Texas trauma facilities benefit from surcharges
But driver responsibility program not as profitable as planned
Last year, 241 Texas trauma facilities shared more than $30 million collected from the Texas Driver Responsibility Program. When the program went into effect on Sept.1, 2003, fees were expected to annually exceed $100 million; however, low compliance rates have minimized that figure.
Under the program, motorists pay surcharges of $100 to $2,000 for traffic violations ranging from speeding to driving while intoxicated. Lawmakers allowed the Texas Department of State Health Services to give hospitals the first $32 million that drivers put into the fund.
Tela Mange (right), spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said of the offenses that qualify drivers for the program, the most common violation is failure to maintain insurance. Having an invalid driver's license ranks second and driving without a license comes in third.[more]
Four named to new positions with Attorney General
There will be new faces in four positions at the Attorney General's Office, after appointments were announced this week by Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Diane Black Smith is the new Deputy for Administration, and will oversee the accounting, purchasing, human resources and information technology divisions. Smith is a veteran State of Texas employee of 20 years, beginning with the Texas Department of Human Services in 1985. Before joining the OAG, she was director of business services for the Texas Building and Procurement Commission and previously served in senior administrative positions at the General Land Office and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.
John Poole is the OAG's new Human Resources Director. He has worked in human resources in the private and public sectors for more than 20 years. Before joining the OAG, he provided support to a multi-million dollar software development company. He also was head of The University of Texas at Austin's human resources office and worked in the global manufacturing and technology fields. Poole holds an MBA from Wake Forest University.
Angela Hale, who has served almost five years as the OAG Communications Director, has been promoted to Senior Advisor to the Attorney General and will focus on strategic planning. Her communications team at the OAG won numerous national awards. Before coming to the OAG, Hale was an award-winning reporter and worked for a Dallas-Fort Worth area TV station. She is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.
Taking over at Hale's old position of Communications Director is Jerry Strickland, who has served the last four years as deputy communications director. He will serve as the attorney general's lead spokesperson. Strickland is a veteran award-winning TV journalist, spending 10 years working for news stations in Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.
Beal announces retirement from LCRA
Joseph J. Beal (pictured), the Lower Colorado River Authority’s eighth general manager, has announced his retirement, effective in January 2008. He has served as the agency’s chief executive officer since January 2000.
"Joe Beal has served LCRA and the people of Texas with distinction," LCRA Board Chair Ray Wilkerson said. "Under his direction, LCRA has grown in its ability to help the people of Texas use their natural resources – their land, air and water – to improve their quality of life. That is the idea behind LCRA and he has made it a reality to the benefit of a million people."
Beal has been with the LCRA since 1995, when he became a member of the agency’s Water Service division. Prior to his association with the agency, he was senior vice president of an engineering and environmental consulting firm in Austin.
A Vietnam veteran, Beal was awarded the Bronze Star as a company commander in the Army Medical Service Corps. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin.
The LCRA board, which is appointed by the governor, will pick Beal’s replacement.
This week's salute is to Phil Wilson, Texas' 106th Secretary of State
Career highlights and education: I graduated from Hardin-Simmons University with a degree in political science and history and received my MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. After college, I spent eight years as an aide to U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, concluding as his State Director in Dallas. Additionally, I was Director of Communications for Railroad Commissioner Charles Matthews and Communications Director and later Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. Rick Perry. Most recently, I was appointed by Gov. Perry and sworn in as the Secretary of State on July 1, 2007, and am honored to serve the people of Texas in this capacity.
What I like best about my job is: The duties of the Secretary of State are diverse and exciting; they range from elections and business filings to border affairs and international protocol. I have a tremendous staff of more than 220 individuals who all care about their work and doing what's best for Texas.
The best advice I've received for my current job: The work that I do is not about me and it's not about the agency; it is about Texas.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Come to work each day with the goal to make a difference in this agency, in the lives of your co-workers and for the people of Texas. Our agency has a diverse calling that touches a variety of Texans and it is our responsibility to get the job done and get it done right.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: golfing or spending time with my wife, Kristen.
