Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Council reacts to F1 trip, rejects funds for temporary customs

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TWC News: Council reacts to F1 trip, rejects funds for temporary customs
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Six high-ranking Austin officials will be in England next week, but not everyone feels the process for planning the overseas trip was transparent.

According to Austin Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald, Austin leaders have already taken a look at how Indianapolis and Dallas have handled the last two Super Bowls, but McDonald says F1 crowds will be nearly double the size of those at the last Super Bowl game.

"When F1 was planned over a year ago—when it was announced—it took quite a few of us by surprise," Austin Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald said. "We, too, had to ask ourselves and take a look at it and do the reconnaissance work we needed to do to make sure it was going to be something that was going to be productive if we decided to take the trip."

F1 promoters will be paying all expenses for Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s and City Manager Marc Ott’s portions of the five-day trip. Funding for the other four will come from the city's Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services office.

Council Member Laura Morrison questions the motives behind the trip.

"It's not clear that it's something you really need to be on site to see. I guess that's the question," Morrison said.

Morrison does not agree with Austinites picking up $5,400 of the tab for the trip.

"We need to understand that any dollar in the budget is a dollar that could be spent on something else. It's taxpayer money. We should be above board and make sure it's really needed," Morrison said.

Thursday, the Austin's city council voted unanimously to reject building the $5.5 million temporary customs facility at Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Critics argued the price tag was too much to spend on a temporary terminal.

The terminal would have housed a customs and immigration checkpoint to keep the crowds moving along. As a result, overseas travelers will have to fly into Houston or Dallas for the foreseeable future.

ABIA officials plan to design and build a permanent customs facility at the airport, but groundbreaking on that project is still several years away.

Formula One will bring the U.S. Grand Prix to Austin November 16-18.

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