Agreement To Hire Deputies Avoids Airport Shutdown

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Sheriff John Burns says Jefferson County leaders agreed Thursday night to fund two of his four vacant deputy positions – avoiding a potential shutdown of flights in and out of the Watertown airport.

Under an agreement between Jefferson County and the federal Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the county is required to supply security at the airport.

When the agreement began, the TSA was fully funding the four deputies the job required.

That was gradually cut back to just one, with the county having to pick up the cost of the other three, Burns said.

Meanwhile, Burns lost three deputies to transitions or retirement, and is about to lose a fourth.

Burns said he asked the county last November to allow him to replace the deputies, but nothing happened.

Meanwhile, a steady increase in incident calls led Burns to consider suspending the airport detail.

“If I'm being cut back so many deputies, then I've got to cut back from things I'm doing,” Burns said.

Thursday night, Burns said, county leaders agreed to replace two of the deputies and Burns agreed to continue the airport security detail.

“I would hate to have to shut that right down, because then there would be no flights into or out of the airport,” Burns said.

Burns said the county also asked him to justify his request to have the other two deputy positions filled.

It may take a year to get new deputies hired and fully trained, Burns said.

That will require his department to prioritize its responses while continuing to provide airport security.  

County officials could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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