Surviving the federal shutdown

As I am writing this it is day 32 of the Government Shutdown. Last week, Forks Mayor Tim Fletcher organized a meeting at the Rainforest Arts Center and invited representatives from a number of local agencies, businesses and U.S. Coast Guard Station Quillayute River.

Those attending represented; the City of Forks, Sully’s Drive-In, Forks Chamber of Commerce, West End Business and Professional Association, local church leaders, Allen Charitable Trust, Olympic Corrections Center, Forks Food Bank, Friends of Forks Animals, Clallam County Fire District No. 1, Quileute Tribe, Concerned Citizens, Forks Elks Lodge, First Federal Savings Bank, Forks Forum and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Mayor Fletcher described the meeting’s purpose as looking at how we as a community can help federal workers during this time. Fletcher asked Michael Carola, USCG Station Quillayute River Senior Chief, “What can we do?”

Carola first thanked the community for reaching out.

“It has been amazing,” he said. “Our phone has been busy since Monday. We really have felt the love. There are probably a lot of people here that I need to return calls to.”

Carola went on to say the station/crew is doing alright for the moment. He said his immediate concern was five new crew members just coming on and either starting to rent or buy a home.

”Our galley is still open, our chow bill is paid by the month so food at the station is okay and the galley is open to crew family members, too,” Carola said.

He explained that there are federal organizations that have reached out to help, and that the American Legion has a grant that they can access if the shutdown drags on. The American Legion grant can help crew members with children younger than 18.

Food drives have been offered and Carola said if the shutdown continues into February the impact to those crew members with families will especially be felt.

Because of limited housing in Forks, a large percentage of the station’s crew reside in Port Angeles.

“Our van that brings crew out from Port Angeles is only funded through Jan. 24,” Carola said.

Those attending offered suggestion for alternate transportation from Clallam Transit, OlyCap and the Forks Chamber of Commerce van. Carola said 12-15 crew members use the van from Port Angeles.

Carola said he is also considering reducing the number of trips the van makes.

“I can change the duty rotation so crew members stay longer at the station if I need to, which would reduce the fuel costs,” he said.

“Salaries and travel are my biggest concerns right now.”

Carola said while the station cannot solicit for help, donations can be accepted through the Chief Petty Officers Association (CPOA).

Carola said he can put on his CPOA hat and accept any type of donations the community is willing to donate.

For those that wish to make donations of gift cards, Carola said cards in denominations of $50 or less are best, as then they can help more crew members. Those gift cards can be dropped off at Forks City Hall. For those who would like to make a cash donation,those may be dropped off at the Office Corp on East Division Street.

Juanita Weissenfels, representing Friends of Forks Animals, said that FOFA was there to help those crew members with pets. Weissenfels said food, kitty litter ,etc., can be purchased at Forks True Value and designated for Federal employees and those affected by the shutdown that need pet supplies can get a voucher to redeem at True Value for what they need.

Carola also offered to be a clearinghouse for other federal employees who are in need of assistance with distributions of donations and gift cards.

Pat Soderlind with the Forks Food Bank said all in need were welcome at the Food Bank.

“Anyone affected can go to the food bank,” Soderlind said.

Larry Burtness of the Quileute Tribe said they had seen no problems yet with most federal programs that concern the tribe, and that if the shutdown continues the tribe has good reserves to carry them through for a good while.

Mayor Fletcher requested a follow-up meeting for Thursday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m. at the RAC. If you are a federal employee, you are invited to attend.

And then again, maybe by the time you are reading this, it will all be worked out … ?

— Christi Baron, editor