Solar eclipse was No. 1 story of 2017
For Madras and Jefferson County, the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, which drew more than 100,000 people to the area, was by far the most significant single-day event in the community's history.
Astronomers selected Madras as the best place to watch the eclipse — which passed from the Oregon Coast, all the way to the coast of South Carolina — due to its location near the center of totality, clear skies, and weather prospects.
Anticipating that, at a minimum, the event would bring tens of thousands to the area, the city of Madras began its preparation about two-and-one-half years ahead of time. Key goals were to ensure that visitors had a positive experience, and that local residents weren't left holding the bag for the costs incurred during that visit. On both counts, the city and county were successful.
Following the event, the city's event coordinator, Lysa Vattimo, reported that input from visitors was overwhelmingly positive. "We've received kudos from all over the world," she said.
City Administrator Gus Burril was pleased that the city was able to achieve its goals, while building relationships with more than 85 people from more than 52 agencies "who worked together to make preparations successful for this event."
"Success was measured by how quickly agencies were able to respond and by the limited number of actual incidents that occurred considering the large number of people in town," he said. "Emergency responders were able to quickly respond to a plane crash fatality, a structure fire, and a bank robbery that occurred during the event. The relationships forged for this event will continue to be of benefit to our community for future events and projects."
"We had visitors from countries all around the world, and we were specially selected by executives from major corporations, such as Google and Amazon, who flew in to watch it all right here," said Burril. "The media correspondingly gave Madras great coverage that will continue to help enhance tourism, promote business expansion and relocation, and employee recruitment."
Burril estimated that the city was able to recoup about 96.5 percent of the $240,000 costs of planning and hosting the event.
"Madras was able to bring in $231,700 in revenue from airport ticket sales, additional airport fuel sales, property rental, and additional transient motel room tax," said Burril. "Madras had planning and preparation costs spanning three fiscal years to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Major costs for the event included planning consultant assistance, air control services, portable toilet rental for public spaces throughout the community, additional staffing and overtime, additional ambulance services, airport parking area preparations, and garbage service."
"Some of the challenges facing Madras were procuring extra services, such as portable toilets, ambulance service, and air control services, while being able to fund those extra services without a clear picture of how much revenue would be collected or how many people would actually show up," he said, noting that at times it was overwhelming.
"Fortunately, people flowed in over multiple days, so we did not experience the traffic problems that hit Crook County prior to their Symbiosis event. As everyone knows, our traffic congestion came when the majority of visitors attempted to depart during the same time period following the full eclipse. This was not in our control. We, along with ODOT, had messaged to visitors to come early and stay late, but they made their own decisions."
Concerns about whether the city's water and wastewater systems would be able to handle the influx proved unfounded. "We saw a 50 percent increase in daily sewer flows, but were still within our current sewer plant capacity," he said. "And finally, our town cleaned up fairly quickly with the preparations of garbage dumpsters staged around our public spaces and by good planning and execution by each of our community event holders."