Texas Government Insider
Volume 13, Issue 9 - Friday, Feb. 27, 2015
Telecommuting: will State of Texas employees be next?

Israel's bill aimed at mitigating traffic, but numerous other benefits also exist
I-10
Traffic on I-35 in downtown Austin can come to a standstill during morning and afternoon rush hour. Could state employee telecommuting help? (TGI photo)

You're driving at a snail's pace, bumper-to-bumper to and from work on just about any route into downtown Austin five days a week. It's a match made in - well, certainly not Heaven - for fostering road rage among impatient drivers. 

 

Now, close your eyes while you're at a complete standstill stuck in that traffic and fantasize what it would be like if you could wave a wand and almost 20 percent of the vehicles in the typical rush-hour traffic jam would suddenly disappear.

 

Can't visualize it? Maybe this will help...think about how much less time it took you to drive to your job on Veterans Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President's Day or Memorial Day. They are all state-observed holidays, with all state agencies closed. That, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, means that 19 percent of the vehicles Celia Israel normally on Austin-area roads that lead to the downtown area - driven by state employees - are not contributing to the usual traffic congestion. The Transportation Institute also indicates that rush hour traffic on I-35 in Austin on holidays when state workers have the day off is reduced by nearly 40 percent.

 

Texas State Rep. Celia Israel (pictured) wants to make that an everyday occurrence. "We all notice how much nicer getting around town is on state holidays," Israel said. "I want to create more of those nice days."

 

Israel doesn't want to wait for holidays to curb downtown traffic in Austin. To that end, the Austin state representative has filed legislation that takes an unusual - but viable - approach to mitigating traffic congestion. Israel is convinced that allowing State of Texas employees to telecommute and work flexible schedules will solve at least part of the work hour traffic jams on some major Texas roadways.

 

Israel's House Bill 1839 would allow state agency directors to adopt policies that would be in effect department-wide for employees to telecommute - working remotely from a different location than in the state agency building where they are employed. Current law only allows state employees to be approved to telecommute on a case-by-case basis with approval from their department head.


 

[more]

Transportation Commission OK's more than 200 road projects

Proposition One funds to address traffic congestion, safety, infrastructure
Highway Work
Construction contracts are expected to be awarded in March for more than 200 projects resulting mostly from Prop. 1 funds. (TGI photo)
There will be a flurry of construction activity on Texas roadways after March following the Texas Transportation Commission's Thursday approval of funding for more than 200 road projects throughout the state. Funding for the projects, for which contracts are expected to be awarded in March, is the result of a voter-approved windfall for the State Highway Fund.

Texas voters last November approved Proposition One, which allowed for part of the state oil and gas tax revenues that historically have been deposited to the state's rainy day fund to be transferred into the State Highway Fund. Since passage of the proposition, the State Comptroller has determined that $1.74 billion was available for transfer to the State Highway Fund for Fiscal Year 2015.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) wasted little time in determining where the money would be spent from a list of possible projects put together by the Metropolitan Planning Organizations and TxDOT districts, with input from the public. Among the projects are more than 800 miles of rehabilitated highways, nearly 500 miles of new highway lanes, 64 bridge replacements and 18 lane-widening enhancements that will add 159 miles of passing lanes to rural highways.

"Between Prop. One's $1.74 billion and other funding sources, we are able to allocate $2 billion to projects that will help address roadway congestion, safety and the growing demands on our infrastructure. This is great news for commuters, industry and the overall economic health of Texas," said Transportation Commission Chair Ted Houghton.

Nearly 30 percent of the total 2015 Proposition One funding will be allocated for energy sector needs. These funds will be used to address damages to existing road infrastructure that resulted from increased energy production in certain areas of the state.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

 

Kenneth Adix Kenneth Adix, chief financial officer, Pflugerville Independent School District 

 

Career highlights and education: I grew up on a farm in Yorktown, Texas, and paid my way through college by farming. I got my undergraduate degree from Texas A&M and my MBA from The University of Texas. I was a credit analyst and loan officer for Texas Commerce Bank (now Chase) in El Paso for two years, where I met and married my wife. I then received a Board of Regents Fellowship from Texas A&M and went back to school to get my Ph.D. While getting my doctorate, I had the opportunity to teach a junior-level economics/finance class and really enjoyed it. I love to learn how things work down to the granular level and then really enjoy teaching/sharing this information with others. After graduating, we moved to Pflugerville and I became the Director of Finance for Durham School Services that does busing for school districts. I worked there for 12 years and managed six financial analysts that were spread across the U.S. and Canada. I was responsible for budgeting, pricing bids, monthly financial statement analysis and valuing companies we looked to acquire through acquisition. I am very good at Excel and used this knowledge to build the bid model Durham used to price bids and the valuation model used to value the companies we acquired. I also worked with the Technology Department to design and build the company's budgeting tool that was easy to use and scalable enough to handle operations for one of the largest school bus operators in the nation. I became CFO for Pflugerville ISD in 2009 and it is the best job I have ever had. I love the work I do and truly enjoy working with our team. Over the last five years, we have beat over budget every year and more than doubled our fund balance. Last year S&P upgraded our bond rating to AA and there are now only 14 districts in the state with a higher bond rating.

What I like best about my job is: the personal satisfaction I receive by doing something for the good of the community. This position allows me to positively impact the education of 24,000 students and the wage, benefits and working conditions of approximately 3,000 teachers and staff. We have lived in Pflugerville since 1995 and raised our three kids here; two have already graduated and one is in high school. Thus, I have a very vested interest in the success of our school district.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: to always be planning ahead. In the last three years, we have opened three schools. Voters recently passed a $287M bond to build three more new schools, construct a district stadium and do numerous campus renovation and expansion projects.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Look for ways to continue making us better. I love new ideas. Something we do very well at Pflugerville ISD is to take an idea, thoroughly analyze it and then, if it has merit, get it implemented quickly. In the five years I have been with the district, implementing new ideas has saved millions of dollars.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: running around Lake Pflugerville. I love running around the lake and have run in temperatures ranging from freezing to 100+ degrees.

People would be surprised to know that I: know how to fly an airplane. My dad learned how to fly when he was young, so that had been on my bucket list for a long time. Last year I took lessons and learned there is a lot to know when you are sitting in the cockpit.

One thing I wish more people knew about my school district: Simply the incredible amount of work that goes into operating our school district. We have 3,000 teachers and staff working to educate 24,000 students spread across 31 campuses. Staff have to clean, heat/cool, repair/maintain 3.4 million square feet of building space.  Each day, the district transports over 8,000 students using 145 buses that run over 2 million miles each year. We also feed approximately 25,000 meals each day, process payroll for 3,000 employees and provide medical insurance for 3,300 employees and their family members. The Technology Department has to maintain the district's network, replace computers, provide wireless service to support thousands of handheld devices and continually adopt and install new technology. I am blessed to work with great people who truly work as a team and care deeply about the students we educate.

Reisman to fill new chief ethics officer position at HHSC

Former Ethics Commission director to create training program for five agencies
David Reisman With an eye toward increasing the emphasis on ethical behavior, a former director of the Texas Ethics Commission has been named to the newly created position of chief ethics officer for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Kyle Janek, HHSC executive commissioner, this week named David Reisman (pictured) to the new post.

In making the announcement, Janek said HHSC employees must hold themselves and their agency "to high standards." He indicated that Reisman would be charged with ensuring the agency has a good training program to ensure HHSC employees "know the rules, and a culture where people can elevate and discuss issues."

In addition to having been director of the state's ethics commission, Reisman also worked at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute (CPRIT), where he implemented an ethics program and a monitoring system with the agency that awarded $1 billion in grant funding. He also is a former special assistant to the general counsel of the U.S. Army, managing an ethics program there.

In addition to creating an ethics training program for employees of all five of the state's health and human services agencies, Reisman also will oversee staff charged with investigating alleged ethical violations and conflicts of interest.

Tom Gilligan giving up UT dean position to head to Stanford

Tom Gilligan Another high-level employee of The University of Texas at Austin is leaving the university. On the heels last week of the resignation of Kevin Hegarty, the university's vice president and chief financial officer, who was named executive vice president and CFO of the University of Michigan, comes word that Tom Gilligan (pictured) is also leaving.


Gilligan is dean of the McCombs School of Business at UT and is leaving the university in August to take the position of director of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University in California.

 

Gilligan has been dean of the business school for the last seven years. In addition to his duties as dean, Gilligan also was instrumental in helping lead fundraising to create Rowling Hall, a center for graduate studies which will open in 2017. 

 

Grow your business

Hwu chosen head of MD Anderson Cancer Medicine division
Patrick Hwu Patrick Hwu, M.D. (pictured) has been named division head of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, effective March 4. Hwu currently serves as chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Sarcoma Medical Oncology at MD Anderson. His appointment followed a national search to replace Richard Champlin, M.D., who has been serving as interim division head.

Hwu is an internationally respected physician-scientist who has 25 years of experience in the fields of tumor immunology, targeted therapies and translational studies. He is an expert in tumor immunology and has translated multiple concepts from the laboratory to the clinic.

Hwu, who joined MD Anderson in 2003 as the first chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology, earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and served as a house officer in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. He completed a fellowship in oncology at the National Cancer Institute, where he continued to work for 10 years as a principal investigator leading tumor immunology studies.
Travis Co. moves forward with plan to replace community center
Travis County commissioners recently reallocated $181,805 to pay for early design work for a new community center in Del Valle that could eventually host a permanent health clinic.

The new facility is currently planned in two stages and would replace Precinct 4 South Community Center on FM 973, which is badly in need of major renovations, according to officials of the facilities management division.

The first phase calls for replacing the current building with a 10,000-square-foot structure. The second phase would add a medical clinic to be managed by Central Health and CommUnityCare, a private nonprofit health care provider for low-income and uninsured residents. Construction on the first phase of the new community center is scheduled to begin in 2016 and be completed in January 2017, county officials said.
Amarillo to seek $17 million in state funding for water pipeline
Bob Cowell Amarillo City Council recently agreed to apply for a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board to help pay for a 7.6-mile water transfer pipeline to bring water from a water treatment plant to a pump station serving the southwest area of the city.

City officials estimate the pipeline will cost about $17.1 million, noted Assistant City Manager Bob Cowell (pictured). Construction on the pipeline could begin later this year if the water development board approves the low-interest loan, Cowell said.

That pump station now delivers 5 million gallons of water a day, but the addition of water from the transfer pipeline could provide 20 million gallons of water per day using treated wastewater, he said.
City of Alvin nets $273,000 in grants to upgrade parks
Alvin City Council members recently accepted $235,000 in Community Development Block grants to upgrade six city parks. The federal grants are designed to assist low-to-moderate income areas for public facilities and services. The commissioner for Precinct 3 also allocated $26,000 from his budget that will be used along with $12,000 previously allocated by the former county judge to improve city parks, bringing the total for the city to $273.000.

Park improvements include a $155,000 project to design and build a restroom at National Oak Park. City officials also plan to spend $41,000 for new picnic tables, playground equipment and basketball court at Ruben Adame Park and $36,000 for a new drinking fountain and playground equipment at Pearson. New playground equipment, a drinking fountain with a doggie bowl attachment and picnic tables will be installed at three other city parks.

The Brazoria County Housing and Urban Development Office administers the federal block grant funds, which are allocated every three years, with each county commissioner receiving discretionary funds for parks in their districts.
SPI Training Services

New Braunfels selects $9.36 million city hall design
With three options to consider, New Braunfels City Council members recently selected a $9.36 million design plan for a new city hall.

The selected plan includes space for a municipal court, which was not included in the $8.6 million option that left unfinished space where a municipal court could be built at a later date.

The third $7.1 million option, the least expensive city hall design plan considered, did not include the municipal court and left vacant 10,000 square feet of the former grocery story being renovated into the new city hall facility.
Aguirre named as new president-elect of TACHE
Maria Aguirre Maria C. Aguirre (pictured) recently won election as the president-elect of the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE). She begins serving as president in 2016.

