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Some Maryland Airports Get Federal Funds to Enhance Security, Defray Closures

By David M. Pittman
Capital News Service
Tuesday, October 1, 2002

WASHINGTON - Operators of a private Prince George's County airport got a little something extra from the federal government when it granted the airport permission last week to reopen after months of forced closure.

The Federal Aviation Administration also sent Washington Executive/Hyde Field a check for $337,272.

It was part of more than $5 million that the federal government sent to Maryland airports last week to help pay for security enhancements and to offset lost business that several airports suffered after Sept. 11, when they were ordered closed.

"We're happy the government has stepped in to help us out," said Stan Fetter, the manager for Hyde Field.

Hyde Field and two other Prince George's County airports -- College Park Airport and Potomac Airfield in Friendly -- were closed for months after Sept. 11 because of their proximity to Washington. Potomac Airfield got $145,086 and College Park Airport got $26,000 last week to pay for security improvements and to offset business losses.

The largest share of the grants went to Baltimore/Washington International Airport, which got almost $3.5 million for security equipment. Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport received $1 million to help meet the Transportation Security Administration's new security guidelines.

Fetter said the money that Hyde Field got will only cover some of his losses. After being allowed to reopen in March, the Clinton airfield was closed again in May by the Transportation Security Administration because of security violations, which Fetter and the agency declined to elaborate.

The TSA gave the OK for the airport to reopen last Friday, after it had implemented new security measures, like erecting a perimeter fence.

Fetter said his airport has already spent most of the money on a new fence surrounding Hyde Field and renovations to several buildings. The rest will be used to pay for utilities and other costs during the airport's closing.

"Mortgage, insurance, trash pickup. All that stuff goes on even though we're closed," Fetter said.

But not all the airports near Washington got money last week.

Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg was not closed for months, like the three Prince George's County airports, and it is not now under the strict temporary flight restrictions that is hamstringing them. But that doesn't mean federal money would be any less welcome.

"We've been told that the TSA was going to issue general aviation airport (security) guidelines last month, but we are still waiting," said Wendy Carter, manager for Montgomery County Airpark.

Carter said that the costs for improving security at the airport should be minimal, since it already has a perimeter fence. And even though she would like the government to pick up the tab for any new improvements, she does not think it is likely.

"The TSA has sucked up the money necessary to improve airport security," she said. "We would like it, but we aren't expecting it."

Copyright 2002 University of Maryland College of Journalism

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