Cannon Falls ‘no worse for wear’ after Obama visitCANNON FALLS -- Less than an hour after President Barack Obama answered his last question during his town hall meeting Monday afternoon, Hannah’s Bend Park was nearly deserted.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
CANNON FALLS -- Less than an hour after President Barack Obama answered his last question during his town hall meeting Monday afternoon, Hannah’s Bend Park was nearly deserted.
Empty chairs were being folded up, light stands were being dismantled and high speed Internet cables were being cut out of the trees.
Mikie Ulm, from Freestyle Productions and Allied Audio - a Twin Cities-based company charged with running the lights and audio equipment - said tear down Monday afternoon would only take a couple of hours.
Bob Bettmann, from Frontier Communications – which handled Internet and phone connections to Hannah’s Bend – said unwiring the park would take just a fraction of the nearly four days it took to set up.
In fact, by Tuesday afternoon, after a bit of rain and a mowing, the entire park looked “no worse for wear,” Cannon Falls park and street Supt. David Pagel said.
“Things went real good,” he said.
The same goes for the rest of Cannon Falls: It took only about 24 hours for the town to return to its normal pre-Obama state, City Administrator Aaron Reeves said.
“It wasn’t like we had a lot of garbage to contend with,” he said. “It wasn’t like we had any damage. It was all pretty smooth. By Tuesday afternoon you couldn’t tell that he was actually here.”
The effect that the presidential visit had on Cannon Falls’ pocketbook was minimal as well. Though exact numbers won’t be calculated until next week, Reeves estimated the price tag wouldn’t top $5,000.
“That would be on the high end,” Reeves said. “That is being very safe.”
That money went toward things like overtime for city employees, equipment rentals and food for volunteers.
One factor in keeping costs down was that Hannah’s Bend Park is usually kept up, and minimal work had to be done to prepare it.
“We did have to work some overtime, but that’s fine,” Pagel said.
Pagel said he and his four-person crew worked with both the White House staff and the Secret Service from Thursday morning through Monday afternoon. They moved benches, set up no parking signs, installed portable toilets and trimmed trees to allow for good visibility of the president during his speech.
“We didn’t trim anything that wasn’t necessary,” Pagel said. “(The trees) were not harmed.”
Most of the work in the park – such as the mowing or tree trimming – would have had to be done eventually anyway, Pagal said. The presidential visit just sped up the process.
Another thing that saved the city’s budget was a large number of police departments that volunteered their officers for extra patrol for the event. Reeves said officers came from the metro area, as well as from neighboring towns, without being asked to be reimbursed for their time.
“It’s one of those things that law enforcement agencies are going to reach out other agencies that are in need,” Cannon Falls Police Chief Jeff McCormick said. “It’s the same thing when a tornado hits the city: if you need help, we’re going to be there.”
And even though Obama’s visit didn’t seem to leave a lasting physical impression on the city, Reeves said the exposure gained from it will. Media coverage from the event described Cannon Falls as “picturesque, scenic and historic”, Reeves said, creating valuable buzz for the city’s tourism industry.
“Just the name recognition alone, that’s something we never could get with our marketing campaigns,” he said.
Overall, Reeves said the city counts that $5,000 as money well spent.
“It’s definitely an easy trade-off for us,” he said.