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Government shutdown may hit Scott Air Force Base and Gateway Arch hard

In Region

2:18 pm on Mon, 09.30.13

Updated at 2:31 pm on Tue, 10.01.13

With Congress missing a midnight deadline to pass a continuing budget resolution, people are starting to see how the government shutdown could have a big impact on some St. Louis area institutions — including Scott Air Force Base and the Gateway Arch.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial -- which includes the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse -- would be closed under a federal government shutdown.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Beacon
The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which includes the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse, would be closed under a federal government shutdown.

The GOP-controlled House is at a standstill with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate over a continuing resolution keeping the federal government funded.

Karen Pettit, a spokeswoman for Scott Air Force Base, told the Beacon on Monday that a government shutdown would affect about two-thirds of the facility’s 5,000 civilian employees. She added that a shutdown lasting several days would be "very disruptive" to the base's operations.

"Most of them will then be subjected to the furlough action as a result of the shutdown," Pettit said. "There will be some that are granted exemptions. And those are normally your first responders, folks who are key to mission critical items. They have a little bit more latitude with some commanders to decide who need to stay on their team." 

Exempted employees required to come to work would not be paid during a shutdown, according to Pettit, but they would likely get get back pay after the shutdown is over.

While those "mission critical" employees will still have to come to work, Pettit said other civilian employees will be furloughed until the budget dispute is resolved.

"There’s a wide range of folks," Pettit said. "We have civil engineers that keep our infrastructure going. … We have people in finance. We have people in personnel. We have a lot of administrative folks. We have folks who working in cyber-related IT fields that help keep our networks secure and functioning. So it’s just about anything and everything you can imagine.

"We like to think of ourselves as a city within city keeping those things functioning," she added.

Pettit emphasized, though, that military personnel would still come to work under a government shutdown.

"We’re still going to accomplish what we need to do for our nation — and that’s through our military folks," Pettit said.

Ann Honious of the National Park Service told the Beacon that a shutdown would close the Arch and the Old Courthouse. She said riverboat cruises would continue since that service is operated by the Bistate Development Agency.

"The park will be closed, which entails the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse," Honious said. "We cannot physically block or close the park grounds, so people would be able to walk around on those. But the park is officially closed."

She added that about 75 employees would be furloughed — including the park superintendent and assistant superintendent. About 30 employees — including dispatchers and law enforcement officials — determined as "essential" would still come to work.

"We have at this time a year, depending on the day of the week, between 2,250 visitors a day to on the weekends over 6,000," Honious said. "So those are the numbers of visitors it would affect."

Earlier this month, the Department of the Interior sent out a statement that said visitors "should be advised that, in the event of a government shutdown, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and secure park, refuge and visitor facilities on public lands."

"Visitor activities that require a permit, including public events, will not be allowed or will be cancelled or postponed," according to the Interior Department’s statement. "Visitor centers will be closed and access to park areas denied, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Independence Hall, Alcatraz, and the Washington Monument. Visitors using overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified and given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements."

Business as usual — for now

Other federal institutions say they will continue to operate normally through the week — and may not be affected at all if a shutdown lasts only a couple of days.

Jefferson Barracks

For instance, Jeff Barnes — director of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery — told the Beacon "everything this week is going to be as normal, even if the government shuts down tomorrow.”

"We’ll be open. The families with the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery are not going to be impacted tomorrow at all or this week,” Barnes said.

But, he added, "after this week, we just have to see how the funding goes. And I can’t give you any specific guidance beyond this week.”

(A fact sheet from the Department of Veterans Affairs said that interments at national cemeteries would be "conducted on a modified rate.")

VA facilities

It also said that all VA facilities and clinics -— including ones in the St. Louis area — would be fully operational. But, among other things, the Board of Veterans Appeals would not issue any decisions on claims appeals or motions.

Federal courts

The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Missouri said in a statement that the federal judiciary "would remain open for business for approximately 10 business days" in the event of a government shutdown.

It added that "on or around Oct. 15, 2013, the judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance." 

Lambert-St. Louis

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport spokesman Jeff Lea said uniform Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers would not be affected by a government shutdown.

“So we expect normal operations here at the airport,” Lea said.

The Washington Post reported that a number of government programs and agencies -- such as the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission -- will essentially operate as normal.

Gov. Jay Nixon told the Beacon Friday that his administration analyzed the impact of a government shutdown on state government. He said, "We’ll be well prepared if anything happens there."

"I’m hopeful that they can get a deal and quit having what would appear to be a political circus every three to six months," Nixon said.

A statement from Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says that the state agency "is closely monitoring the situation in Washington, D.C., and currently anticipates it will continue to have access to most federal funds now." 

"It is believed that routine automated grants-related transactions, including the drawdown of funds will continue," the statement said. "Requests that require action by U.S. Department employees, such as grantees on route payment flags, however, would not be completed during the shutdown." 

The statement went onto say that DESE "will test and verify that it does have access that enables continued routine drawdowns on Wednesday morning. morning and notify school districts accordingly."


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