Federal shutdown impacts local agencies

A sign was posted to the front door of a U.S. Department of Agriculture office explaining its closure due to the lapse in federal government funding Tuesday at the Holy Cross Ranger Station near Dowd Junction. The sign also mentioned the office will reopen once Congress restores funding.
Justin McCarty | |

The federal budget stalemate left some local agencies untouched, but shuddered others.

Local U.S. Forest Service offices are closed, as are some campgrounds and other facilities. On the other hand, TSA agents are still on the job, even though there’s only one commercial flight a day at the Eagle County Regional Airport, a shuttle to Denver.

“We are furloughed,” said Dave Neeley, district ranger for the Eagle/Holy Cross District of the White River National Forest.

“How many?” Neeley said, when asked how many people that included. “Everyone! We’re not being paid, and we’re not allowed to work on projects.”

The 2.4-million acre White River National Forest is being covered by one law enforcement officer, working to protect the public and its land, Neeley said. Other than that, a fire management officer and Neeley are on call.

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“Issues involving life, health and safety are what we are authorized to respond to,” he said.

No money? No training

The Colorado National Guard’s High Altitude Army Aviation Training Site, HAATS, is still working, but not training anyone. HAATS instructors teach helicopter pilots how to fly in high-altitude areas before they deploy. HAATS officers said the training is important, but not considered mandatory.

“If we have students who are deploying, we can ask for permission to train them,” said Major Tony Somogyi, HAATS executive officer.

They had to send a couple trainees home, Somogyi said.

And then there’s buying gas. Because HAATS is headquartered at the Eagle County airport and not a military base, they don’t have the capacity to buy fuel in bulk and store it. They buy their gas at the airport, just like everyone else.

Since they can’t buy gas, they can’t fly, Somogyi said. The only exception is search and rescue missions.

On the personnel side, they’re all full-time National Guardsmen, so they’re still working and have plenty to do, Somogyi said.

HAATS would have stopped flying next week anyway, as they always do when the season for hunting elk with rifles gets into full swing, Somogyi said.

good Timing at the airport

There’s no impact at the Eagle County Regional Airport, so far.

The Transportation Safety Administration is considered an essential agency, so its agents are stillson the job.

“For now, it’s business as usual,” said Greg Phillips, airport manager. “We’ve been following it closely. We’re concerned about what might happen if it goes on too long.”

The timing is pretty good for the airport. It has only one commercial flight a day, a shuttle flight to Denver. Summer service closed at the end of September.

The tower is staffed by contract employees, and they’re still working, Phillips said.

Locals helping locals

In the 1990s, when the federal shutdown dragged on for weeks, Alpine Bank stepped up to help furloughed workers. Alpine president Glen Jammaron said they’re ready to help this time, too.

In the ’90s, federal employees who brought a pay stub to the bank were given an interest free loan for the amount of their pay.

“We’ve talked about this several times in the last year. This is not the first time our friends and families have faced this,” Jammaron said. “If we have people in our community who are suffering because of the government shutdown, we’ll do whatever we can to help them.”

Polis’ Patriot Parody

As you might expect, lawmakers whose partisan bickering brought about the shutdown are pointing fingers of blame across the aisle.

Congressman Scott Tipton said the Senate refused to negotiate on any portion of Obamacare, including removing special treatment for Congress, or repealing the medical device tax.

“It’s disappointing that the president and Harry Reid won’t sit down and discuss why they think the American people shouldn’t receive the same exemptions that they gave to big business or why Congress should be exempt from the laws it passes,” Tipton said in a statement. “We can do better in this country.”

Apparently the shutdown talks Congressman Jared Polis with a little time on his hands. When we went through this in 2011, he called it “ridiculous.” He did one better this time around, writing and delivering a parody of Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s 21 hour speech last week against Obamacare. Cruz read parts of the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor.

Polis’ parody went like this:

‘What a Sham’

“I do not like Ted Cruz reading ‘Green Eggs and Ham’

I do not like it, patriot I am.

I do not like him reading it when government is in a jam

I do not like his fake filibuster scam.

I do not like it when we’re recovering from a flood,

I do not like it when we need help clearing mud,

I do not like it when Obamacare repeal he tries to ram

or says to breast-cancer survivors ‘Sorry ma’am’

I will not insure you in a boat,

I will not insure you across a moat,

I will not insure your child with asthma

I will not insure your disorder of plasma

No, I will not ensure you or your fam,

I will not insure them, Ted Cruz I am

No, I do not like Ted Cruz reading ‘Green Eggs and Ham’

And shutting down government without giving a damn,

No I do not like it, I do not like it,

I do not like it, patriot I am.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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