Patty in the News

For Spokane International Airport Director Neal Sealock, a Wednesday afternoon news conference showcased a rebuilt tarmac.

For Sen. Patty Murray, “It was nice to be standing on some economic recovery money.”

For Joe O’Rourke, it was a chance to explain how the project kept him off the streets.

O’Rourke said he was at the end of his unemployment benefits last July, and had already told his landlord he would be leaving.

But by badgering the head of Cement Finishers & Plasterers Local 72, O’Rourke said, he landed among the 150 workers that the tarmac-and-runway project kept employed when 20 percent of construction industry employees were jobless.

“If I didn’t get that job I’d be out on the street,” O’Rourke told about 30 people assembled on new asphalt between concourses B and C.

Murray said that with unemployment in Spokane running about 8.7 percent, most people know someone who is jobless. The airport projects, funded with $14 million in federal economic stimulus money, were a lifeline for O’Rourke and many other workers, she said.

Murray noted the Senate was moving cautiously on a second, smaller package of stimulus funding that passed the House. Senators are talking more about how increased spending would alter the budget deficit, she said.

Sealock said the stimulus money will allow the airport to complete in two years projects that could have taken more than twice that long, and at significant savings.

Turning to security, Sealock said that the Transportation Safety Administration last month brought in two of an expected three canine teams. The dogs will be used throughout the airport, he said.

He said the airport is awaiting full-body scanning units, which have become the centerpieces of heightened security measures in the wake of the Dec. 25 attempted airline bombing in Detroit. He said he didn’t know when the scanners would arrive.

- Spokesman-Review