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Locals React to Looming Govt. Shutdown

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LAWTON Okla_ The new fiscal year begins at midnight Monday, and the federal government could shut down if the House Republicans and Democrats don't agree on a bill to fund it.

This would be the first government shutdown since 1996. During a government shutdown, funding for essential functions related to national security and public safety would continue, but other areas would be impacted immediately.

If a bill hasn't been passed to fund the government by 12:01 AM Tuesday morning, all non-essential personnel will be not reporting to work Tuesday. The postal service will still run, you will still pay taxes and receive social security and Medicare benefits, but you won't be visiting the any national parks or historic site, which includes the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

"All activities will be canceled, all the facilities will be closed and also any outdoor activities," Wildlife Refuge Manager Tom Booth said.

This means no hiking, fishing or camping. Booth said people will still be able to drive through the refuge on the main roads, but all the access roads will be closed. The refuge employees report to work Tuesday regardless, but if there is a shutdown, the refuge has a list of essential employees who will be required to stay. 25 others classified as "non-essential" will be sent home.

"We will have people here mostly for the purpose of ensuring safety and protection of public property or assets," Booth said.

This includes the fire crew, federal wildlife officers and the refuge manager. Booth said they are preparing the signs and barricades to put up just in case. Booth said the agency feels that there is still time for this to get resolved.

"With each passing moment, the likelihood or threat of this happening is becoming more and more imminent," Booth said.

We also checked in to see how this would affect the Lawton/Fort Sill Regional Airport, and there is no need to worry. All flights will be as scheduled. TSA screeners and air traffic control are considered "essential personnel", so there should be no extra waiting time.

Lawton Airport Director Barbara McNally said we should not see any immediate impact.

"We have been told so far that they are not laying off any screeners," McNally said. "I don't think we are going to see any impact to the travelers, at least not immediately."

McNally said they may see a reduction in the administrative portion of the Federal Aviation Administration, and that would potentially furlough over 15,000 employees nationwide.

Oklahoma's Department of Human Services said they're taking a "Wait and See" approach when it comes to seeing what affect the government shut down has on the agency.

Fort Sill said if there is a government shutdown Tuesday, they'll issue a press release which we expect will let us know how it's going to affect so many in the Lawton area.

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