Shutdown Ends: Furloughed Employees Return to Work in Green Country
By Caitlin Alexander
With the end of the government shutdown, local government employees returned to work Thursday.Park Rangers at Lake Keystone came back from three furlough days. They spent Thursday inspecting parks and opening up gates to campers."For our folks with younger families and everything else, money's already tight and you take a few days pay away, things definitely get tighter," said Chief Park Ranger Travis Miller. Miller said carry-over funds helped minimize the number of mandatory furlough days for his co-workers at that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office. He said some of his co-workers worked side jobs to make ends meet during the furloughs.U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks have been closed since early October. Miller said some Corps parks might open later than others due to possible damage and safety checks. He and other rangers opened Washington Irving Park Thursday. There was one small case of vandalism on the spikes at the park's exit but the park is safe and open for campers.Also, National Weather Service employees returned to work Thursday. During the government shutdown, some web pages displayed notifications that NWS was not performing all of its usual duties due to the lack of funds.Channel 8 spoke over the phone with William Hopkins, the Executive Vice President of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. He said during the shutdown, there was less research and fewer meetings due to travel limitations. He said many offices were without janitors. Also, he said equipment maintenance, forecasters training, public outreach, and other areas stopped without the funds. The NWS continued to share "critical" information, like forecasts, during the shutdown."There was a chance, had something major happened, you know, a major tornado outbreak or something like that, you know, we may not have had the adequate staffing to go in and handle the situation because of people being out on furlough," Hopkins said.Hopkins said NWS employees "are very proud" of what they do. He said many employees continued to work without pay. One local employee told Channel 8 she continued to work during the shutdown.Both Miller and Hopkins said it was uncertain when furlough pay will come for employees. Miller said the continued possibility of indecision in Washington means more furloughs could happen down the road.The government shutdown lasted 16 days.
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