In Fillmore County, threat of shutdown hardly makes a rippleby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
Preston, Minn. (AP) — In Fillmore County, the potential threat of a government shutdown has been kind of a non event. Area residents know about the political wrangling in St. Paul and the potential for a shutdown, but life is going on largely as usual.
If anyone in Preston wanted to talk about the government shutdown, they'd go to one of three places: a coffee shop called the Sweet Stop, the bowling alley or the Preston Public library.
But the conversations happening around town were more about the weather and crops getting much-needed rain this week, and not about the stalemate in St. Paul.
"I'm not seeing people being really upset about it," said Beth Anderson, the head librarian at the Preston Public Library and a 24-year resident of Preston. She reads the local newspaper and goes online to keep up with what's happening around the state.
Anderson said a possible government shutdown is still too far away for people in town to worry.
"Everyone's just going about their life like normal is what I'm seeing," she said. "I'm not seeing anyone getting stressed out about it or upset about it or talking about it other than just saying it might happen. That's the extent of what I'm hearing."
In this corner of Minnesota, residents like Anderson are in a wait-and-see mode. They're aware, but not alarmed, about the political situation at the State Capitol.
Fillmore County is a sparsely-populated area with just about 21,000 residents, many more concerned with what happens outdoors than at the Capitol. The area is rolling hill and trout country, with the occasional Amish buggy making its way along a county road. In Preston, considered the trout capital of Minnesota, a giant trout statue welcomes visitors.
Fillmore County is also part of Rep. Greg Davids' district. He's the House Tax Chair and has argued that raising taxes to reach a budget deal will harm the state's economy.
State workers make up about 1 percent of the jobs in Fillmore County, about 200 jobs. That includes highway maintenance workers, state employees who work in the court system, and the 35 employees at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.
The park is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Preston and sits on the south branch of the Root River. The park is popular with anglers and families, especially this time of year.
On a recent day, park naturalist Jon Laging guided a dozen visitors through a concrete tunnel and into the cave. It was a cool 44 degrees inside the 13-miles of narrow passages, stalagmites, and underground pools. The visitors followed Laging for an hour through the cave's narrow passageways before returning outside.
Laging said visitors are just now starting to ask whether the park would close in the event of a government shutdown. But for the most part, he said people are not changing their Fourth of July weekend plans just yet.
"I don't think they are. I think they believe, along with the majority of people, that they'll get it settled," Laging said. "I suppose the closer we get maybe more of that may happen, but I don't think yet."
On the tour is 31-year-old Angie Powell, who speculates about the possible impact of a shutdown. She came to the cave with her two kids, her sister and her nephew.
"Oh, I think it would be devastating," Powell said. "I don't know what people would do. I know Forestville gets very busy; they do that re-enactment. I think it'd wreck a lot of traditions for people."
Jon Laging and other park employees say they're so busy this time of year taking care of the guests and the facilities, they really don't have much time to think about a possible shutdown. But they certainly hope legislators in St. Paul come to an agreement and the park doesn't have to close.
- All Things Considered, 06/17/2011, 4:53 p.m.