The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as other federal agencies, were closing parks and limiting services as a government shutdown began its second day today.
About 25 people staying at corps-operated parks were told Tuesday they had until 3 p.m. today to get out. Rangers spent Tuesday putting barricades and signs advising of the closure at all parks and day-use areas it operates.
“We have about 25 campers there now and 75 with reservations through the weekend,” said Pat Robbins, corps’ spokesman.
There were two bits of good news, even as those who wanted to just eat their lunch lakeside were turned away. The annual “Special Day for Special People,” hosted at Rocky Point Beach for more than 900 children and adults with special needs as well as senior citizens, is still on for Thursday. The park will open at 9 a.m. for the event, which lasts until 1 p.m.
“We’re happy to be able to accommodate that,” Robbins said.
Also, the Dam Road, which gives travelers a shortcut from Georgia to Alabama over West Point Dam, will remain open throughout the shutdown.
But boat ramps and picnic areas will stay closed throughout the shutdown. The dam will continue to generate power – it is already operated remotely from Mobile, Ala.
“We really don’t know how long this will last,” Robbins said.
The corps offered the following information for those with reservations at its campsites.
Customers scheduled to arrive after Oct. 1 may cancel their reservations for a full refund. These customers may also elect to leave reservations open for possible use after the shutdown is lifted and request a refund for any unused portion of their reservation due to the shutdown. To request a refund please contact the reservation customer service at 1-888-448- 1474 (TDD 1-877-833-6777). The reservation service will automatically cancel reservations after a customer’s scheduled departure date during the shutdown period if the park is closed and the customer chooses to do nothing.
Gate attendants at parks, who are paid through a separate contract, will stay on duty to let campers know why sites and parks are closed, Robbins said. About 16 of the 25 corps employees will stay on as a skeleton crew, the rest are furloughed.
The lake itself is not closed and still may be accessed through private docks, as well as Highland Marina Resort and Southern Harbor, which are privately owned. Crossroads Park and Pyne Road Park are operated by Troup County and will stay open. The state Department of Natural Resources will patrol the lake by boat and the Troup County Sheriff’s office will patrol the parks.
Southern Harbor is hosting a fishing tournament in late October that should draw about 650 fisherman. Owner Robbie Nichols says he’s not worried – yet.
“I won’t panic until the 22nd or 23rd,” he said.
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, R-Grantville, said Tuesday he was furloughing some of his own employees in the wake of the shutdown and blamed Senate Democrats for what happened. He issued the following statement:
“I have said time and again that House Republicans don’t want a government shutdown. We have passed four full appropriations bills and three separate continuing resolutions. They would have responsibly funded the government while protecting the American people from the harmful impact of ObamaCare and would have removed subsidies for members and staff for their healthcare plans. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have rejected all of our attempts to keep the government up and running, refusing to even debate and vote on the two most recent continuing resolutions we have sent to them. On top of that, we sent them legislation that would allow the two chambers to hold a conference to negotiate, but they once again refused to even debate the bill.
“My office runs on as little money as possible to properly serve my constituents, and for that reason I have returned money every year since taking office. So while I believe that all my staff is essential, because other federal employees will be affected across the country, I have furloughed staff members. While some staff will be furloughed each day, both the Newnan and Washington D.C. office will be open to ensure our staff can take calls and help constituents in as many ways as possible.”
At the Social Security office on Lafayette Parkway, a sign was posted on the door warning all comers that services will be limited until further notice:
Due to Congressional inaction to prevent the Government shutdown, we will only provide the following services at Social Security field offices:
Help you apply for benefits
Assist you in requesting an appeal
Change your address or direct deposit information
Accept reports of death
Verify or change your citizenship status
Replace a lost or missing Social Security payment
Issue a critical payment
Change a representative payee
Process a change in your living arrangement or income (SSI recipients only)
We cannot provide the following services:
Issue new or replacement Social Security cards
Replace your Medicare card
Issue a proof of income letter
If your visit involves any Social Security-related service not listed above, we regret we are unable to assist you. We regret any inconvenience. Our Online Services will remain open.
The New Harmonies exhibit at the Legacy Museum on Main, although sponsored by the Smithsonian museum, will remain open. Laura Jennings, tourism director at LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, said people had been calling to inquire about the display. Events associated with the exhibit also still are on schedule.
“The Smithsonian in Washington, D. C. may be closed due to the federal government shutdown but the Smithsonian exhibit ‘New Harmonies’ will be on display at Legacy Museum on Main from Saturday, Oct. 12 until Tuesday, Dec. 3,” said Kaye Minchew, Troup County Archives director.
The exhibit explores the early traditions of American music. The exhibit has traveled across Georgia. LaGrange is the last stop for the exhibit.
There are several special events associated with the exhibit in October. On Saturday, October 12, the grand opening and ribbon cutting will take place at 10 a.m. at Legacy Museum at 136 Main St. Area dignitaries will join Jamil Zainaldin of the Georgia Humanities Council in opening the exhibit. Music will be presented by Annie Pauley, a 5th grader at Franklin Forest Elementary and one of the stars of the LaGrange High Spring Concert in April. She will be performing “You Are My Sunshine,” which was reportedly written by Oliver Hood of Troup County.
Following the ribbon cutting, classic blues, gospel, and folk music will be presented by Lloyd Buchanan, a LaGrange College graduate who has appeared on the Letterman Show. The public is invited and admission to festivities on the 12th is free.
On Saturday, Oct. 26 at Callaway Auditorium at LaGrange College, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, one of the top bluegrass bands in the country will perform in a concert which will benefit the Troup County Historical Society. Lawson was recently inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students.
The next day, Sunday, Oct. 27, Atlanta Sacred Harp singers will return to Long Cane Baptist Church, the site of the first Sacred Harp singing in 1845 for a singing. There will be an introductory lesson followed by two to three hours of singing. The public is invited. No charge to attend but reservations are requested so that organizers know how many copies of the music to have. Call 706-884-1828 to reserve your space.