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County eyes its own property for commercial ad revenue

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County could go commercial under a proposed policy previewed at the Commissioners Court on Tuesday. Purchasing Agent Cyd Grimes presented a rough draft of a plan that could open the way for advertisements to be posted on county-owned property, including buildings, vehicles and websites. Grimes said the heads of various county departments “will come to the Purchasing Office and make recommendations on how we might make revenue in any of those situations. And then we will come to Commissioners Court and outline why we think that’s a good idea. Once you give us permission to go forth, we will advertise if appropriate and try to compete for this business.” One key hangup, however, is the content of potential ads. Among the proposed restrictions, according to Grimes, would be any messages touting weapons, sexually oriented businesses, tobacco products, profanity or libelous comments. Left undetermined, though, is the fate of ads for alcohol. Roger El-Khoury, director of the Facilities Management Department, requested an exception for boozy material at the Travis County Expo Center, where alcohol is sold at many events, such as Rodeo Austin. “The county allowed Rodeo Austin to post signs to advertise many products in the buildings, including alcohol signs and banners. They post them in the buildings inside and outside – also on the ground,” El-Khoury said. “And we collect about $180,000 per year from the rodeo.” The court voted 4-0 with Commissioner Ron Davis absent to direct staff to write that exception into the proposed policy. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt indicated that she would schedule another discussion on the matter in two weeks.

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