Federal shutdown affects local services - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Federal shutdown affects local services

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Just as most of the nation and the rest of the world was counting down to when the federal government would shutdown, the anticipation was just as intense here on island. Guam may be in a different time zone, but the first federal government shutdown in nearly two decades hit the island just as hard as those just waking up to the news in the mainland.

One of those who may be hit the hardest here at home include the Guam National Guard. In a statement from Adjutant General Major General Benny Paulino, he says approximately 140 military technicians including federal employees who are also members of the Guam National Guard, soldiers and airmen on temporary orders and federal and state civilian personnel may be temporary furloughed.

The Department of Defense has however provided guidance in which the Guard has already started prudent preparation to mitigate the consequences of the shutdown. And despite all the uncertainty, Paulino says the Guard's top priority will be to continue supporting the requirements of its over 600 soldiers and airmen currently deployed in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia, along with their families.

And like the Guard, the National Parks Service has also been preparing for the inevitable as close to two dozen of its workers will be furloughed. Acting superintendent Ron Borne told KUAM News, "We have approximately have 21 employees that we have working here on the island of Guam that will be furloughed starting tomorrow after we're done with our closures."

Borne says these positions include interpretative rangers, maintenance, and administrative, natural and cultural resource staff. He further apologizes to visitors and residents who access the parks as they will have to be closed, too. "What exactly will be closed is our units that we have that are normally available to the public, which is the Asan Overlook, the Asan Beach Park, the Agat Beach Park and of course our Visitor Center will be closed to the public," he explained.

And despite being able to avoid it this year, District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood says there's a possibly of furloughs in the next year for her employees. She says the shutdown will also put the courts operations on the chopping block, noting, "As I understand it, if there is no budget, if there's resolution in regards to the budget on the hill, then our court will be open for ten days. And after that, we will have to go into critical services. What are critical services? We're going to try and define that, like if somebody gets arrested, of course."

The chief judge says she's in the middle of a twelve-week jury trial and says payment to jurors is another added concern. Ultimately she says it's a serious situation and had hopes for some resolution. She stated, "These defendants have a constitutional right to a speedy trial, there are individuals who file petitions whether they're civil or criminal cases that are filed. Access to the court is paramount, and their constitutional rights will be violated."

She adds while the District Court has already had to adjust its schedule to accommodate the U.S. Public Defenders Office, which has already undergone a furlough, she says it remains to be seen what it means for others like the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Attorney's Office, Federal Protective Services and other agencies affected in her court. 

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