Lebanon geared up for solar eclipse, council told

Lebanon staffers outlined city preparations for the solar eclipse in terms of public utilities, safety and a temporary suspension of relevant city permits at the Lebanon City Council meeting on Aug. 9.

While safety and services were a top priority for staff, councilors discussed the impact on local businesses.

“Depending on who you listen to, it’s the next Y2K or we’re going to be totally overrun and the street will be gridlocked, you won’t be able to go anywhere and it will be pandemonium,” said City Manager Gary Marks. “I don’t know where the truth is in there, but we wanted to take this opportunity to address both you and our community about the preparations the staff is making.”

Rob Emmons, engineering services supervisor, discussed potential impacts on transportation, water and sewer services.

“We need to keep vehicles moving and roads as open as much as we can,” Emmons said.

“One of things we will do is place ‘no parking’ signs on major arterials in town.”
In previous conversations with city staff, Lebanon Police Department Chief Frank Stevenson had suggested not allowing parking on Main Street, Oak Street, Airport Road, Tangent Street and Second Street. The purpose would be to keep primary transportation routes accessible to emergency vehicles.

“Have the business owners been contacted?” asked Mayor Paul Aziz.
Aziz said he has concerns about limiting downtown parking because a lot of businesses have been “gearing up for this.”

“My biggest concern about our community is safety, but also I want to make sure the businesses are able to take advantage of this opportunity,” Aziz said.

Emmons said there is a balance between keeping roads open and the businesses going.

Stevenson said he is concerned about the gridlock that may occur when people who pulled over for the eclipse start to leave.

“As far as Main Street goes, we can keep that open, but I would ask at least one side of Second Street be no parking all the way up,” Steven said.

Councilor Jason Bolen, who is a division chief with the Lebanon Fire District, said he agrees with Stevenson’s initial recommendations.

LPD has increased patrol planned, and will have volunteers walking downtown and an emergency operation center on standby, he added.

Parking will be allowed on Main Street.

Emmons said city staff has asked CH2M Hill to have at least two people on site at the water plant and the waste water plant.

They have two-way radios to communicate with CH2M Hill in case other communications go down.

Marks said the maintenance crew will have all hands on deck.

“I just wanted to of course reiterate just relax and be calm,” Stevenson said.
“Expect delays. Don’t go up into the woods and have fires. Be cautious on barbecues, drink lots of water.”

Walt Wendolowski, community development director, presented a resolution for temporary suspension of of certain permits from Friday Aug. 18 through Monday, Aug. 21.

“My comments can only come from the mind of a bureaucrat; I’m talking about permits,” Wendolowski said. “I think it would be incredibly difficult to put an extra burden on the

Police Department to have to go out and enforce those sorts of regulations.”

A suspension in the permits and enforcement would allow officers to focus on public safety, rather than if someone is selling eclipse glasses or parking an RV on someone’s lawn, he said.

Council members unanimously approved the resolution, which suspends permits for overnight RV parking, temporary uses and street vendors.

The resolution also states that overnight parking on city property is prohibited, with the exception of Gill’s Landing. Parking will not be allowed in parks, alleys, streets and “similar venues.”

While parking on private property will be allowed, property owners will be held responsible for on-site activities, including violation of the city code.

Councilor Robert Furlow said he was concerned about food vendor permits in the middle of summer.

“If you are an authorized food vendor you have a license,” Wendolowski said. “If the consumer does not see the license, you take your chances.”