Steamboat Springs A couple of relatively obscure but vital federal workers based in Routt County, Ryan McCurdy and Jim Wilson, are among the employees of the Federal Aviation Administration continuing to work without pay this month to provide essential government services while their paychecks are on hold.
Yampa Valley Regional Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said Tuesday that McCurdy and Wilson still are at their jobs monitoring and maintaining important navigation and lighting equipment for aviation across Northwest Colorado. In addition to the estimated 2 million federal workers who now have endured two weeks on furlough are many others like the two FAA employees who have continued working in essential roles though their paychecks are on hold.
“FAA technicians for lighting equipment and instrument approaches are not being paid,” Ruppel said. “There are two stationed here, and they actually have a fairly large geographic area they are responsible for. They go out to navigation aids that can be tucked back in places that are hard to get to. They’ve been told they will be paid but after the fact. They’re a dedicated group, that’s for sure.”
From the lights at Yampa Valley Regional Airport to the wide-area, multilateration antennae that allow Denver Center traffic controllers to monitor aircraft coming into the local commercial airport, the two men ensure they are in working order. How much longer will they and others like the airport security screeners with the Transportation Security Administration at the nation’s airports be asked to carry on without being paid?
The U.S. Senate took up a bill last week that could provide backpay for TSA workers. In the short term, however, it’s anyone’s guess.
In addition to FAA employees in the region, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Natural Resources Conservation workers have been on furlough since Oct. 1. Dinosaur National Monument, with its east entrance in Moffat County, is not among a dozen national parks temporarily reopened through state funding, according to the National Park Service, and remains closed. Rocky Mountain National Park east of Steamboat Springs, however, is reopened until Sunday.
Callers to the headquarters of the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest in Laramie, Wyo., which oversees the Bears Ears, Hahn's Peak and Yampa ranger districts in this area, were greeted with a pleasant recorded message that invited them to leave a message but pointed out that no one was in the office to respond.
Congressman Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, whose 3rd Congressional District includes Routt and Moffat counties, has made a few public statements about the shutdown since it went into effect and says his constituents have sent a message that they do not want Obamacare.
“We fought late into the night to keep government open, pass a (continuing resolution) that listens to the concerns of our constituents and conference with the Senate,” Tipton wrote Oct. 1 on his website. “The Senate refused to negotiate on any portion of Obamacare including creating fair treatment for all Americans under the law, removing special treatment for Congress, or repealing the costly medical device tax that is raising the cost of care and costing jobs. It’s disappointing that the president and Harry Reid won’t sit down and discuss the issue of why they think the American people shouldn’t receive the same exemptions that they gave to big business or why Congress should be exempt from the laws it passes."
Democratic Sen. Mark Udall posted his support for federal workers on his Facebook page Friday.
"Hardworking federal employees help maintain our public safety, support communities still reeling from the recent flood, strengthen public health and inspect food, process veterans benefits, and perform countless other duties that make our state such a great place to live," he wrote. "Rather than demonizing our public servants, let’s recognize them for the work they do on our behalf. Please take the time to thank a federal worker that you know."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Tipton had not posted a recent statement reflecting a position on how to resolve the crisis, though he expressed optimism in a Facebook post Friday when he wrote: “We need to reopen our government, grow our economy, and pass a balanced budget that gets our fiscal house in order. I am confident that Republicans and Democrats can come together to find a common-sense way forward.”
Media phone calls to his Washington, D.C., office were being referred to his press secretary Josh Green on Tuesday.
Tipton did respond to questions about the impasse in Washington during an Oct. 8 interview with reporter Bonnie Silkman, of KJCT television in Grand Junction.
"Why hasn't (Majority Leader John) Boehner brought in a clean (continuing resolution) to the House?" Silkman asked Tipton.
The congressman replied, “The speaker has indicated there are not enough votes to be able to pass a clean (continuing resolution). Why will Sen. Reid not bring to the floor of the Senate the bill that we put forward that prohibits special treatment for members of Congress and says we’ll treat the American people as fairly as big business? ... Why won’t they negotiate? To say we negotiate after the fact doesn’t lead to a resolution.”
Tipton placed the impasse regarding the government shutdown in the context of broader fiscal policy.
“You understand, obviously, people’s frustration with failing to see action in Washington,” Tipton said. “We’re going to be working to rein in the size and spending of government. We must.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1
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