Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 15, Issue 15- Friday, April 21, 2017
"This is not a decision a commissioner takes lightly, because you are setting aside an elected body... so there is a lot of thought," said DeEtta Culbertson, information specialist with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) referring to the commissioner of education's decision to take over a school district. Some of the most recent schools receiving assistance are Southside ISD, Edgewood ISD and Hearne ISD. 

By law, TEA has the ability to take over a school district or charter school due to problems with finances, governance, academics or health and security. Charter school board members are not elected to their seat, but are either appointed by school staff or they volunteer. An independent school district holds elections for school board members, which normally has five to seven members of the community who serve, and are re-elected or replaced after serving up to four years- depending on district policy.

There are currently 1,024 independent school districts in Texas, and over the years, some districts have been temporarily taken over, while others have closed and merged with another district due to an infraction that couldn't be resolved. When TEA discovers that a school district is in need of assistance, they will normally have an individual monitor the situation. The monitor could then be elevated to a conservator if conditions do not improve. The conservator provides a quarterly report to TEA and if improvements are not met, it is then the option of Commissioner of Education Mike Morath to replace the school board and superintendent.

Fort Bend ISD designates $52M as Green Bonds
Trustees for the Fort Bend Independent School District agreed to issue $99 million in tax exempt bonds in April, with more than half of that total, about $52 million, to be designated as Green Bonds to pay for construction of three environmentally sustainable elementary schools. Voters in 2014 approved a $484 million bond proposal to pay for the new elementary schools and other capital improvement projects. 

Plans for the three new schools include building materials with high levels of recycled content, air conditioning and heating systems that are energy efficient and other features to reduce heat such as light-colored building materials and green spaces, said Steve Bassett, chief financial officer for the district. The new schools should be open for the beginning of the 2017 fall semester. The Fort Bend school district is the first in the state to issue Green Bonds, an emerging new sector in the municipal bond market that permits public entities to finance construction of more environmentally sustainable facilities. The University of Texas and universities in other states have also turned to Green Bonds to finance new facilities certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
ExxonMobil and SABIC select San Patricio County for multi-billion dollar project
A site has been chosen in San Patricio County for a potential multi-billion dollar petrochemical project. ExxonMobil Chemical Company and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) will jointly own the petrochemical complex.

The proposed project, one of 11 ExxonMobil announced as part of its 10-year, $20 billion "Growing the Gulf initiative," is expected to create thousands of jobs during the construction phase, as well as 600 new, full-time jobs and 3,500 indirect jobs during operations. A Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) offer of $1.35 million has been extended to SABIC and a TEF offer of $5 million has been extended to ExxonMobil. 
With the site selection completed, ExxonMobil and SABIC will now apply for the necessary permits with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Each company will make a final decision on the investment after the required permits have been granted. The two companies have worked together for 35 years in major chemical joint ventures in Saudi Arabia; and this proposed project will be their first potential U.S.-based joint venture. 
Smith confirmed as executive commissioner for HHSC
Charles Smith
Charles Smith is confirmed as the executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the largest agency in the state with 53,000 employees who oversee a wide range of programs, including Child Protective Services, Medicaid, public health, services for people with disabilities and regulation of day care centers and food service to the public.
A 29-year state employee, Smith has served as the interim executive commissioner since June 1 and has overseen a consolidation of five agencies to four, with another consolidation scheduled to begin in September to create a three-agency system. He previously worked for the Texas Attorney General's office as head of the Child Support Division. Smith is a graduate of Texas Tech University.
Texas A&M to issue RFP for Gateway Education Center
Texas A&M University officials are seeking companies to design and build the new Gateway Education Center, a 70,000-square-foot, 3- to 4-story facility that will feature 21st century technology while using stone and wood to be compatible with the existing campus. 

