Homegrown donations for unpaid TSA workers

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
That ain’t luggage: Transportation Security Administration managers at the Albany International Airport haul off a large donation made to unpaid employees by Longfield Farm in Knox, Barcomb’s Family Farm in Knox, and Schoharie Valley Farm.

ALBANY COUNTY — Three local farms are doing their part to help the  nearly 200 federal Transportation Security Administration workers at the Albany International Airport who have continued to show up to work every day during the longest government shutdown in United States history and, as of Friday, will not have been paid in over a month.

On Wednesday, Gary and Pam Kleppel, owners of Longfield Farm in Knox, were at the airport to donate nine-dozen cartons of eggs and 62 loaves if handmade sourdough bread from their farm; sirloin steak and four-dozen cartons of eggs from Barcomb’s Family Farm in Knox; and 200 pounds of potatoes from Schoharie Valley Farm, owned by Richard and Ethan Ball.

Earl Barcomb is a Knox councilman and Richard Ball is the state’s commissioner of agriculture.

The plan had come together in just four days, Gary Kleppel said, “when we heard the pain people were going through.” Kleppel and his wife had just returned home from Canada.

In a sad irony, the 200 TSA workers can thank for their donation the three Knox transfer-station workers who were fired on New Year’s Day.

At the Knox Town Board meeting that followed, on Jan. 9, Tim Fischer, who is a bomb technician at the airport as well as retired bomb-squad commander for the State Police, spoke out to express disappointment with the firings that had occurred.

On Wednesday, Fischer, recounting the Jan. 9 meeting, said he was told that there had been procedural changes made at the transfer station and that the now-fired workers had not been able to adapt to those changes.

Fischer, a Knox resident for 18 years, asked if the workers had received any training to go along with the changes in procedure, pointing out that he worked for the TSA, an organization that changes its rules almost weekly.

“But the workers get training,” he told The Enterprise on Wednesday. “You don’t just fire them.”

Also at the meeting were the Kleppels, Knox residents since 2000, who did not know Fischer at the time.

When the couple decided to help the TSA workers, they remembered Fischer from the meeting and reached out to him for help with their donation.

At the airport on Wednesday, Michael Kilcullen, deputy assistant federal security director, was limited in what he could say, but did say that the public had been incredible.

While nationally, the unscheduled absence rate of the TSA’s 51,000 employees is over double what it was this time last year, at Albany, Kilcullen said, the unscheduled absence rate is unchanged from what it was last year.

“We are here for the mission,” Kilcullen said, noting that the 200 unpaid TSA workers of the Albany International Airport continue to come in to work every day.


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