Texas Government Insider
Volume 13, Issue 17 - Friday, May 1, 2015

TWDB moves closer to distribution of SWIFT program funding


Thirty-nine projects totaling $4.09 billion scored, prioritized for May 6 meeting

Water Flow

When the Texas Water Development Board adopted rules for the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program and began seeking applications for funding, the response from entities statewide was described as "well in excess of expectations."


TWDB was inundated with applications for funding for water-related projects such as new well construction,water reuse and desalination projects, plant expansions and reservoir projects. 


In all, there were 48 applications seeking a total of more than $5.5 billion. After projects were culled that were ineligible for funding  and some applications withdrawn, 39 applications totaling more than $4.09 billion remained. Those applications represent 29 entities and 30 projects.


The entities were vying for funding authorized during the 83rd Texas Legislature, including a $2 billion appropriation from the state's rainy day fund. The voter-approved SWIFT fund, capitalized by the $2 billion, was geared to provide funding for projects in the State Water Plan through issuance of revenue bonds expected to provide $27 billion in leveraged funds over 50 years.


And now, the long-awaited financial assistance from the SWIFT program is getting one step closer to starting to flow. When the TWDB meets Wednesday, May 6, the board will review a scored, prioritized list of applications for funding. The list representing agency Executive Administrator Kevin Patteson's recommendations based on project scores and their priority, the amount of funding each will receive and the funding structure and terms.


Each of the projects was scored. The scoring was based on  issues such as how large a population the project would serve, the emergency need for the project, whether there is a local financial contribution and if the project assists a diverse urban and rural population. The complete list of eligible applications with their prioritization will be studied by the board members next week.




Almost $168 million to be distributed...


TxDOT approves Proposition One funding for 23 projects

Road Repairs Nearly two-dozen projects statewide that address road construction, rehabilitation and repair will share close to $168 million from Proposition 1 funding that was approved this week by the Texas Transportation Commission. Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment, was approved by Texas voters last November as a means of increasing transportation funding. It allowed the state to divert half of the general revenue from oil and gas tax proceeds that formerly all went into the state's rainy day fund to the State Highway Fund instead. The result will be more than $1 billion per year that will help defray the cost of repair and maintenance of public roads.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director Joe Weber said the agency, along with community leaders and planning organizations, submitted their recommendations for the projects to be funded. "We have selected these projects that will help address the transportation concerns of our citizens," he said. "Texans made a strong statement in voting for Proposition 1 last November, and it is now our responsibility to ensure these funds are put to use in the most efficient and effective manner."

These 23 projects and the remainder of the 200 planned Proposition 1 projects will result in more than 800 miles of rehabilitated highways, nearly 500 miles of new highway lanes, the addition of 159 miles of passing lanes on rural highways and replacement, widening or rehabilitation of 114 bridges. TxDOT listed among the current projects funded the construction of additional lanes on US 277 in Archer County, reconstruction and widening of FM 1637 in McLennan County and the addition of new passing lanes on SH 176 in Andrews County.

In addition to routine rehabilitation and restoration of roadways, some of the Proposition 1 funding will be used to address safety issues on Texas roadways. And, nearly 30 percent of the total of 2015 Proposition 1 funding will be dedicated to address the needs of roadways damaged in energy sectors of the state from increased truck traffic during the state's recent growth in oil and gas exploration.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Iain Vasey Iain Vasey, president/CEO, Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation 


Career highlights and education: Joined Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation in March 2015. Formerly the Executive Director of Economic Development at Baton Rouge Area Chamber (five years). Formerly a vice president at Grubb & Ellis and at Trammell Crow in Phoenix. Economic Development Director in GlendaleArizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Master's degree in community and regional planning from Iowa State University, BA (with honors) from University of Hull in the UK. Certified Economic Developer (IEDC). More than 20 years of public- and private-sector economic development and real estate/site selection experience. I would say my favorite "highlights" would be that my team in Baton Rouge received a "Top Ten Economic Development Organization in the U.S." award for five years in a row, from Site Selection Magazine, and we were named "Major Market of the Year Organization" for two years by Southern Business & Development Magazine. The team awards are the most memorable. I was fortunate to be surrounded by some really excellent economic development people there.

What I like best about my job is: Every day, I get to do something completely different, and no two days are the same. You can meet some of the most interesting and successful people when working in economic development, and I (hopefully) try to learn something from them. I really enjoy helping to provide solutions to challenges, and I enjoy attacking problems - which is a large part of what the core of economic development should be about.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: I just started in this new role in March, so I am still very much listening and learning, and seeking advice from folks who understand the lay of the land. That said, the best advice so far is: "Listen well, be yourself and be straightforward and honest with the people you deal with." That's pretty good advice for life, not just for a job, if you ask me.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: If you listen and have a positive attitude, you can learn and accomplish great things. We are fortunate to have some really, really good economic development professionals and leaders around here, so try to learn from them. The economic development "stuff" can be taught, but a positive attitude will decide if you are successful.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: Engrossed in a book, or walking on the beach on Padre Island. I wish the answer was "in the gym or out for a run" - but let's be honest, we know that would not be true.

People would be surprised to know that I: am from England (born and raised, but I've basically lived my adult life in the United States) because somewhere along the lines most of the accent faded out, and people always ask me "Where did your British accent go? Say something in English..." (and then they realize we're already speaking English). People are even more surprised to realize I am originally from England when they see me in my beat-up, comfy old cowboy boots (I mean, how can you beat a pair of Lucchese boots?) which I've been wearing for years. Oh, and I hate neckties. Should be outlawed.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: For a smaller agency (it has five employees currently), the folks on the team have a lot of experience and knowledge, and the have been very, very effective in delivering some of the largest projects on the Gulf Coast in the last few years. Some really transformational, major industrial investment deals. When I worked in Baton Rouge, we always knew 
that if the Corpus Christi team was our competition for a deal,  we'd have to work that much harder to try to win it. 

Riley chosen as new president of Lone Star College-Montgomery
Rebecca Riley After serving as interim president of Lone Star College-Montgomery since January, Dr. Rebecca Riley (pictured) has been named the college's new president.

Before joining LSC-Montgomery, Riley served as vice president of instruction at LSC-Kingwood. She began her career at LSC-Kingwood in 1993 as an adjunct instructor of art and later held a variety of positions at the college, including professor of art, associate dean and dean of arts and humanities and interim vice president of student success.

Riley holds both bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas Tech University and an Ed.D. from Sam Houston State University.
Agriculture grants totaling more than $1M awarded by TWDB

Grant contracts totaling $1,160,400 from the Agricultural Water Conservation Fund were recently awarded by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) . Grant recipients include Brush Country Groundwater Conservation District, Coastal Bend Groundwater Conservation District, Mesquite Groundwater Conservation District and North Plains Groundwater Conservation District. 

All four districts will use the grants to finance agricultural water conservation metering. They will purchase and install meters on participating producers' wells and reimburse the producers for 50 percent of the costs for the meter installations. The grants help producers manage their irrigation water use. In addition, the districts will be able to improve their efforts to monitor and manage groundwater production using the best available data and science. 

The TWDB will soon publish a request for grant applications to fund agricultural water conservation projects. Applications are being sought for projects from eligible entities. The amount of funding available is close to $330,000 that can be used for cost-sharing of metering equipment in groundwater conservation districts with rules requiring groundwater withdrawal metering. Another $50,000 is available for other entities to pursue similar water use monitoring projects. Applications are due June 3 and the award date is likely to be in August.  


Grow your business

Fort Worth ISD approves $10M upgrade of underground school
Trustees for Fort Worth Independent School District recently approved a $10 million upgrade of the Van Zandt-Gunn Elementary School, a facility in which the classrooms and offices are located underground. Only playground equipment, a parking lot and community garden currently are located at street level of the campus with 349 students enrolled.

Leaking and flooding have occurred at the school located on the east side of the city. Plans call for building a two-story addition with14 classrooms as well as repairing leaks, making drainage improvements and performing other maintenance at the school built in the 1980s. The upgrade also includes the addition of classrooms for special needs students as well as for music and art instruction. The upgrade will add 28,000 square feet of space to house a total of 650 students.

Once the renovations are completed in 2016, district officials expect 200 additional students from Terrell Elementary to transfer to the renovated facility as the Terrell campus will be used for the new Visual and Performing Arts Center and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy.
Amarillo's Shanna Peeples...

National Teacher of Year draws praise from Obama at White House
Teacher of Year
Palo Duro High English teacher Shanna Peeples named 2015 National Teacher of the Year.
"Shanna teaches English at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo. Many of her students face challenges that would overwhelm adults, let alone kids. About 85 percent are considered economically disadvantaged. Many are refugees from places like Iraq and Somalia. Many of them have known trauma and violence in their lives, and borne burdens that no kid should have to bear. Sometimes just showing up to school is hard. But Shanna's classroom provides them a safe haven. And, in Shanna, they find somebody who protects them fiercely and believes in them deeply, and sets high expectations and is confident that they're going to do amazing things."

That's how President Barack Obama described Amarillo teacher Shanna Peeples (pictured), introduced by the President Wednesday as the 2015 National Teacher of the Year. Peeples becomes the first Texas winner of the national honor since 1957. Introduced in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., Peeples was awarded the honor by the program that identifies exceptional teachers nationwide for their work in the classroom and encourages their input in policy discussions at the state and national levels. The program is overseen by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Peeples advanced to the national competition after being named Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year last fall.

Peeples taught seventh grade English Language Arts for about six years and then moved to high school, where she teaches AP English and English III. She also chairs the English department and is an instructional coach for other teachers.

This year's National Teacher of the Year has taught school for a dozen years. She holds an associate's degree from Amarillo College, a bachelor's degree from West Texas A&M University and a master's degree from The University of Texas at Arlington.
New Braunfels Community Recreation Center to undergo expansion
An expansion of the New Braunfels Community Recreation Center has been approved by the City Council. The project will include adding a second pool and a second gym. The goal is to entice sports tournaments to the city, which would bring new money from visitors that would positively affect the local and regional economy.

The expansion costs will be boosted by funding from the New Braunfels ISD and the New Braunfels Industrial Development Corp (4B). The school district has pledged $2.2 million toward the project costs and 4B has indicated it will add another $5.8 million. The entire project is expected to cost $23 million for both design and construction.
Spring ISD considering bond election to pay for new high school
Ann Westbrooks Ann Westbrooks (pictured), interim chief financial officer for Spring Independent School District, recently urged board members to begin discussions on planning for a bond election to pay for a new high school.

Westbrooks said enrollment growth, while not booming, is to grow at a rate of about 0.97 percent each year and is expected to bring 1,800 new students into the district in the next five years.

All of the high schools in the district already are at capacity, said Westbrooks, who urged trustees to approve a facilities study to prepare for a future bond election. The district already has purchased land for the new high school, she said.
May 2015 Texas Bond Results

UT-Austin, Texas A&M announce upcoming projects
The next couple of years on the campuses of The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University will likely see a flurry of activity related to construction and renovations. In the next two years alone, Texas A&M will spend more than $27 million for infrastructure and upgrades following recent approval by the university's Board of Regents. UT-Austin's $166-million plan will go to its Board of Regents for approval next month.

Among the A&M projects are several utility-related projects, including a $5 million upgrade to the hot and chilled water distribution systems in residence halls and Corps of Cadets dorms. A transformer replacement, site labor and a power control room addition project carries a price tag of $4.1 million and another $7.4 million will be spent to refurbish an electrical and steam chiller. The university will also apply for low-interest loans of more than $11.3 million from the State Conservation Office for an energy consumption reduction project.

UT-Austin has on its "to-do" list plans for student housing for more than 700 graduate students, a 12-court tennis center and a parking garage that will hold 2,000 vehicles, all on the east side of I-35.

The East Austin project is expected to cost $166.4 million. The tennis center would be built on UT property that currently houses the UT Press and UT Printing offices. They would be moved to a new location, and the old facilities razed to make room for the tennis facility. Existing property owned by the university would be renovated and used for the UT Press offices.
Four finalists selected to become president of Blinn College
Sylvia McMullen Mary Hensley Four finalists have been named for the presidency of Blinn College, one of them already a Blinn College employee. Sylvia McMullen, J.D. (top left), who currently serves as president of the Brazos County Campuses at Blinn College, is one of the finalists. Other finalists include Mary Hensley, Ed.D. (top right), Maureen Murphy, Ph.D. (bottom right) and Richard Shrubb, Ph.D. (bottom left).

In addition to her current position at Blinn, McMullen previously was president of San Jacinto College South, Houston, part of the San Jacinto College District. She holds a bachelor's degree from Lamar University, a master's from Texas A&M University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Houston.

Hensley is currently the executive vice president at the Austin Community College District, where she previously served as Vice President of College Support Systems and ISD Relations. She holds a Maureen Murphy Richard Shrubb bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's from The University of Texas at El Paso and a doctorate from Baylor University.

Murphy, current president of Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, is a former president of San Jacinto College South. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Louisville in Missouri, a master's from the University of Missouri and a doctorate from Saint Louis University in Missouri.

Shrubb is a former President of Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, Minnesota. His other higher education work history includes having served as Vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Terra State Community College in Freemont, Ohio. He holds a bachelor's degree from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, a master's from William Carey University in Gulfport, Mississippi, and a doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi.
SPI Training Services

Galveston Island State Park to get recovery funds from 2010 oil spill

Parks LogoGalveston Island State Park is in line to receive $10.7 million in compensation for restoring areas damaged in 2010 by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The funds are expected to flow in late 2017. 

Until the funds are received, park officials will keep on keeping on, making do with limited resources. Park Superintendent Trey Goodman said that while the Texas Legislature works on the biennial budget, state support for all Texas parks is still up in the air. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has requested $200 million in additional funds over the two-year biennium. Much of those funds would be used for infrastructure projects that have been put on hold and other projects to prevent park closings. 

The Galveston park is hoping for strong support from the state that officials are hopeful will help the park get by until the 2017 funding from the spill is made available.  

ACC Highland
The end of an era - Austin Community College is now the landlord and tenant of the old Highland Mall property in Austin. This section of ACC Highland is complete, but more of the college's campus is under construction. (TGI photo)

Highland Mall closes doors for last time; ACC campus expanding
Built in 1971, the Highland Mall in north Austin was the city's first major mall. In recent years, tenants have exited the Austin landmark, which has since been bought by the Austin Community College District. The campus' first building on the mall site (as seen in the accompanying photo) has been completed and is in use. Other ACC buildings on the mall site are currently under construction as the district's facilities continue to expand to meet a growing student population. Thanks to voter approval of a $152 million bond issue, Phase II of the Highland redevelopment is under way and will include 415,000 square feet, expanding the campus capacity to an estimated 13,000 students. The mall, which still had a few tenants until recently, officially closed its doors for good on Thursday.
New spaceport infrastructure in Midland expected to cost $4.3M
Midland Space Development Corp. officials recently learned that infrastructure for a proposed Spaceport Business Park at Midland International Air & Space Port is planned in two phases and is estimated to cost about $4.3 million once completed.

Current plans indicate that the first phase of the project will cost about $2.1 million and include a road, water, sewer and drainage infrastructure on undeveloped land in the southwest corner of Midland International Airport. The first phase should be completed in early 2016, officials said.

The second phase of the spaceport business park project is expected to cost about $2.2 million and complete Enterprise Lane to add more access to properties located both with and without access to the runway.
Research Analysts

El Paso Electric kicks off $46.7M Fort Bliss solar plant project
El Paso Electric officials recently chose a California-based company to build a new $46.7 million, 20-megawatt solar plant at Fort Bliss. The company also is seeking approval from regulators in Texas and New Mexico to build the solar plant.

Fort Bliss officials announced the solar plant project two years ago and approved the use of 218 acres of land adjacent to the new William Beaumont Army Medical Center. The solar plant project is located only two miles from a new power plant on Montana and Zaragoza and is designed to help El Paso Electric use its natural gas plants while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Current plans are to pay the construction company $42.1 million to build the solar plant, $1.6 million for additional costs during construction and approximately $3 million to connect the plant to the electrical grid. Fort Bliss officials estimated the plant would cost about $120 million when the project was announced.
CAMPO appoints Ann Kitchen to serve on Capital Metro Board
Ann Kitchen The newest member of the Capital Metro Board of Directors is also a member of the Austin City Council. Ann Kitchen (pictured) was sworn in this week and will complete the term of former Council Member Mike Martinez.

Kitchen has a long history of public service, having been elected to the Texas House of Representatives and having been an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division. Elected to the Austin City Council last November, Kitchen also serves the council as a member of the city's Mobility Committee.

Kitchen was chosen by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) to serve out the remainder of Martinez's term, which expires June 1, 2016. CAMPO also reappointed board member Terry Mitchell to the board and current board Vice Chair Beverly Silas was reappointed by Travis County to serve as its citizen representative on the board.
Collaboration Nation

San Antonio Airport System announces new staff members
Dawson Frank Two employees of the San Antonio Airport System have been promoted to positions in Airport Emergency Management and Integrated Control Center. Dawson Frank (left) has been named Airport Emergency Management manager and Ryan Rocha (right) is the new Airport Integrated Control Center (AICC) manager.

Frank will be responsible for coordinating with local, regional and national organizations to help plan and carry out full-scale emergency exercises at the airport. He will be Ryan Rocha responsible for the Airport Emergency Plan, Communicable Disease Response Plan and Continuity of Operations Plan. He will also manage appropriate emergency plans and severe weather training. Frank's career in airport operations began at the Kansas City International Airport, where he served as an airport operations intern. His career with the San Antonio airport began as an airport Operations supervisor and was later promoted to interim airport emergency coordinator.

Rocha's new position will have him responsible for development and management of the AICC facility. The AICC is the main source of information, communication and operational flow for all stakeholders at the airport. Rocha has been involved in the aviation industry for two decades, and has served as airport operations manager since 2007.


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Dozens of public-sector jobs available. New jobs added this week: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - HUB Certification Analyst, Contract Speciaist II, Systems Analyst V; Texas Military Department - Administrative Assistant IV; Texas General Land Office - Program Specialist III; Ector County - Sheriff's Office Telecommunicator/Dispatcher, Co. Attorney Paralegal Clerk. Click here to view jobs. Free job postings for state and local governments, nonprofits and other public-sector entities. Send your posting to editor@spartnerships.com


Growth in district leading Willis ISD to look at November bond vote
Tim Harkrider While many other school districts throughout the state are planning bond elections later this month, Willis ISD is studying the possibility of calling a bond election in November. A successful bond issue would help the district build new facilities.

One of the possibilities district officials are considering is a bond amount of $90 million. It would include a new elementary school and a Career and Technical Education Center with an auditorium and agriculture center. Superintendent Tim Harkrider (pictured) said the CTE Center would be used for popular courses such as cosmetology, welding and culinary arts.
Bond proceeds also could be used to expand classrooms and restrooms at Brabham and Lynn Lucas middle schools.

The second option would be for construction of a second high school and a new ag center. A bond issue for those projects would cost about $167.5 million.
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Tyler seeking bids for $3.7 million animal shelter renovation
Tyler City Council members recently authorized city staff to seek bids for the first phase of a $3.7 million renovation of an animal shelter.

City officials purchased 10 acres of property along with a 20,000-square-foot building in 2013. A seven-member advisory committee also studied the responsibilities and state law regarding the operation of animal shelters to help design the new animal shelter.

The first phase of the renovations includes 12,000 square feet of space to allow the shelter to house a total of 73 dogs for holding isolation and display, 65 or more cats and an adoption visitation room.

Howard College to eliminate seven positions at San Angelo campus

Trustees for Howard College cited loss of state funding and declining enrollment for their decision to eliminate seven positions at their campus in San Angelo.The decision was difficult, but necessary, according to Dr. Cheryl Sparks, president of Howard College.

Environmental Trade Fair, Conference planned for May 5-6 in Austin

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) annual Environmental Trade Fair and Conference, one of the largest environmental trade fairs in the country, has been set for Wednesday and Thursday, May 5 and 6, at the Austin Convention Center, Third Level, Room 10C. Environmental companies in various trades and suppliers that support this industry will be attending, including most of the agency's prime contractors.  Also, TCEQ staff will be available to provide technical information regarding many of the agency programs. A HUB Economic Opportunity Forum (EOF) as part of the event will provide HUB vendors interested in doing business with TCEQ an opportunity to meet with prime contractors as well as agency staff that may answer any questions attendees may have.  Companies attending the HUB EOF will have access to the exhibit hall.  The agency also has reached out to other state agencies and universities to participate to provide a wider range of information regarding opportunities available through the state of Texas.  HUB officials in various state agencies will be participating. Some of the discussion topics include "How to Write a Winning Proposal" and "Structuring Your Marketing Plan for State Government." Registration is open and a draft agenda is available. Continuing education credit hours are available and networking time is built into the conference. For more information, contact events@tceq.texas.gov.


Annual Aging in Texas Conference (AiTC) slated July 29-31

The 2015 Aging in Texas Conference (AiTC) will be held July 29-31, 2015 in Austin. The AiTC is an annual gathering of individuals who work within the aging community to promote excellence in service delivery for the aging population by sharing technical assistance, best practices and management tools with educational programming covering a variety of areas. The conference is beneficial to everyone involved with caring for Texas seniors- from administrators to service providers. Hosted by the Texas Association of Regional Councils, the Texas Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the Department of Aging and Disability Services, this event builds on the momentum from previous successful conferences and recent initiatives focusing on healthy aging in the community as Texas strives to better serve the growing senior population. The AiTC supports professionals in the field of aging with the most current research, unparalleled trainings and tools and resources. For additional conference details or to register as an attendee, exhibitor or sponsor visit www.txregionalcouncil.org.  Questions? Contact tarc@txregionalcouncil.org.

TxPPA to host Summer Momentum Conference in June
The Texas Public Purchasing Association (TxPPA) will host its Summer Momentum Conference on June 24-26 at La Toretta Resort on Lake Conroe near Montgomery. The 2015 conference will feature informative general sessions, breakout sessions on specific topics requested by members and ample time to network with other attendees. There will be a variety of vendor displays and those attending the conference can earn CPU credits. Early bird registration cost is $300 for members through June 5. The price will increase to $350 after that date. Information on registration and sponsorships is now available. TxPPA is an independent multi-agency organization for public purchasing professionals in Texas. Its members represent cities, counties, schools, colleges, universities, special districts and state agencies.

2015 DIR Information Security Forum dates announced for May
The 2015 Department of Information Resources Information Security Forum (ISF) is planned for Wednesday and Thursday, May 20 and 21, at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin, 78704. The forum is a free educational conference for public sector Information Security Officers, Information Resources Managers and IT staff throughout Texas. The ISF event will feature two days of educational presentations, multiple breakout tracks, inclusion of all levels of Texas government instead of only state, more attendees and more space for exhibitors. Registration opens March 20. The event is free, but requires pre-registration. The event will provide six contact hours of general continuing education credit (six CPEs for Texas IRMs) each day. Already, the Platinum sponsorship level has sold out and gold and silver sponsorships are going fast. Register to become an exhibitor here. Contact isf@dir.texas.gov for more information.

W. Texas Energy Consortium Power in Partnership conference set
The West Texas Energy Consortium (WTxEC) 2nd annual Power in Partnership conference will be held on May 6 and 7 at the McNease Convention Center in San Angelo. WTxEC will present a lineup of experts on regional economic development, STEM, emergency response, industry and more. Tickets and sponsorships available now! For additional details or to register, visit the conference Web site. Interested in a sponsorship? WTxEC has something for everyone. To learn more, contact WTxEC at info@wtxec.org.

Eagle Ford Consortium Conference accepting registrations
Online registration has opened and sponsorships are being accepted for the upcoming 4th Annual Eagle Ford Consortium Conference. This year's event will be May 27-29 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, 600 E. Market Street in San Antonio. The conference will feature local and international speakers. Confirmed as one of the speakers is Texas Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick. Those attending will hear about how others have turned the challenges in the Eagle Ford Shale into opportunities. Other discussions will include how small and medium businesses can be connected to the Mexican Energy Reform and address real time information directly from the oil and gas industry. Speakers will discuss the impact oil and gas exploration within the Eagle Ford Shale will have on local business, industry, communities and public entities. The agenda and complete list of speakers will be announced as the date of the conference approaches. Exhibitor information is also available. For more info, contact info@eaglefordconsortium.org.
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Some of America's best-kept secrets...


Mary Scott NabersBy Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.


American ports create 13 million jobs and generate more than $200 billion each year in federal, state and local taxes. Taxpayers rarely think about them and elected officials tend to underfund them. In spite of that, America's ports are huge national assets and they will have even greater value in the very near future.

Experts predict that the amount of port cargo headed to the United States will double by 2020 once the two new locks on the Panama Canal are completed. Large megaships will become the norm and port activity will be great. Unfortunately, few American ports are prepared to accommodate the increased business or the larger vessels without major renovations.

Texas boasts 16 ports from the coastline of Brownsville to the Golden Triangle. At least 564.7 million tons of cargo move through the ports and that generates about $277.6 billion in economic activity to the state. Additionally, Texas ports create approximately 1.4 million jobs and generate $82.8 billion in personal income, according to the Texas Ports Association. 

For more than a dozen years, Texas has continued to lead the nation in exports. Last year, the state's exports exceeded $289 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The economic impact is far-reaching.

The Port of Houston, one of the world's busiest ports, has launched several recent projects. Its current list of proposed projects include structural repairs, wharf rehabilitation, building demolition, fiber optic installation projects, port security, channel development and construction of a rail spur. This year alone, the port expects to spend upwards of $275 million on capital projects.
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Multi-purpose center among projects planned for Eagle Pass

The city of Eagle Pass is preparing to issue $10 million in Certificates of Obligation to help fund seven major projects in the city. Among the projects are construction and improvements to city streets, drainage, curb and gutter projects, park improvements, land purchases, renovations to City Hall, the city library and Public Safety Headquarters and equipment purchases.