People would be surprised to know that I: am a pop culture aficionado.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at email@example.com.
TxDOT going forward with NTTA agreement on SH 21
Seeking to comply with legislation that gives public agencies priority for toll projects, the Texas Transportation Commission this week canceled the procurement agreement it had for the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of State Highway 21 and authorized the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to continue finalizing an agreement with the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA.) Randall Dillard, spokesperson for TxDOT, said the commission "didn't feel like they had a choice" other than to cancel the private sector contract it previously held with Spanish construction company Cintra.
Dillard said the "biggest concern" expressed by commissioners was that the result might be a shift of financial risk for the project from the private sector "to drivers on the toll road."
Whether Texas would lose future federal highway funds because of what federal officials call violation of federal rules in the award of the State Highway 21 toll road contract to the NTTA was still up in the air.
Earlier this month, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) threatened that some federal highway funding already put into the Highway 21 project might have to be returned. They cited the fact that TxDOT re-opened the bidding process after the bid by Cintra was made public. When the bid process was re-opened, the NTTA submitted its bid.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison just last week said she talked to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, who assured her that the feds would not seek the return of any of the money they put into the project. While Hutchison says no "spent funds" were in jeopardy, the question remained whether future federal funds would be withheld. She urged the FHWA and TxDOT to meet and try to hammer out an agreement that will ensure future highway funding for Texas.
Garcia appointed as presiding officer of TCEQ
H.S. "Buddy" Garcia (pictured) has been named presiding officer of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ ) by Gov. Rick Perry.
Garcia was appointed to the TCEQ in January and most recently served as Texas Deputy Secretary of State, where he was one of the state's top ambassadors and leaders in efforts to promote new economic development. He formerly served as deputy legislative director for the governor and special assistant to the governor for Texas/Mexico border affairs. Additionally, Garcia served as a special assistant to then-Lt. Gov. Perry for South Texas, Gulf Coast and environmental issues and was border commerce coordinator.
Garcia also previously served on the staff of Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, and was responsible for drafting legislation relating to natural resources and agriculture.
Garcia received his bachelor's degree from Texas State University.
Sales tax holiday successful, expansion sought
Texas saved approximately $52.1 million in state and local sales taxes during last weekend's annual sales tax holiday, according to Texas Comptroller Susan Combs. Combs said the holiday has produced overall savings of approximately $388.1 million since it began.
Combs and Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston are supporting an expansion of the sales tax holiday to increase the maximum price for items on which the sales tax will be exempted - from $100 to $150 - and expand the items that are exempt to include school supplies, such as pencils, pens, crayons and paper. Combs called such a move "good public policy" that will aid Texas families facing increasing back-to-school costs for their families.
Three named to Parks and Wildlife Commission
Three new commmissioners have been named by Gov. Rick Perry to serve on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
Dr. Antonio Falcon (left) of Grande City is medical director of Family Health Center, a member of the United States/Mexico Border Health Commission and Hidalgo Starr County Medical Society. He holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. Falcon was named to a six-year term and replaces former commission chairman Joseph Fitzsimons.
Karen Hixon (center) of San Antonio is active in numerous wildlife and conservation organizations. She is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation board member and serves on the board of the Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho. She is an advisory board member for the Trust for Public Land and the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center. She currently chairs the San Antonio Museum of Art board and is vice chair of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. Hixon holds a bachelor's degree from Smith College. She will serve a six-year term and replace Laredo attorney Donato Ramos on the commission.
The final appointee is Margaret Martin (right) of Boerne, owner-operator of a working ranch in Webb County. She also is developing a tea brokerage and export business. Martin is vice chair of the Webb County Texas Cooperative Extension Leadership Advisory Board, Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee and the Wildlife and Fisheries Committee. She holds a bachelor's degree from Laredo State University. She will complete the term of Ned Holmes through Feb. 1, 2009.
Sandersen selected for Veterans Land Board
Alan K. Sandersen (pictured) was recently appointed to the Veterans Land Board by Gov. Rick Perry, with a term to expire Dec. 9, 2010. The board helps veterans purchase land and oversees the Land Board's purchase of property for resale to veterans. It is also authorized to formulate policies and regulations of land transactions.
