Guardsmen to leave Eagle airport |

Guardsmen to leave Eagle airport

Matt Zalaznick
Quentin HunstadSecurity at Eagle County Regional Airport will likely shift to Eagle County sheriff1s deputies when National Guard troops leave their posts at the nation1s airports at the end of May.

A passenger boarding a plane at the Eagle County Regional Airport could soon be on a flight connecting to just about anywhere in the world.But with National Guard troops planning to leave their posts at the nation1s airports by the end of May and the threats of terrorist attacks in American skies still possible, officials are moving to keep security tight.3For part of the year, we1re a small hub airport, Eagle County Regional Airport Administrator Ed Storer said. 3We have to take the same precautions airports everywhere else are taking.Between four and eight National Guardsmens have been assigned to back up security screeners checking luggage at the Eagle County airport, which becomes the state1s second busiest during the winter.Between two and four guardsmen are on duty at any given time, Storer said.When the troops leave, airport security will likely become the responsibility of Eagle County Sheriff A.J. Johnson and his deputies.But patrolling the airport is nothing new for the Sheriff1s Office, Johnson said.3We1ve been handling security at the airport for I don1t know how many years now, Johnson said.Three deputies are currently assigned to the airport, and Johnson said he1ll soon begin discussions with the Transportation Security Administration, the agency created by President Bush after Sept. 11 to manage security at the nation1s airports.Deputies will likely be needed at the airport because the new agency is not likely to begin handling airport security for at least another year.3The Transportation Security Administration is working to put civilians out there, and they have said they won1t need the National Guard past the 31st of May,” said First Lt. Holly Peterson, state public affairs officer for the Colorado National Guard.New security regulations will likely require posting of at least one armed sheriff1s deputy at the baggage screening point, Storer said.3I think the level of security will remain fairly high, Storer said. 3Our issues are the same as the rest of the airports around the country. We all enter passengers into the transportation system.3Each step is important, he said.Johnson said that if he has to post more deputies at the airport, he1ll likely have to hire additional officers to patrol the rest of the county. But hiring a new deputy takes a bit longer than hiring, say, a new bartender.It can take several weeks to do background checks and then hire a new deputy, Johnson said.3The guardsmen have been very helpful. But if we have to take over what they1re doing with what we1re already doing, that could create additional people power issues, Johnson said.3I1m sure there will be a transition, and we1ll have to decide how much we can offer in additional security and what that amounts to, he said.There haven1t been any terrorist threats at the airport. But deputies have been busy dealing with some unruly passengers<a couple of whom have gone to jail instead of the destination on their tickets. A short list of recent incidents:? An apparently drunk Avon man was arrested March 6 when he was caught riding on the baggage carousel. The man, 28, rode from inside the terminal and through the opening to the rear of the airport, where he was caught by baggage handlers. He was charged with trespassing.? A 55-year-old man was arrested Feb. 23 for allegedly shoving a fellow passenger after cutting in front of travelers waiting to check in for a flight to Chicago. The man was charged with harassment.? A woman who allegedly told security screeners to 3call the bomb squad when she left a bag unattended in the terminal while she went to the bathroom created a stir Feb.10. The woman, 42, wasn1t charged with any crimes, but her bag was X-rayed for explosives and she was briefly handcuffed. She apologized profusely to security screeners.Aspen Times reporter Brent Gardner-Smith contributed to this report.

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