Armed security guards eventually will replace Medford Police Department officers at the airport because the Transportation Security Administration has cut funding for the program.
"It felt really comforting to have MPD there," Councilman John Michaels said Thursday. "I feel like we're being taken advantage of."
Even though Medford police won't have at least one officer at the airport nearly 20 hours a day, they will still be required to send units out for emergency calls at the airport, which is within the city of Medford.
"We will continue to respond immediately out there despite the contract," Medford Police Chief Tim George said. (Correction: Tim George's name and title have been added to this story.)
Under the current contract, Medford police charge the airport $44 an hour to have one policeman on duty for 19.5 hours each day. For the next six months, until the private security company takes over, the rate will increase to $46 an hour to cover increased overhead.
The airport received $24 an hour in compensation from TSA to help with the contract, but that budget recently was dropped to $20 an hour.
"That's a major hit," said airport Director Bern Case.
By going with a private security company, the airport estimates it will save $200,000 annually.
The security guards will receive state licenses so they can carry a firearm, Case said.
A private security company hasn't been selected yet, but Case said he hopes that whatever company Jackson County chooses will hire retired officers from this area to be stationed at the airport.
Medford police have had a contract at the airport since 2006.
Case said the airport has had a good working relationship with Medford police. "If money wasn't an issue, I would much rather have them," he said.
— Damian Mann