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Region waits to see impact

Some already affected by this week’s shutdown

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam at MacDowell Reservoir will remain in operation despite a government shutdown, but whether staff at the dam will remain on the job is unclear.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam at MacDowell Reservoir will remain in operation despite a government shutdown, but whether staff at the dam will remain on the job is unclear. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam at MacDowell Reservoir will remain in operation despite a government shutdown, but whether staff at the dam will remain on the job is unclear.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam at MacDowell Reservoir will remain in operation despite a government shutdown, but whether staff at the dam will remain on the job is unclear. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam at MacDowell Reservoir will remain in operation despite a government shutdown, but whether staff at the dam will remain on the job is unclear.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam at MacDowell Reservoir will remain in operation despite a government shutdown, but whether staff at the dam will remain on the job is unclear.

PETERBOROUGH — Rick Rumba of Peterborough is hoping the federal shutdown that went into effect Monday won’t last long. If it does, Rumba and the four people who work with him in the WorkWISE NH program at Keene State College could lose their jobs, which are dependent on federal grant funding that is currently suspended. They’re still getting paid, but only because Keene State is honoring a policy requiring a 90-day notice period before laying off people or discontinuing a program.

“This is all kind of new to us,” Rumba said on Tuesday. “We get a grant from the Department of Labor to provide assistance to small businesses about occupational safety and health. We serve about 200 businesses every year. We work closely with students and provide internships for them with some of our clients. Now that there’s a shutdown, the grant has been suspended. We really can’t do any work. If it lasts a long time, it could have a real impact on the college.”

Meanwhile, the dam at Edward MacDowell will remain functional, despite the shutdown. But the two people working there for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could be furloughed at any time.

“We’re doing maintenance and we’re ready for flood control if needed,” said Park Manager Jason Tremblay on Wednesday. “We’re trying to keep ahead because we’re going day to day.”

The park itself was closed right after Labor Day, Tremblay said, when the summer season ended after just 13 weeks, a closing made necessary by the sequestration budget cuts.

While the Monadnock region isn’t home to vast numbers of federal employees, people like Tremblay and Rumba are uncertain what the immediate future holds. And they aren’t alone. Representatives of local businesses and organizations say they’re mostly waiting to see what will happen.

“Here at the hospital, we do not see an immediate impact,” said Laura Gingras, vice president for community relations at Monadnock Community Hospital. “But that could change, depending on what agreements are reached in the budget negotiations in Congress.”

“My sense is that the impact short term will come in the form of field trips, if we were going to a federal site,” said ConVal School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan. “I’m more concerned about the ripple effects. If a family is somehow impacted by the shutdown, there’s a possibility we might have to provide more temporary services.”

Minnihan said he didn’t expect problems with federal funding for school programs that are already in progress. Most of that funding, although it comes from the federal government, is distributed through the state.

“The grant money we’re getting is very much in the works,” he said. “We we expend funds tied to a grant, we submit a report to the state and they reimburse. We’ve had no indication that things will be held up.”

The shutdown has had an immediate impact on the N.H. National Guard, however.

“We have 332 New Hampshire Guardsmen who were furloughed yesterday,” said Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn, a public affairs officer for the National Guard, on Wednesday. “It’s a big hit for our organization and for the state. What’s unsettling is that no one knows when this will be resolved.”

Heilshorn was unable to specify how many of the 2,800 members of the National Guard live in the Monadnock region. The people who were furloughed are military technicians who generally work full time at either the Air National Guard site at Pease Air Force base in Portsmouth or at the Army National Guard headquarters in Concord.

He said members of the Army Guard reserve, who are full time on active duty, are considered military personnel and are still being paid. But the shutdown may affect the traditional members of the Guard, who do training one weekend a month and for two weeks in the summer.

“Right now, we’re postponing our October drill,” Heilshorn said. “They won’t get that weekend stipend.”

Other federal organizations in the state haven’t been greatly affected. The U.S. District Court system will remain open for at least the first 10 days of October.

But the shutdown has scaled back office hours for the state’s elected officials.

In a statement sent to the Ledger-Transcript, Congresswoman Annie Kuster said her office “has reduced staffing levels and will return to normal operations once the federal government shutdown ends.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte has reduced staff and her office is performing only “essential legislative operations,” according to her website.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s website also states that only essential legislative operations are happening. “All New Hampshire offices are closed and the Senator’s Washington office is operating with limited capacity,” reads a message on the site. “The majority of Senator Shaheen’s staff is not available to respond to emails and phone calls and we are also unable to respond to inquiries submitted through our website.”

In a statement about the shutdown, Gov. Maggie Hassan wrote, “The state of New Hampshire will continue to operate, carrying out the normal functions of state government, although there may be some disruption in individual programs that are not yet funded.”

Such disruption may be a fact of life for at least the near future. But Rumba, the WorkWISE manager in Keene, said he’s hopeful that the crisis will be resolved.

“It is very unnerving, but I’m trying to keep a positive attitude,” Rumba said. “I’m personally expecting it will get worked out in the next two weeks. I can’t imagine it will last a long time.”

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