Another major project on the drawing board is a new multi-purpose center. The facility will house locker rooms, workout facilities and a gymnasium with seating for athletic events.

Thomas chosen chair of Texas A&M System Board of Regents
Cliff Thomas A former Texas A&M University football player has been chosen chair of the university's Board of Regents. Cliff Thomas (top), a Victoria businessman, will serve as chair through Feb. 1, 2017. Named vice chair is San Antonio businesswoman Elaine Mendoza (bottom), who will also serve through the 2017 date.

Thomas is the owner and CEO of Thomas Elaine Mendoza Petroleum LLC, Speedy Stop Food Stores and C.L. Thomas Inc. He began his service on the A&M Board of Regents in 2011 after having been appointed by then-Gov. Rick Perry. In 2013, he was elected to serve a two-year term as vice chair. He currently serves as a member of the Committee on Audit and Committee on Buildings and Physical Plan. He also serves as special athletic liaison to A&M System members and as liaison to the 12th Man Foundation.

Mendoza is the founder, president and CEO of Conceptual MindWorks, Inc., a biotechnology and medical informatics company.
Little Elm ISD names Van Zandt coordinator of languages, literacy
Little Elm Independent School District board members recently named Ann Van Zandt as the coordinator for languages and literacy with curriculum services.

Van Zandt previously served as a teacher and administrator for Lewisville ISD. She has a bachelor's degree from LaTourneau University and a master's degree from the University of North Texas.
HDI Solutions

Lubbock ISD selects West 
as new assistant superintendent
Dorthery West Lubbock Independent School District trustees recently selected Dorthery West (pictured) as the new assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Currently a director at Garland ISD, she also has been a teacher and a principal.

West has a bachelor's degree from Cameron University in Oklahome, a master's degree from Texas Woman's University and an Ed.D. from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Two rural projects awarded funding assistance from TWDB
Financial assistance has been approved by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for two rural water projects. The projects will allow the two communities to reduce water loss, maximize efficiency and analyze a proposed water supply project. The awards include:
  • Corix Utilities, Inc. - $153,000 to finance construction costs associated with the replacement of existing water meters for four water systems., and
  • Hazy Hills Water Supply Corp. in Travis County - $94,000 for a water supply project. The planning and design phase will allow the corporation to analyze a proposed water supply project that would include the construction of a new well, storage tank and other water system improvements. 
Bentsen selected as parks, recreation director in Mission
Brad Bentsen Brad Bentsen (pictured) recently accepted an offer to serve as the new director of parks and recreation in Mission.

Currently parks superintendent and horticulture manager in McAllen, Bentsen previously was a landscaper in private business. While in McAllen, he was in charge of all exterior building maintenance and supervised construction.

Bentsen replaces Julian Gonzales, who resigned in December to become city manager in Hidalgo.
Northrop Grumman

Agricultural conservation 
grants available through TWDB
Groundwater conservation districts that qualify are being urged by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to apply for conservation grants.

Funding available includes $329,600 for cost-sharing of metering equipment in groundwater districts with rules requiring metering of groundwater withdrawals. Another $50,000 is available for entities to seek similar water use monitoring projects. Applications are due on Jun 3.  Applications and instructions are available online.
Plainview ISD reorganizes 
staff, selects two new directors
Plainview Independent School District officials recently approved a reorganization of staff and announced the appointment of Sylvia Suarez as the new director of elementary instructional services and Robin Straley as the new director for secondary instructional services.

Suarez previously served as an elementary principal and is completing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech University. Straley currently is director of curriculum, instruction and school improvement for Hart ISD and previously worked for Frenship ISD and Roosevelt IDSD. Straley has a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University and a master's degree from Lubbock Christian University.
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Hickory Creek selects Smith 
as new town administrator
Hickory Creek city officials recently selected the former mayor, John Smith, as the new town administrator to replace Roger Mangum, who retired in December.

Smith resigned as mayor in Hickory Creek after serving in that post for nine years before agreeing to serve as town administrator. He begins his new duties on May 4. Smith also served on the town council and on the board of the economic development corporation prior to his appointment as town administrator.
Olney approves $2.44 million 
water reuse project
Olney City Council members recently approved $2.44 million in funding to pay for building a pipeline to deliver water from the city's wastewater treatment plant to Lake Olney.

