ACADIA NAT’L PARK — President Donald Trump’s Jan. 23 executive order placing a 120-day freeze on federal government hiring is having a major impact on the park.
“We have some very critical vacancies,” Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in response to a question from a member of the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday.
Among the full-time positions that can’t be filled until at least late May are those of information technology specialist, which Schneider said is the park’s “only permanent employee to troubleshoot our computer systems;” the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) coordinator, who oversees the assessment of all park projects that must be reviewed for their environmental impacts; and the concessions specialist, who oversees contracts with park concessionaires such as Dawnland LLC, which operates Jordan Pond House.
Schneider said other permanent, full-time positions that currently are vacant are those of deputy chief ranger, carriage road maintenance supervisor and a maintenance supervisor for the Schoodic section of the park.
Seasonal hires exempt
Fortunately, Schneider said, it appears that Acadia soon will be able to start hiring seasonal employees for this year.
He said the National Park Service (NPS) has received word from the federal Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management that the hiring freeze does not apply to seasonal workers.
“Those seasonals really are crucial,” he said. “”We cannot operate the park without our seasonal workforce. This is the time of year when we would normally be hiring them.”
Park spokesman John Kelly said Tuesday that Acadia plans to hire 140 to 160 seasonal employees this year, “primarily in maintenance, interpretation and protection.”
Before hiring can begin, Schneider said, the director of the NPS must tell the Office of Personnel Management how many seasonal employees all of the NPS units plan to hire this year.
“My hope is that within the next week or so, we will be able to resume our normal hiring of seasonals,” he said.
Noting that the president’s executive order froze the filling of permanent positions for 120 days, Schneider said, “What will come after that remains to be seen, whether we will start to get some flexibility.”
The hiring freeze does not apply to military personnel or to the legislative or judicial branches of the federal government.
Trump wrote in his order that it “does not prohibit making reallocations to meet the highest priority needs and to ensure that essential services are not interrupted and national security is not affected.”
He warned, though, that “contracting outside the government to circumvent the intent of this [order] shall not be permitted.”