Airports fences keep out terrorists, wildlife

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(Host) The state wants to build security fences around several of Vermont’s small airports. But the reason for the extra security may not be quite what it seems.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) In the months following the September 11 terrorist attacks, security was beefed up at airports around the country. By now, everybody knows the drill. Open your carry-on. Be prepared to remove your shoes if necessary.

Several of Vermont’s small, rural airports will soon see additional security measures as well. An 8-foot high chain link fence is scheduled to go up around the W.H. Morse airport in Bennington this summer. But as airport manager Craig Bottesi says, the concerns are over wildlife, as well as terrorist attacks:

(Bottesi) “Turkey. Let’s see, we’ve had turkeys, deer, moose. Geese – we’ve had an ongoing problem with geese down here. Yep. We’ve had moose wander down the runway. (Bottesi laughs.) Wildlife bothers me more than terrorists do.”

(Dillon) Bottesi says a deer ran across the runway recently and hit an airplane. The deer didn’t survive, and the plane sustained $250,000 in damages.

He says the planning for the perimeter fence began before 9-11. Federal funds are now available for the fencing project. And Don Degraw, an airport operations specialist with the Agency of Transportation, says the fence will keep unauthorized animals – and people – off the runway.

(Degraw) “It will be funded 90% by the federal government, 10% by the state. We had a certain amount of dollars that was dedicated to this airport from federal funds that we needed to spend this year, or else we were going to lose the money. So the fencing project seemed to be the best way to do that.”

(Dillon) The Bennington airport fence will be about 2.5 miles long. Degraw says the first phase will cost around $70,000. A similar project is planned for the Morrisville airport.

(Degraw) “Well, it’s the same situation. Morrisville was in jeopardy of losing some federal funds. And we wanted to make best use of those dollars, not lose them.”

(Dillon) The state also plans to complete a fence at the Rutland airport, and to build fences at several other state airports as well.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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