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Airport contract sparks larger questions

Monday, October 19, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Discussion about construction contracts at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport took a turn for the procedural at last Thursday’s meeting of City Council. Council Member Sheri Gallo explained that she had pulled the item for process questions, not because she didn’t support expansion of the airport or the contract with Hensel Phelps Construction Company, which is worth almost $300 million. Specifically, Gallo thought that discussion about the contract should take place in committee, not during regular Council meetings. Council Member Don Zimmerman agreed and proposed the contract be vetted at the Audit and Finance Committee. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo suggested that Council have “well-articulated policy questions” before sending things on to committee. And, she said, “I haven’t heard any today,” so she pushed to move forward with the contract and not place extra pressure on staff by cutting deadlines close. A motion to refer it to committee failed, and approval of the contract for a construction manager-at-risk ultimately passed unanimously. (A larger discussion — about the treatment of subcontracted employees on city contracts — has been promised in the future.)

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