Middle Georgia to feel effects of shutdown

Telegraph staffSeptember 30, 2013 

Federal workers in Middle Georgia face Tuesday's partial federal government shutdown.

After Congress failed to reach a resolution late Monday night to a budget impasse, the midstate will feel ripples all the way from Washington.

At Robins Air Force Base in Houston County, as many as 4,000 civilian employees could be furloughed.

Military personnel would continue in a normal duty status, spokesman David Donato said.

“A furlough would put severe hardships on an already stressed workforce,” Donato said.

Workers at the federal Ocmulgee National Monument in east Macon will find out Tuesday morning whether they will be sent home.

As part of the shutdown, government agencies will designate “essential and nonessential” services and positions. National parks and museums across the country will close, and Ocmulgee National Monument is part of the U.S. National Park Service.

Workers at the national monument will receive an official shutdown message from the Park Service Regional Office in Atlanta and will have four hours to change their email and voice mails to reflect the closure of the park, said Jim David, Ocmulgee superintendent.

Workers will post signs and contact businesses and schools that scheduled visits to inform them.

Fifteen full-time and part-time employees face furloughs, David said.

Two law enforcement officers will remain at the park, he said, “to protect our resources.”

The Native American mounds at Ocmulgee attract visitors from out of state and across the globe.

“If we shut down, those people will be disappointed,” David said.

Any impact at the federal courthouse in Macon won’t be quite as immediate. Reserve funds will allow administrators to bring in juries and conduct scheduled criminal trials for the next two weeks. If a federal budget agreement is not reached by then, administrators must determine which functions of the court are essential and which ones are nonessential, said Gregory Leonard, the clerk of courts at the federal courthouse.

Leonard worked during the last government shutdown in 1993, which lasted three weeks, and he recalls no nonessential employees being furloughed.

Leonard admitted, however, that payment for juries may be delayed because of the shutdown.

“I’m hoping it will not last more than two weeks,” he said.

Most federal law enforcement officers are considered essential, including those in the U.S. Marshals Service, who provide security at the courthouse. Ninety-one percent of U.S. Marshal employees are exempt from the furloughs, according to a Department of Justice contingency plan published Friday. Eighty-six percent of FBI employees are exempt. Meanwhile, representatives at the U.S. Marshal and FBI offices were not able to provide local statistics for Macon employees facing furloughs.

The U.S. Postal Service would conduct business as usual, and mail service would not be disrupted.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382. To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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