Senator Bill Nelson wants to cut government waste in order to keep airport towers in Florida open
14 towers in Fla. slated to close due to sequester
6:50 PM, Mar 28, 2013
1:32 AM, Mar 29, 2013
LAKELAND, Fla. - The senator who once flew in space is now focusing on the people who keep the skies safe.
Senator Bill Nelson stopped in Lakeland on Thursday to meet with the directors of small airports all over the state.
Starting next month, 14 air traffic control towers in Florida will close due to the sequestration. That includes Albert Whitted in St. Petersburg and the tower at Lakeland Linder in Lakeland.
Tower chief David Moore could lose his job.
"The plan right now is hopefully they'll turn this around, but right now everybody is just waiting. It's just a big waiting game," he said.
Today Senator Nelson spoke bluntly, saying turning this around before the first towers close April 7 is unlikely.
"This is one of the most frustrating moments that I have ever had," Senator Nelson told reporters. "We have got to solve it quick."
He did come with some ideas.
"I think a logical way that we can solve this problem is to go after some of the turkeys," he told the crowd of directors and community leaders.
Turkeys, meaning government waste. Nelson gave two examples: $24 million to manage contracts for items no one buys like typewriters, or $10 million it took to remake Sesame Street in Pakistan.
Ten million happens to be how much it would cost to save the 14 towers in Florida.
"Stop being idiots, stop being so partisan, stop being so ideologically rigid," he said about his colleagues in Washington.
If congress can't find the money to keep the towers running, the city of Lakeland has already said it would try to scrounge together more than 300-thousand to keep its tower at least partially operating.
But that's no easy task.
Other airports, including Albert Whitted, may join a lawsuit against the government.
"You're going to have folks upset, and I'm upset too," Nelson said.
Lakeland's tower is set to close April 21. The annual Sun-N-Fun fly in will not be impacted.