May 25, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Ohio sites reopen as government shutdown ends

Ohio sites closed during the partial shutdown of the federal government began welcoming back visitors Thursday, as relieved federal employees returned to work after a late deal was reached in Washington.

Visitor centers, restrooms and other areas at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northeast Ohio were reopened, and doors opened to visitors at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in southwest Ohio.

A statement from the Cuyahoga park’s chief ranger said the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad also was resuming operations. The Air Force museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had been open only one day since the shutdown began Oct. 1 and immediately resumed normal operating hours Thursday.

“We are excited to continue our vital mission of inspiring our youth and sharing the Air Force story with the world,” Museum Director Lt. Gen. (retired) Jack Hudson said in a statement.

The Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio said all employees were recalled and they had begun re-opening facilities to the public. Some campgrounds and trails won’t be open until Friday. In downtown Cincinnati, federal offices began re-opening.

Renee Yankey, a federal alcohol and tobacco tax specialist, said she was pleased to be back on the job, although admittedly grouchy over lack of sleep.

“My big complaint is that they took so long to get this done,” she said.

She lives in Highland County, more than 50 miles east of Cincinnati, and needs to rise by 4 a.m. to get ready for work and make the drive. After staying up watching the final hours of Congress reaching a deal, she said, she got only about 4 hours of sleep before reporting to work at 6 a.m.

“I can tell that the alcohol industry missed us,” said Yankey, a federal employee for 25 years.

Shutdown of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which has a major office in Cincinnati, has affected new breweries, makers of new beers, importers and others who need permits and approvals.

“The first thing I hear is ‘I’m so glad I got a person on the phone!’” Yankey said.

Other businesspeople across Ohio have been concerned about the extended federal agency closures holding up business startups, pre-employment verifications and real estate deals and mortgages.

Caven Risk of Brokers Real Estate Inc. in Sidney in western Ohio said inability to gain Federal Housing Administration approval of a home sale has left the owner facing foreclosure and a sheriff’s auction sale that would hurt everyone involved, from loss of a deal for the agents to lowered property values for neighbors.

“It’s bad for everybody that this shutdown occurred,” Risk said. “Hopefully, now that the government is back in business, we can get this resolved.”

Jill Colyer of suburban Loveland and Robin Duncan of Golf Manor village, case workers at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, had continued working because they are classified as essential employees. But they had faced working without pay starting this week.

“I was relieved,” Colyer said. “I was worried about paying for gas to get to work, parking, how to pay for everything else.”

“It’s good that we’re able to get paid,” said Duncan. But she would have liked to have seen a longer-term agreement. “Now we’re probably going to go through the same thing in January.”