Mega-shuffle at Austin mega-shelter

The volunteers were ready to help. The tape had been meticiously placed on the Austin Convention Center floor, marking off spots for 2500 Harvey evacuees to sleep -- the first step in hosting as many as 5 to 7,000 at the request of the State of Texas.

But as of Thursday morning the city's 'mega-shelter' still wasn't operational and volunteer David Montoya was just looking for some answers.

"It's a process that they're not very good at and it's real upsetting for the people that are really wanting to come in, work hard and get this done," Montoya said.

He and other volunteers Fox 7 spoke with said they were told cots were supposed to be delivered Wednesday.

"Got here this morning finding out that they didn't come in which is frustrating because there were other volunteers that came around and they were ready to work...and we were just detained at the door, we weren't able to even go around and sit down anywhere," Montoya said.

At an emergency city council meeting Thursday morning, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Juan Ortiz told council the city is now only looking to get 1500 to 2000 evacuees.

"There's a lot of unknowns still as to the timeline of when those evacuating guests are going to arrive.  The state is having difficulty assertaining how fast they can get them and a lot of those folks there that were impacted want to stay close to home," Ortiz told council.

So...change of plans.  No more convention center mega-shelter.  The city asked council to approve leasing a vacant 160,000 square foot facility on Metropolis Drive in south Austin.  It's in Council Member Delia Garza'a district.

"This is...in my opinion not the most...not the best place for a shelter, I feel like they're going to be out on an industrial island but I appreciate that you've said that we've looked everywhere and we've looked at all kinds of options so if in city staff's opinion this is the best and safest, then I can support that," Garza said.

The city says the new mega-shelter location has space for support operations, on-site parking, room for portable showers and 18 loading docks for supply delivery.  Basically, they're saying it's a better spot since we don't know exactly how many evacuees are coming and when they'll be coming.

Ortiz explained the cot situation at the convention center.

"Once we started receving information from the state that there was a possibility that they were going to modify the requests, we stopped the delivery of some of those operations just -- allow some of the things to continue but put certain things on hold until we validate some of this information," Ortiz said.

City Council approved leasing the building.  It was unanimous.

The interim City Manager said this morning there are conventions coming up at the convention center and that was part of the decision here -- trying to figure out which ones to cancel due to not knowing when the evacuees would get here.

The cost to lease this is about a million dollars for 8 months but it's in 30-day increments so they may not need it that long.  That money will be reimbursed by the state.

The city says over the next few days they'll be consolidating the shelters at the schools so they'll come to the mega-shelter followed by however many more evacuees decide to come to Austin after that.

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