Westover officials, local businesses worried about sequester - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Westover officials, local business owners worried about sequester

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CHICOPEE, MA (WSHM) -

The sequester, the sweeping budget cuts slated to hit on March 1, would have severe impacts in Western Mass.

The Pentagon announced Monday that more than 700 civilian workers at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee would be forced to take one unpaid day off a week starting in late April if those budget cuts aren't stopped.

Both Westover officials and local business owners say it will hurt the local economy.

"It'll definitely affect our readiness because if we don't have people as often as we need to have them it'll cut back on our training, and if we're not training we're not as ready as we usually are," said Col. Steven Vautrain, 439th Airlift Wing commander.

Hundreds of people from ground crews, medical crews and flight crews would be affected, forcing the base to reduce flying hours.

Those facing furloughs would see a 20 percent pay cut.

Vautrain says it doesn't just hurt individuals, but the surrounding area as well.

"There's definitely a big effect on the local economy, this affects Westover, it affects the local economy, it affects the national economy really," he said.

The base pumped $238 million into the local economy last year.

That would be reduced by 10 percent if the spending cuts aren't stopped, taking nearly $24 million out of the local economy.

"It is a chunk of our business," said Gene McGreevy, co-owner of Aurora's Pizzeria on Westover Road.

He says his business and others are sure to see a cut in their bottom line.

"When they talk about furloughs for people in the military, there's a bunch of businesses here that could be affected, yeah, it's a concern for everybody that's on this strip."

But, as a Vietnam War vet, he says it's about even more than just money.

"These folks here volunteer their lives, they put everything on the line," he said.

Vautrain says the base will prepare for the cuts.

"If we're called on to go do something, we wouldn't have as many crews as we normally would."

If an agreement isn't reached by March 1, the nation will face $470 billion in across-the-board spending cuts.

That's on top of the $487 billion in cuts the Department of Defense is already making over the next 10 years.

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