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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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TIA officials should move quickly to address airport security concerns

Airport security became a priority after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and over the past decade the public has come to expect that everything possible is being done to protect our airports. The government spares little expense when it comes to maintaining that security.

That’s why it’s surprising to learn from several dozen workers at Tampa International Airport that security for the lot where they park is lacking. The workers told Tribune reporter Ted Jackovics that anybody can walk onto the lot, or climb aboard an employee shuttle bus for a trip across a runway to the terminal without having their ID badges checked.

“Any whack job could get on the employee bus in Tampa,” one of the employees said. According to those employees, the security doesn’t measure up with other airports.

TIA officials have responded with promises to look into the possibility of fully enclosing the lot with a fence and having all employee badges checked before the buses are boarded. They need to follow through on that effort for the safety of the employees and to reassure passengers traveling to and from the airport.

Many of the employees are upset by a recent hike in the fees they are charged to park in the lot, in some cases doubling to $25 a month. That may be a motivating factor in making their concerns public, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that TIA’s employee lot isn’t as secure as it could be. Those employees are right to question why at least some of that money doesn’t get invested in their security.

Assurances by TIA about its security don’t address the most obvious concern raised by the employees. TIA officials point to 24-hour security cameras, and a checkpoint that requires the bus driver to swipe a card, among other measures. But what about preventing unauthorized people from entering the lot in the first place?

TIA certainly can’t claim poverty. In addition to raising the employee parking rates, the airport recently raised its long-term and short-term parking fees in public lots, and is investing millions in an ambitious growth plan.

TIA officials say they plan to meet with employees to get input, and to make sure any proposed changes are embraced by a majority of the people using the lot. Installing a fence that requires a badge swipe for entry might cause unwanted delays, while requiring badge swipes for everyone boarding the bus might keep relatives of the workers from using the shuttle as a convenience, a perk they enjoy.

TIA officials say the federal Transportation Security Administration approves of their security, but they are open to making changes at the parking lot if they are wanted or needed.

The airport should take whatever measures are necessary to make the facility as secure as possible for employees and the public.

And the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees TIA, should consider an idea by one of its board members, County Commissioner Victor Crist, to create an avenue for employees to speak directly to board members without worrying about reprisals.

We don’t want the board to begin meddling in the airport’s day-to-day operations, but workers should be able express their concerns to the authority.

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