After up to five design-build firms are selected based on their qualifications, Texas A&M officials will then issue a request for proposals (RFP) and select the winning proposal to build the new center with classrooms, biology laboratories, space for the Allied Health Science Center program, offices within four suites, study carrels and study areas for small groups. 

The new building is expected to be a living laboratory for creating an evolving Smart Campus that uses the latest technologies as well as materials and landscaping to promote strength and sustainability by using more natural light and open spaces for laboratories and teaching areas.
Public-private partnerships for three Rio Grande Valley ports approved 
Henry Cuellar
On Thursday at the World Trade Bridge, Congressman Henry Cuellar joined city of Laredo leaders, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials and representatives of the international trade community to announce that federal officials have approved the city's planned $10.3 million FAST Lane Expansion Project. CBP announced the Anzalduas Bridge, Cameron County, the city of Donna, Texas, and the city of Laredo, Texas, were selected for Public-Private Partnerships. 
John Cornyn

In November 2016, the city of Laredo submitted a proposal for this project to CBP and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and those agencies approved it this week. The project will relocate FAST lanes to a new site on the north side of the federal compound, allowing FAST trucks a more direct route from the bridge, into the new FAST inspection facility, and on to their final destinations

The CBP and the GSA  give cities like Laredo permission to fund and execute projects involving federal property through the Donation Acceptance Program (DAP). In 2016, Cuellar and Sen. John Cornyn passed H.R. 875, the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016, built on that program. 
Athens EDC considers $25M plan to expand airport runway
Athens Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board members are considering a report on the Athens Municipal Airport Master Plan calling for expanding the existing 3,988-foot-long airport runway to 6,500 feet at an estimated cost of $25 million. 

Thanasis Kombos, director of the city's community services department, told council members that a survey of nearby municipal airports indicated that only Canton has a shorter 3,750-foot runway while airports in Corsicana, Palestine, Cherokee County, Terrell and Tyler all feature runways at least 5,000-feet long. Working with the Airport Planning Advisory Committee, city officials are optimistic about receiving a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation to help pay for expanding the runway.
Tarleton State seeks bids for $24M stadium renovation
Tarleton State University officials agreed to seek new bids in June for a $24 million project to renovate and expand Memorial Stadium after the first round of bids came in higher than anticipated. 

University officials are working with the facilities office of the Texas A&M University System to make design changes that could lead to cost savings. The stadium opened in 1951 to honor students and faculty who died in World War II, said Tye Minckler, vice president for finance and administration for the university. 

Current plans call for expanding the seating at the stadium from 7,400 to more than 9,000, creating a home side on the west side of the stands, enlarging the press box, entrances, ticket booths and improving concession facilities, Minckler said. The goal is to complete the renovations and expansion before the 2018 football season for both the university and Stephenville high school, which will share the stadium.
Geeslin selected as CEO of Travis County Central Health District
Mike Geeslin
Mike Geeslin was selected as the finalist for chief executive officer (CEO) of the Travis County Central Health District. Geeslin will lead efforts for redeveloping the 14.3-acre campus of University Medical Center Brackenridge (UMCB) in downtown Austin. The estimated $310 million UMCB mixed-use commercial and residential redevelopment will use public-private partnerships, publicly-funded entities and public academic partnerships to fund health care services and research. 

Geeslin currently serves as executive director of the Texas Dental Association and also served as Texas Commissioner of Insurance from 2005 until 2011. Once contract negotiations with the board of managers of the Central Health district are finalized, Geeslin will replace Patricia Young Brown, the current CEO. Geeslin, who has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, also will oversee the district's partnership with the Dell Medical School of The University of Texas at Austin. 

After the anticipated closure of UMCB in May, Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas will begin operations. The property is leased to the Central Health district and subleased to Seton Healthcare Family, which funded the redevelopment and will operate the teaching hospital. The board of managers of the county's Central Health district also has agreed to contribute $35 million annually to the teaching hospital to provide health care for the Travis County Central Health District.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Samuel Franco, Director, Center for Alternative Finance and Procurement

Samuel Franco
Career highlights and education: Samuel Franco serves as the Director for the Center for Alternative Finance and Procurement (CAP) and as strategic advisor for the Texas Facilities Commission's Public-Private Partnership program. The mission of CAP is to consult with governmental entities regarding best practices for procurement and the financing of qualifying projects as well as assist governmental entities in the receipt of proposals, negotiation of interim and comprehensive agreements, and management of qualifying projects using the public-private partnership process. CAP helps public entities with regard to the procurement, financing, and commercial support of projects that are well suited for alternative delivery type models. Prior to joining the Commission, Samuel worked for Ferrovial-Agroman US Corp in both procurement and construction of large scale infrastructure projects in various areas of the United States. He holds both a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso.

What I like best about my job is: The fact that the office is set up to help deliver the needed infrastructure for the people of the great State of Texas. Helping cities and counties navigate the Public Private Partnership process so that people get the infrastructure they need at the best value for all Texans is a rewarding feeling.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Keep the goal in focus and let that be your guide. Always have an open mind and listen to every opinion.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Texas is a BIG state. What works well in one part of the State may not be the best fit for big cities like Dallas and Houston. Always try to think outside of the box for a solution and not assume there is going to be a one size fits all approach.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Perusing the used record section of Waterloo Records on Lamar.

People would be surprised to know that: I spent six years in the United States Air Force Reserves and used to work on jet engines.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: TFC manages 26.1 million square feet of owned and leased real estate assets supporting the needs of 103 agencies throughout 249 Texas cities. We are about to break ground on construction of three new state office buildings. And lastly, I am especially proud of our great HUB program that does an amazing job providing assistance to historically underutilized businesses (HUBs) through multiple outreach efforts, such as education and training. The team has an open door policy and is always willing to answer questions for business owners that want to know how to get started working with the State.

Texas Tech University requesting qualifications for baseball facility improvements
Texas Tech University System Regents agreed to request qualifications for a design firm to manage the first phase of a $5 million to $8 million project to improve and expand the Rip Griffin Baseball Facility. The deadline for submitting the proposal is April 27. Expected to cost about $400,000, phase 1 of the baseball facility project will focus on developing a fund raising program, provide programmatic information, schematic plans and colored renderings of the baseball facility when the project is completed. 

After the first phase is completed, Texas Tech System officials will be required to authorize proceeding to the second phase of the project before the work can continue. Preliminary plans include renovating and expanding locker rooms, the bullpen area for the home team, expanding the clubhouse, adding new premium suites along the left field, creating an office suite for coaches, improving the concourse and adding masonry and stucco to some areas of the exterior walls.
Corpus Christi requests bids for drilling services
Officials of the Corpus Christi Aquifer Storage and Recovery Conservation District and the city of Corpus Christi are requesting proposals from drilling services for an $882,395 project to perform exploratory drilling tests as part of an ongoing study to determine the feasibility of creating an aquifer storage and recovery system to improve regional water supplies. 

The first phase of the drilling test program includes drilling a borehole and completing geophysics and lithology classifications to a depth of 1,200 feet at a minimum of three test site locations near South Padre Island Drive and Texas Highway 44 east. Once evaluations of those drill sites are completed, the second phase of the study would include core-barrel soil coring, pumping tests and water quality sampling. Bids are due by May 10. Once bids are completed, the project is expected to be ready for operation within 133 days. A portion of the study is funded from a grant from the Texas Water Development Fund.
Lakeway may renovate or rebuild city hall/police station
The Lakeway City Council was informed by a hired architect that a structural study indicated that the city hall and police station may be near the end of their structural reliability and should be remodeled or demolished and replaced soon. A more detailed report including a cost analysis for two options will be presented to council members in several weeks. 

