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Not all federal offices closed on first day of government shutdown

GRAND FORKS -- The only person working in the Ronald Davies Federal Building and United States Courthouse on Tuesday was the security officer.

With the federal government shutdown, the officer had no one to herd through the scanner. He was there just in case charges needed to be made against a bad guy.

The brick building at 102 N. Fourth St. was empty with the absence not only of court officials, but also workers in the offices of the FBI, the Small Business Administration and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. Also locked and empty was the office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on South Third Street downtown.

Hoeven's answering machine message was matter-of-fact, stating the office was closed "due to a government shutdown." Heitkamp's message was more pointed, stating that "in the absence of appropriations, Sen. Heitkamp has been forced to close her office. She is disappointed in the shutdown and inconvenience to North Dakotans."

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., expressed his disappointment via a media conference call from Washington.

"I almost don't dare to be optimistic anymore," he said about the political stalemate.

Some federal agencies were working, including the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, "still up in full force," according an email from meteorologist Greg Gust. The agency was forecasting heavy rain, even snow for some areas, he added.

Other offices, most notably the Social Security Administration office downtown, were operating, albeit with a smaller staff. A sign on the Social Security door said representatives were available to assist visitors with "limited services."

However, all nine visitors who arrived over a span of 90 minutes in the afternoon said their matter was handled and that they left pleased.

"We were taken care of," said Marvin Leiberg of Manvel. "I thought it was maybe 50-50 that they'd even have somebody here."

David Riopelle was also among the satisfied Tuesday at the Social Security office, but he provided a zinger. "Our government doesn't work fast enough to shut down in just one day," he said.