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Thousands of local federal workers head home

By Corene Brisendine

The federal government shutdown hit many local workers on Tuesday.

At Fort Riley alone, about 2,400 civilians were furloughed.

Col. Andrew Cole, Fort Riley garrison commander, said that active duty military personnel would continue to work normal hours.

Other workers throughout the area were facing uncertain futures.

Following Department of Justice guidelines, all federal employees reported to work in the morning, but most left by noon.

The guidelines state that all non-essential personnel — those whose jobs do not pose a threat to life or property if they are absent — were put on furlough at noon.

In addition, staff had the morning to shut down all websites, turn in all government computers and phones, and secure all buildings that are considered non-essential.

Brian McNulty, operation manger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Tuttle Creek, said eight people will be furloughed at the Tuttle Creek office.

He said employees were also furloughed at the other 18 lakes in the district and at the district’s main office in Kansas City.

However, those who maintain the floodgates at Tuttle Creek remained at work to ensure the waterways are maintained during the government shutdown.

McNulty said that because no one will be in the office to answer phone, he has forwarded his office number to his cell phone.

McNulty also said staff members went around to the seven federally maintained campgrounds around Tuttle Creek Reservoir and told campers they would have 24 hours to move to a state site. The State of Kansas maintains five sites around Tuttle Creek, and those will remain open because the state funds those parks.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Manhattan, however, has shut down completely.

Heather Whitlaw, field office supervisor, said all staff but one exception have been furloughed.

She said the single staff member was furloughed because he is not funded through appropriations, and therefore not affected.

However, the other 11 employees, including Whitlaw, have been furloughed until further notice.

She said that in addition to locking up all government issued phones and computers, they cannot check their government email because it has also been shut down.

Whitelaw indicated employees have been directed to check the web site for instructions on how to restart operations once the shutdown has ended, either by Congress passing a continuing resolution or by agreeing to a budget.

“It will be one of the few websites that will still be operational,” she said. “All Facebook and Twitter feeds will be shut down, too.”

Whitlaw said the biggest problem is families being able to pay their bills until Congress acts.

“It sure is hard for your family to plan for something like this,” she said.

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