October 9, 2013 —
Following a brief executive session at their October 3 meeting, members of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) set an October 25 date to shut down the panel.
The advisory group was created in 1988 to co-manage the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River with the National Park Service.
Queried earlier in the week about continued operations during the shutdown, UDC Executive Director Laurie Ramie explained that the UDC is an independent not-for-profit. While it receives the bulk of its funding through the National Park Service (NPS), UDC does not operate on federal property or employ NPS staff and so it might remain open.
However, with Congress’ failure to approve a budget for the October 1 beginning of the new federal fiscal year, UDC has no guarantee that its already reduced, annual $276,000 federal appropriation would be approved nor that expenses and salaries during the shutdown, as they were in a 1995 shutdown, would be reimbursed later, Ramie said.
The closed session and shutdown decision came after a scheduled agenda discussion of shutdown issues in which Ramie reported that UDC auditors had characterized that the council, with some $80,000 available in its bank accounts, was in a financially “safe position, for the immediate future.”
After the closed session, Town of Highland Supervisor and UDC vice-chair Andrew Boyar offered what he called his “sad motion.” He said the members had carefully evaluated the financial position and decided, that lacking no resolution of the federal budget issues, UDC would shut down “so we don’t draw down to no reserve or incur unfunded obligations.”
While several delegates expressed doubt that the resolution would need to be enforced, Ramie was asked to prepare physical shutdown plans for the building, and inquire about unemployment information for herself and staff members, resource specialist Travis O’Dell and secretary Cindy Odell.
Deerpark delegate David Dean noted that, “if we close, the building needs to be winterized,” and Hancock’s Fred Peckham added that provisions to keep paying utility and other bills need to be made.
“If it goes beyond the 25th, the whole country will be in a mess,” said Delaware’s Harold Roeder.
The vote prompted some of the dark political humor that members sometimes engage in, but O’Dell this time objected. The resource specialist, who earlier was congratulated on completing his first year in the position, said, “Three people are potentially out of a job. That’s not funny.”
Many members remained after adjournment discussing their action. Queried as to the delegates’ authority to shutdown the UDC, which was created by the Secretary of Interior, Boyar said that was a question that needed to be examined further.
The federal budget problem also puts in question the final award of $25,000 in nine local 2014 technical assistance grants, which were also approved earlier in the meeting.