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Cuts hit airport, naval site

Magate Naval StatiGreLakes. | Sun-Times media

Main gate of Naval Station Great Lakes. | Sun-Times media

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Updated: April 27, 2013 2:27AM

From unpaid work days for civilian employees at Naval Station Great Lakes to shutting down the air-traffic control tower at Waukegan Regional Airport, the potential effects of sequestration — automatic U.S. budget cuts set to kick in on Friday — are being weighed by the local agencies that would be impacted directly.

“I was told that we are on the list of the towers that would be closed,” Jim Stanczak, airport manager at Waukegan Regional, said Monday. “To me, that is a big safety issue. Other things you can overcome, but not safety.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that control towers at 100 small airports would be locked up if sequestration takes effect with its $1.2 trillion in cuts to government agencies over 10 years.

Waukegan Regional was one of nine Illinois airports listed as a shutdown candidate, along with towers in Aurora, DuPage County and Springfield. Also on the national list is the tower at Kenosha Regional Airport.

According to Stanczak, shutting down the Waukegan tower and sending its five employees home would not cause the airport to stop doing business. If and when the local tower is closed, Waukegan air traffic, which tallies around 50,000 operations per year, would be managed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in Elgin.

At Naval Station Great Lakes, a base spokesman said Monday that more than 2,550 civil service employees would be required to take one unpaid day per week if sequestration takes place. Each employee would be given a 30-day notice of the furloughs, which would then start in late April and run through the end of the fiscal year. Some $500 billion of the sequestration cuts would come from the Department of Defense.

The White House issued material Monday attempting to illustrate the effects each state would see if Congress is unable to come up with a short-term funding solution in lieu of an overall deficit-reduction plan. Specific to Great Lakes, it was reported that four planned demolition projects that have been budgeted for $2 million would be canceled. Statewide, a total of 14,000 civilian DOD employees would be required to take furloughs, which would reduce gross pay by a reported $83.5 million.

Unaffected would be civilian employees that work in a capacity managed through non-appropriated funding. In the case of Great Lakes, that would include the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department, which supports itself in part through revenue taken in by its activities.

Also unaffected at Waukegan Regional would be grant funds already designated through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, which has been used at the McAree Road facility in the recent part to repair and overlay two taxiways. Stanczak said funds are in hand to repair a third taxiway this summer.

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