WAFF Investigates: Impact of furloughs - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

WAFF Investigates: Impact of furloughs

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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Emergency and public safety workers on Redstone Arsenal admit they've been looking forward with dread to their sudden drop in manpower courtesy of the sequestration budget cuts.  

"The support staff, which is the fire prevention staff, the logistics staff, administrative staff, are taking the impact of the furlough," said Christian Miles with Redstone Fire.

After months of talk and planning, furloughs are now hitting civilian employees at Redstone, and impacting the safety those they serve and protect.

Some of the signs are hard to miss as the changes force reductions for uniformed security. The arsenal's gates will be open fewer hours with fewer staff to man them. The post's southern access points, Gate 3 to the east and Gate 7 to the west, will be closed altogether on Fridays.

But behind the scenes will be the struggle to keep up policing essentials like regular patrols. 

"Certain gates will be closed on Fridays, but we'll still have our regular patrols through the week," said David Williams, Directorate of Emergency Services Security. "As far as the furlough days, what days we'll have off, they'll change. Our furlough days won't be the same as everybody else's. 

Firefighter Christian Miles just started work at Redstone after coming home from Afghanistan. He's been working with emergency managers as they cut their schedules back to four days a week. The emergency services directorate promised firefighting response won't be affected. But fire prevention training around the arsenal will, and so will building safety inspections. Both will now have to be scheduled between Monday and Thursday, meaning fewer total hours to go around.

"Obviously you're going to have a backlog of inspections," said Miles. "Our schedules will fill up quicker because we only have four days to work with and things will be pushed back further into September, October."

The cutbacks already take a bite out of basics like maintenance. Layoffs have hit maintenance contractor Phoenix, and now the grass is only being mowed every 45 days. Custodial service is at a bare minimum. With the start of furloughs, health services at the Fox Army Health Center are being pared back too. As of the start of the furloughs, the center will be closed on Fridays.

"You just have to prioritize and do the most important things in the beginning of the week," said Essence Nesbit with Emergency Services Supply.

Workers in emergency services logistics like Nesbit will only have four days a week to make sure Redstone's safety teams have their vital supplies ready, from their vehicles, to their utility belts to printer cartridges.

"Everyone will still do their part and we'll keep it rolling," she said.

"Can you do what needs to be done in four days a week? We can," she continued. "You just have to work harder with your four days, but we can do everything that we've been doing in five days, or we'll come back the next week and pick up where we left off."   

Scheduling irritations notwithstanding, Redstone emergency workers said they have their priorities, and their real priorities will be taken care of.

"If someone calls 911, there will be no impact," said Miles. "Someone will respond at all times, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."

Miles said the process of reconfiguring schedules has been going on for more than a month, since it became clear the furloughs wouldn't be prevented. Redstone representatives said the security impact of the cuts will be considered and reconsidered through a potentially rough transition.

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