TIMES STAFF WRITER
SATURDAY, JUNE 7, 2008
Eighteen Transportation Security Administration security officers will be temporarily reassigned to Syracuse's Hancock International Airport or given furlough until Cape Air can start serving three north country communities in mid-September.
The Ogdensburg and Massena international airports each has six full-time TSA officers, while Watertown International Airport has four full-time and two part-time federal security personnel, TSA spokeswoman Lara M. Uselding said. The move was announced Friday.
"Right now, when there's no air service and no screening, we need to better utilize our resources," Ms. Uselding said.
Most of the Watertown security officers will head to Syracuse, with personnel in Massena and Ogdensburg choosing either to take a furlough or be reassigned to the National Deployment Office. TSA is looking into some officers possibly transferring to Plattsburgh International Airport or Adirondack Regional Airport in Saranac Lake.
TSA employees taking furlough will attend training classes to keep their security certification current when they return to work in early September, Ms. Uselding said. TSA employees taking furlough will not be paid.
Big Sky Airlines offered 18 weekly flights from Watertown, Ogdensburg and Massena to Boston. The Billings, Mont., airline ceased operations Jan. 7 after serving the three north country communities since April 2007. The company subsequently ended all East Coast operations, a move that cost 140 jobs, blaming rising fuel prices and lackluster profit.
Cape Air will provide federally subsidized air service for three north country communities to Albany starting Sept. 16. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Hyannis, Mass., air carrier a two-year Essential Air Service contract in March.
Cape Air will offer 21 weekly flights to Watertown, Ogdensburg and Massena from Albany International Airport using nine-seat Cessna 402s. The airline will offer three nonstop daily flights to each community, with a one-way flight lasting about an hour. Cape Air will receive a $3,879,863 annual subsidy.
"We view it as unfortunate that the Transportation Security Administration is furloughing the north country airports, which means a temporary loss of employment in the area," said Wade A. Davis, executive director of the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, owner of Ogdensburg International Airport.