Currently an associate vice president at the Sweetwater campus of Texas State Technical College, Aguirre previously has served as a recruiter, coordinator and registrar during her 30 years in higher education.

She has been active in TACHE as a representative of the Plains region and previously served as vice president of communications for the organization.
Huston-Tillotson College selects three finalists for president
Huston-Tillotson College officials recently selected three finalists for president to succeed President Larry L. Earvin at the Austin-based institution.

Named as finalists were Thomas J. Calhoun, Jr., an interim vice president at the Universith of North Alabama; Deneese Lakay Robinson Jones, a provost for Drake University in Iowa; and Colette Pierce Burnette, a former chief executive officer at a satellite campus of Central State University in Ohio.

The three finalists for president are scheduled for interviews and meetings with faculty members, students, administrators and board members in mid-March.
Research Analysts - Contracts

Westlake water district schedules $45.9 million bond election
Officials of Water District 10 in Westlake recently called a $45.9 million bond election in May to pay for upgrades to the water system. The goal is upgrading firefighting capacity and enlarging capacity of the water system.

Projects included in the bond proposition are improvements along Bee Cave Road, upgrading one of two pump stations, building a third pump station and installing backup generators at all pump stations.

Water district officials also plan to replace water lines in high elevation areas of West Lake Hills and on Eanes School Road with larger pipes, increase water lines and pumping capacity in the western area of the district and install fiber-optic cable to allow employees to remotely operate pumps if power is cut off to pumping stations.
Ector County examining upgrade to county courthouse
Susan Redford Ector County Judge Susan Redford (pictured) recently announced plans to seek public input on a recent proposal to upgrade the county courthouse. Voters in a November 2013 bond election defeated a proposal to improve the aging courthouse.

A study previously conducted by a citizen-based group explored only space needs of the courthouse, but failed to study the building structure, environment of the buildings and if the facility met criteria for the Americans with Disabilities Act, Redford noted. This new study will attempt to involve more of the community into the planning process, she said.

Once the study is completed, county officials will then need to review the results and decide whether to undertake a major renovation, add to the existing courthouse or build a new courthouse, she said.
Chapel Hill ISD seeking voter approval of $45 million in bonds
Chapel Hill Independent School District trustees recently scheduled a $45 million bond election for May 9 asking voters to approve funding for a new, $40 million middle school and other capital projects.

Trustees also are asking for approval of $3.5 million for a new operations facility and $1.7 million to renovate an elementary school. Trustees also plan to renovate the existing middle school to accommodate expansion of high school programs such as the Career and Technical Education program.
TWDB providing $13.8M in assistance for water-related projects
Six water-related projects in the state will share more than $13.8 million in financial assistance from the Texas Water Development Board, with $1.729 million of that total going for projects in rural areas of the state. The funding will be used for water and wastewater improvements, a new wastewater treatment plant and for additional water supplies.

The projects include:
  • Baylor Water Supply Corporation (Baylor, Knox, Archer, Throckmorton and Young counties) - $500,000 to finance the planning, design and construction of a new well field;
  • City of Malone - $179,000 to finance planning, design and construction costs associated with water meter replacements; 
  • City of San Marcos - $4,617,955 to construct wastewater system improvements, including the replacement of 27,620 feet of wastewater line;
  • Harris County Municipal Utility District No. 50 (Harris County) - $2.46 million to finance planning, design and construction costs associated with wastewater treatment plant improvements and a new wastewater treatment plant; and
  • City of Reklaw - $1.05 million to construct a new water well and pumping and storage facilities.
Contracting Opportunities

San Angelo outlines proposed $438M capital improvement plan
San Angelo city officials recently asked for more citizen input on a proposed $438 million capital improvement plan outlining key priorities during the next five years.

Included in the proposed capital improvement plan are upgrades to the water treatment plant in addition to repairs and renovations to the police administration building and the Fort Concho Visitors Center. City officials also propose building new sidewalks along 19th Street and completion of the Red Arroyo Trail. Voters most likely would need to approve bonds to pay for a new police station.
Houston council member to lead regional transportation panel
Stephen Costello City Councilman Stephen Costello (pictured) recently won election as chairman of the Transportation Policy Council of the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

Overseeing transportation planning for the eight-county region, the transportation council is expected to spend $2.4 billion for mobility projects during the next four years. The transportation projects are critical as the Houston area is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, Costello said.

A president of an engineering firm, Costello recently won recognition from the Texas Society for Professional Engineers as Engineer of the Year.
Collaboration Nation

New middle school on $50 million bond election at Joshua ISD
A new middle school is the largest project on a proposed $50 million bond election scheduled in May by trustees for Joshua Independent School District.

Upgraded security, improved technology, roof repairs at five schools and a new agriculture facility also are projects included in the May bond proposal. Trustees also agreed to seek funding to buy more property for new schools, replace plumbing and build a practice field at a middle school.
Presidio Co. forms International Port Authority to manage bridge
Cinderela Guevara Presidio County commissioners recently approved the formation of the Presidio International Port Authority (PIPA) to manage a new international bridge connecting Presidio and Ojinaga.

Both city and county officials will manage PIPA, which will oversee maintenance, construction, revenues and expenditures for the new international bridge, noted Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara (pictured). PIPA officials also will decide toll fees to be charged and divide any excess revenue from bridge tolls between the city and county.

Current plans call for the new southbound bridge to be built next to the existing bridge along with a tollbooth for traffic entering Mexico. PIPA organizers plan to adopt bylaws and select members within the next 90 days, according to the mayor of Presidio and the county judge.
Your Ad Here!

College Station moves forward with $10 million upgrade to park
College Station City Council members recently instructed city staff to begin work on a $10 million project to improve Veterans Park. The work includes building four synthetic sports fields to host football games, soccer and other sports events.

The park project also includes installing stands for one of the sports fields and providing additional parking. Funding from the project is from the tax on hotels and motels in the city as the new sports facility is expected to draw visitors to the area for tournaments and other events, city officials said.
Pecos County seeking $35M bond approval for county hospital
Jim Horton Pecos County commissioners recently scheduled a $35 million bond election on May 9 to pay for upgrades to the Pecos County Memorial Hospital (PCMH).

The plan is to expand health services and upgrade the 15-year old hospital facility if voters approve, noted Jim Horton (pictured), chief executive officer of PCMH. Included in the hospital upgrade is a new two-story health care clinic sharing a roof with the hospital.

The new clinic would allow consolidation of existing clinics and provide examination rooms and outpatient procedure rooms for 20 health care providers, Horton said. The updated facility also would provide integrated lab and radiology services in addition to infusion/chemotherapy and orthopedic surgery, which are not now available, he added.

 

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New Caney ISD to ask voters to approve $173 million in bonds
Trustees for New Caney Independent School District recently agreed to ask voters to approve a $173 million bond proposal on May 9.

If approved, the bonds will be used to build new campuses and expand existing campuses to handle growing enrollment. Trustees also plan to use bond funds to renovate some facilities, build a natatorium and buy land for new schools.
McAllen ISD schedules $297 million bond election on May 9
McAllen Independent School District trustees recently scheduled a $297 million bond election on May 9. A bond committee had recommended a $440 million bond election.

Board members plan to use bond funding, if approved by voters, to upgrade older schools in an attempt to equalize school facilities throughout the district. As enrollment has grown, district officials have built new schools for newer areas, which resulted in leaving older schools needing critical improvements, trustees said.

District officials also plan to schedule a tax ratification election as soon as this fall to allow district officials to raise the tax rate to pay for maintenance and staff compensation.
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Cedar Park creates bond task force to study November election
Cedar Park City Council members recently created a new Bond Task Force to help determine projects to be included in a November bond election now under consideration.

Committee members will begin meeting in early March and send a recommendation for possible bond projects
to city council members on May 21. Each council member and the mayor appointed two members to the bond task force.
Hardin County seeking $2 million to replace annex building
Seeking to replace a county annex building in Kountze, Hardin County commissioners recently agreed to seek nearly $2 million in grants and/or loans from the rural development grant program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

County officials in December approved $55,000 to hire an architect to design a new annex facility, conduct soil sampling and perform a land survey. If USDA officials do not approve the application, county officials will consider issuing new debt to pay for the annex building, which is now infested with mold, the county judge said.
19th Annual HUB Vendor Show slated in Huntsville on March 24
The City of Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, the SHSU Small Business Development Center and Walker County will partner together as sponsors for the 19th Annual Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Vendor Show on March 24. The HUB/Vendor Show will be held in the Walker County Veterans Complex - Walker County Storm Shelter, located at 455 State Highway 75 North in Huntsville. Sponsoring entities will provide free tables for vendors. Staff from the sponsoring entities and from other state agencies, universities and surrounding local groups will visit with exhibitors throughout the event. Exhibitors are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to meet with local and state agencies to showcase their products and services. Purchasers and end-users from the sponsoring entities will also be on hand to meet exhibitors, allowing time to showcase their products and services. Set-up will begin at 8 a.m. on March 24 with informative vendor training sessions to be held from 10-11 a.m. The training sessions will provide detailed information with a goal of improving business opportunities with government entities. The training topics will include "A Resource to Help you Qualify for Government Contracts" by Tim Scarborough, UH Procurement Technical Assistance Center, and Billie Smith, City of Huntsville Purchasing Manager, who will present on "How to do Business with the City of Huntsville." Formal introductions and opening remarks begin at 11:30 a.m. with the HUB Show to conclude at 2:30 p.m. For more information, contact Billie Smith with the City of Huntsville (936) 291-5495, or to register your company for booth space, contact Ruby Cowan, with TDCJ at (936) 437-3128.

Small Business Forum to focus on Eagle Ford Shale opportunities
The 2015 Governor's Small Business Forum: Business Opportunities in the Eagle Ford Shale Region is planned for Tuesday, March 17, in La Vernia. The event will be from 8 a.m. to noon at the La Vernia High School, 221 FM 775, La Vernia 78121. This is an innovative event for small businesses and community leaders and includes resources and real-time information to stay resilient and diverse in changing times. Among the planned topics are: Doing Business with the Oil and Gas Industry, Managing ever-changing technology, Value-added Agriculture, "Show Me the Money" (Access to Small Business Capital) and Small Business Awards. The event is free but attendees are asked to register in advance.

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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Driverless cars - don't 
count them out!

 

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

 

High-definition color television with streaming video anytime we feel like watching? Cordless phones that follow commands? Robots that perform surgery? Global networks linking billions of electronic devices throughout the world? What's next? 

Driverless cars - of course!

Just last week, the United Kingdom approved the testing on public roads of driverless, or autonomous, cars. And the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai recently commissioned a study on the feasibility of using driverless cars in that country. The United States, of course, is also in the development mix. 
 
Autonomous vehicles are being tested by Google, Carnegie Mellon University and auto companies that include Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Tesla, Ford and Nissan. A few American cities have approved testing the cars on roadways. Such activity is happening in Nevada, California, Florida and Michigan and the District of Columbia. 

Most developers say the vehicles are only a few years away from being market-ready and they tout many benefits. Perhaps the most interesting predictions are that driverless cars will reduce traffic congestion, lessen the number of automobile accidents and reduce the cost of road repair. 

There's a speed bump though. It's called regulation .The U.S. Congress has a big role to play. Elected officials will determine what technology will be allowed and what won't. Since Congress rarely moves quickly, and decisions related to driverless cars will be significant, the timeline for seeing these vehicles on roadways may be delayed.
  
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Halff

Belton adopts $26 million plan 
to repair water, sewer systems
Belton City Council members recently adopted a $26 million plan to repair the city's water and sewer system during the next five years. Council also instructed city staff to publish the city's intent to issue $9.9 million in certificates of obligation to fund $8.8 million in water and sewer repairs planned for this year.
UTRGV medical school moves forward with accreditation
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine (UTRGV) recently won approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) to begin recruiting a charter class of medical students.

By providing candidacy status to the educational program of the school of medicine, the LCME also is giving the green light to schedule a site visit for preliminary accreditation, noted Dean Francisco Fernandez of the UTRGV.

The new medical school in South Texas is scheduled to open next fall, he said.
Fulton eyeing use of hotel occupancy tax for new trolley
Fulton Town Council members recently agreed to consider using funds from the hotel occupancy tax to help pay for a trolley.
City staff has recommended buying a trolley to provide rides to visitors to and from local hotels, restaurants and other attractions, according to the mayor.
HDI Solutions

Montgomery County to seek approval of $350M in road bonds
Montgomery County officials recently scheduled a May 9 bond election seeking approval of $350 million to pay for several road projects, including extending Woodlands Parkway to Texas 249.

Commissioners agreed to divide bond proceeds between all four precincts, with Precinct 3 receiving $105 million, Precinct 4 allotted $85 million and both Precincts 1 and 2 each receiving $80 million in bond funds if voters approve.
Capital Area state employees donate $2.1 million to charities
Last fall, some 7,400 Capital Area state, higher education and retired state employees contributed more than $2.15 million to the State Employee Charitable Donate Campaign (SECC). The annual event allows state employees and retirees to donate to the charities of their choice. The most recent campaign makes the Capital Area the largest SECC region in the state.

More than 1,500 local, national and international charities participate in the campaign and must apply to be included in the SECC each year. Applications are screened by committees of state employees to ensure that the nonprofits meet requirements set by the Texas Legislature.

Janette Gibreal, chair of the Capital Area SECC Local Employee Committee, said the annual campaign allows state and higher education employees to contribute to charities whose issues they support. "Through personal contributions, state employees can continue the wonderful work they do every day by investing in charities that are working hard to make Texas a great place to live and work," she said.
Selleck selected as lone finalist 
for city manager in Kilgore
Joshua Selleck Joshua Selleck (pictured), currently an assistant city manager in Cedar Park, recently won selection from a field of 52 applicants as the lone finalist for city manager in Kilgore.

Serving as director of finance before becoming an assistant city manager, Selleck also was director of finance for Kerrville.

Selleck has a bachelor's degree from Clarion University and a master's degree from Texas Tech University.
Northrop Grumman

Beaumont ISD superintendent search generates national interest
The search for a new superintendent for Beaumont Independent School District trustees recently resulted in the district so far receiving 36 applications for the job, with nine of those applying from out of state. A majority of those who applied for superintendent, 25 applicants, are from Texas, noted Ron Reynolds, a spokesman for the school district.
David Casteel resigning 
as city manager in Graham
David Casteel City Manager David Casteel (pictured) of Graham recently resigned after almost one year in that job.
  
Previously the public works administrator for the city from 2012 to 2014, Graham's last day on the job is March 31.

Casteel said he is resigning to join a private-sector company that works closely with the Texas Department of Transportation.
LeFleur Transportation

Overton residents to face five propositions in May 9 election
The city of Overton has capital improvement plan projects on its radar screen and is seeking a $1.15 million loan from the Overton Economic Development Corporation to help fund them. Citizens will be asked in a May 9 referendum to pick which of the five separate proposals the OEDC loan will fund. The propositions will address wastewater system improvements, infrastructure projects and North Lake Dam.

The first proposition has a cost of $280,000 to replace water and sewer lines and repave alleyways in areas of the downtown business district. Proposition two, with a cost of $250,000, includes reconstructing or renovating two intersections, installing storm drain and replacing sewer line. A $205,000 price is attached to proposition three, which includes North Lake Dam improvements to stabilize the slide area to reinforce embankment on the west end of the dam to prevent further erosion and possible breaching. Proposition four will design and demolish the spillway to Highway 850 and construct a new one at a cost of $205,000. Proposition five will cost $125,000 and will make upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.

Funding for each proposition that passes will come from the OEDC loan, which will be paid back in annual debt service payments by the city until 2026.
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Denton deputy superintendent, adult education head named
Richard Valenta Trustees for Denton Independent School District recently appointed Richard Valenta (left), an assistant superintendent for human resources, as the new deputy superintendent, a position vacant since 2012. Board members also selected David Gerabagi (right) as the David Gerabagi director of adult education, grant acquisitions and community development.

With 33 years experience in public education, Valenta joined the district in 2012. In his new job, Valenta will oversee human resources and academic programs, noted Suprintendent Jamie Wilson.

Gerabagi previously was director of planning and resource development for Birdville ISD and the associate executive director of the Birdville Education Foundation.
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Abilene narrowing down candidates for city manager
Abilene City Council members recently began reviewing applications from 20 candidates for city manager to replace former City Manager Larry Gilley, who resigned last October. Interim City Manager David Vela confirmed he has applied for the city manager position. Council members expect to meet again in two to three weeks to continue their search for a city manager.

Allen CDC outlines $6 million
in proposed capital projects
In a recent report to the Allen City Council, the president of the Allen Community Development Corporation outlined $6 million in capital improvement projects to improve quality of life planned for this year. 
Set to begin this year are a $3 million project to build softball fields with artificial turf at a new park, an upgrade of locker rooms and a new pool deck at the Don Rodenbaugh Natatorium.
Flores declines offer to be 
next San Juan city manager
Arnold Flores The man who would be the new San Juan city manager - won't be. Lone finalist Arnold Flores, Jr. (pictured), who two months ago was headed to putting his nameplate on a desk in San Juan, has declined the city's offer.

The city in January voted to negotiate a contract with Flores. But, earlier this month, Flores declined the offer because the mayor was opposed to his appointment. The city will either start the search process over again or choose a new city manager from the applicants from the last search with Flores.
Police Chief Juan Gonzalez, who has served as interim city manager since April, will continue to serve in that capacity.

West Orange-Cove reviewing candidates for superintendent

Trustees for the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District recently continued their review of applications for superintendent.

 

The new superintendent will replace former Superintendent James Colbert Jr., who resigned in November to serve as superintendent of the Harris County Department of Education. Trustees in January appointed Assistant Superintendent Silvia Martinez to serve as interim superintendent.

 

Trustees could announce a finalist for superintendent as early as the coming week, district official said.

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Leisure, Hogsett designated again to Land, Water Conservation Fund
Brent Leisure has been designated again by Gov. Greg Abbott to State Liaison Officer and Tim Hogsett to Alternate State Liaison Officer for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The program provides matching grants to states and local governments to acquire and develop public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. Leisure serves as director of the Texas State Parks Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department responsible for the operation of all 95 state parks, natural areas and historic sites in the Texas State Park system.

Hogsett is the director of the Recreation Grants Program at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He has previously served as the Rural Government Planner at the South Plains Association of Governments in Lubbock and the Recreation Grants Administrator at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and president of the National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officer.
Recent Reports
Buda offers financial assistance for low-income housing project
The Buda City Council recently threw financial support behind a planned low-income housing development. A resolution in support of The Pointe at Overlook, a planned 110-unit housing development, was passed as well as second resolution to provide some funding for the project.

The project features stand-alone housing units that are from one to three bedrooms. 

While there was little acceptance for the project a year ago, the developer took into consideration those concerns before bringing the issue back to the table a second time. The firm has requested $118,000 in assistance from the city, which the city agreed to when the development firm said it would replay the city that amount.
Montgomery chooses Yates 
to serve as city administrator
Montgomery City Council members recently appointed Jack Yates, a former interim city administrator, as the new city administrator. Yates replaced former City Administrator Bill Kotlan and Ken Knight, who left the post of interim city administrator on Dec. 4 of last year.
Texas Government Insider Archives  
Ector County ISD hikes budget 
by $35 million for projects
Ector County Independent School District trustees recently approved a $35 million budget amendment to increase funding for technology, upgrades to recreation facilities and to allot $6.7 million for overages on the district's $129.7 million bond issue.

Trustees plan to spend $10 million of the additional funding for technology such as $1.3 million to upgrade computer networks at three elementary schools and $200,000 to buy computer notebooks.

Some of the other projects include $4 million for athletic fields with fencing and tracks, $2.5 million for playgrounds and beautification and $1.5 million for a sewer line at an elementary school.
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