Natrona County Will Close Old Courthouse For Eclipse
Parking, security, crowds and a need for some sanity persuaded the Natrona County Commission to close the old courthouse for the day of the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
"I think it might be a good day to close her up," commissioner Rob Hendry said at a commission work session on May 2.
Hendry made the suggestion during a commission work session with most of the county's elected officials and Wyoming Eclipse Festival director Anna Wilcox.
She has been meeting with local, state and federal government agencies to outline the logistics of dealing with an estimated 35,000 visitors to central Wyoming for the first total eclipse of the sun in the continental United States in nearly 40 years.
"If I were looking at it logistically about access to this area, my greatest concerns would be parking and, of course, your major off-ramp on (Interstate) 25 leading to this direction," Wilcox said.
Center Street, and other north-south streets will be open on Aug. 21. However, the east-west Second Street from Beech Street to Ash Street downtown will be closed to traffic, she said.
Some county departments will be active in the weeks before the eclipse and on the day itself, including public safety agencies such as the sheriff's office, emergency management, the road and bridge department, and the health department.
But many departments do most of their work inside the old courthouse at 200 N. Center St., and don't directly involve public safety.
Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto said managers of those departments -- treasurer, assessor, clerk, information technology, county attorney, development -- told her they wanted their offices closed so their employees can enjoy the events and not have to navigate the traffic to get to work.
Hendry said parking for county employees is difficult enough as it is, and the thousands of additional vehicles here on Aug. 21 will make that even worse.
If the old courthouse remains open, someone will need to monitor who has the right to park in the spaces for county employees, Wilcox said.
Some officials had considered closing the offices, but keeping the old courthouse open for visitors to come inside, cool off and use the restrooms.
After all, it's a public building if even part of it is open.
But that attempt at hospitality would have problems, too.
If his office is closed but the building remains open, Treasurer Tom Doyle said he's concerned about the safety of the cash that his and other departments have on hand.
The parking, traffic and security issues were enough for the commissioners to decide to lock the old courthouse.
"If we're closed, we're locked up," Hendry said. "We're no longer a public building for that day."