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Gray: If your flight gets canceled, call the mayor

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MASSENA — Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said that people with flights booked for Oct. 1 or later might want to consider calling Mayor James F. Hidy and lobbying him to continue providing security at the airport.

Mr. Hidy said Monday that, as of Oct. 1, the village no longer will send police officers to provide security at the airport unless the town signs an agreement to pay the village more than $50,000 a year.

“It’s like having a gun to our heads,” Mr. Gray said.

“We simply can’t afford a one-year agreement for $50,000,” Mr. Gray said. “If someone has a flight for Oct. 1 or after, there is a good chance their flight will be canceled due to a lack of security. They should call the mayor’s office at 769-8625 and tell him to get off his high horse and do what’s right for the community. His re-election campaign hasn’t started yet.”

Mr. Gray said he is aware that the town owes the village money, and he’s planning to cut a check next month, but not for the amount the village believes it is owed. He said he’ll base the payment on the amount the town should have received from the Transportation Security Administration.

“We realize they’re owed money. We haven’t been paid since 2012, either,” he said. “They will get their money.”

Mr. Gray said according to the agreement in place between the town and village, the town is responsible for paying the village only what it receives from TSA. The current federal reimbursement rate is $22.96 per hour for three hours per day, good for $25,141.20 versus the $52,890.33 the village is seeking.

Mr. Gray also said that, while the village is attempting to bill the town at a daily rate of $144.91, it is spending much less than that to provide the necessary security coverage for the airport.

“For the past two months, the village police department has been using the court security officer to cover the airline departures and they’re paying him $15 each time,” he said, adding that the court security officer is a retired police officer.

Mr. Hidy and Massena Police Chief Timmy J. Currier acknowledged using the court security officer, but Mr. Currier said they have been doing so only for the past two weeks, noting he is not always available.

Mr. Currier said the court security officer is paid an hourly rate of $15.34 versus the hourly rate of $24.14 or $36.23 for patrol officers.

Mr. Gray said it is his understanding that the security officer is making the overwhelming majority, if not all, of the trips — meaning the detail is costing the village only about $45 per day.

“We’re willing to give them $60 a day; then they’ll be making $15 per day profit on what they’re spending now,” he said.

Mr. Hidy said the village board would have to decide whether that rate is acceptable.

“That’s not my decision to make. It’s a board decision. We would certainly entertain anything that would be for the good of the community,” he said. “It is not our intent to close the airport; it’s only our intent to cover the costs of having an officer out there.”

Mr. Gray said he approached Mr. Currier about using a retired officer at the airport three years ago, noting the idea didn’t get very far at that time. “The chief’s response was, ‘I’ll look into it.’” Mr. Gray said he then revisited the issue with Mr. Currier, receiving a similar response.

“I would prefer not to discuss negotiations through the news media as some people are doing,” Mr. Currier said, noting that negotiations should take place behind closed doors. He also said his frustrations over providing the security detail at the airport date back to 2010.

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