Sandersen is a certified public accountant and managing partner of Sandersen, Knox and Belt, L.L.P. He serves as president and director of First Colony Municipal Utility District No. 9. He was formerly an officer in the Texas Army National Guard Corps of Engineers and is a life member of the National Guard Association of Texas. Sandersen is a member of the Society of American Military Engineers and American Water Works Association. He is a board member and past treasurer of the Rosenberg Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, he is past president of the Fort Bend County Housing Finance Corporation and former member of the Fort Bend County Mobility Bond Committee.
Sandersen received a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and was a member of the Corps of Cadets.
False proof of insurance, dropped coverage on way out
A new technology to allow law enforcement officers to verify immediately if a driver has car insurance is expected to be operational in early 2008.
Four state agencies - the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Information Resources have worked together to develop and implement the Texas Financial Responsibility Verification Program, authorized by legislation from the 79th Texas Legislature. With estimates of 15-20 percent of all vehicles in Texas being driven by uninsured motorists, this program is intended to reduce that number and eliminate the use of false insurance cards or the dropping of insurance once a card verifying insurance is received. Driving a vehicle in Texas without liability insurance is illegal.
Increases are set next year on the amounts of liability insurance that Texas motorists must carry on their vehicles. Once liability insurance is established, the insurance company will report that information to the state. The information will then be made available in real time to law enforcement officers, vehicle inspection stations and vehicle registration offices. Law enforcement officers can obtain accurate and timely insurance information on a vehicle or driver on request. Law enforcement officers will be able to electronically confirm whether or not a registered vehicle or motorist has insurance coverage in effect. For more information, click here.
Medical instruments awarded Emerging Tech Fund grant
Seno Medical Instruments has been awarded a $2 million grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, according to Secretary of State Phil Wilson. "As we commit to supporting innovation and accelerating commercialization efforts as a state, we are creating a strong foundation for the future of Texas," said Wilson.
Seno is involved in providing advanced products for cancer screening, diagnosis and therapeutic treatments that are not as costly and are more patient-friendly than current technologies.
An advisory committee of 17 high-tech leaders, entrepreneurs and research experts reviews potential TETF projects and recommends them for funding to the governor, lieutenant governor and Speaker of the House. The recently passed 2008-2009 state budget included $75 million in new General Revenue funds for the TETF. The three main areas of investment are increasing research collaboration between public and private sector entities, matching federal government and private research grants and attracting more high-quality research teams from other universities and from around the nation.
Byrne named director of new TDCJ division
Celeste Byrne, deputy chief financial officer of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, has been named director of the agency’s new Private Facility Contract Monitoring/Oversight Division.
Byrne has been with TDCJ since 1987, when she was hired as an internal auditor. She later became the agency’s budget director. The new division she heads up has oversight responsibility for all private contract facilities housing TDCJ offenders and parolees. Private contract facility monitoring and oversight functions were previously split among different divisions.
Byrne holds a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University.
Bexar County could have first-time billion dollar budget
Bexar County's proposed 2007-2008 budget could hit 10 figures for the first time ever if approved at a Sept. 11 vote.
The $1.077 billion spending plan represents a 22.7 percent increase over last year's budget and prioritizes flood control and juvenile and criminal justice programs. It breaks down to $425 million for all operating appropriations, $417 million for capital projects, $74 million for debt service and $161 million for reserves and contingencies.
The budget marks the first time capital projects make up more than the general fund. Jail maintenance, road projects and technology upgrades make up the bulk of capital projects. The budget would also fund an additional 50 positions, including 41 in the juvenile detention facility.
To help with jail overcrowding, the budget would fund two temporary detention facilities and add another criminal court, another drug court and funding for visiting judges. It would also add $1.5 million for initiatives to reduce the jail population of persons with mental illness.
