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New details, hiccups in sobriety center plan

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

A few new details about a proposed sobriety center stumbled out of Tuesday’s Travis County Commissioners Court meeting. While briefing the court on the progress of their work, members of a group tasked with exploring options for the center revealed that it would likely cost upward of $840,000 to convert the soon-to-be-vacated Medical Examiner’s Office building into what is otherwise known as a drunk tank. The group said that it is still working out both the governance and the funding for the proposal, and it added that the city of Austin is currently reviewing a draft interlocal agreement that will sort out some of the larger questions. However, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty pointed out what he called the “800-pound gorilla in the room”: The proposed location of the ME’s building on Sabine Street hasn’t won support from the interests behind a massive redevelopment project that would transform University Medical Center Brackenridge. A representative from the Downtown Austin Alliance also has indicated that that group’s support for the plan hinges on the co-location of an Austin Police substation in the facility, something APD says is unlikely due to lack of parking. If the sobriety center proposal manages to clear those obstacles, it could be operational in late 2017.

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