Reduced police shifts approved to cut costs at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
Westmoreland County Park Police will roughly cut in half the hours they spend at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in a move that is expected to increase efficiency and save money.
The police have officers assigned to the Unity airport for two 8-hour shifts per day, providing an extra layer of security in addition to federal Transportation Security Administration personnel who screen passengers in line to board flights.
But, according to county airport authority Solicitor Dan Hewitt, “We don’t need (park police) that long, and the cost becomes more than we need to be spending.”
The average cost for police coverage at the airport is $40 per hour, authority Executive Director Gabe Monzo calculated. He said the airport receives a reimbursement from the TSA of just $20 per hour, during two hours allotted for each Spirit Airlines flight departing to Myrtle Beach, S.C., or destinations in Florida.
Hewitt said county officials approached the authority with a proposal for fewer hours. Under a revised agreement the authority approved this week, reduced police shifts will begin two hours before each scheduled flight and end a half-hour after the departure.
On an average day, when Spirit has three departing flights, scheduled police shifts at the airport would be reduced from 16 hours to 7.5 hours.
“It’s great to have them here, but you have to be reasonable and try to eliminate extra costs,” Monzo said of the park police.
“It will help them with their bills and help us with our coverage,” County Park Police Chief Henry Fontana said of the airport. “The park police can be more fluid. Instead of being stationed there, they will be able to move to other county properties.”
In addition to coverage during flight departures, the airport is included in regular police patrols of county properties including its parks, Fontana noted.
“We handle all of their police needs, from rental cars that aren’t returned to parking violations,” Fontana said of the airport. “We’ve always got somebody close by.”
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .