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‘Unsettling’ government layoffs affecting thousands in region

Glenn B. Greet drove out of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base gates Tuesday not knowing when he and thousands of his co-workers would return or if they would be paid as a federal government shutdown began its first full day.

“The uncertainty of not knowing if we are going to get paid is unsettling,” said Greet, a flight chief, or office manager, at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

Some 8,700 civilian employees were sent home on an emergency furlough while another 3,200 civilian employees were kept on the job at the state’s largest single-site employer.

The American Federation of Government Employees Local 1138, meanwhile, tentatively planned to picket outside the gates of the base this week,union officials said.

A second furlough within weeks of six unpaid days off because of sequestration was troublesome to many.

“It’s disconcerting for a lot of employees at Wright-Patterson,” said Pamela McGinnis, president of AFGE Local 1138.

Employees reported to work for up to four hours Tuesday, to turn in time cards, change voice and email greetings, and finish any unfinished business as they received furlough notices and headed for the door. Base officials have estimated the lost wages will add up to $2.1 million a day, with a multiplier effect of a $5 million a day economic impact on each day of the shutdown.

Like many others facing the same situation, Greet and his family will cut costs where they can to avoid tapping into money set aside.

“We’ll do everything that we can to avoid spending money from our child’s college education savings,” said Greet, 50. “We’ll be watching our budget. We’ll be certainly not buying things we don’t have to.

Evelyn Bryan, an AFGE Local 1138 union steward, said employees were “very upset” about being sent home again with no pay.

“We’re just not trying to recover from a furlough that just ended not more than three days ago,” she said.

Civilian workers

Union officials added they had concerns that some civilian workers who have been called to work, such as Child Care Center workers, have not been guaranteed they will be paid. The Department of Defense has issued guidance that so-called “excepted” employees, or those instructed to stay on the job, cannot be paid until Congress passes a spending resolution to fund the government. Furlough employees would not be paid unless Congress enacts legislation to do it, according to the Defense Department.

Military personnel

Military personnel, meanwhile, will report for duty and will be paid under legislation Congress passed and President Obama signed this week.

Michelle Martz, an Air Force Materiel Command public affairs representative, was facing her second unpaid furlough in as many weeks.

“My general sense that I’m hearing in the building and seeing in the building is there’s a lot of disappointment,” she said. “A lot of disappointment.”

Impact from shutdown

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the region’s largest tourist attraction with more than one million visitors a year, closed Tuesday.

Rob Bardua, public affairs specialist, said the museum has 95 federal employees. Three of the employees where placed on furlough. The Air Force Museum Foundation estimates it will lose approximately $78,000 a week while the museum remains closed.

Wright-Patterson announced network operations and civil engineer maintenance crews would respond to emergencies only. The base commissary, or supermarket, would close Wednesday and a community and airmen center, auto hobby shop, and civilian personnel offices would be among those shut down. Other major facilities, such as the base hospital and the exchange, or department store, remained open.

Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer said people traveling to a Wright-Patterson facility should contact the location first to make sure its open during the shutdown.

The 445th Airlift Wing furloughed most of the 360 civilians and air reserve technicians, or those with a dual status as a military reservist and civilian employee, according to Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a unit spokeswoman. The wing flies C-17 Globemaster III troop and cargo jets around the world.

Most of the civilian workforce at NASIC, which creates intelligence for troops in the field to high-level political and military leaders, would be furloughed in a shutdown, according to Capt. Andrew L. Caulk, an Air Force spokesman.

“We want to thank our civilian employees for their continued service and strength in the face of adversity,” Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander said in a statement. “We stand firm in stating that this government shutdown is not a reflection on the service of our employees and the value we place on their work.”

Defense industry waits

Roy Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Beavercreek-based Defense Research Associates, hoped for a quick end to the shutdown.

“Our biggest concern, of course, is if this is prolonged for any length of time, is being paid,” he said. If the Defense Department “doesn’t issue payments that becomes a big strain on a small business like ours.”

Federal shutdown hits park

At Caesar Creek State Park, the visitor center, as well as recreation areas at the Caesar Creek Gorge and Flat Fork Ridge were closed, effective Tuesday, due to the shutdown.

Facilities at the park operated by the state park were open, as well as other areas that remain open to the public, despite the closings.

Surrounding communities and businesses

Deborah McDonnell, Fairborn city manager, said the shutdown will only hurt the local economy.

“The Air Force Museum, tourism goes down because families can’t come and see those things,” she said. “That’s even another, double effect on our restaurants and our hotels. It’s going to be hard.”

Yvonne Butcher, who is the manager of Foy’s Rock-N-Roll Grill in Fairborn, said the shutdown will hurt businesses.

“A lot of our business is military, so that could hurt us a little,” Butcher said. “(The shutdown) would make our business go down. The military coming in here, that’s 40 percent of your lunch crowd. That’s going to hurt.”

Staff writer Larry Budd contributed to this story.

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