Some supporters of Franklin County’s Letterkenny Army Depot say they feel helpless as the budget cuts in the so-called sequester loom, leading to potential job cuts and furloughs at the county’s biggest employer.
As part of the sequester, the depot stands to lose as much as $442 million, according to Army documents obtained by USA Today. The commonwealth’s two depots, Letterkenny and Tobyhanna, are slated to lose a combined $751 million in federal funding. The documents cite 1,570 job losses due to decreased depot operations. You can view the documents here.
“We’re watching an artificially created crisis play out,” said L. Michael Ross, chairman of Team Letterkenny, a community group aimed at strengthening the depot. “And unfortunately, we have 4,000 people at the depot here in Franklin County who are essentially pawns in this game of chicken.”
It’s unclear exactly how the budget cuts would be enacted and how soon those cuts would take effect.
“We are worried about the situation, yet there’s a feeling of helplessness because we don’t know what to do because the decision is beyond our control,” said Ross.
Jennifer Largent manages the Patriot Grille near the depot, where customers have been coming in and out for days concerned about the potential cuts.
“They’re almost walking on ice right now, wondering from day to day if they’re going to be working,” said Largent.
She and Ross are concerned about the ripple effects of the job losses on businesses throughout the county as people have less money to spend.
“If we don’t have enough customers, we may have to close. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen. We’re trying to stay positive. But, as of right now, it’s day by day,” said Largent.
During a swearing-in ceremony for a new federal judge in Williamsport Monday, senators Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) discussed the looming sequester.
Casey said Democratic leaders have proposed $50 billion in cuts coupled with a similar amount in tax increases.
“If the other side doesn’t like that, I hope, I hope they have a counter proposal that makes sense that would lead to a bipartisan agreement,” said Casey.
Toomey responded, “At some point it’s time to get spending under control, because spending is really the problem. I’m not supportive of still more tax increases to pay for more spending, I think we need to reign in spending.”