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For the week of  October 17 - 23, 2001


Kempthorne tours Hailey airport

Security continues to evolve

Express Staff Writer

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said last week that the Idaho National Guardsmen who now wield M-16 rifles at Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport and five other airports around the state are "on the front lines of our homeland defense" and are playing an important part in helping "life to go on" in Idaho.

Kempthorne praised the work of the guardsmen when he and Idaho Adjutant General Jack Kane toured Friedman and airports in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Boise and Lewiston Wednesday of last week.

The governor and general inspected airport security arrangements implemented since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast. They also toured the Hailey Armory, where the guardsmen may continue to be stationed for up to six months while the federal government works on long-term airport security arrangements.

Kempthorne also announced the activation of the new Idaho Airfield Security Hotline. The toll free number—(800) 832-1985—is intended to allow airport users to report suspicious activity to law enforcement at any time.

The tour took place the day before the FBI issued a nationwide warning that it had received information indicating new terrorist attacks against the United States could happen in the next several days. In Idaho, "we’re simply trying to expect the unexpected … to anticipate what our vulnerability might be," Kempthorne told a gathering of about a dozen people that included guardsmen, airport management and the press in the airport terminal.

Friedman is a "major airport in Idaho," said Idaho National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Timothy Marsano. "Who knows where the next threat is going to come from?"

Kempthorne said the federal government is paying for the cost of the guardsmen, whom he assigned to the airports on Sept. 27. The guardsmen are under the command of the governor, and have received training in airport security from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Staff Sgt. Mathew Fletcher patrolled the terminal with an M-16 rifle slung across his shoulder. He said his training included strict rules of engagement that allow him to use the weapon only during a "hostile attack or intent."

When asked about the escalated show of weaponry, public affairs officer Marsano said, "It was a way of getting a highly visible, trained and armed National Guard presence."

The United States Senate Thursday unanimously approved the Aviation Security Act, which requires heightened security at airports, including the use of federal armed law enforcement at airports. The act could face changes before going before the House of Representatives for a final vote.

Marsano said Friday that it was still too early to know how the legislation might change current security measures.

"I don’t have any reason to believe we’ll be (in Hailey) for less than six months," he said.

The proposed legislation also calls for more federal air marshals on flights, more secure cockpit doors, passenger and baggage checkpoints to be staffed by federal employees, air crew training in anti-hijacking techniques and background investigations of jet pilots students.

Idaho Republican Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo praised the act.

Hailey airport manager Rick Baird said he has been closely following the act as it makes its way through Congress. "We don’t think it will increase our security costs," which have skyrocketed since Sept. 11, he said.

In late September, Baird said new FAA-imposed security requirements would cost the airport over $400,000 annually, almost half of the airport’s total budgeted expenditures of $850,000 for 2002.

Airport management has since been able to defray most of those costs by shifting some security responsibilities to employees of the company that manages the parking lot and by increasing parking fees.

Parking fees have generally gone up by a dollar an hour, and the company no longer grants free parking for the first half hour. Monthly rates have gone up from $90 to $100. The increases are expected to generate an extra $70,000 annually.

"We think we’ve got a handle on costs, but that could change," Baird said, because airport security requirements since Sept. 11 have been constantly evolving.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.