North Texans find services off-limits on first day of federal shutdown

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Local impact Here’s a look at how Star-Telegram readers responded on Facebook when asked how the government shutdown is affecting them: Tami Lumpkins: While I won’t be directly affected in the short term — there are many many people that will go without pay — even if they get their pay at a later time, they won’t have it right now. This will have great consequences on the economy as a whole, which will affect ALL of us. Jake Laird: It’s making me think we should shutter Congresswoman Granger’s office, repo everything inside our tax dollars have purchased, and sell it to pay some bills. Mary Lee Rubenkoenig: Had to change my camping plans from a national park to a state park. That’s ok with me. Steven Perry: I seen a teacher say they can’t research history on some websites. That it’s ridiculous you can’t get on their websites cause they shut them down. Mike D. Reynolds: Losing hours off this week’s paycheck. Can’t ship the military bases their food! Timothy Goss: Congress will be paid. It is the average hard working American public servant who is feeling the loss of income. We have families to feed and need to put a roof over our heads. We are educated and hard working. I will earn my PhD within the year, served honorable for 20 years in the Army and I am coming up on 7 or 8 years as a civilian public servant. I hope everyone remembers this boondoggle at election time. I personally will make it a point to vote against anyone serving during this fiasco. I don’t care if I am voting for Mickey Mouse. I have had my fill of partisan politics and I am disappointed and ashamed of both parties. Both sides have good arguments, but they are airing their differences in an inappropriate forum and need to lead as Americans, not Republicans or Democrats. It is simple; provide a straight funding resolution and deal with the other issues separately. John MacFarlane: I work for the EPA in Dallas. I have a wife and 2 young kids. I will not be paid during this shutdown. I have a mortgage and bills to pay. I hope I can pay the bills and not go in debt.

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Marion Shally studied phone books and an atlas Tuesday, scrambling to overhaul North Texas vacation plans thrown into disarray by the government shutdown.

She and her friend, Linda Plauche, were camping at Benbrook Lake, one of thousands of federally managed parks and recreation facilities hit by the shutdown that began Tuesday.

“Who knows” what will happen because of the shutdown, said Shally, a visitor from Louisiana. “It could be over tomorrow afternoon, but no one knows. So it is the worrying that is hard.”

They were joined by local residents who on the first morning of the shutdown were already finding gates and doors for everything from national parks to presidential libraries closed.

Federal websites featured messages telling about the shutdown. Recorded messages at facilities such as The National Archives at Fort Worth informed callers that services are currently unavailable and workers “will respond when we are authorized to return to work.”

“It’s ridiculous,” said LaDonna Davis, a 64-year-old Arlington woman, of the shutdown. “They are up there fighting like little children.”

Mark Neill wasn’t so concerned. He said the shutdown might actually bring about a positive result.

“I’m open to it,” the 50-year-old Haltom City man said. “We have a lot of issues that are shrouded by the whole health care deal. … I hope it delays Obamacare.”

Regardless, Gov. Rick Perry assured Texans that the state will do whatever possible to minimize the impact on services.

“I directed state agencies that will be affected by the suspension of federal funding to develop contingency plans to prioritize essential functions and use existing budget transfer authority to allow these services to Texans to continue until Washington gridlock ends,” he said.

Closed for business

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers workers were busy Tuesday tracking down visitors at all Corps-operated campgrounds and day-use parks, telling them they had to leave the property.

They are making signs to put on gates locking visitors out of dozens of parks, campgrounds and Corps-managed lakes in Texas, said Rhonda Paige, chief of public affairs for the Fort Worth District of the Corps of Engineers.

And they are readying for all but a skeleton crew staff to soon be furloughed.

“The Fort Worth District regrets the impacts these closures might have on the numerous patrons who recreate at our facilities, and we are working to keep the public fully informed about the availability and status of those facilities,” said Col. Charles Klinge, commander of the Fort Worth district.

One of the most notable landmarks in North Texas to be impacted by the shutdown is the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum — one of several facilities run by the National Archives and Records Administration — which closed because of the shutdown, according to a notice posted on the library website. A gift shop and restaurant at the facility on the SMU campus in Dallas remain open, however.

Other presidential centers, including George H.W. Bush’s library in College Station and Lyndon B. Johnson’s library in Austin, are closed as well.

Other services

At the federal building in downtown Fort Worth, it appears that most offices remained open — although it wasn’t possible to determine how long they would remain that way.

“The level of building services and the ability to provide certain services may change depending on how long the government is shut down,” said Betsaida Alcantara, a spokeswoman with the General Services Administration.

The Social Security office on the first floor was open Tuesday and its waiting room was packed. But limits on available services turned away some customers.

A note on the agency’s website said services not available include: original and replacement Social Security cards, benefit verifications, earnings record corrections and updates, completing program integrity workloads, prisoner activities, requests from third parties for queries, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, IT enhancement activities, public relations and replacement Medicare cards.

There was no way to determine how many people had been turned away at regional offices, said Dorothy Clark, senior public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration.

Staff writers Terry Evans, Caty Hirst and Diane Smith contributed to this report.

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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