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March 2, 2013

Fed spending cuts start to hit home

Pathways, city firms await word on contracts

A troubling message arrived at Beverly Airport this week.

With automatic federal spending cuts beginning to take effect from the government’s sequestration breakdown, the airport was told its air-traffic control tower will close as of April 1.

If those cuts take effect, Beverly Airport will stay open, but will operate without controllers, something it has done in the past.

But other services agencies and businesses across the North Shore, including on Cape Ann, are also bracing for the first blows of sequestration — the term given to the $85 billion scheduled to be cut from the proposed federal budget if Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., can’t work out a deal.

For many agencies that depend heavily on federal funds, the biggest problem right now is the uncertainty.

“Frankly, we have had zero guidance on the impact,” said Susan Todd, president of the Gloucester-based Pathways for Children, the early-childhood education agency that also now cordinates a federally-funded Head Start program serving more than 230 preschoolers.

“I can’t tell my staff or families anything,” she said, “because we haven’t been informed,” she said.

“We’ve heard nothing — no one’s hearing anything,” said Steve Kaity, vice president/operations of The Strong Group, a Gloucester company that is based ln Maplewood Avenue and holds a number of small Defense contracts that could be threatened by sequestration cuts.

Gorton’s of Gloucester and Bomco Industries also hold significant contracts for supplying the Department of Defense, which is among the federal departments most targeted by the spending cuts. And in Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard is feeling the pinch.

Coast Guard rescue aircraft will fly fewer hours and cutters will patrol the seas for fewer hours, says Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp. But while emergencies will remaion a priority, interdictions of illegal immigrants, drugs and illegal fishing could decline, Papp said.

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