City officials are using bonds to pay for the water reuse project and plan to seek bids for the pipeline project in midsummer.
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Longview interviews finalists 
for parks, recreation director
Longview city officials recently interviewed five finalists selected from a field of 50 candidates to fill the job of director of parks and recreation. In a recent vote, council members agreed to separate the parks and recreation department from the community services department.

The finalists, three from Texas and two from out of state, are Scott Caron, a parks and recreation director in Rolla, Missouri; Karen Holmes, a former superintendent of recreation in Wichita, Kansas: Joel McKnight, an assistant director of parks and recreation in El Paso; Dave Melaas, a former deputy director of parks and recreation in McAllen; and John Whitmore, manager of organizational development in Denton.

Council members are expected to announce the new parks and recreation director in mid-May.

Plainview, county to purchase 
land for economic development
Wendell Dunlap Plainview City Council members recently agreed to join with Hale County commissioners to partner in buying land for future economic development in the community.

City officials plan to work with county officials on an interlocal agreement and provide more information once the agreement is development, said Mayor Wendell Dunlap (pictured) of Plainview.

Hale County commissioners previously approved spending up to $110,000 for the land, but neither city nor county officials released information on the size or location of the property.
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Belton planning to apply for
$1.5 million for hike, bike trail
Belton City Council members recently agreed to apply for a $1.5 million grant to pay for the second phase of the Chisholm Trail Corridor Hike and Bike Trail.

The proposed 10-foot wide, 1.4-mile long trail is designed to connect Sparta Elementary School to the University of Mary Hardin Baylor and trails along University Blvd.

The new trail will allow students to access more retail facilities by walking or riding a bike rather than driving an automobile, city officials said.

Brown resigns as city administrator in Huntington

Dale Brown, the city administrator in Huntington, recently resigned from that position. Brown joined the city earlier this year after serving as interim city administrator.

San Antonio ISD selects Martinez as lone finalist for superintendent
Pedro Martinez San Antonio Independent School District trustees recently selected Pedro Martinez (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Another finalist for the job, Dr. Scott R. Muri, withdrew his name from consideration after being named the lone finalist for superintendent by another school district.

Currently the superintendent in residence for the Nevada Department of Education, Martinez also was superintendent for Washoe County School District in Nevada and the chief financial officer for Chicago Public Schools.

Martinez has a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois-Champaign and an MBA from DePaul University. He also graduated from the Broad Superintendents Academy.

Army Corps of Engineers OKs $572M Trinity River Project plan
The Army Corps of Engineers recently approved plans from the city of Dallas to proceed with the $572 million Trinity River Project to repair levees, build a new road and increase park space along the river. The goal is to improve flood protection, provide an alternate route to relieve downtown highways and create more recreation along the path of the river.

The decision by the Corps permits city officials to seek funding from the U.S. Congress for the project as the Corps found the project passes environmental requirements whether a proposed Trinity Pathway toll road is built or the proposed road is eliminated. The plan calls for lakes, plazas, athletic fields, trails, an amphitheater and green spaces along the winding pathway of the river as well as repairs to levees rated last year as minimally acceptable.
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Abilene ISD sets goal to select

new superintendent in late July

Abilene Independent School District trustees recently adopted a timeline in which to select a new superintendent to lead the district.


Board members set the deadline for submitting applications for superintendent prior to July 2. Search firm representatives then plan to review the candidates and contact each applicant for a telephone interview.


Board members plan to bring finalists in for personal interviews until July 14 and for the new superintendent to begin work on Aug. 18. The district begins the school year on Aug. 24.

Texas Government Insider Archives  

Governor's appointments
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • S. Javaid Anwar of Midland, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board;
  • Dr. John Coble, chair, Texas Optometry Board;
  • Dr. Carey A. Patrick, Texas Optometry Board;
  • Dr. Ronald L. Hopping, Texas Optometry Board;
  • Rene D. Peña, Texas Optometry Board;
  • Greg Compean of Richmond, Texas Funeral Service Commission;
  • Larry Allen of Mesquite, Texas Funeral Service Commission;
  • Patricia "Patti" James of Houston, chair, Private Security Board;
  • Claude "C.D." Siems of Houston, Private Security Board;
  • Veronica Muzquiz Edwards of San Antonio, Texas State University Board of Regents; 
  • Alan L. Tinsley of Madisonville, Texas State University Board of Regents; 
  • David Montage of Beaumont, Texas State University Board of Regents 
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