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Officials fume at lab cuts

BATAVIA – City officials hope that local pressure will help restore $52 million that Congress cut last month from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s budget.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke on Monday worried about the impact that the cuts would have on the high-energy physics laboratory. Fermilab is in Batavia.

“Through the research at Fermilab, we might realize some answers to the great dilemmas of our time,” Schielke said.

Fermilab scientists in 1995 announced the discovery of the subatomic particle called the top quark. Quarks are one of the fundamental building blocks of matter in the universe.

Batavia and St. Charles city councils on Monday adopted resolutions urging that the funds be restored. Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner also has criticized the cuts.

“We have hopefully some momentum of a movement,” Schielke said.

Fermilab officials have said they would have to shut down major projects and lay off about 200 employees because of the cuts. In addition, Fermilab in February plans to start rolling furloughs, making all of the 1,900 employees take two unpaid days off a month.

More than 300 Batavia residents work at Fermilab.

Third Ward Alderwoman Linnea Miller was concerned how the cuts would affect the United States’ standing.

“Aside from the economic issue, the loss of leadership of the U.S. in the scientific community is gravely disturbing,” Miller said.

Earlier in the day, Fermilab officials said they appreciated the support.

“It is extremely gratifying to have our neighbors’ support, to see the level of concern of our neighboring communities and at the state level,” Fermilab communications director Judy Jackson said.

State Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago, also is sponsoring a resolution to restore the funding. In addition, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., are lobbying for an increase in funding for Fermilab.

When Bush put in his requests for the U.S. budget, it included $372 million for Fermilab. This would have been an increase from the $342 million that the lab got in 2007 and the $324 million that it received in 2006.

Fermilab has a payroll of $146 million and 90 percent of its employees live in the Fox Valley or western DuPage County. Among its programs, Fermilab runs a hands-on science education museum, Lederman Science Center, and its Ask-A-Scientist program puts students in touch with physicists, engineers and computer specialists via the Internet.

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