Private company to take over security screening at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport

SARASOTA -- Come Sunday, a private company will screen passengers and baggage at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Trinity Technology Group Inc. of Manassas, Va., will start Feb. 1 and will fully assume screening duties April 1, taking over the duties of Transportation Security Administration agents, said Jean Barnes, assistant federal security director at SRQ. Barnes will continue to oversee the company's compliance and contract performance.

TSA announced in November it awarded Trinity a contract valued up to $21.1 million if it exercises all options of the 60-month contract, which began Dec. 1.

The private contractors performing security screening services are part of a Screening Partnership Program developed as a pilot program in 2001 under the Aviation Transportation Security Act that allowed private contractors to perform TSA screening operations at five airports.

Customers shouldn't notice a difference in customer service or security procedures, said Fredrick "Rick" Piccolo, president and chief executive officer for SRQ.

"The only thing you'll notice different is the uniform," Piccolo said. The security personnel still has to work

under TSA security guidelines and procedures.

The reason for endorsing the move to a privatized company was better flexibility in scheduling hours for workers, Piccolo said. The airport had no problem with TSA's customer service and role at the airport.

"It was a philosophical issue, not a service issue," Piccolo added.

The union for the TSA workers, American Federation of Government Employees Local 556, opposes the move because it removes skilled workers, employees lose federal benefits and are typically paid less and asked to do more in the privatized roles.

"We know it's a small airport, but our concern is some of the screeners working there will see an added stress level because they keep adding on more things to do," said Donald Thomas, president of Local 556.

Thomas believes security will be affected because, in his view, new employees could not care as much about their screening jobs because of the lower pay and stress levels.

Trinity has about 50 local employees who have applied for positions at SRQ airport, officials said. Not all of them will be the existing TSA agents. About 60 TSA full-time equivalent employees work at SRQ and about 20 to 30 are reapplying for their jobs, Thompson said.

"Trinity is delighted to be here at SRQ," said Bill Scott, program manager at Trinity.

Twenty airports in the United States participate in the privatized security program, including Key West International and Orlando Sanford International Airport, both of which Trinity services.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck