Brainerd Airport: Security talks up in the air

The terror attacks at the Brussels airport Tuesday morning could impact security coordination at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. An ongoing discussion on who is responsible for the costs associated with providing security at the airport betw...

The terror attacks at the Brussels airport Tuesday morning could impact security coordination at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.

An ongoing discussion on who is responsible for the costs associated with providing security at the airport between Crow Wing County and the city of Brainerd coincidentally appeared on the county board agenda Tuesday. The airport is jointly owned by the city and county, although a previous arrangement between the entities placed security responsibilities in the city's hands.

The county board rescinded a Feb. 9 motion establishing reimbursement to the city, which provides Transportation Safety Administration-required security through the Brainerd Police Department. The motion was rescinded, according to the request for board action from County Administrator Tim Houle, because Bob O'Brien, interim airport manager, has suggested a number of alternative ways to provide security without additional cost.

"There's new information that Bob (O'Brien) was able to bring to bear, given his experience in the airline industry, that are low- to no-cost to the city," Houle said after Tuesday's meeting. "As a result of that, our contribution is no longer necessary."

Brainerd City Administrator Jim Thoreen said there are options through the TSA to provide security, assuming the current state of affairs continues. Thoreen questioned whether that would be the case in light of the Brussels attacks.


"I would have to believe that there are either TSA or other authorities at the federal level that are going to be suggesting that airport security be tightened in this country," Thoreen said by phone Tuesday. "How that will affect us, if it affects us, I don't know."

This could change a timeline passed by the Brainerd City Council, Thoreen said, that has the city ceasing providing police services at the Brainerd airport by April 17.

Thoreen said the options available could reduce costs, although he said he wanted to assure the flying public that police protection would remain at the airport.

"I want to assure our flyers and our citizens that there will be an element of police protection at BRD (Brainerd airport)," Thoreen said. "Those details haven't yet been worked out. We're a little time away from it, April 17 is kind of around the corner, but we've got a little time here. I'll continue to work with Bob O'Brien to figure out how we can make sure the Airport Commission, as the body operating the airport, and the funding agencies, be that feds, us, whatever, are singing hopefully from the same page."

O'Brien declined to provide further details on the security alternatives available to the current setup, which has a Brainerd police officer stationed at the airport for each arrival and departure.

"As a matter of practice, we do not share our security posture or procedures as a matter of public record. They're considered sensitive security issues," O'Brien said by phone Tuesday. "To elaborate much beyond that gives a great deal of insight to people who would prefer to do unfavorable things. ... It's correct that they've been discussed. ... The unfortunate thing is the conversations, while generally appropriate, distract from the overall activities of the airport."

O'Brien said he will continue to coordinate with the city, county, the TSA and other aviation industry counterparts on airport security.

"The security side of the house, (they) are confident and comfortable with Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport security posture," O'Brien said.


Houle said TSA grants, which according to city officials no longer cover the true costs of providing security, would remain available to the city for on-site security. Houle also suggested the city has an option of employing 911-ready response.

"If there was something that would be of a concern from a law enforcement perspective, that's an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation," Houle said. "So typically the response time to 911 calls is very, very swift."

Houle said he did not want to be more specific on the implementation of airport security.

"None of us want to create a circumstance in which some nefarious character thinks that there is an opportunity here, and so I don't think any of us wants to get any more specific than what I have," Houle said.

The issue will likely appear on an upcoming Brainerd City Council agenda.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What To Read Next
Get Local