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Costs fall for MHK security measures

By Bryan Richardson

After uncertainty last week, Manhattan Regional Airport’s security improvements will likely come at a cheaper price because the city can use contractors instead of police officers.

ExpressJet, on behalf of American Airlines, will begin operating a CR7, a 65-seat plane, for the three daily Dallas flights, starting May 5.

The city officially accepted American Airlines’ offer Thursday, and bookings are already available for the larger planes.

Federal regulation requires additional security measures for any plane with more than 61 seats. The current plane types have 44 and 50 seats.

The Manhattan City Commission discussed the funding for the improvements Tuesday during a special meeting.

Airport director Jesse Romo said the regulations might not require law enforcement officers to provide security. The Riley County Police Department would still respond to incidents at the airport.

City administrators are recommending hiring an additional six full-time and six parttime airport personnel to perform inspections as well as contracted armed security personnel for the terminal.

This would cost an estimated $327,844.90 with $236,532.40 for airport personnel and $91,312.50 for contracted security.

The commission discussed the security improvements last week.

The estimates at that time involved $347,000 for equipment and personnel during the remainder of 2017 and $500,000 to $1 million annually for security- related salaries in the future. The current estimates for the remainder of 2017 are $238,000 with contracted security or $318,000 using RCPD officers, who would work overtime.

“I’m very pleased within a week’s time that I’ve seen the progress we’ve made in trying to define what some of the expenses are,” city manager Ron Fehr said.

Commissioner Linda Morse said she was pleased that the contracted security brought down the cost but wouldn’t want to contract out the inspection personnel.

“I think we’ll have better control by maintaining the staff for inspections,” she said.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh said the staff has done a great job, but the financial estimates for the 24hour security personnel seemed too low.

The commission approved the 2017 funding for the improvements — savings from a lack of salt purchases during the winter and adjustments in the capital improvement program — and the exploration of funding for 2018 with a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Wynn Butler voted against the motion because he’s against raising the mill levy for additional airport personnel. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value.

The commission didn’t vote in favor of a funding method Tuesday, but Butler didn’t want property taxes among the options. Butler made a motion to fund the airport security improvements “without raising the mill levy.” Nobody seconded the motion.

Fehr presented the options for funding starting with the 2018 budget:
¦ Transient guest tax, which is a bed tax for hotel guests
¦ Economic development fund, which generates revenue from a half-cent sales tax
¦ Industrial promotion fund, which has economic development revenue as a part of a contract with the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce
¦ City/ university fund, which is made up of sales tax and franchise fees generated on the K-State campus
¦ City or RCPD general fund, which both come from property taxes The commission has the authority to raise the transient guest tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.
City administrators said each percentage point raises $250,000 in revenue. Assistant city manager Kiel Mangus said the city would need around $250,000 annually for security- related salaries based on current estimates.
He said the potential increase of $90,743 in landing fee revenue from the airline would cover a portion of the $327,844.90 estimated cost.

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