Commissioners approve mass gathering permit Tuesday

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist KENNETH NULL

kvue.com

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 12 at 6:04 PM

AUSTIN -- The organizers of Austin's Formula 1 now has Travis County's official permission to hold its race in November.

More details about the latest plans for public safety during the three-day race are being released as well. Quite a bit of time and money is going into this race and into the track being built in Southeast Travis County. 
 
Many neighbors say they're not happy about the problems they believe F1 will bring, but on Tuesday, Circuit of the Americas got the green light to host a massive crowd at its new race site. It was a full house for the Travis County Commissioners Court as officials decided on a mass gathering permit for the F1 race.
 
“I would call it a permit for mass hysteria,” said Jim Dillon, who lives near the track.
 
During a public hearing on the issue, residents had plenty to say about the noise, the crowds, and the traffic F1 will bring.
 
“I just think there are too many unknowns in the current plan,“ one woman told commissioners.
 
Donald Bowman added, “I have these two huge parking lots to my east. The racetrack is to my west. I have this huge parking lot to my north. So I'm practically surrounded by Formula 1.”
 
Commissioners approved COTA’S permit but say they will work on easing the public's concerns.
 
“If you live in that area, the noise will impact you, and I think we have some responsibility to keep that to a minimum if possible,” said Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe.
 
“A large-scale international event has a lot of moving parts to it. We've got a great planning process in place,” said COTA President Steve Sexton.
 
Commissioners also got an update on road improvements and how construction at the track site is going, along with plans for public safety when as many as 250,000 people descend on Southeast Travis County.
 
In all, the county will have close to 300 fire and medical personnel on site during the three race days.
 
Travis County Fire and Rescue has a $77,000 contract to be on site. There's a $28,000 contract for parking at the Expo Center. Austin/Travis County EMS has a three-year contract, worth close to $52,000 a year. A STAR Flight helicopter will be stationed at the track for the three-day event. That will cost COTA $375 an hour.
 
“You want to make sure you meet the requirements of a big event, and everything's safe there," said Danny Hobby, the county executive of Emergency Services. “But you also want to make sure that you're taking care of residents of Travis County.”
 
The mass gathering permit is only good for the plan submitted to the court. If anything changes, they may have to go back to commissioners and get another permit.

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