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Ogdensburg authority to change airport security, maintain service

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OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority will look for solutions to provide security at the airport as it prepares to lose more than half of the federal funding for city police presence.

After the U.S. Transportation Security Administration cut funding to provide a law enforcement officer at the Ogdensburg International Airport from $56,733 this year to $26,000 next year, the OBPA will be left to make up the funding gap — until the airport’s security plan is rewritten.

“The latest grant is significantly less than before, and costs have continued to increase,” said Wade A. Davis, authority executive director. “As a result, there’s still a shortfall.”

This year, the grant paid for most of the $85,000 cost to post an Ogdensburg Police officer at the airport during boardings. The additional costs are split between OBPA and the city.

With grant funding evaporating and tight budgets all around, the agreement could not be maintained, leaving the authority to seek alternative methods for providing airport security.

“We’ve had some discussions with the city, but we’re still on the hook for the difference,” Mr. Davis said.

In October, members of the authority’s board of directors worried that they might no longer be able to afford to keep an officer at the airport, putting commercial air service to Ogdensburg at risk.

“We’re here as a public service, and they want to ask us about the cost,” said Frederick J. Carter, board vice chairman. “They want to ask the authority to make up the difference. It is time for the city and the airline to step up to the plate.”

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the TSA required that a law enforcement officer be present while commercial passengers are screened at airports. To help smaller airports meet the requirement, the Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement program was created, providing grants based on the number of flights and passengers moving through airports.

This year, the TSA changed the way it calculates the grants, reducing both the estimated number of hours an officer will have to work and the amount each officer will be paid.

Mr. Davis said Ogdensburg’s airport security plan would be rewritten to reflect a model used at Saranac Lake, which would eliminate the need for a police officer during baggage screening and boarding, but keep the airport open under rules acceptable to the TSA.

“The safety of the airport will not be compromised,” said Samuel J. LaMacchia, board chairman.

Cape Air of Barnstable, Mass., serves the Ogdensburg airport with three incoming and departing flights each day.

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