“Eclipsing” even a Teton County spending spree.
Our local government is hard at it again: spending. Faced with what critical care and first responders claim is a virtual Armageddon scenario, town and county officials have been convinced to set fire to a hundred grand for the planning of the Great American Eclipse. The complete solar eclipse will take place in Jackson Hole at 11:35 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2017. It will last approximately 127 seconds. For that, elected officials are hiring a fulltime dedicated employee for $50,000, and dropping another 50-large on “preparations,” which basically amount to renting as many porta-potties as the county can get their hands on.
After studying the dire situation, Teton County Emergency Management Coordinator Rich Ochs assembled a team of 37 stakeholders including local law enforcement, park and forest officials, and medical personnel. They ran through a two-day Threat and Hazard Identification Risk Assessment training seminar for a solar event that will last two minutes. The horrors of it all is, according to Ochs, the fact that the event will be so popular it will (wait for it, and try not to gasp out loud) draw tourists to Jackson Hole. Perhaps as many as 40,000, according to some estimates.
The reasonable person might have two thoughts here:
- We are already a tourist destination hosting about 4 million people, annually. We’ve managed to survive this long.
- Planning for this event sounds like a job for Rich Ochs.
Ochs told town and county politicians he was stretched to max, especially during summer, and would greatly benefit from a new hire that could oversee the planning and coordination of handling MAYBE 40,000 visitors for one day in August. That bill would come to $100,000—$50k for the position’s salary and another $50k for his/her expense account.
It’s a waste of money, pure and simple. And for what? This event could end up being a bust. Town and county officials may be getting all worked up over nothing. SHJH managed to obtain the following email from town council member Jim Stanford who was the sole “nay” vote on the spending spree. Stanford addressing county commissioners via email wrote:
Below is a link to one of the major websites offering information about the eclipse. Note that Jackson is not one of the “best places” recommended.
I just spoke with a friend who used to live here and is a journalist. He is also an eclipse enthusiast who has traveled to witness total eclipses from Alaska to Asia, Africa and Australia.
The eclipse fanatics are dedicated but a relatively small and nerdy group, he said. We ought to be preparing for a few hours of bad traffic—the event will not be Woodstock but more like the 4th of July fireworks, he said.
What eclipse watchers value most are duration of totality and road access, which as this website makes clear is important for driving elsewhere to seek clear skies if necessary. As such, Jackson Hole is less desirable because of its distance from interstates. And the place with longest duration of totality is Missouri.
I remain opposed to spending $100,000 on this, given the current county law enforcement budget and the fact that the money could be spent on many other deserving programs.
For what it’s worth,