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News-Times Whidbey WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2013 | Vol. 114, No. 17 | | 75¢ INSIDE Federal cuts may affect economy, island families By JESSIE STENSLAND Sequestration The myriad ways the federal government affects the Whidbey Island community are suddenly in a spotlight as the prospects of dramatic cuts loom. The automatic federal spending reductions, known as sequestration, are set to occur March 1. A wide variety of officials on the island are worried about the effects it could have on the economy, education, public health, housing for the poor and local government coffers. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen sent out a staff report Monday detailing the specific impacts sequestration may have on his district, which includes Whidbey Island. The report states that approximately 1,200 civilian employees and contractors at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will be subject to furloughs. Doug Merriman, Oak Harbor finance director, said he’s been keeping a close eye on the potential defense cuts. “The base is such an economic driver for our economy,” he said. Navy officials say the direct financial impact to Island County is more than $590 million. Likewise, Elaine Marlow, the Island County budget director, said she’s worried about the potential furloughs. “There are a significant number of civilian employees Federal spending cuts will have an impact on the civilian workforce at the Navy base. See story, page A5. Schools could also lose large amounts of funding. See story, page A5. Staff reporter Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times Capt. Mike “Nort” Nortier, the new commanding officer of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, receives his command pin from his wife, Dianne, at a change of command ceremony Friday. Former base commander Capt. Jay Johnston is in the background. changing hands NAS Whidbey commander passes reins to helicopter pilot By JUSTIN BURNETT Staff reporter directorate in Omaha, Neb., to his most recent post with the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Operations Directorate. During his tenure as Pacific Fleet, Nortier deployed as an Individual Augmentee to the Office of Security Cooperation, where he served as the Director, Senior Advisors Group. Nortier returned from Iraq in December. He called the past month and a half a “whirlwind” as he prepared to take command on Whidbey Island. His opening comments were largely dominated with recognition of his famSee command, A20 See budget, A5 FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS Est 1991 830 SE Pioneer Way Oak Harbor, WA 360-679-3700 Tues-Fri 11-5:30 Saturday 10-5 22 years at the same location YOUR LOCAL GOLD BUYER We Buy Gold, Silver, Coins, Diamonds, & Estate Jewelry FREE $20 Gas Card FREE $100 minimum with our purchase of your jewelry. FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS FREE GAS Capt. Mike “Nort” Nortier, a veteran helicopter pilot, took command of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Friday. He relieved Capt. Jay Johnston before a crowd of senior Navy officials, base personnel and Whidbey Island dignitaries in a formal, but light-hearted change of command ceremony on base. Johnston, who was at the helm for two and a half years, is headed to Washington, D.C. to become the next operations director at Naval Installations Command headquarters. Nortier is a longtime helicopter pilot who got his wings in 1991. Over the course of his career he’s racked up more than 4,300 hours of naval flight time, saw service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Tomodachi, the nation’s relief effort after the tsunami devastated Japan in 2011 – and earned numerous personal military honors and awards. Nortier has held a range of positions, from Chief of the Joint Readiness Reporting branch at Strategic Command’s J-3 Current Operations at the base,” she said. “That will impact the amount of discretionary income they will have to spend throughout the county. We could see a dip in sales tax.” A significant portion of county government revenues, she said, comes from sales tax. Business leaders are also paying attention. “Sequestration is bound to have an impact on local businesses,” Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce director Kathy Reed said. “While active duty military personnel won’t be affected, there are as many as 1,200 civilian government employees who could be placed on furloughs that would, in essence, cut their pay by 20 percent beginning in April.” “So whenever you mess with someone’s income,” she added, “it affects how people spend their money, which in

Whidbey News-Times, February 27, 2013

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