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Utah military bases, workers watch D.C. for shutdown cue

Published September 30, 2013 5:22 pm

Shutdown • Hill Air Force Base workers will be told their duty status Tuesday when they report to work.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Leaders at Utah military installations were gearing up Monday for a possible government shutdown that could see thousands furloughed without pay.

Hill Air Force Base public affairs officer George F. Jozens said officials were preparing for an orderly shutdown of activities in case of a lapse in appropriations.

"All military personnel would remain on regular duty status, but all civilian personnel paid by appropriated funds would be furloughed, except for employees and for the minimum number necessary to accomplish excepted activities that are essential to national security," Jozens said in a released statement.

Hill Air Force is one of Utah's top six employers, according to state estimates, and base supervisors were telling all workers to report for work as they normally would Tuesday. There they will be told what their duty status might be.

"We remain hopeful that the budget uncertainty will be resolved prior to the expiration of appropriations," said Jozens. "A shutdown would put severe hardships on an already stressed workforce."

At the Utah National Guard, Lt. Col. Hank McIntire said the situation could hamper soldiers' ability to respond to local emergencies as well as training and day-to-day operations.

"We are looking at different scenarios and making plans if there is a shutdown," he said. "There is a determination of essential personnel necessary to carry out our basic duties."

Last week the Pentagon delayed sending about 100 Utah Guardsmen to Colorado to help repair flood-damaged highways there because of concerns over the budget stalemate. After appeals by Colorado's two U.S. senators, the contingent from Utah did make the trip to pitch in on the work.

McIntire said that while the shutdown would have no effect on state employees, it could affect between 50 to 60 percent of the Utah Guard's full-time force, which is close to 2,000. There would be no immediate effect for 7,000 part-time soldiers, though drill weekends and training could be stopped if the shutdown is lengthy.

"We hope things can get sorted out at the national level so it minimizes impact on Guard members, families and ultimately the citizens because those are the ones we serve," he said.

A shutdown also could have severe — though indirect — impact on companies relying on government contracts or business from government employees. Small business owners and convention officials near Hill Air Force Base expressed concern about a shutdown, on top of across-the-board budget cuts already adopted.

"It could put a lot of people out of business," said Karen Yamada of the Raw Image Salon near Hill's south gate about the shutdown. "The closer that your business is to the base, the more affected you will be."

Nancy Bukowski, owner of House of Brews, said many of her customers were talking about the potential shutdown Monday morning. "It could get ugly," said Bukowski. "The sequester did affect my summer business. It was real slow. We're hanging in there as long as we can. I'm expecting the worst but hoping for the best."

Scott Lund, general manager of the Davis County Convention Center, said sequestration had already caused a number of government groups to either cancel events or use base facilities. Two events originally scheduled in September were cancelled.

"With the government shutdown, I just don't know," he said. "I'm not sure how it will affect the conference center side. There has not been a lot of government business in the last four to six months. But it could affect the six hotels in Layton."

Jeremiah Falslev of Consolidated Paving, which has the contract to repair pavement at Hill Air Force Base, was taking a wait-and-see attitude. He said if the shutdown was short, it would just set him behind his work for four or five days.

Dugway Proving Ground officials declined to comment on how the shutdown would affect workers there.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton