Texas Government Insider
Volume 12, Issue 42 - Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

$6.8 billion in bond issues at stake in Texas in Nov. 4 election

 

Cities, school districts, community colleges, hospital districts ask voter approval

Bond Election
Amid candidate political signs posted at an Austin voting site, the first phase of the Austin Community College at Highland Mall campus rises in the background. The college is among 70 entities seeking to pass $6.8 billion in bond issues next Tuesday. 

Bond issues totaling more than $6.8 billion will go before Texas voters in the upcoming Nov. 4 election. Seeking to pass bond issues are 48 school districts, 17 cities, towns and villages, four community colleges and two hospital districts. Last November, more than $5.1 billion in bond issues went before voters, with more than $3.9 billion passing. 


The city of Austin's $1 billion bond vote is the largest of the more than 70 up for voter approval. In Austin, city officials are asking voters for their billion-dollar approval to fund urban rail, highway projects and related transportation studies.


Also in the Austin area, the Austin Community College (ACC) is one of four community colleges seeking to pass bond votes totaling $1.04 billion. The value of ACC's bond vote is $386 million. Part of the funding would be for another phase of the new Highland Mall campus. 

 

ACC this year opened the first phase of the transformation of the mall into a central Austin campus. This second phase would include a workforce center, incubator space and health sciences/STEM lab. The three remaining community college bonds would pay for a variety of projects, including upgrades, renovations and new construction. Campus infrastructure needs also are addressed in the bond votes as are technology improvements and upgrades.
 

A growing number of school districts throughout the state are facing having to call bond elections because of declining state and federal funding. And, while residents of the various districts are tax increase-averse, bonding is often the last - and only - resort to help keep up with the state's growing population and increasing school enrollments.


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Controversial TxDOT paved-to-gravel road program scrapped
When some paved roads were damaged by high truck traffic due to the oil and gas boom in certain areas of the state, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) began converting some of those roads to gravel surfaces. They were called "ill-conceived road conversions" by House Speaker Joe Straus. The agency drew widespread criticism - much of it from the Texas Legislature - when last year it announced plans to convert 83 miles of paved road in South and West Texas to gravel. TxDOT said it did not have the funds to repair the roads.

This week, the agency announced that it has ended the program. In a letter to the Legislative Budget Board announcing the end of the program, TxDOT officials also asked for $402 million in additional funding from the state highway fund through the remainder of the current fiscal year. Plans are to split that funding between key safety projects throughout the state and road repairs on roadways damaged by the drilling boom.

Straus said in a mailout that with additional funding, TxDOT will be able to be pro-active and prioritize maintenance on these roads before they become a safety issue and before repairs are too costly. "I'm confident that the approach that has been developed will improve safety and mobility while better promoting economic activity," said the Speaker.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

 

Nelda Martinez Nelda Martinez, mayor, city of Corpus Christi 

 

Career highlights and education: As a business woman, I have successfully owned and grown four businesses. Graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. With my City Council team, secured a sustainable water supply to approximately 2040 with the Mary Rhodes Pipeline Phase II. With a regional team, obtained critical funding for our national bridge of significance, the Harbor Bridge. After decades of neglect, our Council team implemented an unprecedented street maintenance fee program.

What I like best about my job is: The first and most obvious answer for me is the people. I interact with people from all walks of life and continually see the spirit of community that makes the Coastal Bend such a unique and wonderful place. 

The best advice I've received for my current job is not so much advice as it is an acknowledgment that our city employees are the backbone of our community. These are the people who have direct interactions with citizens every day. Our employees are passionate, dedicated and very capable in their noble mission of public service. 

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: We are in the customer service business and taking care of our citizens is our priority. Addressing their concerns timely, completely and with respect is our mission. 

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: enjoying any number of our beautiful natural resources. One of my favorite spots is a hidden oasis called Blucher Park, just five minutes from City Hall, that serves as a resting place for migratory birds from around the world. 

People would be surprised to know that I: obtained my motorcycle license during my college days at The University of Texas at Austin. Owned and reveled in riding a Harley Davidson. Been bungee jumping. Hot air ballooning. And love reading poetry.

One thing I wish more people knew about my city: We have the most passionate, hardworking and committed city employees in the Milky Way Galaxy! 

OAG Child Support Division wins another national honor
Charles Smith
Charles Smith, deputy for the Child Support Division of he OAG, accepts the 'best in the nation' award.
The Child Support Division of the Texas Office of the Attorney General has brought home another national award. The child support program was only recently recognized by the National Child Support Enforcement Association as the best in the nation. Now it can add Outstanding Program Award recipient from the Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Council (WICSEC).

Charles Smith, Deputy for the Child Support Division, accepted the award at WICSEC's 2014 Annual Training Conference in San Diego, California. This is the third time that the Texas program has received top honors from WICSEC, having also won in 2007 and 2010.

The award recognizes a state, regional, county or tribal program that consistently and comprehensively exemplifies excellence in child support enforcement. That excellence in the Texas program was easily measured thanks to being ranked first in the nation for total collections, first in the nation for collections per full-time employee and first in the nation for cost effectiveness.

For the last seven years, the Attorney General's Child Support Division has collected more child support than any other state in the nation. Texas's collections per employee averaged $1.35 million, compared to the national average of $560,000 per employee. In addition, by collecting $11.61 for every dollar spent, the Texas program ranks first in cost effectiveness, and surpasses the national average of $5.47 by 212 percent.

City of San Antonio approves Vista Ridge Pipeline project
It was not without opposition, but the San Antonio City Council Thursday unanimously voted approval for the Vista Ridge Pipeline, a $3.4 billion project that will pipe in water to the city from Burleson County. The 142-mile pipeline is expected to provide 16.3 billion gallons of water annually to the city for the next three decades.

Two hours of testimony from both opponents and proponents of the project preceded the vote. The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) said it is still negotiating the cost per acre-foot. The original price was about $3,800 per acre-foot, which has since been negotiated down to about $2,300 per acre-foot. SAWS officials also note that city residents will pay about 16 percent more for water beginning in a few years because of the project.

Final rule recommendations for SWIFT facing TWDB vote Nov. 6
Water Final rules recommendations relating to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) have been posted by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The rules will be voted on at the TWDB Nov. 6 meeting.

SWIFT was created by HB 4 with SJR 1, as a water infrastructure bank to give TWDB more options for assisting with financing of projects in the current state water plan. The rules being recommended are to set standards for determining if projects meet the criteria for funding while also setting the criteria for the board in prioritizing projects.

The SWIFT money will not be awarded directly to government entities, but will be used as a source of revenue that TWDB will be able to use to offer low-interest loans, longer repayment terms on loans and deferral of loan payments.

Work on the new rules began last January and has included input from stakeholders and the public. Work sessions were held throughout the state so that input could be received. Written comments were also solicited on the proposed rules. The TWDB meeting on Nov. 6 will be at 1 p.m. in Room 1-111 of the William B. Travis Building, 1701 N. Congress in Austin. 


Texas Enterprise Fund money goes to Siro Group for Seguin plant
The state has invested $800,000 of Texas Enterprise Fund money in Siro Group USA. As a result, the company will open a manufacturing facility in Seguin. The facility is expected to create more than 200 jobs while putting $58.5 million in capital investment in the local economy.

Grupo Siro, the parent company of Siro Group USA, is a leader in the Spanish food industry, with 19 production facilities, a research and development center and headquarters in five countries. The company produces baby food, cookies, pastries, pasta, frozen desserts, bread and cereals. Many of its products are sold to retailers as private label products. Terry Trevino, Director of The Seguin Economic Development Corporation, said the company coming to Seguin is "another great step in our quest to add more diverse jobs here." 

November 2024 Texas Bond Results

A&M expected to announce Weslaco engineering school today
Joey Trevino Officials with Texas A&M University were to be in Weslaco today, Friday, for an expected announcement that Texas A&M-Kingsville will begin an engineering program that will eventually have 800 students studying chemical and petroleum engineering at a School of Engineering in Weslaco. The locals are hopeful that this will be the first step toward creating a Texas A&M University - Rio Grande Valley.

In fact, A&M-Kingsville officials say that they will request $5.5 million during the next legislative session to construct buildings for an engineering school. Joey Trevino (pictured), executive director of Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, let the cat out of the bag at a recent meeting. An A&M-Kingsville official sent emails describing today's announcement as "a pioneering A&M-Kingsville engineering initiative in the Rio Grande Valley."

Trevino said Texas A&M wants to focus on aspects of engineering that are not currently taught at UT-Pan American and that South Texas College and Texas State Technical College-Harlingen would be "feeder" colleges to the new school. Classes would likely start next spring.
LSC-SFA to partner for student transfer between institutions
Agreement Reached

Dr. Richard Berry (left), SFA provost and vice president of academic affairs, shakes hands with Steven C. Head, Ph.D., Lone Star College chancellor, after signing the agreement.

A partnership that will lead to an easier student transfer from a two-year institution of higher education to a four-year university was recently signed by officials of Lone Star College (LSC) in Houston and Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) in Nacogdoches. The agreement will address a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences program. "Lone Star College is focused on student success," said LSC Chancellor Stephen Head. "This program will help more Lone Star College students who want to further their education in these career and technical disciplines."

The agreement with SFA will benefit LSC students who earn Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in numerous programs, by allowing them to continue on toward a bachelor's degree at SFA. Many students seek AAS degrees to be skilled enough to work in a specific industry or career not usually designed to transfer to a university. But, this agreement will ensure that some of those lower-level courses can be transferred toward a bachelor's degree at SFA.

AAS degrees are often for students seeking credentials for work in a specific industry or career and aren't typically designed for transfer to universities. This agreement helps assure that the lower-level courses will easily transfer into the bachelor's program at SFA.
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Pharr wins $1.2 million federal grant for international bridge center
Pharr city officials recently accepted a $1.2 million federal grant to help pay for a $2.2 million international bridge center to encourage economic growth at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.

The proposed 3,000-square-foot building is designed as a business incubator, a venue to stage trade seminars and as the office of the administrators of the bridge. Construction on the new international bridge center is scheduled to begin in early 2015.

City officials agreed to match the $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build the facility at the international bridge, which is expected to experience a big increase in truck traffic with the opening of the new Mazatian-Matamoros superhighway in Mexico.
Bynum selected as interim vice president at West Texas A&M 
Tim Bynum Tim Bynum (pictured), director of development at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU), recently won selection as interim vice president for institutional advancement. He is replacing Dr. Neal Weaver, who resigned to serve as a vice president at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

His new duties include overseeing the Office of Development and Major Gifts, the Annual Fund, Alumni Relations, Advancement Services, the Office of Communication and Marketing and the WTAMU Foundation. He previously was a senior development officer for the College of Agriculture, Science and Engineering. Bynum has a bachelor's degree from WTAMU.
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Dallas-Fort Worth airport wins $2M grant to upgrade Terminal B
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport officials recently won a $2 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to upgrade Terminal B to help reduce emissions and improve air quality.

The grant will be used to pay for installation of 12 electric gates at Terminal B and the installation of seven pre-conditioned air units for parked aircraft to reduce or eliminate the need for using diesel or jet-fuel while passengers are loading or unloading from the aircraft.

The FAA awarded $10.2 million in grants from the Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) program totaling $10.2 million to six airports to improve the environment and reduce pollution. Other airports receiving VALE grants were Albuquerque International Sunport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Yeager Airport in West Virginia.
Smith tapped as interim district president for Collin College
Colleen Smith Dr. Colleen Altaffer Smith (pictured) recently won appointment by the board of trustees of Collin College as the interim district president. Effective on Nov. 10, Smith will replace Cary A. Israel, who resigned from that post.

Most recently the senior vice president of academic affairs and student development at Collin College, Smith previously was president of Cisco College. She also served as an associate dean, a divisional chair and a professor.

Smith has a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University-Commerce. She is expected to remain as interim president until trustees conduct a national search and the new president is hired.
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Dallas tourism officials ask $300M in upgrades to convention center
Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau officials recently agreed to ask city council members to place a resolution on the ballot asking voters to approve a 2 percent increase in the hotel/motel tax. The funding would pay for upgrading and expanding the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

The proposal currently calls for spending $150 million of the increased tax revenue to create more ballroom and meeting space and $100 million for improvements to the convention center, including making it more energy efficient.

If approved by voters in November 2015, the resolution would allow tourism officials to expand the convention center by about 1.15 million square feet. The total hotel occupancy tax in Dallas would increase from 15 percent to 17 percent, near the rate for the hotel occupancy tax in Houston.
UT Southwestern Medical Center unveils new $800 million hospital
Daniel Podolsky UT Southwestern Medical Center officials recently unveiled the new $800 million William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital to provide patient-centered care in Dallas.

The 12-floor, 460-bed hospital will also provide education and training of health care providers and conduct medical research, noted Daniel Podolsky, M.D., (pictured), president of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"The William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital represents an enormously important step for the medical center," said Podolsky. "The hospital is a vehicle for our physicians, nurses and staff to provide the best possible care and experience for patients."

The new hospital, named for the former governor who contributed $100 million to UT Southwestern, replaces St. Paul University Hospital. The new hospital is scheduled to begin treating patients on Dec. 6, Podolsky said.
Collaboration Nation

Seguin OKs $1.4M plan to renovate hotel to house oil field workers

Seguin City Council members recently approved a 10-year tax abatement to developers of the Park Plaza Hotel to renovate the hotel built in 1917 into residential units to serve oil field workers needed in the Eagle Ford Shale region. The hotel project also will include a restaurant, fitness center and rooftop garden for workers who will be shuttled to their jobs south and east of the city.

Klein ISD panel urges $498.1 million bond election in May 2015
Jim Cain Members of a bond steering committee for Klein Independent School District recently agreed to urge trustees to ask voters to approve $498.1 million in bonds in May 2015. Committee members reviewed capital improvement projects costing more than $725 million to arrive at the $498.1 million proposal, said Superintendent Jim Cain (pictured).

Projects included in the recommendation are $223 million to build new schools, including a $120 million high school, $46.36 million for a new intermediate school and $25.8 million for a new elementary school.

Committee members, comprised of local representatives and district staff members, plan to review and give final approval for the recommendation at their next meeting before sending it to trustees to consider on Dec. 8. Trustees expect to vote on whether to schedule a bond election and the projects to include in the proposal in January 2015, Cain said.
Longview citizens support for most of comprehensive plan
At a recent public hearing, a majority of Longview citizens expressed support for the preliminary draft of a proposed $225,000 comprehensive plan to serve as a roadmap for future development in the city.

More than 50 percent of those attending the public hearing supported the city using public-private partnerships to redevelop troubled structures and properties while many residents opposed issuing bonds to upgrade the city's park system or for future annexation.

A Fort Worth-based consultant prepared the study by reviewing future land use, transportation, public facilities, parks and recreation needs, economic development, neighborhood and community livability, annexation and growth management. The consultant also surveyed citizens. The proposed comprehensive plan will be reviewed and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission before being presented to council members in February for final approval.
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College Station eyeing $2M playground for special needs children

College Station City Council members recently set a public meeting to gather public input on a proposal to build a $2 million "Fun for All Playground" at Stephen C. Beachy Central Park to serve about 20,000 Brazos Valley residents with disabilities.

 

The special needs playground will feature ramps instead of stairs, swings with back and leg support and trails to accommodate a person in a wheelchair and a person walking next to the wheelchair, noted David Schmitz, director of parks and recreation for the city. The enclosed playground also will accommodate children with developmental disabilities by providing areas with sand and water features, he said.

 

City officials have allotted $500,000 for the special needs playground and plan to seek grant funds and work with community leaders and area service clubs to raise donations. The park is designed to act as a regional draw and attract as many as 500 people a day, Schmitz said.

Bastrop County seeking $4.5 million grant to build new fire station
Mike Fisher Bastrop County commissioners recently approved an agreement with Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD 2) to enter into the final phases of applying for a grant to build a new fire station. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding the grant through the community development block grant program of the Texas General Land Office.

The agreement calls for the county to oversee a majority of the administrative duties such as hiring and reviewing the work of a design architect, the construction manager and an additional engineer as well as designing and installing drainage features. ESD 2 officials agreed to obtain all permits, approvals, applications and easements required for the project and to buy and install furniture and equipment at the fire station when completed.

Current plans are for the environmental review of the project to be completed in about 30 days. County officials will then begin seeking proposals for architects, engineers and a construction manager, noted Mike Fisher (pictured), the emergency management coordinator for the county. Construction on the new fire station to be located on SH95 should begin in early 2015, he said.
Travis County looking at courthouse bond election in May 2015
Travis County commissioners recently began preparing for a bond election in May 2015 to ask voter approval for a new $300 million downtown civil courthouse and other capital projects.

County officials approved two contracts of about $3 million each with two consulting companies to plan the project, including the development of a design-build contract, the actual design and then construction of the proposed courthouse. It is expected to house 35 judges and 33 courtrooms, offices for nine county departments, a law library and additional space for nonprofit agencies. Commissioners expect a cost estimate for the proposed civil courthouse to be available before the end of this year and to decide in January on whether to schedule a bond election in May.

Commissioners in 2010 approved $21.75 million to purchase a lot near Republic Square for the new civil courthouse, but agreed earlier this year to delay the bond election after two other bond proposals totaling $1.4 billion were scheduled in November. The new courthouse, if approved, will replace the Heman Sweatt Travis County Courthouse, which was built in 1931.

 

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Report on EPISD addresses aging facilities, sagging enrollment
Closing schools, consolidating campuses and redrawing school boundaries are among a number of alternatives being considered in the El Paso Independent School District as school officials deal with aging buildings and declining enrollment figures.

Many of the suggestions are part of a draft report from an engineering group seeking to help the district with its decisions on these issues. The public will get a first look at the proposals at a meeting Monday. The district will seek input from the public before making its recommendations to the Board of Managers that manages the district.

The district is facing the possible loss of an additional 5,000 students by the 2019-20 school year. While some schools will have only half as many students, others will be at over capacity. Recommendations to close some schools would be geared toward saving money on maintenance costs and addressing enrollment declines. The possibility of redistricting is also on the table, along with a long list of renovations and consolidation of some schools in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD moving forward with $1.2B in bond projects
Roy Sprague Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District trustees recently began discussing priorities to begin work on $1.2 billion in projects approved by voters in May.

The bond proposal calls for spending $55.3 million to upgrade security, $72.3 million for transportation, $217 million for improving technology, $666.6 million to renovate existing facilities and $197.6 million to handle increasing enrollment, noted Roy Sprague (pictured), associate superintendent of facilities, construction and support services for the district.

Current plans call for building two new elementary schools, a middle school, a competition swimming pool with seating for 1,500 spectators, a new cold food storage warehouse, an agriculture facility and replacing an existing elementary school, Sprague said. Developing an overall master plan for the bond projects could permit the district to combine some projects and take advantage of volume pricing to lower costs, he added.
Port Arthur eyeing $8 million plan to improve water system
Port Arthur City Council members recently began considering an $8 million proposal to improve the city's water system. The proposal calls for the improvements to be paid for using a leasing agreement between the city and a private company. The proposal calls for installing automatic meters around the city to provide a more accurate measure of how much water the city is losing, the interim city manager said. Council members also discussed installing the automatic reading meters throughout the city to reduce the number of personnel who read meters, but took no action on either proposal.
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Temple group studying possible expansion of airport hangars
The Airport Advisory Board of Temple recently discussed options for paying for expanding hangars at the Draughon-Miller Central Texas Regional Airport in Temple.Board members also considered whether the city should rely on private investors to pay for extending existing hangars at the airport. Advisory board members, however, made no decision on whether to approve the new hangars requested by two citizens who could not find hangar space for their personal aircraft. 
Decatur ISD could be looking to bond issue next year
Rod Townsend The Decatur School Board is looking at the possibility of calling a bond issue, with a value of over $8 million. The major issues that would be funded, according to Superintendent Rod Townsend (pictured) are transportation, technology, security and facilities. Townsend has suggested the district purchase 25 new buses and other vehicles, carrying a price tag of about $2.75 million. On the technology front, estimated expenditures would be about $2.3 million and would include upgrading computer labs, replacing fiber-optic cables and more. About $1.2 million would be for safety and security enhancements in the district. Facility upgrades such as a parking lot, lighting sensors, cafeteria upgrades, HVAC upgrades, roofing and wastewater projects would cost about $1.8 million. The deadline for calling a bond election for next spring is Feb. 27, 2015, but Townsend said a decision needs to be reached by December of this year or January 2015.
TSABAA planning Mid-Winter Conference in December in Kerrville
The Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association will host its 35th Mid-Winter Conference on Dec. 3-5 at Inn of the Hills in Kerrville. With the 84th Texas Legislature to meet in January 2015, attendees will hear from a legislative panel regarding the upcoming session. An employee benefits update will also be among the discussion topics. Some of the other topics on the agenda include "How Internal Audits Can Worth with/for Your Agency," "Why Invest in IT" and more. Ample time has also been set aside for networking opportunities. Continuing education credits may be earned by attending the conference. Registration is open and the agenda is available.

Southwest Region Executive Directors Assn. conference slated
The Southwest Region Executive Directors Association will hold its annual conference Nov. 12-14 at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk. The theme of the conference is "Change: Do we...React? Respond? Retire?" The nation is still early in a cycle of perpetual change and challenges dealing with issues ranging from funding, to relationships with state and federal agencies, to the rapidly changing political dynamic on all levels of government. And leaders all face internal organizational challenges such as succession, personnel management and demonstrating continued value and relevance for their communities and their competitiveness. These issues are faced at some level by association members in all five of the Southwest Region states, whether small or large, rural or urban. The upcoming conference not only offers training, but also peer learning and engagement and how to address, redress, face and overcome challenges. Economic developers, planners, EDA and other grant recipients, public works managers, elected officials and leaders throughout the Southwest are encouraged to participate in this interchange. To register, click here. For more information about the conference, contact Heather Smoak Urena at hsurena@aol.com or (318) 487-5454.

EWTG plans 28th Annual Professional Development Conference
The Executive Women in Texas Government 28th Annual Professional Development Conference, "Building Careers and Developing Leaders" will be held Monday, Nov. 24, at the Embassy Suite -SanMarcos Hotel, Spa, and Conference Center. The conference is the premier educational forum for government professionals interested in developing practical, comprehensive and real-world solutions for managing changing rules and standards, new business practices and technological advances and bring greater efficiency to government operations. Experts from state government, higher education and industry experts will discuss topics relevant to leadership trends, governance practices and emerging management models in the public sector. The evening before the conference, a networking reception will be held to commemorate ETWG's 30th anniversary. Keynote speakers will include Amy Henry, the "last woman standing" on NBC's first season of "The Apprentice" and author of What it Takes: Speak Up, Stand Up and Move Up, and Ambassador Karen Hughes, Worldwide Vice-Chair of Burson-Marsteller communications strategists. Regular registration rates available Nov. 1-14. For more information on the conference and registration is available here.

Texas EMS Conference set in Fort Worth Nov. 23-26
Texas EMS Conference, one of the largest EMS conferences in the nation, kicks off Nov. 23 in Fort Worth. Texas EMS Conference draws emergency medical services personnel for three days of emergency medical education, including continuing education for EMS, nurses, firefighters and physicians. The conference also features a 170,000-square-foot exhibit hall filled with state-of-the-art medical equipment, EMS supplies and services, job opportunities, ambulances and helicopters. Preconference classes, ranging in length from four hours to three days, feature cadaver anatomy labs, wilderness rescue and response to bombing incidents. For more information, go to www.texasemsconference.com.
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Proposition 1 - it just makes 
sense for Texas transportation

 

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

 

Texas voters will have the opportunity to cast a vote on Nov. 4 on a critical issue that impacts everyone in the state. If Proposition 1 on the ballot passes, the state will release more than $1 billion for much-needed transportation funding. And, transportation projects will move forward with no new tax revenue, no new debt and no new fees. The funding would come from the Texas Rainy Day Fund.

Motorists traveling on almost any Texas roadways have first-hand experience and can testify to the desperate need for state highway improvements - in both new construction as well as roadway maintenance. Prop 1 offers an attractive way to begin projects that will bring relief.

The proposition will make available a new source of revenue at a time when transportation needs are critical and funding is woefully inadequate. The state's roadways are in dire need of attention and these public assets will deteriorate even more if neglected.

Should the proposition fail, it is hard to imagine how relief could be obtained. The 20-cents-per-gallon gas tax hasn't changed since 1991, and a quarter of those proceeds are directed to the state's public schools. The state's vehicle registration fees max out at $55. And, incurring more debt through bonds is not a viable option as the state seeks to reduce public debt.

There are numerous safeguards in Proposition 1 to address citizen concerns. First, to ensure that the Rainy Day Fund will always have sufficient revenues to meet emergency needs (natural disasters and fiscal emergencies), the legislature is mandated to ensure that certain balances are maintained. Language in the proposition also ensures that the transportation funds can only be used for construction, maintenance, rehabilitation and acquisition of right-of-way for public roads. The money cannot be used for toll roads.
  
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College Station ISD looking at possible bond election in 2015
Clark Ealy A bond election to prepare the College Station ISD to deal with higher-than-expected student enrollment could come as early as 2015. Because of that projected growth, district officials are now studying the possibility of a bond package that would result in the construction of a third intermediate school, third middle school and 10th elementary school.

"If we look at the data and we say we need an intermediate school on the ground by 2017, we very possibly will need to go to the voters in November of 2015," Superintendent Clark Ealy (pictured) told the board. Ealy said a 2015 bond issue price tag would likely run higher than last year's $83.5 million.
Austin apparently eyeing major convention center expansion
Expansion of the Austin Convention Center is apparently on the drawing board. The Austin American-Statesman reports that city officials are considering an expansion that would include the addition of three or four city blocks and that property owners in those areas are being notified that their land is being considered for public use. That sets the stage for negotiations and if negotiations fall through, condemnation proceedings could follow.

The Statesman reports that a consulting team has recommended expansion that will include additional exhibit, ballroom and meeting space.

City officials say that because of the growing number of downtown hotels in the city, that alone is reason for the center to expand to keep up with all sizes of conventions and events, allowing Austin to be a prime destination for conventions.
Lubbock approves $1.25 million 
repair funds for water building
Lubbock City Council members recently approved $1.25 million to renovate the city's water department building damaged by a storm in June 2013. Council members plan to select a contractor to renovate the building in mid-December.

The city temporarily relocated water department employees into the building that had formerly served as the headquarters of the Texas Department of Public Safety in Lubbock.
Grant funds will be used to alleviate asbestos in schools
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved grant funds totaling $124,741 that will be awarded to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The funds will be used to help reduce asbestos exposure in schools.

The funds will be used for compliance monitoring and assistance, public outreach, inspections, enforcement actions and ensuring workers are properly trained and accredited in removing asbestos. EPA officials said this time of year, they reach out to the communities to raise awareness of the vulnerability of children.

To meet federal regulations that require public and private schools to protect students and employees from asbestos exposure, school facilities must be inspected, management plans prepared and something must be done to address the problems by preventing exposure and removing the asbestos.
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Joshua announces three 
finalists for city manager post
Joshua City Council members recently named three finalists for city manager to replace former City Manager Paulette Hartman, who resigned to accept a new job at North Richland Hills.

After reviewing 50 applications, city officials selected Matthew McCombs, the city secretary and assistant to the city manager in Addison; Joshua Jones, the city manager of Hale Center; and Sherri Campbell-Hudson, the assistant city manager in Granbury, as the three finalists.

City officials expect to interview the three finalists on Nov. 1 and to name a new city manager before the end of November
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Waco ISD allots $8.6 million 
to renovate and upgrade schools
Trustees for Waco Independent School District recently agreed to allot $8.6 million to renovate and upgrade district facilities.

Current plans are to spend almost $1 million to upgrade the electrical system and technology at Waco High School and $2 million to renovate and transform a former elementary school into the Greater Waco Advanced Health Care Academy.

Board members plan to use $4.7 million from the general fund in addition to money from the sale of district property and remaining from previous bonds to pay for the remodeling and upgrades. Design work on the projects should begin soon, according to Rolando Gomez, the director of facilities and maintenance.
Northrop Grumman

Marshall selects two finalists
for city manager position
Marshall City Council members recently selected Shawna Dowell-Burkhart and Robert Smith as finalists for city manager. Both finalists are expected to meet with city officials on Nov. 11 for more interviews before council decides who will get the job.

Dowell-Burkhart was a city manager in Converse from 2011 until 2014. She also was a city manager in Jacksboro and Bowling Green, Kentucky, and a city administrator in Castroville.

Smith has served as the town manager in Chino Valley, Arizona, since 2012. He also has served as city manager in San Juan Bautista, California, as town administrator in Shallotte, North Carolina, and as planning director in Batesville, Mississippi, and Dillon, South Carolina.
Director of secondary education 
Hinojosa retiring from Hays CISD
Elsa Hinojosa After 33 years in public education, Elsa Hinojosa (pictured) recently announced plans to retire in December as executive director for secondary schools for Hays Consolidated Independent School District.

After joining Hays CISD as a middle school principal in 2001, Hinojosa became a high school principal in 2004 before beginning her current post in 2010. She also was an assistant principal, teacher or tennis coach at Pflugerville, Eanes and Del Valle school districts.

Hinojosa has a bachelor's degree and master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
LeFleur Transportation

Harker Heights taps Molis 

as interim planning director

Harker Heights city officials recently appointed Joseph Molis as the interim director of planning and development for that city. Molis, who has a bachelor's degree from Texas State University, previously was a senior planner and GIS manager in the planning and development department of the city. 

Cardenas to retire as public 
works director in Bandera
Mike Cardenas Mike Cardenas (pictured), the public works director in Bandera, recently agreed to serve as the city's water and wastewater quality monitor until he retires on Feb. 28, 2015. During his 25 years with the city. Cardenas served both as the public works director and then as city administrator and public works director from 2011 until council hired Lamar Schulz as the city administrator.

Schulz negotiated an agreement with Cardenas that calls for him to be on call for questions regarding water lines, the sewer plant and water treatment and for the city to continue its contributions to his retirement account while he is working as a monitor until he retires in February.

Despite objections from some council members over the agreement calling for Cardenas to retire and work as a consultant, Schulz explained that the city needs to use the state-issued license held by Cardenas until a new state-licensed public works director is hired.
Health Information Designs

Daniel Pitcock selected 
as new COO for Allen ISD
Daniel Pitcock recently won selection as the chief operations officer for Allen Independent School District.

In that newly created position, Pitcock will report to the superintendent while overseeing the technology, transportation, facilities, safety and security departments.

Pitcock previously served as a principal and assistant principal for the Allen school district and as a teacher, coach and principal for Richardson ISD.
Gatesville selects Parry
as its new city manager
Bill Parry Gatesville City Council members recently selected William H. Parry III (pictured) as the new city manager. He will replace City Manager Roger Mumby, who is retiring at the end of June 2015.

Parry agreed to begin work on May 1, 2015, in order to work with Mumby on the transition. He currently is the director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Killeen. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2004 after serving as the Garrison Commander at Fort Hood.

He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and continued his education at the Army War College, Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies. Parry also has a master's degree from the University of Southern California.

Gaskamp resigns as public

works director in Goliad

Public Works Director Shawn Gaskamp of Goliad recently notified city officials he is resigning from that post on Oct. 31. Gaskamp did not comment on whether his resignation is part of the resignations in July of the city administrator and several other city staff members.

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Emmons to retire as city administrator in Bridgeport

Brandon Emmons recently announced plans to retire as the city administrator in Bridgeport. He joined the city in April 2010. His plans are to work as a consultant and perform charity work in Africa after he retires.
Hysinger chosen as lone finalist for superintendent at Dumas ISD
Monty Hysinger Monty Hysinger (pictured) recently won selection as the lone finalist for superintendent at Dumas Independent School District.

He replaces Interim Superintendent Larry Appel, who has served in that job since the death of former Superintendent Mark Stroebel in May.

Hysinger has served as superintendent for Clarendon ISD for 16 years.
An educator for 26 years, Hysinger also has been a teacher, coach and principal at school districts in Canyon and Floydada. He expects to begin his new duties in Dumas in January 2015.
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Tyler moving forward in search 

for its new city manager

Tyler City Council members recently scheduled two executive sessions to meet with a representative from an executive search firm to review candidates who submitted applications for city manager.

 

The first closed-door council meeting is set for Nov. 4, after the deadline for applications has passed and council members can learn more about potential candidates.

 

At the second executive session, on Nov. 18, council members will begin narrowing candidates down to those who will be interviewed, according to the mayor. The new city manager will replace Mark McDaniel, who resigned to be an assistant city manager in Dallas. Susan Guthrie has served as interim city manager since McDaniel left the job.

Maxwell tapped as new
city manager in Galveston
Brian Maxwell Brian Maxwell (pictured), currently the interim city manager in Galveston, recently won appointment as the new city manager. He replaces former City Manager Michael Kovacs, who left the job in February.

Maxwell has served twice as interim city manager for Galveston. He also was interim city manager in 2011 after former City Manager Steve LeBlanc left the job.

Maxwell was one of two finalists who council members interviewed for the job.
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TEA orders El Paso ISD
to call trustee election next May
The Texas Commission of Education recently directed the board of managers he appointed in May 2013 in the El Paso ISD to call an election on May 9, 2015, to select a new board of trustees to set policy for the school district. The appointed board of managers will remain in place until a new board of trustees is elected and sworn into office, noted Commissioner Michael Williams. The El Paso district traditionally has a board comprised of seven elected members.
Texas Government Insider Archives  
Alvarado ISD interviewing 
finalists for superintendent
Trustees for Alvarado Independent School District recently began interviewing finalists for a new superintendent to replace Superintendent Chester Juroska, who is retiring in December after 15 years with that district.

All three applicants interviewed for superintendent are internal candidates, district officials said. Current plans are to name a lone finalist for the post in November and for the new superintendent to begin work in January. Trustees have no plans to interview any outside candidates, district officials said.

Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Donna King of Leander, judge of the 26th Judicial District Court in Williamson County;
  • Ruben Soto Jr. of Laredo, presiding officer of the Webb County - City of Laredo Regional Mobility Authority;
  • Arthur "Art" Eisenberg of North Richland Hills, Texas Forensic Science Commission;
  • Sheree Hughes-Stamm of Spring,Texas Forensic Science Commission;
  • Harvey Kessler of Southlake,Texas Forensic Science Commission;
  • Robert "Bobby" Lerma of Brownsville, Texas Forensic Science Commission;
  • Ashraf Mozayani of Houston, Texas Forensic Science Commission.
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