More than 9,000 residents in Davis and Weber counties participated in a "Tele-Town Hall" with Congressman Rob Bishop, who answered questions about how the sequester will impact Hill Air Force Base and surrounding areas.
Bishop hosted the phone conference Wednesday night from Washington, D.C. "That was one of the best-attended tele-town hall meetings I have had," Bishop said Thursday morning.
Melissa Subbotin, spokeswoman for Bishop, said Bishop hosts this type of town hall meeting three or four times a year when his office receives a significant volume of emails, letters and phone calls about key issues.
Each congressman uses a vendor that has been approved by the Committee of House Administration. The phone town hall meetings are also part of the congressman's budget, Subbotin said.
Homes are selected through a database that has also been approved by the committee, she said.
Most of those who asked questions work on the base as a civilian or are in the military. The meeting lasted about one hour, and 180 people were still in the queue waiting to ask questions at the end of the teleconference, Bishop said.
He said those who did not get to speak to him personally were given the option to leave a message. He and his staff will listen to the messages and answer each person's concerns.
Subbotin said not all 9,571 residents were on the phone at the same time. In all, 17,935 people actually answered the phones when the caller ID showed the "United States Government" calling between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. About 1,000 of those called stayed on the phone for more than 40 minutes.
Most of those who spoke with Bishop just gave their first names when they introduced themselves.
One of the questions was: Will private contractors at the base have contracts renewed?
Bishop said, "The bottom line is, private contractors will be dinged, too."
One man from Fruit Heights said the cuts are going to do more harm than good in the long run, especially when it comes to the military pilots.
"It's going to cost more to undo, because if a pilot cannot get any flying hours, then he has to be retrained to qualify to fly, and that takes about two months," the man said.
Bishop reiterated several times he did not vote for the sequester, but he will try to do all he can to keep the military alive.