Southwick officials facing issues with federal shutdown

The Town Clerk’s office at the Southwick Town Hall is dealing with issues in result of the federal government shutdown. (WNG File Photo)

SOUTHWICK – Since the federal government shutdown began on December 22, more than 420,000 federal workers have been without pay including agents from the FBI, DEA, state department, Coast Guard, and Department of Homeland Security.

However, it’s not just the larger federal departments and organizations that can be affected, it’s also departments on a local level.

According to Southwick DPW Director Randy Brown, the notice of intent for the NPDES MS4 Stormwater permit that he submitted to the Massachusetts EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) could be impacted. Brown said that although the notice of intent was expected to be reviewed and approved by the EPA, Brown’s been told that they’re not reviewing any notice of intent’s during the government shutdown.

Prior to the shutdown occurring, only five or six notice of intent’s were approved statewide by the EPA. With roughly a total of 160 more needing to be approved, Brown knows this issue isn’t just affecting Southwick.

“We’re in the same boat as everybody else,” said Brown.

Since Brown is expecting the Town’s submission to be approved at some point, the shutdown is just getting in the way of making any progress with the stormwater permit.

“It’s just delaying the inevitable,” said Brown. “It’s just delaying when we may get some feedback or approvals from the appropriate agencies.”

Brown also added that the DPW is interested in pursuing a Community Development Block Grant and he’s uncertain if the shutdown could have a negative effect on that process, along with other future grant opportunities.

Southwick Fire Chief Russ Anderson has also noticed the shutdown having an effect within his department.

“The only issue I have run into is that the Federal Fire Act Grants are on hold,” said Anderson.

The Federal Fire Act Grants are through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. According to Anderson, the department applied for the grant last year and were awarded $60,000 for a new air compressor.

Although the air compressor has already been ordered and designed, the fire department is awaiting its arrival.

Anderson is still certain that the department will receive the air compressor, but knows the government shutdown is only delaying the process.

“We just want to finalize it and get it,” added Anderson.

For Town Clerk Michelle Hill, she’s currently facing some issues with the quarterly payroll report she is filing to the federal government.

“It’s minor but it could potentially be a financial problem later,” said Hill.

With the deadline to send the town’s quarterly report to the federal government January 31, Hill informed the Westfield News that due to the shutdown, she’s not able to file the report to the federal government. As a result, the town could have to pay some fees if the report isn’t sent by the deadline.

“This is all very time sensitive,” said Hill.

Hoping that the shutdown will end before January 31 so the town doesn’t have to face any fees, Hill is unsure of what the amount for the fees could entail as she’s never been past deadline filing quarterly reports.

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