Questions about overtime costs at Syracuse Airport

Keeping an airport safe is no easy - or small - job. Working out of an airport division office, Syracuse Police handle the security needs for Hancock Airport, including many federally mandated requirements.

"That includes work in the terminal building, the perimeter road, all of our access points and gates - so they are the law enforcement entity of the airport," said Interim Airport Commissioner Christina Reale.

Enforcement can run up a big bill. Syracuse city and police officials confirmed that most of the officers at the airport are there on costly overtime shifts - overtime that costs about $3 million a year. On Wednesday, the City Auditor suggested Syracuse higher more full time officers rather than pay out all that overtime. Deputy Mayor John Cowin disagreed.

"That may have been a good idea years ago but now we're in transition from a city run airport to an authority run airport so we wouldn't want to hire all those employees and then what do we do with them if they want to use a different method of security," said Cowin on Wednesday.

Money from the airport budget reimburses the city for the overtime costs. The airport gets that money from fees and charges, many of which are passed on to travelers.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has made changing Hancock Airport over to an authority one of her priorities. An authority would not be obligated to use Syracuse Police for security.

"The authority is going to look at variety of cost savings measures. Certainly there are areas they will look at and competitive bidding any service is always the best option," said Reale.

The Syracuse Common Council has approved changing Hancock Airport over to an authority. The city is now waiting for approval from the FAA and other government agencies. Reale said it could be several months before any change is made.

A spokesman for the Syracuse Police Department said all questions about police overtime at the airport should be directed to the mayor's office.

For more on The Syracuse City Auditor's report on Police and Fire overtime, click here.