Travis County commissioners decided against sending two staffers to London, England, to observe preparations for the July 8 Santander British Grand Prix.
The proposed plan, presented by Judge Samuel T. Biscoe at the commissioners' June 26 meeting, was for Fire Marshal Hershel Lee and a member of the Travis County Sheriff's Department to visit England July 3–9 to observe to how the Silverstone track handled operations.
Biscoe and Commissioner Margaret Gomez voted in favor. Commissioners Karen Huber and Sarah Eckhardt opposed. Commissioner Ron Davis was absent. The motion died.
Learning in person
In a June 25 memo, Biscoe wrote that he and a Circuit of The Americas representative had discussed the idea June 20.
"We both agree that it would be invaluable for the right county professionals to observe the preparations for and a race in person. Although much can be learned from reading, watching races on TV and talking with officials who have participated in and coordinated similar events, nothing beats observing a comparable race in person," he wrote. "[The Canadian Grand Prix] was closer to us; however, that site is temporary, not permanent."
The Canadian Grand Prix also took place on June 10—10 days before Biscoe said he spoke with the COTA official.
Biscoe wrote that COTA would pay for airfare, hotel and transportation costs for the two staffers. Travis County would pick up a per diem of $45–$50 and other employee expenses.
During the June 26 meeting, Biscoe said the trip would not be a conflict of interest, or have the appearance of one, because he is not going. The judge is an elected official and signed COTA's mass gathering permit.
"I've concluded that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of going," he said.
Lee said Travis County has never coordinated an event that drew 120,000 people in an unincorporated area of the county. He wanted to learn about fire systems, crowd dynamics, "dry camping"—camping without water or electrical access—and evacuation protocol, among other topics.
Huber said she was concerned that the fire marshal would be out of the country during the Fourth of July holiday with dry conditions, though Lee affirmed that his deputy fire marshals planned to work during the holiday.
Huber said while she saw the value in having county staff observe the race, she did not have enough information to back what she called an open-ended motion. She said she hoped there would be another chance to attend an event with more notice so the staff had more time to prepare.
Eckhardt said she was not convinced of the usefulness of the trip. She did not know if there was a comparable track to COTA that staffers could visit. She thought there would be a great deal of benefit in staffers attending a different race before November.