Eagle County offers to rule regional skies | VailDaily.com

Eagle County offers to rule regional skies

The Pitkin County showdown could end with the Aspen Airport being closed. In letters to America West and United Express airlines, however, the commissioners have offered the Eagle County Regional Airport for Aspen passengers.

“I read with interested in a local paper that Pitkin County Airport is considering shutting down commercial airline operations to make a point on who pays for airport security,” the commissioners wrote. “In the event Pitkin County closes down its airport, or otherwise limits commercial operations, (we) want to assure you that Eagle County is ready and able to accommodate all your commercial business destined for Aspen.”

The Pitkin County commissioners and the Pitkin County Sheriff are digging in their heels, however. They say they’ll not comply with a federal directive ordering them to use deputies and other police officers to work as security guards at the Aspen Airport unless the feds are willing to cover the costs.

The federal directive requires county, city and other local governments throughout the country to replace National Guard troops with law enforcement officers at airport security checkpoints. The directive was issued April 1 by the recently created Transportation Security Administration.

Pitkin County officials squawked that it’s an unfunded mandate, saying they don’t have the money or the personnel to meet it.

“It’s a federal mandate without adequate funding. If there’s no bucks, then there’s no Buck Rogers,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis.

The majority of the Pitkin County commissioners said they’d consider shutting down commercial operations to make their point.

And that created the capitalist opportunity seized upon by the Eagle County commissioners.

“Eagle County is home to a new world-class passenger terminal and is in a position to ensure convenient ground transportation for your passengers to their final destinations,” the Eagle County commissioners wrote. “As you know, Eagle County Airport has already become the preferred choice of many Aspen skiers during our winter season.

“We promise a Colorado welcome and a world-class experience.”

The Memorandum of Agreement for airport security must be executed and returned to the Transportation Security Administration by May 10.

Support Local Journalism