Built in the 1980s, the existing police station was originally just city hall before the police moved into the building on Westlake Drive. Council members will need to make a choice to prolong the life of older facilities that will be costly to maintain or construct a new building that should cost less to maintain. There was also discussion on possibly reconfiguring the police station to accommodate additional police officers requested by the police chief.
McLennan County to hire consultant to find best method to manage roads
McLennan County Commissioners voted to hire a consultant to help them design a better system to manage roads maintained by the county. The county judge plans to use that information from the consultant when they adopt the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget.  

The plan is to review the types of road systems that county officials are permitted to have, a comparison to road management systems in similar counties and the amount of road miles maintained by the county. The plan will also propose an improved system for the county that now operates under a precinct-based system where each commissioner manages the roads and bridges in his or her precinct. Moving the county to a unified road and bridge department was proposed during the meeting as a method to save money and remove some of the politics out of road work.
Calendar of Events

June 18-20
The 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit will be held June 18-20 at the Gaylord Hotel - National Harbor in Washington, D.C. The summit's theme "Grow with US" will highlight the innovative business climate in the United States and feature investment opportunities from every corner of the country. Keynote speakers and panelists will lay out a clear roadmap of how businesses of any size, and any industry, can benefit and contribute to the U.S. economy. Register for the event here.
June 25-28
The Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo will take place June 25-28 at the Austin Convention Center. This Internet of Things technology trade show will include hands-on workshops and smart technology demonstrations. Areas of focus include connected buildings, urban mobility, advanced networks, governance, infrastructure, energy, resiliency, technology and data and citizen life. Register for the event here.
Sept. 17-20
The Institute of Internal Auditors Southern Region Conference will take place from Sept. 17-20 at the Hilton Austin Hotel, located at 500 E 4th Street in Austin. The conference program offers attendees in the technology, state and local government, and medical industries cutting-edge, relevant information on core competencies and general audit, with new information on audit activities and industry hot topics. 

 Attendees will master the newest technical audit skills and enhance interpersonal soft skills, vital to the growth and success of both the audit department and the organization. Register early, before July 17, and save $100.

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

When President Donald Trump asked industry stakeholders for input regarding regulatory relief as part of presidential initiatives such as his proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan, he got an earful.

From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Association of Manufacturers, everyone had something to say about regulations and how permitting processes could be streamlined.

The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, in particular, took aim at federal agency regulations and policies that drag down the construction industry. Its more than 50-page Make Federal Agencies Responsible Again plan addresses overreaching federal rules and regulations that it says are preventing economic growth and threatening the country's reputation as an "economic and cultural superpower" on the world stage. The organization represents more than 26,000 member firms in the construction industry and it wants to implement "a paradigm shift" that will facilitate collaboration between public and private sector partners as friends rather than adversaries.


TWDB approves $69.9M for city/county water systems
Members of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved about $69.9 million to help pay for improvements to water and wastewater systems, with a majority of that funding, almost $64.7 million to the city of Houston to replace collection system pipelines for wastewater systems throughout the city. 

The Canyon Regional Water Authority, which services Atascosa, Bexar, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays and Wilson counties, will receive $5 million to upgrade the water system. TWDB board members approved $200,000 for water system improvements for rural water projects in Woodloch in Montgomery County.
Industry-led, career-themed school opening in Texas
The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) and several companies in Texas will open the first CAST (Centers for Applied Science and Technology) Tech High School this fall.

The school will teach skills using the project-based learning approach. It will also provide flexible schedules, hands-on projects and real-world problems to solve. Students will also take part in job-shadowing, mentorships, internships and will have job opportunities upon graduation.  
There are plans to establish similar schools across San Antonio with other industry partners and local school districts. 

Charles selected as Alice ISD superintendent
Alma Charles
Alma Charles, currently a high school principal for West Oso ISD, won selection as the lone finalist for superintendent at Alice Independent School District. She will replace Superintendent Grace Everett in July after the required 21-day waiting period expires and trustees approve her contract. 

During her 27 years in public education, Charles has worked as a teacher and administrator for school districts in Kingsville, Sequin, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth and Alice as well as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio. Charles has a bachelor's degree, three master's degrees and an Ed.D.
McFarland chosen as Sweetwater ISD superintendent
George McFarland
George McFarland is the lone finalist for superintendent of the Sweetwater Independent School District. Now a superintendent for Tahoka ISD, McFarland will replace Superintendent Terry Pittman, who is retiring, once the required waiting period expires in May. 

During his 26 years in public education, McFarland has been a teacher, coach, principal and has now served three years as a superintendent. He also has served as an adjunct professor for the superintendent certification program at Wayland Baptist University and as a financial consultant for several school districts. McFarland has a bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas, a master's degree from Lamar University and an Ed.D. from Lamar University.

Edwards named as superintendent at Llano ISD
Llano Independent School District trustees finalized a contract with Mac Edwards to serve as the new superintendent of that district effective on July 1. He will replace Casey Callahan, who resigned to accept a job at the Region 15 Education Service Center in San Angelo. 

Edwards comes to Llano from Paradise ISD in north Texas, where he was superintendent. Edwards served as a teacher and coach at Paris ISD and North Lamar ISD, a principal at Thrall ISD and later as a principal at Paradise ISD, where he is serving as superintendent until his resignation is effective on June 30.
Corpus Christi reviewing plans to upgrade North Beach area
Corpus Christi City Council members are reviewing a new study on revitalizing North Beach to make the area just north of the Nueces River more friendly for tourists and other visitors. City officials also scheduled two public meetings this week to discuss the proposed redevelopment initiative. 

Residents and business owners began showing interest in improving the North Beach area after the construction of a new Harbor Bridge was approved. The area already has restaurants, bars and hotels along the beach. The new redevelopment plans include additional restaurants, retail stores, hotels, condominiums, an area to view dolphins and another to view birds. There would also need to be improvements to drainage and water infrastructure in the area.

Vega resigns as San Benito ISD superintendent
San Benito Independent School District trustees accepted the resignation of Superintendent Adrian Vega effective on June 9. Board members also discussed plans for finding a new superintendent to replace Vega. 

Prior to joining the San Benito district in January 2016, Vega was deputy superintendent for teaching and learning at Tucson Arizona Unified School District. He also was a principal for school districts in Tyler and Ector County before moving to Arizona. He said he has accepted a new position outside of public education, but declined to identify the organization he will join. Vega has a bachelor's degree from University of Texas at San Antonio, a master's degree from Texas Woman's University and a doctorate degree from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week: 

Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

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Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments from April 7- April 20:
  • Kevin Lilly- Houston, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission;
  • Mike Cox- Driftwood, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Daniel R. Griffith, II- Pflugerville, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Jason Burdine- Richmond, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Andrew Kim- New Braunfels, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Robert Long, III- Tomball, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Jill Tate- Colleyville, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Daniel Gilliam- Victoria, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Paul Robbins- Nacogdoches, Texas School Safety Center Board; 
  • Cecilia Reynolds-Perez- Corpus Christi, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Allison Hymel- Allen, Texas School Safety Center Board;
  • Esmaeil Porsa, M.D.- Parker, Commission of Jail Standards;
  • Ben Perry- Waco, Commission on Jail Standards; 
  • Duane Lock- Southlake, Commission on Jail Standards;
  • Melinda Taylor- Austin, Commission on Jail Standards;
  • Patrick O'Daniel- Austin, Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
  • E.F. "Mano" DeAyala- Houston, Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
  • Larry Miles- Amarillo, Texas Board of Criminal Justice; 
  • Jeffrey Tayon- Houston, Department of Information Resources;
  • Ben GatzkeFort Worth, Department of Information Resources;
  • Sonya Medina Williams- San Antonio, Department of Information Resources.
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Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Kristin Gordon 
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.   
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