Getting airport clearance could be as easy as going to city hall.
An effort to increase revenues in the Jackson city clerk’s office will soon mean Northsiders no longer will have to drive 40 miles to apply for TSA Precheck status.
City Clerk Kristi Moore said her office was setting up the processing center, in part, to increase city revenues.
At its meeting last week, the Jackson City Council approved bringing on Idemia Identity & Security U.S.A. to help set up the office and provide background checks on applications submitted.
The vote is the next step required for Jackson to begin accepting Precheck applications, as well as applications for passports and other TSA endorsements.
TSA is the federal Transportation Security Administration. The agency is charged with protecting the nation’s various transportation systems, including providing security and passenger screening at airports.
The agency offers a precheck program to passengers who apply for and pass a background check, which allows them to go through an expedited screening process before boarding a plane.
This news comes months after the Sun reported that the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) had no plans to establish a precheck office at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, largely because of a lack of demand for the service and a lack of space to house the office on airport grounds.
Thanks to a need to increase city cash flow, the city clerk’s office began looking into the idea a few years ago.
She said in 2014, her office was asked by the mayor to investigate ways to increase revenues.
She reached out to several city clerks, including one in San Antonio, who suggested doing passports.
Moore said she also contacted Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office, who recommended checking into the TSA Precheck program.
Moore had been trying to reach TSA for several years when officials with the federal agency reached out to her.
“They called our office and asked ifwe knew of a location in Jackson, and I said we were interested in doing that, and that’s where the conversation went,” she said.
Moore said TSA had gotten calls from residents that did not want to drive to Vicksburg to complete the Precheck screening.
Services provided by the clerk’s office will include issuing passports, and accepting applications for the TSA’s Precheck, TWIC and HTAP programs.
TWIC is the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program. The credential is required for individuals needing to access secure areas of the nation’s maritime facilities and vessels, according to the TSA website.
The HTAP endorsement is required for individuals with a CDL to transport hazardous materials on the interstate highway system, the same website states.
“It was a win-win,” she said. “They were very pleased we were agreeable to it.”
Moore said her office was still going through the certification process at press time.
Idemia, a major TSA contractor, will train employees and help set up the office.
Moore has 35 clerks, including six that work directly in her office. Current staff members will be trained to accept applications. No new employees will be brought on, she said.
Idemia will then pay the city a portion of the fees they receive for processing applications.
Currently, residents seeking the pre-clearance status must drive to Vicksburg to submit the necessary paperwork. The office is operated by Baker Investigative & Security, a subcontractor for Idemia.
The application process is inconvenient, to say the least. In addition to the drive, applicants must set up an appointment online, and are unable to call.
“Enrollment contractors typically don’t have phones that they answer,” said TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz. “All appointments have to be made online after selecting the location for your appointment.”
Moore said residents interested in applying at the clerk’s office will be able to drop in without an appointment or can call with any questions.
Although some details still have to be worked out, she said there will be one area to handle passports and another to handle Precheck, TWIC and HTAP. The offices will be located on the second floor of Jackson City Hall.
In May, officials with Jackson-Evers told the Sun they’d like to have a Precheck office but didn’t have the space for it.
At the time, then-spokeswoman Yolanda Clay-Moore said airport managers had hoped to offer “pop-up events,” or individual days where contractors would take applications at Jackson-Evers.
JMAA officials couldn’t be reached for additional comment.
Precheck locations are determined by third-party contractors and are based on demand and accommodations.
“One requirement is space and that is limited at (Jackson-Evers),” Koshetz told the Sun. She wouldn’t offer specifications on other site requirements.
“We were vetted,” Moore said. “We were approved for both the passport and TSA programs.”
There are 429 Precheck enrollment centers across the country. Of those, 40 are located at airports, while 389 are located at other sites.
Moore said she had not contacted officials at Jackson-Evers but does hope work with the airport in the future as Precheck business picks up.
“As we get the word out and business grows, I’m sure we’ll have to look for another location,” she said. “To start off, we’ll have to work with what we have.”