Sun, Aug. 18

Editorial: Local government already feeling heat of federal government shutdown

While the national focus is on who will blink first regarding funding for a border wall, there are some government money managers here in the Verde Valley counting the days for the federal government shutdown to come to an end.

Case in point is the Cottonwood CAT/LYNX transit system, which relies heavily on federal transportation dollars administered through the Arizona Department of Transportation.

In an advisory to the mayor and council Thursday, Cottonwood Deputy City Manager Rudy Rodriguez explained the current federal government shutdown has resulted in the city holding the bag for transit expenses dating back to October 2018. The cost to the city is roughly $150,000 a month.

“The shutdown has caused ADOT to reallocate their resources to other departments and not work on any federal transit grants,” Rodriguez explained.

“The reason for the balance dating back to October is that ADOT did not open the FTA 2019 reimbursement period until mid-December. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to submit and get approval for reimbursement before the federal shutdown went into effect.”

Friday, President Donald Trump said the current government shutdown could last a year or longer. Should that happen, those folks who depend on the CAT/LYNX system – especially Cottonwood-Sedona commuters – will have to make new travel plans.

In his advisory to the mayor and council, Rodriguez said the city could absorb the costs for operating the transit system from its general fund on a short-term basis. But if Trump’s prediction holds true, “We will be meeting with our transit manager and finance director to review our options for possibly reducing services,” said Rodriguez.

Elsewhere in the Verde Valley, a statue of Smokey the Bear was the closest thing Staff Photographer Vyto Starinskas could find to a federal employee while stopping off at the Red Rock Ranger Station in the Village of Oak Creek last week. The visitor’s center was closed, there were no park rangers on site and the men’s restroom was locked.

On the tourism front, the Verde Valley is taking a hit with closures at both Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle National monuments.

School lunch programs that receive federal reimbursements based on the number of meals served could be scrambling to find alternative funding should the shutdown extend past February, according to Mingus Business Manager Lynn Leonard.

With each passing day of this current shutdown, the stakes will grow incrementally as the impacts continue to trickle down to the local level.

And that will just up the ante in this poker game.

Who will blink first?