Syracuse airport authority to vote today on hiring private security firm

To save $1.5 million

Published: Friday, March 09, 2012, 2:00 AM

Syracuse, N.Y. — The Syracuse airport authority will vote today on whether to hire one of the world’s largest security companies to replace the Syracuse police department as the provider of airport security, a move that could save roughly $1.5 million a year in overtime costs.
G4S Secure Solutions, of Jupiter, Fla., submitted a proposal that won unanimous support from a five-person selection committee that compared proposals from seven companies, said Bill Fisher, chairman of the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority.
Fisher said a contract with G4S would cost roughly $2.5 million a year, compared with the $4.2 million that Hancock Airport expects to spend on security this year.

Most of the savings, he said, would come from not paying city police officers overtime to patrol the airport — at an average cost of about $60 an hour.
Airlines bear most of the expense for airport security, and local leaders have long sought to reduce security costs to lure low-cost airlines to Syracuse.
It’s not clear yet how the city’s police union will respond. Jeff Piedmonte, president of the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association, said the union may file a grievance with the state Public Employment Relations Board because city officials did not negotiate a union agreement to eliminate the airport overtime assignments.

“The city gave up our rights…and eliminated us without negotiating anything,” he said. “That would be our argument.”
G4S would staff the airport much the way city police do now, but without paying overtime, Fisher said. Two classes of security officers — four armed and three unarmed — will be on duty at most times, Fisher said.
By law, the armed officers must be active-duty, uniformed police officers. G4S will work with city police, the county sheriff’s office and other regional departments to hire off-duty officers to staff those positions, which are expected to pay roughly $30 to $40 an hour, Fisher said.
The unarmed security officers, who are likely to be retired police officers or former soldiers, will be employees of G4S. Fisher estimated those jobs would pay in the “low to mid-20s” in dollars per hour.

Before G4S could take over, the federal Transportation Security Administration would have to approve the new plan. Piedmonte, the union president, said he thinks the TSA may object to having the airport secured by armed, off-duty officers working for a private vendor.
“I believe the TSA is going to want on-duty officers working for some municipality,” Piedmonte said.
But Fisher said airports have adopted a variety of security plans.
City aviation Commissioner Christina Reale will submit a new security plan to TSA if a contract with G4S is approved, Fisher said. In preliminary discussions with TSA officials, the agency did not raise concerns about the new approach, he said.
TSA officials could not immediately be reached.

The Syracuse airport authority, created last summer by the state Legislature, issued a request for security proposals in December. The selection committee voted 4-0, with one member absent, in favor of the proposal from G4S, said Fisher, who chaired the committee. If the 11-member board of the airport authority approves the selection today, officials will work to have a contract signed by April and to have G4S take full responsibility for airport security by June, Fisher said.
Approval would also be required from the city council.
Councilor Pat Hogan, who chairs the aviation committee, said the security contract will not only lower airport costs but help reduce the city’s pension expense, which is driven up by overtime.
“I’m happy with the outcome,” he said.

G4S Secure Solutions provides security at airports in Oklahoma City, Greensboro, N.C., and Charlotte, N.C. It is the American subsidiary of G4S plc, a giant English security company with 635,000 employees in 125 countries.
Contact Tim Knauss at tknauss or 470-3023.


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