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Bismarck Airport facing new security standards

The Bismarck Airport has about five months to find funding and make changes to its security operations or risk losing federal aid. Airport manager Greg Haug told Bismarck city commissioners Tuesday that, with the increase in airline boardings the past several years, the airport will have to meet new Transportation Security Administration security guidelines. In recent years, the airport has used a private security firm to serve law enforcement needs at the airport security checkpoint. But as enplanements have grown and held above 250,000 passengers for the past three years, the airport is being moved into a new security category. The only way the airport would avoid this change in standards is if boardings dropped by 8 percent for the year.

The airport is part of a TSA grant program that helps pay for a portion of the cost of these security needs, but recently, in addition to the bump up in security classification the airport faces, the TSA has decided the security firm used by the airport does not meet its standards for training and arrest authority under the grant program. Commissioner Josh Askvig said, from his discussions with airport personnel, he s determined that nothing short of a sworn police officer, who has been through the police academy, will satisfy the TSA. Haug said the airport is weighing a couple options, including having a Bismarck Police Department patrol officer assigned to work security duty at the airport or create a new position at the police department for an airport officer.

And the change is going to come at a much higher cost estimated at about $500,000 double what the airport pays now.

This couldn t have come at really a worse time for us, Haug said, as the airport is spending a large amount of money to revamp the runway.

Commissioners voted to meet with city officials and determine a best course of action in time for the next commission meeting. The bump up in security standards will not take place until Jan. 1, 2018. But if the city wants to remain in the TSA reimbursement program, which covers at least a portion of the security expense, it would have to vote to make the changes, find extra funding and hire personnel by July 1.

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