UTEP gets $5 Million for cyberinfrastructure center
The University of Texas at El Paso has been awarded a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create the Cyber-ShARE Center of Excellence, a campus facility that will help researchers and educators around the world share information and advance their studies. It will bring together experts in computer science, mathematics and earth and environmental science to develop software applications, services and other digital tools for gathering and computing data over the Internet for use in scientific research.
The center will be part of a National Science Foundation initiative to improve the performance of the nation’s cyberinfrastrucure - the immense amounts of data and high-performance computing power that can be shared by researchers over the Internet.
"Traditionally, research is done at large institutions throughout the world and it's difficult to share the information others are working on," said Ann Q. Gates, Ph.D. (pictured), chair of the Department of Computer Science. "But the whole promise of cyberinfrastructure is that it breaks down those boundaries and allows scientists and educators to do state-of-the-art research."
NTIA interoperability grant guidelines revised
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has published revised guidance for states and local agencies to apply for a share of a national $1 billion public safety interoperability fund.
Under the guidance, $968 million will be distributed to the states, which in turn will be required to match 20 percent of their awards. Each state must submit an interoperability strategy, as well as justifications for specific projects.
Under the revised guidance, states are now eligible to be reimbursed for planning and coordination, as well as for software and equipment funding. Up to 5 percent of the funding may be spent on development of statewide strategies for public safety interoperability.
The original grant guidance called for investments in the 700 Mhz band only, but the revised guidelines allow for investments in other spectrum bands.
States can also use a portion of the grant funding to establish and implement a strategic technology reserve that may be pre-positioned in readiness for a disaster. The program includes $75 million to be distributed to all 56 states and territories for pre-positioning activities.
UT-Permian Basin construction projects get boost
Some $56 million in design and development costs for a new science and technology building on the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus was approved this week by the UT System Board of Regents. The project will be paid for with Tuition Revenue Bonds (TRBs) and Permanent University Funds (PUF).
"We continue to make significant changes to the face of this campus," said President David Watts (pictured). "I cannot think of a better way to start the new academic year than with this wonderful news - we are continuing to grow our programs and our facilities and our student body."
Construction bids are expected to be issued in late fall, with a January groundbreaking planned.
The Regents also approved an additional $3.5 million in PUF funds for the UTPB Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, bringing the total financial support for the building to $6.5 million in PUF funds. The new allocation will be used for construction costs. Construction is expected to begin in 2009 with a completion date set for 2011.
Sam Houston land sale proceeds to benefit ag center
Officials at Sam Houston State University have been given the go-ahead by the Texas State University System regents to sell the property that houses the SHSU Agriculture Center. A private firm will purchase the land for $2.7 million and plans to build two hotels and a conference center on the more than 13-acre site.
Most of the ag center operations have already been moved to the Gibbs Ranch site and the proceeds from the land sale will benefit development of facilities there. SHSU officials say some of the improvements could include the addition of classrooms, a meat processing facility and an indoor arena.
Rice's to build Houston's 'greenest' building ever
Rice University has received $30 million to support its residential college system, which recently unveiled plans to create one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings ever built in Houston.
Designed with features like motion detectors that shut off lights in unoccupied rooms and retention of storm water runoff for irrigation, the residential college will be the first at Rice and among the first buildings in Houston to receive gold-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards program.
The five-story, 324-bed building will feature environmentally friendly building materials with reduced energy consumption by at least 25 percent, reduced water consumption by at least 30 percent, a green roof with low-maintenance plants that will reduce energy needs for heating and cooling, smart controls that shut off air conditioners when the windows are opened, pre-fabricated bathrooms to reduce the generation of on-site construction waste, a world-class system for modeling and monitoring energy consumption and a classroom finished with green materials.
Whaylen appointed to Military Preparedness Commission
Thomas Whaylen has been appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Military Preparedness Commission. Whaylen's term will expire Feb. 1, 2013.
The commission advises the governor and legislature on defense-related issues, prepares an annual report for state leaders and helps base commanders prepare for the next round of base realignment evaluations.
