Furlough notices to go out Friday

Joanne Wills and her husband, Michael, have a teenage son and face a double family furlough — both work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Curtis Hetzel wonders how he’ll manage to continue paying for classes to earn a master’s degree in administration.

The Wright-Patt workers were among those who showed up for an “information fair” Wednesday at the base’s Community and Airmen’s Center. They are three of up to 13,000 base civilian employees scheduled to receive 22-day furlough notices starting Friday.

Meanwhile, the president of the firefighters local at the base urged Ohio lawmakers on Capitol Hill to lobby the Air Force about the large chunk of pay his members will lose while on furlough.

The firefighters are trying to gain an exemption from the furloughs because of the emergency life-saving services they provide. The Navy has exempted its firefighters from furlough, but the Air Force has not, said Roy Colbrunn, president of Firefighters Local F-88.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,’’ Colbrunn said. “We’re informing the congressmen and senators of the direct impact of fire protection that they were probably unaware of.’’

The information fair was one more attempt to answer employees’ questions and provide support during the expected forced time off the job, or one day off work a week without pay, between April 26 and Sept. 21, according to Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander. The furloughs could hit most of the Department of Defense’s 800,000 civilian employees because of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

The base has set up a Web site and smart phone app to help link workers to assistance, said Danna L. Plewe, installation community support coordinator.

“This is a very confusing time for federal employees,” said Jerry Stryker, base civilian personnel officer. “We’re treading new ground.”

“I think we’re all stressed out,” said Joanne Wills, 40, of Fairborn, who works in the 88th Comptroller Squadron and sees the other side of the ax as a budget analyst.

Co-worker Tammy Pendergast, 43, of Kettering, said the workers are preparing for the worst while they hope for a last-minute call-off of the furloughs.

“I’m still holding out hope this will be fixed before everything goes down,” she said.

Castle, 35, said she’s cut back on hobbies like figure skating and sought more moonlighting jobs teaching voice and piano lessons in hopes of lessening the sting of the expected income loss.

“I have an online budget tool that I use so I’ve been working with that daily just looking at what can I take out, what can I cut out of my budget, and what can I not do just to get through this time,” said Castle, a Wright-Patterson strategic plans and program manager.

“I know a lot of people who are dual income (at the base) and both spouses will be affected,” she added. “So it’s extra hard for them.”

Hetzel, 28, of Kettering, works in the base’s personnel office. He might have to pay the minimum on credit card bills and stop eating out to pare expenses while he searches for ways to stay enrolled in his master’s degree program.

“I think everybody has the same concerns,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out how I can continue to take more classes through the summer.”

Colbrunn has been in Washington since Sunday and have met with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Reps. Mike Turner, R-Centerville; Jim Jordan, R-Urbana; Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati; and Tim Ryan, D-Niles.

He said the 75 firefighters in the local bargaining unit at Wright-Patterson would lose more than 20 percent of their pay unless the Air Force adopts a change in the furlough. Each firefighter has a 72-hour work week, but 19 of those hours are mandatory overtime, he said. If the firefighters are furloughed, they would lose both overtime and regular pay.

Staff writer Jack Torry contributed to this report.

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