City review of airport, parking events ongoing
For two and a half years, the city of Madras worked on a plan for the total solar eclipse, to ensure the safety of city residents and visitors, provide a positive experience for everyone, and of course, not end up in the red.
"In review of preliminary numbers this morning, it appears that we have nearly broken even for our additional costs of planning for two years and outside service expenses for hosting over the eclipse event period," said Kristal Hughes, finance director for the city of Madras.
"This does not include personnel time, but does include planning costs, portable toilets, garbage costs, traffic control, air control services, etc.," she said, adding, "We will have more detailed information in the coming weeks and can itemize those expenses further when that information is gathered."
The event was so well-organized, that city staffers concluded that all the hours spent in preparation were worth it. "All of us staff said we'd do it again in a heartbeat," said Lysa Vattimo, who was hired to coordinate the event for the city.
At the Madras Municipal Airport, the city parked about 2,200 vehicles in its MADclipse Daytripper parking, with another 700 parking on a 90-acre overflow lot, set up for the city and Solar Port, put on by Rob Berg, airport manager, and his wife, Tracy Berg, with assistance from the city. Hughes estimated that there were about 4,000 vehicles parked on airport property for the event.
The Bergs planned, organized and managed Solar Port and the city's MADclipse parking, according to Sara Puddy, city administrative manager, "but it took both teams to pull off the events successfully. Our plan went off without a hitch; it executed as well as we had hoped."
A total of 475 aircraft flew in to the airport, including giant Gulfstream G650s, a Lear jet, large turbine aircraft, and many small planes.
"Most of those big aircraft didn't stay," said Tracy Berg, finally divulging the names of some of the celebrities that came to Madras: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the two Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, rock musician Kid Rock, and actor Jeff Daniels.
"Kid Rock went right up to the booths," she said.
For Bezos, Berg said, "The security guy got here three days early. The positive part of that is their security checked all across the country and picked here."
Other visitors who flew in included a Time Magazine reporter who spent time at the airport, as well as Swiss newscasters.
Departures were scheduled by a mobile air traffic control unit from Klamath Falls. "We were going to try to get 30 out per hour, but ended up getting 60 per hour," she said. "The temporary tower guys were phenomenal."
Before the eclipse, Rob Berg said he didn't quite understand why everyone wanted to be in Madras. "Now I get it; I met some wonderful people, made some new friends, and had a wonderful experience with the eclipse."
"Four hundred and seventy-five airplanes got in and out, and we didn't get a scratch on one," he said. "My crew is phenomenal. We handled that way understaffed — with 27 people."
Among the key elements to making sure the 36-plus local events went off smoothly was Middleton Septic and Portable Toilets, which rented out 680 port-a-potties for the events, providing service to those toilets about 2,700 times from Thursday through Tuesday, according to Misty Cox, who owns the business with her husband, Aaron.
"Basically we started really early in the morning — 5 or 6," she said, adding that her 16-year-old son even helped her clean the port-a-potties at midnight on Sunday.
"My guys were beat," she said. "I just can't say enough how proud I am of our staff; at minimum, they worked 14 hours a day. We started Aug. 1, in full eclipse mode, and started delivering everything."
As of Monday, they had only picked up about 260 of the toilets — a process that will be ongoing until the 500 rentals are returned. "We have 180 of our own and we haven't started picking them up."
Middleton said she is still "crunching numbers," but hopes to make a profit after all their time and effort. "It's kind of sad as much as we put into it. We had to put out wages, supplies and trucks; we had to add more trucks to our fleet — we fixed up some junkers we'd retired; we brought in help, Clinkscales, a port-a-potty company from Molalla."
"We'll make a profit, but it's not what we expected," she said. "We were kind of naive with what we charged; we didn't really raise our rates."
"We're proud of our company and proud of our guys, and everyone has been super grateful to us," she said. "I feel like we did a pretty good job, considering the circumstances. We didn't really hear a lot of negative from anybody."