Whaylen is president and CEO of Sheppard Military Affairs Committee. He is past president of the Air Force Association - Donnelly Chapter, West Central Texas Career Consortium and Red River Career Consortium. Additionally, Whaylen is past chairman of the State Employee Charitable Campaign of North Texas and six Combined Federal Campaign efforts.
He served in the United States Air Force and received a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas and master's degree from Southwest Texas State University.
Tedesco named dean at University of Houston
Joseph W. Tedesco (pictured) has been named dean of the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston, effective in January 2008. He is currently a professor and chairman of the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida. He will be the UH College of Engineering's sixth dean.
Professor Fritz Claydon is currently serving as interim dean and his appointment has been extended to run through the end of the year. Tedesco replaces former dean Raymond W. Flumerflet, who retired in July.
Tedesco holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame, a master's from Tufts University and a Ph.D. from Lehigh University. He has held academic positions at Auburn University, Oregon State University and Lehigh University.
More than $3 million in law enforcement grants cited
Four entities in Texas have been awarded a total of more than $3.2 million in U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) grants aimed at assisting law enforcement agencies with the equipment and infrastructure necessary to ensure public safety and fight crime.
The city of Dallas has been awarded more than $1.5 million for information sharing and crime analysis. The North Texas Crime Commission has been awarded more than $770,000 for gang prevention and education. A grant of $200,000 was received by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) for a management information system and Montgomery County was awarded more than $98,000 to use for equipment purchases.
The funds awarded to the city of Dallas and to Montgomery County are from DOJ's Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program and will be used to purchase body armor and non-lethal weapons, to train personnel, enhance information sharing and intelligence analysis and to enforce gang prevention programs.
The North Texas Crime Commission's funds will be targeted for gang prevention efforts at more than 10 schools and will also be used for equipment for law enforcement officials. The DSHS grant will create a statewide Management Information System that will allow analysis of specialty count trends and assist courts with prosecution and sentencing of offenders.
UTPB granted $195,000 for nuclear project
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin's High-Temperature Teaching and Test Reactor (HT3R) project has received $195,000 in grants from the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The grants will form and support the Nuclear Energy Education project (NEEd) at the university and will be used to provide scholarships, paid internships and a faculty mentor/teaching position.
"The NEEd seeks to increase the number of students who enter the field of nuclear studies," HT3R Program Director Jim Wright (pictured) said.
NEEd will start with a few science majors who will work on the design of the reactor while taking courses in nuclear science.
Commission for College Ready Texas to meet
The Commission for College Ready Texas, which was designed to provide a forum for exchange of views on ensuring that high school curriculum aligns with college standards, will hold meetings next month in Harlingen and San Antonio.
The San Antonio meeting is slated for Friday, Sept. 14, at a time and location yet to be determined. The Harlingen meeting will be from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Harlingen ISD Administration Building.
Austin attorney Sandy Kress chairs the commission, which also includes ex-officio members Acting Commissioner of Education Robert Scott of the Texas Education Agency and Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. During the two September meetings, the commission will seek public testimony regarding college readiness relating to the importance of preparing students for college and career, specific ideas about the definition or measures of college readiness and actions the state can take to ensure students are prepared to succeed at the college level.
Nuclear reactors may replace oil as a source of 'boom'
Andrews may become the site of the first nuclear reactor built on United States soil in 30 years. Though years from formation, it's being pursued not as a power source but as part of an energy research complex that could lead to advances in hydrogen power.
The project is expected to cost about $500 million, be completed by 2012 and bring scientists and researchers from around the world to Andrews.
A $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Defense will help pay pre-licensing fees and additional design costs.
UT Medical Branch could receive $82 million
The federal government has proposed a rule change that could send more than $82 million a year to the University of Texas Medical Branch, which spends a greater portion of its budget caring for patients without insurance than any other public institution in Texas - other than the Harris County Hospital District - and loses about $120 million a year on such care.
The branch's problems meeting its costs to care for the poor have forced two massive job cuts in the past decade. It also has decreased the amount of care it gives poor people, yet costs from the care have steadily gone up while payments for them from the state have stagnated.
In January, the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid proposed a rule that its reimbursements for caring for poor people go directly to the institutions that provide the services.
This year Texas will get more than $1 billion in such funds for all public hospitals consisting of two components: Disproportionate Share Hospital funds intended to defray costs of hospitals caring for patients without insurance and Upper Payment Limit funds intended to fill gaps created by Medicaid reimbursements.
Federal research funds flow favorably to UTEP
The University of Texas at El Paso is among the top five Hispanic Serving Institutions receiving federal research dollars, according to data recently released by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"[UTEP is] the nation's only major research university serving a student population that is predominantly Mexican-American," UTEP President Diana Natalicio (pictured) said. "Hispanics represent the fastest growing - and least well educated - segment of the U.S. population."
According to the NSF, UTEP received $31.9 million in federal science and engineering funds in 2005, and its growing research portfolio boasted nearly $46 million in research spending last year in a variety of areas.
The university ranks among the top four in the nation in awarding bachelor's degrees to Hispanics; No. 1 in awarding bachelor's degrees in engineering to Hispanics; and twice has been ranked as No. 1 in graduate engineering school for Hispanics.
ACISD calls for $40 million bond election
Aransas County Independent School District voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to approve funds for the construction and renovation of three learning centers and the purchase of school buses. The total isn't expected to exceed $40 million.
Specific bond plans at Fulton Learning Center include $5 million for 38,766 square feet of new construction; $672,000 for conversions; $200,000 for renovations; $200,000 for site development; and $190,000 for the demolition and removal of portable buildings.
Hard costs at Live Oak Learning Center would include $8.2 million for 36 new classrooms, a new library, a new music lab, a new art lab, new computer labs, restrooms and storage; $320,000 for administrative expansion and academic support; $800,000 for renovations and improvements; $60,000 for gymnasium improvements; $300,000 for site development; and $220,000 for the demolition and removal of portable buildings.
Expenditures at the new elementary learning center would include $13.4 million for an 89,500 square foot building and $550,000 for site development.
Stephenville ISD to outsource custodial services
As part of a growing trend, the Stephenville ISD recently voted to outsource its custodial services. Stephenville Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd (pictured) said the decision was prompted by the fact that the company that offers the service also provides employees with insurance options, a matching savings plan and stock plan. The company also will keep all of the district's current custodial employees and each would get a pay raise.
Floyd said that outsourcing the custodial services will reduce employment costs and worker's compensation insurance rates and it will also offer custodial employees better benefits than the school district could - from furnishing uniforms to providing productivity-increasing equipment.
Northside ISD to lead in status as 'completely wireless'
In approximately 14 months, the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio will be Texas' largest school district to be completely wireless. This is due in part to a 2004 bond package with a line item to upgrade infrastructure.
The district has 100 buildings, including schools and support facilities, and covers approximately 355 square miles. Installing the wireless network will cost about $6.7 million and is expected to be completed by next fall.
Approximately 7,000 access points will be available after the wireless routers are installed across the district.
UTEP to build $60 million health sciences complex
The University of Texas at El Paso plans to build a $60 million replacement for its existing College of Health Sciences building.
"This facility will better serve UTEP’s College of Health Sciences and School of Nursing by providing a model environment for its students and faculty and accommodating the growth for prospective health professionals this region of the state so sorely needs," said UT System Board of Regents Chairman James R. Huffines (pictured).
The proposed building will improve UTEP’s capacity to address enrollment pressures in health sciences and the growing demand for health professions graduates; increase and upgrade space available for health-related research; improve access to main campus facilities and services; strengthen collaboration between faculty in the college of health sciences and other colleges within the institution; and accelerate the integration of the college into the heart of the campus community, UTEP President Diana Natalicio said.
Comfort ISD welcomes new superintendent
John Chapman III is Comfort Independent School District's new superintendent.
He comes to Comfort from Chillicothe Independent School District where he has been superintendent. Chapman started his career as an educator in the Lubbock Independent School District, where he taught, coached and worked as an assistant principal. He then worked as a vice principal and varsity coach at Crowell Independent School District, where he was later a high school principal.
Chapman holds a bachelor's degree from McMurry University in Abilene and a master's degree from Wayland Baptist University in Lubbock, where he also earned a mid-management certification.
Money talks – or in this case, prevents talking
Duncanville ISD officials are taking their school’s ban on student use of cell phones and other electronic communication devices one step further than most. Students in the district caught using a cell phone or electronic device during the school day (opening to closing bells) will be fined $15. The ban includes the use of cell phones even at lunch, between classes or in restrooms.
Officials of the district say the devices are disruptive. Other school districts agreed and have also instituted a ban on the use of the devices. Proceeds from the DISD fines will go into campus activity funds. The new policy, to be enforced when the upcoming school year begins, includes the use of cell phones, radios, CD players, iPods, BlackBerrys and other such devices and handheld games.
Alamo Community College picks McLaughlin
James McLaughlin (pictured) has been named vice chancellor for administration at Alamo Community College in San Antonio. McLaughlin retired last year as president of Santa Fe Community College, where he also previously served as the college's chief financial officer. He is also a former vice president for business affairs at San Juan College in New Mexico.
As vice chancellor for administration, McLaughlin will be in charge of ACC's budget and finances. He replaces former chancellor Terrence Kelly, who left the position because of health reasons.
McLaughlin holds a bachelor's and master's degree from Michigan State University. He will start his new job at ACC on Sept. 4.
Harlingen vet medical services to be closer to home
A new health care center situated at the University of Texas in Harlingen was announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The center will improve care to Valley veterans by eliminating 95 percent of the trips veterans are currently required to make to receive VA medical services in San Antonio.
The plan calls for increasing the current VA health facility space in Harlingen from 11,700 square feet to nearly 160,000 square feet by 2010. The expansion will begin immediately, with space tripling the VA's current space in Harlingen from 11,700 square feet to nearly 35,000 square feet by December 2007, and then to nearly 56,000 square feet by December 2008.
Lamar implements new campus notification system
Lamar University has joined the ranks of a number of colleges and universities nationwide that are installing a Web-based notification system. The system will allow the university to contact faculty, staff and students quickly with news and information in the event of an emergency.
The system is capable of contacting individuals via phone, PDAs, voice mail, text message and e-mail. The university administration began exploring ways to boost its ability to reach faculty, staff and students quickly following the shooting at Virginia Tech in April.
"Lamar University is now implementing this new system, and because of the threat posed by Hurricane Dean earlier this week, we began contacting faculty, staff and students about updating their contact information to ensure we are importing the correct numbers and e-mail addresses into the system," said Kim Allen (pictured), director of the university's data, voice and video networking department.
Because the system is not located on campus, it will be able to reach the university community in the event of a campus evacuation.
Cleburne, Pharr latest cities to study red light cameras
Cleburne and Pharr have joined a growing list of Texas cities considering red-light cameras as a means of promoting traffic safety. Cleburne Mayor Ted Reynolds (left) said the use of the cameras in his city is a viable alternative to putting "an officer on every intersection 24 hours a day."
The system would cost the city nothing, as it will be funded by collection of fees for individuals ticketed for running red lights. They will receive a citation and a photograph of their vehicle violating the traffic law. The city has been guaranteed that the cameras will reduce by 50 percent the number of motorists running red lights.
In the Rio Grande Valley, Pharr would become the second city to implement a red-light ticketing system, as Harlingen has already done. Pharr City Manager Fred Sandoval (right) called the system an "added source of safety revenue." Such a system in Pharr, too, would pay for itself from revenue generated from fines. McAllen also is considering installing the red-light system.
New state laws that go into effect in September will prescribe a maximum fine of $75 for those caught by cameras as they run red lights. Half of the revenue must be deposited into an account that funds regional trauma and emergency medical services and the remainder would be used to fund the costs of the cameras as well as local traffic safety initiatives.
