the entire airport, Foraker said.
County commissioners emphasized that the changes were made because of budget, not because of the quality of security.
"We'd like to keep our sheriff's deputies on duty, but there's nothing we can do about it at this point," Commissioner Rick Miller said.
Foraker also told commissioners that the federal Department of Transportation has rejected the port's application for a $750,000 grant that would have helped secure daily service from Pasco to Los Angeles International Airport.
The Small Community Air Service Development grant would have helped pay startup costs to an airline. It would require a $115,000 local match, which the county had agreed to pay $10,000 of.
The airport, which now only has summer service to Los Angeles on Allegiant Air, will continue to try to get additional service there, Foraker said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom