Texas Government Insider
Volume 9, Issue 25 - Friday, June 24, 2011

San Antonio to host upcoming NCSL Legislative Summit 2011


Thousands of legislators, staff to meet for 'Strong States - Strong Nation' gathering

NCSLThe largest and most important gathering of the year for state legislators and legislative staff from all 50 states is headed for the Lone Star State. The National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL) Legislative Summit 2011 - "Strong States - Strong Nation" will be held in San Antonio this year on Aug. 8-11 at the Alamo City's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Thousands of legislators and their staffs will invade San Antonio for what NCSL bills as "the largest and most substantive meeting of its kind in the nation," where policymakers meet to exchange ideas regarding issues facing today's legislatures. And for this conference, there are many.

The annual gathering will feature approximately 150 sessions on topics that include state budgets, the economy, transportation, education, health care, human services, energy, elections, redistricting and professional development for legislators and staff.

Kevin ConcannonSteve AosSandy PraegerConvention-goers will hear from an impressive list of speakers. Among them is Kevin Concannon (right), who has been director of health and human services agencies in three states. He currently oversees supplemental food services for millions of Americans through his post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He will address "Hunger in America."

Another speaker, Steve Aoc (middle), will address "State Approaches That Maximize Taxpayer Dollars." Aoc is director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy and has more than three decades of experience conducting cost-benefit analyses in many public policy areas.

Addressing "State Responses to Health Insurance Reform" will be Sandy Praeger (left), commissioner of the Kansas Insurance Department. Other speakers include Texas Gov. Rick Perry, experts in federal government policy, political and public affairs, leadership and ethics, education reform, energy, immigration law and more.




Alliance OK'd between Panama Canal, Port of Houston Authorities

Port Commission
James Edmonds (right) and Alberto Aleman Zubieta shake hands after signing an MOU renewing the partnership between the Panama Canal Authority and the Port of Houston Authority.
A strategic alliance between the Port of Houston Authority and the Panama Canal Authority was formalized this week in Panama City, Panama. The partnership, which originated in 2003, was extended for five more years, ensuring a boost to trade along the "All Water Route" between Asia and the U.S. Gulf Coast via the Panama Canal and Port of Houston Authority. 


Port Commission Chair James T. Edmonds and ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta signed the memorandum of understanding facilitating the renewal of the partnership. The expansion project is expected to increase containerized cargo going to Houston by up to 15 percent over the next several years. "The renewal of this agreement signals an even stronger relationship between Houston's port and Panama," said Port Commission Chairman James T. Edmonds. "We look forward to the increased trade expected from the Canal's expansion, jobs creation and enhanced economic development in the region as we move toward another century of progress." 


The newly signed agreement is expected to increase trade and traffic through the Panama Canal through joint marketing, data sharing, market studies exchange, sharing of information related to modernization and improvement and technological interchange of advanced technology capabilities and programs.  


Leading business and government officials, shipping dignitaries and distinguished guests, including a delegation from the Greater Houston Partnership, attended the ceremony in Panama City. Delegates from Houston also included Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and City of Houston Controller Ronald Green.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Stephanie MuthStephanie Muth, chief of staff, Texas Health and Human Services Commission 


Career highlights and education: I have been the HHSC chief of staff since October 2010.  As chief of staff I serve as a senior advisor to the executive commissioner and directly oversee government, constituent and community/stakeholder relations for the agency. Additionally, the commissioner recently asked me to oversee an initiative to create the vision for the future of our eligibility system. I have been with HHSC since 2003 serving as the Director of External Relations and the Associate Commissioner for Consumer and External Affairs. Prior to 2003, I worked for the Department of Human Services and the House of Representatives. I have a B.A. in political science from the University of Florida and a master's degree in public affairs from The University of Texas.

What I like best about my job is: I learn something new every day - the issues are complex. Every day brings new challenges and opportunities. I am never bored! But, what I like most about my job is the ability to have a positive impact on people's lives.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Part of being a good communicator is being a good listener.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: State government is full of unique opportunities. Enjoy what you do and approach every task with commitment and dedication. It's not extraordinary actions that will make you stand out, but it's what you do every day. As Thomas Edison said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: It seems like the last time I did that I was meeting a repairman at the house while responding to e-mails on my BlackBerry.
People would be surprised to know that I: have lots of interests and hobbies outside of work. I make jewelry, enjoy dabbling in other crafts and I teach dog training class. My dog Gypsy knows many tricks - most recently I taught her to do a handstand.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Health and human services touch, in some way, the lives of every Texan, whether it be through ensuring food safety, protecting children and adults from abuse or neglect, providing public health services or providing direct client services such as CHIP and Medicaid.  What a great place to work! 


Veteran health care official Wanser named DARS commissioner

Debra WanserTexas Health and Human Services officials recently named seasoned health care administrator Debra Wanser (pictured) commissioner for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).


Wanser, who has served as interim commissioner since Jan. 1, previously worked as DARS' deputy commissioner. Before starting at DARS three years ago, Wanser worked at Adult Protective Services.


Wanser, a registered nurse, holds degrees from St. Edward's University and Oklahoma State University, as well as a master's from The University of Texas.


TPWD gets grant for private land wildlife recreation, river access

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently received an $813,068 federal grant to improve access to wildlife recreation on private land.

The grant, which could stretch over three years for a total of $2.4 million, is funded through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) of the United States Department of Agriculture.

The money will be used to lease access points on rivers so that people can paddle, canoe and kayak in shorter, more reasonable stretches. Funding will also go toward growing the public hunting program by identifying, managing and improving lands to lease for public hunting and recreational access.


Tyler moving closer to developing new event center

Barbara BassTexas legislators recently passed a bill that will allow the city of Tyler to add 2 percent to the city's hotel/motel occupancy tax rate. City officials plan to use the additional $500,000 revenue each year to develop a new conference or event facility.

The legislation gives Tyler the ability to develop a conference or event center that will boost tourism, create jobs and strengthen the local economy, said Mayor Barbara Bass (pictured).

City officials plan to examine all options carefully before taking action on an event or conference center, said the city manager. The city will consider several public-private partnership options such as renovating the old Carlton Hotel or the Lindsey Building to use as an event or conference center, a spokeswoman said.


Water/Wastewater Opportunities

Texas Childen's Hospital awarded $4M bonus after EHR conversion

A $4 million Medicaid incentive payment has been made to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston as part of the federally mandated transition to electronic health records (EHRs). The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has been administering payments to Medicaid providers since mid-May. The nearly $9 million in incentive payments have been shared by more than 400 doctors, dentists and other health care professionals. Sixteen Texas hospitals have qualified for $21 million in the bonus payments.

HHS Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs said electronic health records will improve patient care. "Electronic records make it easier to ensure that doctors have all the information they need about a patient when making treatment decisions," he said.

To qualify for the incentive payments, doctors and hospitals must adopt EHR technology that meets federal standards to improve the quality, safety and effectiveness of patient care. Doctors can receive up to $63,750 in incentives over six years and hospitals can qualify for millions over a three-year period, based on formula funding. There are no restrictions on how the doctors and medical facilities can use the bonus funds.


H-GAC's Commute Solutions program recognized by EPA 

HGAC Honored
Alan Clark (from left), H-GAC Director of Transportation, Jack Steele, executive directorof H-GAC, Hon. Craig Doyal, Montgomery Co. Commissioner and Shelley Whitwork (foreground) H-GAC Air Quality Program Manager accept award..
A regional program in the Houston-Galveston area was recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its work to improve air quality.



"This award is another recognition of the outstanding progress being made in air emission reduction across our region. Government, business and citizens are working together, and efforts will continue," said Jack Steele, H-GAC Executive Director.


Criteria for the awards include how the entry directly or indirectly reduces hazardous emissions, and whether the entry demonstrates innovation and uniqueness.

The Houston-Galveston Area Council's (H-GAC) Commute Solutions program, which works to improve the environment and reduce traffic congestion, was one of 12 groups to win the Clean Air Excellence Award. The program is a regional partnership program in the Houston-Galveston area that works to reduce traffic congestion and improve the region's air quality. 

The program provides employers and their employees advice and options on ways to commute including carpooling, biking and mass transit.


Texas A&M Galveston to build two new residence halls

Officials of Texas A&M University at Galveston recently agreed to build two new residence halls on Pelican Island at a cost of about $28.2 million.

Construction will begin this summer on the two facilities, each of which will provide 294 beds and be completed by July 2012, A&M officials said. The buildings meet Texas Windstorm requirements and will feature laundry rooms, a study area and lounge area. Currently about 1,500 students out of the 2,000 enrolled at TAMUG reside on campus.


Fort Sam Houston's McBride to lead Rhode Island guard

Kevin McBrideThe governor of Rhode Island recently selected Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride (pictured), currently a commander at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, as the adjutant general of the Rhode Island National Guard and the state's emergency management agency.

In his current position commanding the U.S. Army North's Contingency Command Post, McBride is responsible for responding quickly to natural or manmade disasters and coordinating the military response. A former Army pilot who served in Iraq as the commanding general for the 43rd Military Police Brigade, McBride was assigned to oversee prison facilities in that country following charges of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. He has a degree from the University of Rhode Island.


Austin Housing Authority granted $2.2M for housing programs

The Austin Housing Authority recently received more than $2.2 million in federal funds that will help veteran and low-income residents.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department OK'd money for four programs:

  • More than $1.7 million to build an education center for public housing residents;
  • Nearly $250,000 for two programs that help families earn more income and reduce their need for welfare assistance; and 
  • $234,900 to support housing for homeless veterans.

Stocco named new Texas Tech Health Sciences Center dean

Douglas StoccoOfficials at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) recently named Douglas Stocco (pictured) dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Stocco serves as executive vice president for research at TTUHSC.

Since joining the institution in 1974, Stocco has received numerous honors and awards for his research of steroid hormone synthesis.

Stocco received bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Windsor, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and performed two years of postdoctoral research at University of California, Los Angeles.


SPI Training Services

Lee College forms group to search for new president

Lee College regents recently created a presidential search committee to lead search efforts to find a new president following the resignation of Dr. Michael Murphy from that post.

Murphy joined Lee College in January 2009 after retiring as president of College of DuPage in Illinois. He also served as president of St. Louis Community College in Missouri. Murphy has two master's degrees from Indiana University and a certificate in educational management from Harvard University.


State legislators pass bill to move UTB, TSC forward

Juliet GarciaA new state law has OK'd the split between University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.


Officials from the UT System and TSC have been working to plan and complete the transition. 

"This bill launches the new UTB and flings open the door to transform a region buoyed by the strength of the UT System and inspired by the people of the Lower Rio Grande Valley," UTB President Juliet V. García (pictured) said.


Wolinsky chosen new dean of Baylor College of Dentistry

Lawrence WolinskyTexas A&M University System leaders recently named Lawrence E. Wolinsky (pictured) dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) Baylor College of Dentistry, effective Sept. 1. He replaces James S. Cole, who has serve as dean for a decade.

Wolinsky currently serves as associate dean and a professor of oral biology at UCLA School of Dentistry. He joined the dental school faculty in 1980.

Wolinsky received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, and a Doctorate in Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.


UT Arlington names Bardet new College of Engineering dean

Jean-Pierre BardetOfficials at The University of Texas at Arlington recently named distinguished civil engineer Jean-Pierre Bardet (pictured) dean of the College of Engineering.

Bardet, who has served as chair of University of Southern California's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department for five years, will join UT-Arlington by January 2012. Bardet will succeed Bill Carroll, who plans to return to teaching in the fall.

Bardet studied engineering at Ecole Centrale in Lyon, France, and earned his master's and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. 


DHS seeking private sector technology development partnerships

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is seeking the involvement of private companies in the agency's technology development partnerships. At a recent security industry government summit in Washington, D.C., DHS Chief Commercialization Officer Thomas Cellucci said budget cuts at the federal level opens the door for private industry to partner with the agency. The goal, he said, is to have the private sector develop the technology and the public sector incorporating their technology instead of developing its own.

Cellucci said DHS is working hard to develop a way to communicate with the private sector about its technology needs. The DHS official said there is "a vast amount of money" in the agency to connect with private industry to develop technology for the agency. He stressed that the huge acquisitions government used to make are fading away. Instead, government is looking to the private sector for commercialization. He said there is a bright future ahead for commercialized contracts with private sector vendors that develop technology with the government.

Cellucci noted that if technology can be developed by private companies using technological guidelines laid out by the government, the products developed likely can be sold across numerous government and even some private markets. To facilitate such partnerships, DHS has streamlined its processes, forms and procedures. An example of a successful endeavor is the Secure Program, he said. It is a public-private partnership that uses private sector experience and resources to develop products or services based on DHS needs. It leads to private sector competition, which benefits the government agency.


HISD will have $70.6 million in federal E-Rate funding to spend   

Terry GrierThe Houston school district will receive more than $70.6 million in E-Rate federal funding, which can be used to bridge the digital divide between affluent students and urban students living in poverty.

The district's E-Rate funding was frozen in 2007 following a federal probe that involved three former employees accepting gifts from E-Rate vendors. Since becoming superintendent in 2009, Terry Grier (pictured) has made it a priority to re-establish the funding source.

The $70.6 million in upgrades is expected to benefit about 154,000 students at 210 campuses. And that's just for the 2009 funding year. Requests are pending for other years.


TxDOT seeking private partner to build Grand Parkway

Following legislative approval for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to participate again in public-private partnerships (also known as P3s), TxDOT officials issued Requests for Information to explore the use of a P3 to develop the Grand Parkway and managed lanes on I-35E in Dallas. The Grand Parkway projects a proposed 180-mile circumferential highway around seven counties in the Greater Houston area.

The new law also permits the agency to use P3s to develop US249, SH290, SH288 and other specified projects. As defined by TxDOT, a P3 is an agreement between the department and the private sector for the design, construction and potential financing, operation and maintenance of a tolled road project.

Officials at TxDOT will consider developing the Grand Parkway project using a full concession agreement, an availability payment structure or a design-build or design-bid-build agreement using tax-exempt toll revenue bonds. The availability payment structure allows TxDOT to reimburse a developer for capital costs, operating and maintenance costs and financing to build the roadway, along with permitting a return on equity. Under the new legislation, TxDOT is allowed to use toll revenues and state highway funds with some restrictions to reimburse private companies that build and maintain toll roads.


Dublin ISD chief pushes for facility upgrades

BarnettSuperintendent Shaun Barnett (pictured) of Dublin Independent School District recently urged trustees to consider building a new middle school, improvements to the athletic complex and beautification projects. Voters in May rejected a $5.44 million bond proposal to build a new middle school and other improvement projects.

The state has granted an extension on low-interest bonds, noted Barnett. Trustees can decide in November whether to call another bond election after a facility needs assessment is completed. The superintendent said the cafeteria, library/science annex and gymnasium need new roofs that will cost almost $150,000 and the middle school building, auditorium and band hall will need new roofs in 2012.

Other facility needs outlined by Barnett include an underground sprinkler system for the football practice field, baseball and softball fields, a covered parking facility for buses and a concession stand and restrooms for the baseball and softball fields. Trustees approved a facility needs assessment.


Calhoun port authority reviews 2012 capital projects

Calhoun Port Authority officials recently reviewed a proposed capital improvement plan for the 2012 fiscal year that includes spending $1.75 million for a barge dock or $1.4 million for 10 dolphin docks. Board members also agreed to spend $231,400 from a 2007 Security Grant to upgrade guardhouses at the gate.


One board member expressed concern over using the dolphins because of the $1 million the authority spent to repair the dolphins and asked whether a dock with bumpers would be a better system.

The proposed capital improvement plan also includes $399,769 to rehabilitate pipe rack coating, $300,000 for GCD void repair, $75,000 to repair the multipurpose dock, $50,000 to stabilize the bulkhead and $30,000 for rip rap repair expansion. 


Reduced-rate Consulting

Tyler regional airport wins record $8.3 million federal grant

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently awarded an $8.3 million grant to the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport for safety enhancements. Grant funds will be used to upgrade runways to meet FAA design standards, airport officials said.

The largest of its kind awarded by the FAA to a city, the grant will pay about 95 percent of the eligible expenses for the safety improvement project that includes the addition of navigational aids, lighting, associated taxiways and facilities to meet the new runway configuration, said Davis Dixon, the airport manager. Work on the airport improvement project must be completed before 2015 to meet federal guidelines, Dixon said.


El Paso official touts $430,000 in savings due to 4-day week

Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria (pictured), the chief financial officer for the city of El Paso, recently touted $430,000 in savings during its first test of employees working four, 10-hour days for a year. City officials first instituted the program in the summer of 2009, again in the summer of 2010 and then agreed to continue the program and measure the results for a full-year.

Despite some criticism of the workweek issue in the recent city election, Arrieta-Candelaria supports the city continuing with the four-day weeks and is urging continuation of the program in upcoming budget discussions because of the cost savings.

The city saved about $40,000 a year in utilities and $390,000 in annual fuel savings as a result of the four-day week, with city offices opening from 7 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m., or when the last customer in line is served, Arrieta-Candelaria said. The four-day schedule is working as residents and city employees become adjusted to the new hours, she said. Another benefit, she said, is that employee sick leave used during the four-day week program fell 22 percent when compared to sick leave hours used from June through August 2008.


Hutto seeking discussions on 2012-2016 Capital Improvements Plan

Hutto residents are invited to attend an event July 5 at City Hall to learn about and discuss proposed capital projects.


Every year since 2006, city officials have put together a Capital Improvement Plan that outlines changes to streets, drainage, water, wastewater, parks and facilities. To view the proposed plan, click here.



Gillespie County again considering possibly replacing old jail

Officials in Gillespie County have revived a two-decades-old conversation regarding the possibility of building a new jail. A study was released this week by county officials that calls for construction of a 96-bed jail behind the sheriff's office in Fredericksburg. It carries a $10.5 million price tag.

A firm was hired last year to study the county's criminal justice system. County Judge Mark Stroeher admits that with the economy like it is, a new jail would be a "tough sell." The county currently averages 40 inmates per day, most of whom have been housed in jails in adjacent counties since 1992. The cost last year to rent those cells was nearly $400,000. The earliest a bond issue could go before voters would be May of next year.


North Central Texas College may seek another bond election

Eddie HadlockIn the wake of the narrow defeat in May of a $32.5 million bond proposal, North Central Texas College (NCTC) regents recently began considering whether to call another bond election to pay for new construction and upgrades to campus facilities.

Dr. Eddie Hadlock (pictured), president of NCTC, presented three options he said could meet the most critical facility needs such as expanding the health sciences department and renovating the 300 Building. The options are calling another major bond election similar to the rejected bond proposal, considering a scaled-down bond proposal that would alleviate some problems or using reserve funds to pay for the most necessary renovations, such as to the 300 Building, Hadlock said. Renovations to the 300 Building could cost more than $2.5 million, he added.

Regents agreed that the health sciences program should be a top priority when considering facilities and expressed some support for calling a bond election in November, but took no action at the workshop meeting. College staff also agreed to prepare more information on available options for regents to consider at a later meeting.


Governor signs bill that will allow for BexarMet election

Gov. Rick Perry's signature on a bill from the 82nd Legislature recently made it OK for Bexar Metropolitan Water District ratepayers to dissolve the board in an election, which could be held as soon as November.

However, board members, who are elected, are trying to prevent the election by arguing that it's a violation of voter's rights. If BexarMet is absorbed by San Antonio, BexarMet customers living outside the city limits would not have representation on the SAWS board. 

If passed, the utility would be absorbed by the San Antonio Water System. 


Upshur County must appoint new county judge, DA says

Upshur County officials must appoint a new judge before county officials can adopt a budget for 2011-2012, according to District Attorney Billy Byrd.

Precinct 1 Commissioner James Crittenden has acted as the presiding officer of the court and handled day-to-day duties of the county judge since the Commission on Judicial Conduct in January suspended County Judge Dean Fowler following an indictment on two misdemeanor charges. Byrd said a new county judge is necessary to hold budget workshops as the judge is the county's budget officer under the state Government Code.

Crittenden said he expect commissioners to consider the appointment of a county judge at its next meeting on June 30 or in a special meeting that could be called before the regular meeting.


Did you miss S&L Pipeline?

Beeville officials discussing parks improvement project

Beeville city leaders are discussing a parks improvement project, which could cost up to $3.5 million.
Ideas for the park include:

  • A $1.1 million, three-field Little League complex that could also be used for an adult flag football program; 
  • Irrigation equipment worth $500,000; 
  • Press boxes, grand stands and scoreboards for new fields; and 
  • Several new handicapped-accessible restrooms.

Karnes County sets bond election to renovate courthouse

Karnes County commissioners recently agreed to schedule a November bond election to pay for more renovations to the 117-year-old county courthouse. Due to a bat infestation, county officials closed the third floor and moved employees and the commissioner's courtroom to another county building where they are sharing space with the juvenile probation department.

Commissioners have not determined the amount of the bond proposal. County officials previously issued $3 million in certificates of obligation to pay for a new annex building to house employees moved out of the courthouse. That new annex currently is under construction.

Some opponents have questioned the structural integrity of the old courthouse and efforts to renovate the building. County officials, however, are using a $617,886 emergency construction grant from the Texas Historical Commission to help restore the 117-year-old courthouse to its original state. A 2009 estimate, however, placed an $8.3 million price tag for a full courthouse restoration, including the removal of two wings built in 1926.


Mike SimpsonNew funding plan being offered for Arts of Collin County

 Officials with the Arts of Collin County, a one-of-a-kind arts park in Allen, recently presented a 2011-2012 budget to the board of directors. 


In the new budget, all operations and maintenance costs are funded through private sources, said executive director Mike Simpson (pictured). That decision comes after officials with owner and member cities indicated they could not afford the payments.

In May, residents of Frisco voted to revoke authorization of the city's remaining $16.4 million in bonds they had promised for the arts hall.


Denton moves ahead on health care clinic for city employees

Denton City Council members recently took a step forward in its effort to open a health clinic for its approximately 3,000 city employees in an attempt slow down or stop rising health care costs.

Council members agreed on a plan to hire a Tennessee-based clinic management firm to operate and staff the clinic with a full-time physician and two medical assistants at a regional medical center. The company submitted the best of 12 proposals to manage the 2,500-square-foot city worker medical clinic. The city is paying only $1 a year for the lease on the expectation of the medical center gaining referral business.

Staff members are expected to present a proposed $700,000 contract to manage the clinic for a year and a lease agreement to council later this summer. The clinic could be operating before the end of 2011, the risk manager for the city said. Denton currently spends about $16 million per year for health benefits for employees.


Rio Grande Valley bus system unveils new buses and logo

Carlos CascosIn an effort to gain more riders as fuel prices increase, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council recently unveiled a new logo to be placed on the new, more fuel-efficient buses to be operated by Valley Metro. The new $1.7 million Valley Metro system was formed with the consolidation of Rio Metro, Rio Transit and Harlingen Express bus services that had operated in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties.

The new, more modern buses should help riders overcome a stigma that now presumes public transportation is for less affluent passengers, said Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos (pictured). The council used $1.7 million in federal stimulus funds to replace its 10-year-old fleet of buses with more fuel-efficient medium-sized buses that can serve both rural and intercity areas, Cascos said.

The Valley Metro system, which will operate routes through 27 cities in Cameron and Hidalgo counties and pick-up by appointment in Willacy County, also will link with bus systems operating in McAllen, Brownsville and South Padre Island, he noted. The new Valley Metro bus system operates from hubs in McAllen and Brownsville with routes that tie into smaller, surrounding cities.


Five Northeast Texas schools offering online health science courses

Five northeast Texas high schools recently joined to offer three health science courses to prepare students who want to work in the health science field. The five high schools taking part in the Northeast Texas Career and Technical Consortium (NTCTC) program to offer health science courses are in Boles, Commerce, Cooper, Cumby and Wolfe City, said Mary Park, director of the NTCTC.

Taught this first year by Katie Byrd of Cooper ISD, the three science courses offer an online classroom environment, live broadcasts, recorded videos, a restricted e-mail network and live student/teacher meetings. Commerce ISD will host the courses for the second and third year, but a teacher from Cooper ISD will continue to teach the online health science courses.

Second- and third-year students in the online courses also will have rotations to provide hands-on experience in a variety of health care facilities in the area, Park said. Each of the districts involved in the collaborative effort will pay a fee for each of their students enrolled in the online courses, about $400 for each student, she said. An estimated 25 to 30 students are expected to enroll in the online health science courses, but officials have not decided on the exact number, Park said.


TASSCC  Annual Conference scheduled Aug. 7-10 in San Antonio

"Reboot Camp - Strengthening the Core" is the theme for the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communications (TASSCC) 2011 Annual Conference. This year's event is slated for Aug. 7-10 at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. This year's conference will feature numerous speakers who will provide information and insight on how to address today's pressing technology challenges. There will also be session tracks focusing on security, leadership, managing IT services and infrastructure costs effectively and enabling mobility, transparency and social media. The keynote lunch speaker on Monday, Aug. 8, will be Beverly Chiodo, who will address "Character-Driven Success." Invited to address the General Session is Joe Jarzombek - Director for Software Assurance, National Cyber Security Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For more information, click here. To register, click here. To view the agenda, click here.


National Assn. of Social Workers/Texas Chapter plans conference

The National Association of Social Workers/Texas Chapter has announced its 35th Annual State Conference, slated for Oct. 8-10 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. Billed as the largest social work conference in the Southwest, this year's conference features features former college athlete Brent Rasmussen speaking on "Changing the Future: The Power of Attitude, Hope and Help," and NASW/TX Government Relations Director Sue Milam addressing "The Need for 'Boot Straps' in a Texas Tough Environment." Numerus breakout sessions are available, covering issues from building an ethical private practice to navigating the maze of long-term care. This year's conference features the folllowing tracts: behavioral and mental health; health/medical; child, family and schools; professional/career; community; social work education and aging/disabilities. More than 16 hours ofContinuing Education Credit are available. The organization is currently seeking exhibitors and sponsors. For more information, click here. To register, click here.


TSABAA planning 4nd Annual Summer Conference in July

The 42nd Annual Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association (TSABAA) Summer Conference is slated for July 28 and 29 at the Jake Pickle Event Center in Austin. Among the topics of discussion for the two-day event will be social media, business etiquette, an ERS update and a legislative update. Speaker topics include "Top 10 Business Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them," "Life is Like a Google Map: Create Your Road Map to Success" and "Define Yourself! Building a Powerful Personal Brand." The State Auditor's Office will also address IT/Audit/Fraud/Risk/User Security. Attendees will qualify for 12.5 CPEs for attendance. For more information on the conference, registration, exhibit booth and sponsorship, click here. TSABAA will also host its 4th Annual Select Shot Scramble Foursome Golf Tournament on Sunday, July 17, at the Tera Vista Golf Club in Round Rock with an 8 a.m. shotgun start. For more information on the golf tourney, contact Lori Trank at lori.trank@hhsc.state.tx.us.


TxDOT San Antonio Small Business Briefing conference

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Business Outreach and Program (BOP) Services reaches across Texas to provide small and minority-owned business communities an opportunity to learn more about contracting opportunities with state entities. The final Small Business Briefing conference for FY2011 is set for July 20 in San Antonio. Information will be available to help small business owners better understand how to do business with the agency and the State of Texas. The sessions not only allow small businesses to be introduced to TxDOT and other state agencies, but also allow them to learn more about the economic development opportunities in their regions.  It also gives agencies a chance to show the myriad of prospects available for small and minority businesses in the state. For more information and to register, click here or call 1.866.480.2519, Option 2. Planning for the 2012 fiscal year events is under way.  Please visit www.txdot.gov for updated information.


How helpful is this?

Subscribe to TGI Note to Media
What happens if a municipality can't meet its financial obligations?


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


I attended an interesting conference in New York this week. The event was called "Restructuring the Troubled Municipality."
About 1,000 people, executives from both the public and private sectors, attended the session. The program, which had been highly publicized, was designed to present a realistic look at exactly what could and would happen if a municipality was pushed to the breaking point. Program panelists, all professionals, laid out in graphic details what public officials, citizens, taxpayers and public employees would encounter if a financial default became a reality.
The issue of municipal defaults has been discussed and debated quite a bit in the past year. Some have argued that a city can simply declare bankruptcy and buy enough time to work through funding issues. Others have disagreed, arguing that there are simply too many stakeholders involved and that a funding default would be more than chaotic - it would be disastrous for the city, the state and the region's economic prosperity for decades.
Follow Mary on Twitter

Wysocki heading up new department in Round Rock

Peter WysockiOfficials with the City of Round Rock recently combined two departments to form the new Planning and Development Services, which will be led by Peter Wysocki (pictured).

As department director, Wysocki will oversee all long-range planning, zoning, subdivision platting, site plan review services, sign review, historic preservation and code enforcement. 

Department workers aim to improve Round Rock by creating and implementing standards for new development and by encouraging investment in older areas.


Brownwood airport manager Bain resigns post, effective July 1

Brownwood Regional Airport Manager Sharlette Bain has resigned to take the top position at the Cleburne airport. Her last day is July 1.


Bain, who has served in Brownwood since 2005, will begin her new post July 5.


Northrop Grumman

Palestine ISD begins interviews in search for new superintendent

Trustees for the Palestine Independent School District recently completed the first round of interviews with five applicants to be the new superintendent. The new superintendent will replace Dr. Thomas A. Wallis, who resigned to accept a job as superintendent of Bryan ISD.

Trustees expect to narrow the field to three candidates and hold another round of interviews during the first full week of July. They hope to select a lone finalist for the post in mid-July.


Missouri City appoints Mueller

as interim city manager

The City Council of Missouri City recently appointed Alan Mueller as interim city manager, effective on July 11. Mueller will replace City Manager Frank Simpson, who is resigning to become an assistant city manager in College Station. Council members also hired a consulting firm to lead the search for a new city manager.


Mueller previously served as a city manager in Gainesville and as deputy city manager in Pearland. He also has worked as a consultant for Missouri City during the last five years, but indicated he will not seek the permanent position of city manager, city officials said.


Lone Star Auctioneers

Report places emphasis on need for broadband in rural America

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recently released a report to Congress that calls for more emphasis on getting broadband to rural communities.


The report - "Bringing Broadband to Rural America: Update to Report on a Rural Broadband Strategy" - notes that the Obama Administration has made broadband a top priority, but more needs to be done.

In the last two years, the USDA's Rural Utilities Service has invested more than $5 billion in broadband funding that includes $13.4 million in remote rural areas.


North Central Texas COG recognized by the EPA

The North Central Texas Council of Governments' (NCTCOG) Regional Emissions Enforcement Program (REEP) was one of 12 organizations to win a Clean Air Excellence Award.


A North Texas program was recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for its work helping law enforcement clear roadways of high-emitting vehicles that have fraudulent or illegal state inspection and registration certificates.


Allen pulling out of funding pledge toward arts facility

Peter VargasThe City of Allen has joined Frisco and Plano in cutting off funds pledged for operating costs to a group that was working toward building an arts hall in Collin County. Allen City Manager Peter Vargas (pictured) said city officials felt they needed to "scale back participation" in the project because Frisco officials announced they would no longer support the project.

Frisco voters recently revoked that city's authorization to issue more than $16 million in bonds for the proposed $67 million facility. Allen, Frisco and Plano together have put about $11.6 million into the project. Officials with the Arts of Collin County are still optimistic that the hall will be built. A major fundraising is likely for next year.


Pearland ISD expected to name new superintendent on Tuesday

After recently completing interviews with six candidates for superintendent, trustees for the Pearland Independent School District expect to select a lone finalist for superintendent on Tuesday.


The new superintendent will replace Bonnie Cain, who resigned from that post in February to be superintendent at Waco ISD.


Grayson County tags Teal as director of health department

Grayson County commissioners recently selected John Teal as the director of the Grayson County Health Department. Teal was selected from a field of about 50 candidates.


Health Information Designs

Palestine ISD board interviews candidates for superintendent

The Palestine school board recently interviewed seven candidates for superintendent and hopes to name one of them top administrator by August.


The candidates, who were selected from a field of about 40 applicants, hope to succeed Thomas A. Wallis, who is leaving for the Bryan school district superintendent position.

The Palestine board plans to narrow the field to three candidates and conduct second interviews during the first week of July.


Alvin buys land purchase

for proposed convention center

Terry LucasAlvin City Council members recently approved $656,000 to buy 25.54 acres of land on SH35 for a proposed new convention center. A developer donated an additional 18.5 acres of adjacent land with a value of $361,000 to the project.

City officials began a study last July to determine the feasibility of building a convention center. The study said that highway frontage is a key element as that location bodes well for future development because infrastructure is in place, said City Manager Terry Lucas, (pictured). This property for the proposed convention center has 955 feet of highway frontage, he added.


Skidmore-Tynan ISD approves new school plans, will seek bids

The Skidmore-Tynan school board recently took bids for a new elementary school and plans to award a construction contract by June 25.
The new building, which will replace a 58-year-old school, will be financed by a $16.8 million bond OK'd by voters last November. 

Construction is expected to begin in August and be complete by fall 2012. At that time, district officials plan to renovate the old school for students at the junior and senior high schools.


LeFleur Transportation

Irving mayor to explore Las Colinas entertainment center

Beth Van DuyneThroughout the campaign, Van Duyne criticized Mayor Herbert Gear for the city's oversight of the project that Irving city officials had committed to use Build America Bonds to finance its proposed $200 million contribution to the project. While construction on the project has not begun, the city has contributed $21 million of predevelopment expenses, including the cost of the project design, on the proposed entertainment center.


After defeating the mayor who had pushed hard for city participation in the proposed $250 million Las Colinas entertainment center project, Mayor-elect Beth Van Duyne (pictured) recently said she plans to re-evaluate the feasibility of the project to determine whether it has long-term sustainability. The project calls for high-concept restaurants surrounding a concert hall and outdoor pedestrian plaza.


Freeport awarded federal grant to get surveillance cameras

Freeport received the grant, awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, because Port Freeport and many area chemical plants are deemed critical infrastructure.


The City of Freeport recently received a $6.2 million federal grant to purchase and install a security system that will monitor both high-security and high-crime areas.


Sorola resigns position

as Del Rio city attorney

David Sorola recently resigned as the city attorney in Del Rio to accept employment in the legal department of the city of Austin. Del Rio city officials have not yet announced plans for finding a new city attorney.


Want to
in this

Click here.


Barwick to lead Boerne's Hill Country Mile initiative

Paul Barwick, a senior planner in Boerne, recently became the director of the Hill County Mile (HCM) downtown revitalization initiative. In his new role, Barwick will coordinate project branding and marketing, revitalization and enhancement of businesses and maintaining the aesthetic character of Boerne's historic downtown area.

Barwick plans to work closely with property owners and merchants to promote downtown as a viable place to live, work and play and assist with beautification and public improvement projects identified through the city's master plan. He also will be the city liaison for developers interested in the HCM downtown district and serve as an information source for owners interested in selling or leasing property in the district.


Commerce taps Marc

Clayton as city manager

Marc ClaytonCommerce City Council members recently selected Marc Clayton (pictured) as the new city manager. He previously served as interim city manager in 2008 and began serving on an interim basis again in 2010.

A resident of Bonham, Clayton is the director of administrative services for the city, a post he will continue to fulfill in addition to his new duties as city manager. Voters in 2010 approved an amendment to the city charter to allow city council members to appoint residents who reside outside the city limits to the office of city manager.


Zarosky resigns position as superintendent of Pleasanton ISD

Bernard Zarosky recently resigned as superintendent of Pleasanton Independent School District, effective on Nov. 30.  After serving as superintendent for five years, Zarosky said he wished to retire and wanted to give trustees ample time to find a new superintendent to replace him.
SPI on Twitter

Harker Heights planning director Tommy Garcia resigns

Harker Heights Planning and Development Director Tommy Garcia recently resigned with no notice. He had been in the position for about six months.

After rewriting the job description for planning and developing director, city officials will begin looking for a replacement, said City Manager Steve Carpenter.


Lon Morris College names Willis as interim dean of students

Kent WillisLon Morris College officials recently named Kent Willis (pictured) as the interim dean of students. In that position, he will lead the Division of Student Life, which is comprised of the offices of campus life, spiritual life and housing and resident life as well as student recreation programs.

Willis has a bachelor's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and a master's degree from East Central University. He previously served as a track and field coach at the college and earned recognition for reinstating track and field programs that had been shut down for more than 50 years.


El Campo reaches round two

for $3.5 million federal grant

After failing to win a $2.5 million drainage grant, El Campo city officials recently learned the city has reached round two for a $3.5 million federal Severe Repetitive Loss grant. After learning the news, council members approved a $70,000 environmental study of proposed improvements to Tres Palacios Creek contingent on reaching the next stage of the grant application.


City officials hope to use the grant to pay for a proposed $3.7 million project to upgrade the channel of Tres Palacios Creek between West Jackson Street and CR406. The Severe Repetitive Loss grant requires only a 10 percent match from the city. 


Texas Government Insider Archives


Volume 1-8 Archives -1/8/04 - 6/17/11

Deer Park selects Swigert as new Parks and Recreation director

Deer Park City Council members recently selected Scott Swigert as the new director of parks and recreation. Swigert, who currently is manager of parks and recreation for Midland, will replace Paul Wilson, who retired as director of parks and recreation for Deer Park in April.


Swigert, who also has worked for the city of Brenham, has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and is pursuing a master's degree at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.


Job Board

Crowley ISD reorganizes after eliminating three top-level jobs

Superintendent Dan Powell of Crowley Independent School District recently unveiled a new organizational chart at the central office after eliminating three high-level administrators. The positions eliminated in May were the chief financial officer, the executive director of human resources and director of facility development.


Under the reorganization, Dwayne Jones, executive director of business services, will manage the entire business and finance functions for the district. The superintendent, however, will assume the task of forecasting revenue. Powell also appointed Cindy Hankey as the accounting coordinator and Ryan Edgar to the accountant position previously held by Hankey. Powell also promoted Randy Reeves, previously the maintenance director, to executive director of non-instructional services; he selected Barry Hipp, the energy manager, to take over many capital-project responsibilities.


Rockwall County judge says

'no' to library outsourcing plans

At a crowded town hall meeting, Rockwall County Judge Jerry Hogan (pictured) recently announced that plans to outsource the library will be shelved.

At the beginning of the meeting, which attracted about 200 county residents, Hogan explained the county's financial situation and why officials are looking to cut expenses. 

The county could have saved $300,000 by outsourcing the library, Hogan said. However, due to public outcry, the library will remain a county department and Library Director Marcine McCulley will work within a reduced budget.


West Rusk County CISD mulling bond issue to upgrade facilities

Tommy AlexanderTrustees for the West Rusk County Consolidated Independent School District recently began planning for a bond election to pay for upgrading facilities. The chairman of the needs assessment committee said he intends to form several committees to study methods to gain voter support for the proposed bond issue.

In urging a bond election, Superintendent Tommy Alexander (pictured) said that the fact that five out of six bond propositions passed in May indicates that people understand that tough times sometimes call for tough decisions.


Texas DPS, sheriff's group award $142,500 grant to Hill County

The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Sheriff's Association of Texas recently awarded Hill County a $142,500 grant to pay for a new software operating system for the sheriff's office. The new system is the first new software operating system county officials have approved since 1990.


Help us share this message, please...
To ensure delivery and proper formatting of the newsletter, be sure to add editor@spartnerships.com to your safe senders list. Otherwise, the newsletter may be flagged as spam and automatically routed to your junk e-mail folder.


Deer Park ISD looking for supplier for educational supplies

Deer Park Independent School District officials recently set a June 24 deadline to accept sealed bids for a contractor to provide 24 schools with educational supplies. The contract, which will continue until March 31, 2014, calls for the contractor to provide the district with books, periodicals, science materials and other education supplies on an as-needed basis.


District officials will consider the price, reputation, any past relationship with the supplier and quality of service in determining the contractor.


LCISD eyes $248 million bond  

A citizens committee for the Lamar Consolidated school district, located in Fort Bend County, recently recommended floating a $248.7 million bond package.

The school board has the authority to set a bond election.


The Texas Government Insider is a free weekly e-newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
The Insider is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1994 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.
To learn more about SPI services click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900.
Barton Oaks Plaza One, Suite #100
901 S. Mopac Expressway
Austin, Texas 78746