NASA ambassador Theo Wellington addressed the Wilson County Commission during Monday’s monthly meeting and described the eclipse, along with the crowd the event is expected to attract.
“I use to qualify it and call it the biggest astronomical event. I don’t do that anymore. This is going to be the biggest public one-day event ever in U.S. history,” Wellington said.
“You guys are right in the best part of it,” said Wellington, who said the last total solar eclipse possible to be seen in Tennessee took place in 1869.
Wellington said the eclipse is not a “science geeky” occurrence and would challenge our senses and could cause emotional reactions for some people.
“To see the Sun go out in the middle of the day is something your brain knows doesn’t happen, so it hits you at a very human level. People cry. They shout. They go silent and speechless,” she said.
Wellington said half of the U.S. population is within a one day’s drive to the total solar eclipse path, which means areas along the path, such as Wilson County, will experience an influx of visitors.
“The expectation is the population will double all the way across that path that day. I want you to think about how that impacts everything – even things you don’t think about,” Wellington said.
Wellington said the total eclipse path is important because it’s the path in which a total eclipse is visible. Other areas will only experience a partial eclipse, which doesn’t bring darkness.
“It’s a nationwide event. Everybody will see part of the Sun covered up that day, but only those in the 70-mile wide path get to see the total eclipse,” said Wellington, who said the eclipse causes a night and day difference.
“You guys are snugged up right next to the very center of the path,” she said.
Wellington said the maximum amount of time the total eclipse can be viewed is 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
“The Wilson County [Fairground] is only 2 seconds off the longest time,” she said.
Wellington said the biggest event surrounding the eclipse she knows about will take place in St. Joseph, Mo., where an extra 100,000 people are expected in the city – about 30,000 more than its population.
The commission also voted to allow officers to retain their service weapon upon retirement.
The Tennessee General Assembly gave counties authorization in 2006 to permit full-time sheriffs or deputy sheriffs to retain their service weapon upon retirement as long as the county legislative body approves it by a two-thirds vote.
A sheriff or deputy who retires on disability retirement may also retain the service weapon. The move was to recognize the officers for their “many years of good and faithful service.”
According to the resolution, to receive the service weapon, the certified officer must retire in good standing after 15 years or have at least 15 years with the department at the point or retirement from injury.
Commissioners Terry Ashe and Gary Keith abstained their vote.
The commission also voted to equip the future Springdale Elementary School with a school resource officer once the school opens in August.
Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said the $10,000 budget amendment would go toward training and SRO certification before school begins. The department currently provides an SRO for every public school in Wilson County.
Springdale Elementary School is at 5675 Central Pike.
Rezoning plans have more than 500 students who currently attend Stoner Creek Elementary School and 200 students who currently attend Elzie D. Patton Elementary School rezoned to Springdale.