FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. – Across West Virginia the lights came back on at darkened federal office installations, closed for nearly two weeks in the latest partial government shutdown.
“Catching up on e-mails and changing out office messages,” said Robin Snyder at the New River Gorge National River.
The Park Service employees had little time to catch up. Two of the park’s biggest events happen this weekend with Railroad Days in Hinton and Bridge Day in Fayetteville.
“We were looking at this contingency plan and doing this with a very scaled back staff,” Snyder said. “Now folks are getting back to work and boom, in two days we’ve got 100-thousand people on that bridge and in the visitors center. We’re just getting ready.”
The task or restarting operations isn’t nearly as easy at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. Operations with the highly sensitive radio telescopes were shutdown for two weeks and it could be problematic.
“We have various science projects that work over a long time frame and with a two week gap in the observations we have to assess what damages may have occurred,” said NRAO Business Manager Mike Holstine from the operation in Pocahontas County. “Some of them just may have to be thrown out and started over again.”
The observatory operated with a skeleton staff during the furlough, but Holstine said their mission was maintenance and security. Operation of the instrumentation was idle.
“We have a pretty dedicated group of employees who are very worried about these projects,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to salvage everything we can. The telescopes were shut down completely.”
The NRAO staff returns to work Friday and expects to take a week to bring the monitoring equipment back on line and recalibrate instrumentation.
At the regional office of the Farm Service Agency in Morgantown staff was in early Thursday beginning to get caught up on a backlog of paperwork.
“It’s going surprisingly smooth,”said Executive Officer John Pettit. “All of our computer systems are back up with no glitches at the moment.”
Pettit said the shutdown of the FSA and the 23 field offices across West Virginia probably had an impact on farmers in the state.
“It’s hard to tell how much, but there are programs that would normally have been available to commodity producers and livestock owners who would have been visiting our offices during that time,” Pettit said.
Pettit said the shutdown was different from the 1995 closure because during the shutdown they they already had operating money approved and in place. Pettit said this time was far more stressful.
“It was new to us and unfortunate because it places a lot of stress on employees,” he said. “It’s something we all wish we didn’t’ have to go through.”
Most federal employees indicated furloughs and temporary shutdowns come with the territory when you work in the federal government.