Aspen Security hired by airport let go early for rude behavior
The flying public should see friendlier faces at the arrival terminal of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport now that the company contracted with Sardy Field to enforce the no-vehicle-unattended rule at the curb has been let go.
The airport had been paying Aspen Patrol security $39,000 a month since mid-December to enforce the rule imposed by the Transportation Security Administration.
Sardy Field had been one of the last — if not the last airport in the country — where vehicles could be left unattended at curbside drop-off or pick-up areas.
While the contract was to end Tuesday, airport director John Kinney said Aspen Security personnel were asked to leave the premises early due to rude behavior during their interactions with the public.
“We did have several complaints from the community,” Kinney said, adding Aspen Security had been warned about staff conduct. “This is about guest experience and we have people from all over the world coming here and (Tuesday) it was time to part ways with them for that function.”
Kinney said airport staff is now enforcing the rules curbside and will continue to do so until a new company is hired.
Aspen Security has for years provided after-hours duties at the airport for $2,000 a month and will continue to do so through a use agreement until a new vendor is found through a pending request for proposals process, Kinney said.
The additional curbside service from Aspen Security was an addendum to the existing contract in the form of an emergency procurement, said Chris Padilla, the airport’s controller.
The airport also cut ties with Shaun’s Towing this week for similar issues and is in the process of buying its own tow truck to take the responsibility of removing unattended vehicles in-house by summer.
The airport was paying Shaun’s Towing $17,400 a week to station a tow truck in front of the terminal, as part of a use agreement based on an emergency need, Padilla said.
“This was pretty much an overnight switch and we worked with our attorney’s office to make sure everything was above board,” Padilla said Thursday.
Kinney said because of the monopoly Shaun’s Towing has in the valley and its response time of as long as two hours, which doesn’t meet TSA requirements, the airport didn’t have a choice but to employ the service.
In total since Dec. 18 when the no-vehicles-left-unattended rules went into effect, the airport has paid $108,600 a month, or almost $500,000 in enforcement.
Operating surpluses and contingency dollars, Kinney said, covered those additional costs.
Because of the abrupt mandate handed down from TSA in December, Kinney said the airport was caught off guard at peak season and didn’t have the personnel to enforce the new rule so it had to outsource the work.
“This wasn’t our choice, it was mandated by the TSA,” he said, adding that he had staved off the agency as long as he could with the changes. “They wanted us to do this yesterday … as soon as possible.”
The airport is currently looking to buy its own tow truck, which is being priced at around $157,000. Airport personnel will man it.
Jack Morgan, who answered the phone at Aspen Security on Wednesday afternoon, refused to answer questions about the company’s contract with the airport, other than to say that he didn’t appreciate being awakened from a nap and referred all questions to his lawyer, Joe Krabacher.
Krabacher didn’t return a voicemail message Thursday, and neither did Shaun’s Towing.
Kinney said since the rule went into effect, seven or eight cars have been towed.
Another change the public will see in the next month is that the parking spaces in front of the terminal will be removed and replaced with pass-through lanes that are seen at other airports.
The re-striping will likely eliminate the problem of people parking and trying to leave their cars to meet their friends, family and guests in the terminal.
“I think that will curb some of the behaviors,” Kinney said.
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