The historic sites of Independence’s most beloved resident won’t likely be immune to the effects of sequestration.
Friday marked the deadline for automatic fiscal reductions, although a specific date is unknown as to when the cuts would affect the Harry S Truman National Historic Site, said Larry Villalva, the site’s superintendent. The Independence site receives specific orders from the National Park Service regional office in Omaha, Neb., which receives direction from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Truman Home at 219 N. Delaware St. could close on Sundays and Mondays, as well as 10 federal holidays a year. Across the street in Independence, the newly renovated Noland Home, in addition to the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, could close their doors completely to visitors.
Sequester, an effort to narrow the federal budget deficit, involves automatic cuts to federal programs. Some programs, however, are exempt, including Social Security, Medicaid, refundable tax credits, the food stamp program and veterans’ benefits.
“It’s going to be a very dramatic impact, especially those very large national park crown jewels that the public attends in the millions,” Villalva said. “None of those will be exempt from sequestration. It’s not something that we think will happen – it’s something we know will happen.”
America’s 398 national parks were asked to cut their budgets by 5 percent. The Truman National Historic Site is anticipating the following cuts and reductions, Villalva said:
– The Truman Home on Delaware Street, now open seven days a week, would close on Sundays and Mondays. Based on the average attendance in the past two years, 2,736 visitors would miss tours on Sundays and 1,970 visitors would miss Mondays, Villalva said.
Also, the Truman Home now is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. With anticipated budget cuts, the site would close on all 10 federal holidays.
– The Truman Farm Home at 12301 Blue Ridge Blvd. in Grandview would completely shut down for visits. It is usually open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. An average of 844 visitors passed through the home in the past two years, Villalva said.
– The Noland Home, 216 N. Delaware St., which recently received hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations, would also close. The house across the street that once belonged to Harry Truman’s cousins had served as a “visitor holding station,” a place where Truman Home visitors could get out of the elements or use the restroom until their tour began.
– In addition to these closings, the Truman National Historic Site would eliminate its seasonal workforce of about five park rangers. These employees helped to expand and to offer more tours to the public, Villalva said.
“They’re principally why we’re able to open up for tours at the Truman Farm Home. As a result of sequestration, we would not be able to bring them back at all,” Villalva said. “It really pains us for a lot of reasons to not be able to do that. Many of the seasonals we have employed in the past have done a good job for us, and they’re local people who’ve been able to come work for us.”
Page 2 of 2 - Resources like maintenance, mowing, touch-up paint work and fixing emergency breakdowns in equipment also would suffer, Villalva said.
The Truman Library and Museum, which is separate from the Truman Home and is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, appears to not be affected by sequestration at this time, but that, too, is still up in the air.
“The only thing we know for certain, at this point, is that there are no plans to furlough federal employees within our agency, which would include the Truman Library,” Truman Library Director Michael Devine said. “Beyond that, we don’t have any clear picture right now.”
A 37-year veteran of the National Park Service, Villalva said he recognizes that the local impact isn’t unique and that every National Park Service unit has a similar story.
“It is completely unprecedented in everything I’ve experienced in the seven National Park units I’ve worked in that 37-year time span,” he said. “As you can imagine, it’s not something that’s completely clear to us as to how it’s going to shake out.”