Home | Ketchikan | Alaska | Sports | Waterfront | Business | Education | Religion | Scene
Classifieds | Place a class ad | PDF Edition | Home Delivery

On Monday, the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted 10-1 to declare...

A man who joins the U. S.

Robert L. “Bob” “Orpalo” “Tudoc” Valerio, 85, died June 30, 2019, in Seattle.
Federal agencies get back to work

Daily News Staff Writer

After a 35-day partial federal government shutdown, affected agencies on Revillagigedo Island are back at work, although navigating a future of another potential furlough on Feb. 15.

On Jan. 25 U.S. President Donald Trump approved a short-term spending bill passed by the House and Senate, opening the shuttered parts of the government until mid-February.

Some employees have been paid for all their work during the furlough, and some haven't.

The United States Coast Guard was the only military branch that didn't pay employees during the shutdown. All the other military branches are funded by the Department of Defense instead of the Department of Homeland Security, whose funding was affected by the shutdown.

In Ketchikan, all 44 Coast Guard civilian employees who were furloughed are back at work. Both the 44 civilian and 135 military employees around Ketchikan have received their back pay and regularly scheduled pay, according to Lt. Brian Dykens who is the public affairs officer for the 17th District based out of Juneau.

Dykens had little to say about how employees are adjusting to work other than the Coast Guard has resumed normal operations. In the event that another shutdown happens, the agency will look to their headquarters in Washington D.C. for guidance.

Over at the Ketchikan International Airport, employees at the Ketchikan Flight Service Station had a different experience.

"We've received half of the two missed paychecks," said CJ Hoggard, air traffic control specialist supervisor, on Wednesday.

The nine employees at the service station were considered essential, so they came to work without pay. They are expected to be fully paid by the end of February, according to Hoggard.

For the 26 TSA employees working in Ketchikan, they've received both paychecks missed during the furlough and are expected to receive their regular paycheck Feb. 8, which will include overtime and differential pay, (for working off shifts like night or third), earned during the shutdown, according to Lorrie Dankers, Transportation Security Administration public affairs manager.

"What we really saw during that partial government shutdown was that the employees really covered for each other and they really bonded together as a team," Dankers wrote in an email to the Daily News.

She said that for Alaska call out rates were lower than normal during the shutdown.

"Because of the general outpouring of support (and donations from the community) it allowed our officers to stay focused on the job; the kind words helped motivate them," said Dankers.

In fact, none of the 125 employees at the seven airports in Southeast Alaska working without pay during the furlough resigned, according to Dankers.

"You know you can't fly a commercial aircraft unless you screen, and you can't get screened unless our people are working. And they were there for the community and the community was there for them," said Dankers.  

Across the Tongass Narrows, the local United States Forest Service employees are back in their offices.

The Forest Service has about 400 employees in Southeast Alaska and most of them were furloughed, according to Paul Robbins, Forest Service public affairs officer for the Tongass National Forest.

"The first week our focus has been heavily on first of all getting the employees paid," said Robbins. "They've received, by now, all of their back pay and are coming up on getting another check."

The agency focused on giving employees a few days to settle back in and take care of their workspace — updating computers and resetting passwords.

Since coming back to work the agency has held staff and leadership meetings to evaluate the status on all projects, adjust priorities and move forward. The Forest Service is planning a budget and a timeline in anticipation to work the rest of the year.

Among the projects in the works, the agency just finished the first phase of a land exchange with The Alaska Mental Health Trust. This phase included three parcels of land in Ketchikan, including nearly 1,000 acres near Dear Mountain, said Robbins.

"However, there is that Feb. 15 date coming up, we have our eyes on it and we understand there is the possibility that we could enter into another furlough," said Robbins.

"While (furloughs) are difficult on our employees and this one did affect quite a few, especially the length of it, we've been through this before and we're going help our employees through it," said Robbins.