Chamber President urges full funding for SRS

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Jan. 3, 2014

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Last year wasn't the best for Mary O'Hare.

"My sales, I can tell you, my numbers are in. I'll be honest my sales are down $10,000," says the owner of M.B. Jewelry And Beads.

Her bead and jewelry store took a hit, and she believes lay-offs and furloughs at Savannah River Site were the reasons why. She says 50% of her business is tied to SRS.

"Small businesses," O'Hare says, "we can only take so many punches."

In 2013, SRS saw roughly a thousand lay-offs because of budgetary complications. When the government shutdown for three weeks later in the year, there were thousands of furloughs too.

"That's meant millions of dollars lost in this economy," says J. David Jameson, the President and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. "We do not want to lose the intellectual property that we have here. We have some of the smartest people in the country working in our region, and we want it to stay that way."

Jameson says the battle's not over. Even though Congress finally passed a budget in late December, the specifics haven't been ironed out. Jameson says what Congress passed is just a framework. Lawmakers in the House and Senate will soon have to appropriate funding to Department of Energy sites like SRS.

In just days, Jameson will make a trip to Washington to urge leaders to fund SRS at a 100% level in a full year's omnibus spending bill. Jameson says a short term fix, in the form of a continuing resolution, would lead to similar problems the site faced in 2013.

"There are nearly 6,000 people in Aiken County alone who work at the Savannah River Site," says State Senator Tom Yong, Jr.

Senator Young of Aiken is urging locals to lobby their federal lawmakers.

"Encourage them and ask them to fully fund the Savannah River Site," he says.

O'Hare will do just that, because less funding could mean more SRS lay-offs and another bad year for her business.

"They need to look at balancing the budget but not on the backs of the American citizens," she says.

At a legislative unveiling Friday morning at Newberry Hall, News 12 asked Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) what he's doing to make sure SRS gets the money it needs.

"The DOE personnel there and the contractors are all providing information, and it's very positive information, and then we relay that positive information of how important the site is to non-proliferation, environmental clean-up, and for national security," Rep. Wilson says.

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