But right now: “It’s kind of hit or miss who we are getting information from,” says Airport Manager Patty deLaBruere.
When she has questions about grants, deLaBruere normally asks someone at the Federal Aviation Administration’s regional office in Anchorage. But since the shutdown most of those employees have been furloughed.
“Everything got handed over to Washington, D.C. And while they can maybe push it forward for us, it comes to a standstill,” says deLaBruere.
If the shutdown drags on, deLaBruere is concerned the airport may have to delay at least two projects – a master plan update and runway rehabilitation. Both will be funded almost entirely with FAA grants. The master plan update is a $750,000 project. Runway rehab is in the $2 million design phase, and the estimated total cost is closer to $20 million.
In addition, deLaBruere says the FAA recently installed new approach lights as part of the airport’s ongoing runway safety project. But thanks to the shutdown there’s nobody to test them to make sure they work.
“There’s a lot of money put into this project,” she says. “And things are just kind of hanging there, waiting for the last pieces to be inspected so we can get flight checks and a few other things done.”
During the shutdown, deLaBruere says she’s working on other projects that don’t require checking in with the FAA.
Many federal workers at the airport, including air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration screeners, are deemed essential and are reporting for duty. But they haven’t been getting paid. That includes US Fish and Wildlife Service employees who do wildlife mitigation. DeLaBruere says the airport still pays for the service, even though the workers aren’t receiving a paycheck.
City Manager Kim Kiefer says other departments are starting to feel the impact of the federal shutdown as well. For instance, two firefighters from Capital City Fire and Rescue had been scheduled to attend a federal training program that was canceled. And the city’s Community Development Department has not heard from federal employees who usually comment on various development projects.
“So we’re trying to do our due diligence to make sure to look at them,” Kiefer says. “Knowing that we don’t have those other experts there that can give us the information right now.”
Kiefer says other departments have had issues with submitting grant reports or reimbursement forms through federal websites. While she expects the grant money to start flowing again once the shutdown ends, Kiefer is concerned an extended government stoppage could hurt the city’s bottom line by reducing sales tax revenue.
“There’s always that concern, anything that causes people to think about how they are spending their money and if they are going to spend it,” says Kiefer. “And that goes beyond federal employees, just for everybody, of, OK what’s this going to do? We’ve been seeing it in the stock market, that’s going down. So, at what point are people going to think twice about how they are spending money?”
At this point, Kiefer says the shutdown won’t affect city operations. She says there’s plenty of cash in reserve funds to weather a temporary stoppage of federal money. The city’s lobbyist in Washington, D.C. is keeping track of potential deals to end the shutdown in Congress.