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[re]Manufacturing Hub facing questions

Thursday, January 28, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert is asking City Council today to approve the sale of approximately 9 acres of land on Winnebago Lane in order to help finance the department’s development of the Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub. Opposing Gedert in this plan are the owners of Texas Disposal Systems, who see the new facility as a competitor to its recycling business. Gedert is proposing to sell the tract on Winnebago Lane for $1.45 million as part of a $7.5 million financing package. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, chair of the Audit and Finance Committee, sponsored a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting opposing the sale of the property. Gedert said he has commitments from various companies outside of Austin who wish to be part of the [re]Manufacturing Hub if Austin will provide the facility. Tovo said she supports the hub and asked staff to figure out some other way to finance it. She said she would like to see the property used by local artists. Council Member Leslie Pool supported the motion, and Council Member Pio Renteria voted in opposition. Council Member Ellen Troxclair had already left the meeting at the time the resolution came up, so the motion passed on a 2-1 vote. Tovo is likely to seek a postponement of the property sale today unless she has the votes to cancel it. Adam Gregory, part of the family that owns TDS, told the Austin Monitor, “We do not know to what extent the staff will subsidize a hand-picked group of private recycling businesses. We hope to be able to support the staff’s plan, but at this point we feel the staff has not justified the expense of $7.5 million in taxpayer dollars. Public subsidy of certain businesses can have seriously detrimental impacts on the content of the markets we depend on.” Robin Schneider with Texas Campaign for the Environment told the committee that her organization supports the new facility. Gedert is under some time pressure to put the money together for the facility because in order to receive a grant, the project must begin construction by July.

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