WATERTOWN — Come guard the friendly skies.
Jefferson County is considering a plan to hire seven “special patrol officers” to provide security at the Watertown International Airport as part of an effort to reduce the strain on Sheriff’s Department deputies who fill the role.
“If there’s an emergency on the other side of the county, it won’t affect our departures and takeoffs,” said Jefferson County Legislator Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing, chairman of the board’s General Services Committee. “It’s more independent. And it will allow the Sheriff’s Department to work more freely.”
The officers would be responsible for providing security in airport buildings and grounds as part of an agreement with the Transportation Security Administration, which requires at least one law enforcement officer at each TSA airport security screening location.
The officers would be state-certified peace officers and would fall under umbrella of the Sheriff’s Department. Their jurisdiction would not extend beyond the airport.
According to an advertisement posted by the Jefferson County Human Resources Department, the county is looking for retired police officers or former corrections, parole or probation officers.
The officers would be part of a seven-day rotation at the airport, which offers twice daily flights to Philadelphia through US Airways.
Security at the airport became a point of contention last year after both Sheriff John P. Burns and Undersheriff Paul W. Trudeau told Jefferson County legislators that they no longer would be able to provide a detail at the airport because of a lack of manpower.
Several solutions were proposed, including using probation officers or police officers from the villages around the airport, to alleviate the strain before the county ultimately decided on this option, according to Mr. Trudeau.
The proposal will be considered by the Jefferson County Board of Legislators General Services Committee on Tuesday.
The officers, who will carry firearms, will earn $18 to $19 per hour and will receive no other benefits for their part-time work, according to Mr. Reed.
The county has set aside $40,000 for the positions, including $25,000 for hourly wages, $1,000 for weapons and $14,000 for uniforms and clothing.
Mr. Reed said that some details, such as what kind of uniforms the officers will wear and to whom they ultimately will report, still have to be worked out but that the passage of the resolution was the first step toward implementing the plan.
The county receives a reimbursement for security expenses from the TSA. Initially, that money was enough to hire four additional deputies, but it has dwindled significantly in recent years. In 2013, TSA provided a little more than $29,000 to Jefferson County for the security detail at the airport.