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All Fort Drum employees back to work after week of government-shutdown related furloughs

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FORT DRUM — All of the post’s civilian employees are back to work today after a week of furloughs stemming from the government shutdown.

On Monday morning, about 325 furloughed medical workers were called back in, along with 250 garrison employees, according to the post, its medical department and its largest employee union.

Jeffrey W. Zuhlke, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 400, said employees were notified as late as midnight Sunday, and as early as 5 a.m. Monday, that they needed to return to work.

The approximately 575 workers represented about 42.5 percent of the post’s workforce. Many employees were exempted from the furloughs, which started Tuesday, due to increased activity and deployments of the post and the 10th Mountain Division.

One of the returning workers was Kathryn M. Reed, who has been on the job as a supply technician with the post’s Material Maintenance Division for a few weeks, but has been a federal government employee for about 30 years.

Seeing the news about the recall, Ms. Reed on Monday morning drove a half-hour from Dexter, where she is staying temporarily with family, to her office. When she arrived, she was told that she had not been called in yet, and was advised to go home. However, as she pulled back into the driveway of the Dexter home, she received another call: She had to come back in.

“I didn’t have money for gas,” Ms. Reed said.

Ms. Reed, who said she had about $260 she needed to pay bills stolen from her Sunday, said she had to borrow money from her niece to fill her car.

Now that she’s back at work, she can complete certification classes and tests required for her new position. However, the uncertainty with the furloughs has made her concerned about her finances and the home she is close to paying off in Rodman.

“I pay bills and I still have bills left,” Ms. Reed said. “It’s very scary. I could lose my house.”

She expressed frustration with Congress for not coming to a deal on a new budget.

“I wish we had a government that works together,” Ms. Reed said. “It’s scary; we have a government that doesn’t work together and we can’t accomplish anything.”

The return to work comes after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday that most, but not all, workers could return as a result of the Pay Our Military Act signed by President Barack Obama last Monday, and that military planners had worked since then to eliminate furloughs for employees “whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”

In other developments, the post’s commissary will reopen with normal hours today after being closed since Wednesday. The post, not realizing the time it would take to restock the store and bring in staff, prematurely announced it would reopen on Sunday, then had to cancel that announcement. The store is normally closed on Mondays, making today the next day it could be opened.

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