The Woodlands group gives safety vests to seniors
Some 14,000 Harris and Matagorda county senior citizens will benefit from waterproof vests being distributed by a task force in The Woodlands. The goal of use of the vests is to help identify the elderly in case of an evacuation due to disaster. The Southeast Texas Senior Care Providers Task Force has provided the vests to senior citizens in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and some intermediate care facilities.
The goal of the vests is to provide information about the person wearing it, since some seniors would not be able to relate information to someone during a disaster. The vests include a waterproof pouch for medical records, prescription information, personal identification and contact information. The group distributing the vests was organized after the evacuations during Hurricanes Rita and Katrina when elderly individuals were evacuated to different areas of the state. The project was funded by a $98,000 grant from the Regional Hospital Preparedness Council.
SFA to build $28 million Early Childhood Center
The Stephen F. Austin State University College of Education has been awarded federal grants of $18 million to enhance facilities and prepare current and future teachers, administrators and other school personnel to serve local schools and the SFA community. Part of the funds will help build a $28 million Early Childhood Research and Development Center.
SFA was one of 139 recipients of the 2007 National Professional Development Grants from the U.S. Department of Education, and Education Dean John Jacobson (pictured) said it will be funded over five years at $1.43 million per year. Another $1.49 million grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education's Transition to Teaching program, and more than $203,000 will be funded the first year of the grant. It will allow SFA to partner with more school districts.
Health Care grants program gives $25 million
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) competitive emergency care grant program recently made $25 million available to hospitals and other health care facilities in the United States that are focused on hospital surge capacity, emergency care system capability and community and hospital preparedness for public health emergencies.
"We are asking the health care community to propose innovative approaches to public health emergencies," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response W. Craig Vanderwagen, M.D. "By identifying new projects that could be replicated across the country, we are looking to strengthen the overall resiliency of our nation's emergency care."
The program will award grants for projects that help integrate public and private emergency care capabilities with public health and other first responder systems; improve the efficiency, effectiveness and expandability of emergency care systems and overall preparedness and response capabilities in hospitals; and develop plans for strengthening public health emergency medical management.
Tyler jail could have room to grow if bond passes
Smith County residents will vote in November on a $109.9 million bond package for a new downtown Tyler jail. The 1,104-bed facility would have space for additional beds to be added in the future.
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Hats off, big salute to economic development corporations in Texas
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Most communities of any size have realized the importance of creating an economic development corporation. If there is a reason for any community not to take this initiative, the issue deserves debate.
For the past 25 years, cities in Texas have been encouraged to form economic development corporations as a vehicle for attracting business and industry, and thereby creating jobs. Without job growth, any region will begin to falter and when that happens, the people suffer economically. And since 1989, eligible cities have been allowed - with voter approval - to adopt a dedicated "sales and use tax" to help fund economic development projects.
These local sales taxes are Texas' largest single source of public funds dedicated solely for economic development. A 2006 biennial report from the comptroller's office, which covers the previous two years, shows that revenues for economic development corporations in Texas topped $1.1 billion and approximately $794 million of that amount resulted from the dedicated sales tax.[more]
'Selling to Government' comes
M.D. Anderson to add nine floors to patient tower
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston will soon increase its patient bed count by 70 percent in the Alkek patient tower. The hospital will add nine floors to the existing 12-story facility.
The $293 million expansion also includes an upgrade to 200,000 square feet of existing space and infrastructure on the campus at Bates and Bertner. Construction on four floors will begin this fall and is expected to be completed by 2013. Another four floors are expected to be under construction in 2014. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2016, with 867 beds added, said Dr. John Mendelsohn (pictured), president of the center. Mendelsohn said the addition of those beds should meet projected patient needs through 2020. He said most of the funding for the project - almost $225 million - will come from non-governmental bonds, with the hospital's margins financing the remainder.
Dallas to implement computer dispatch system
Dallas will soon replace 30-year old technology with a state-of-the art Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) System, which will be the "central nervous system" for public safety and emergency response data interoperability across city departments and will facilitate regional agency communication. It will also significantly enhance the responsiveness, reliability and effectiveness of the city's public safety dispatch and emergency management operations.
UT Brownsville gets grant for migrant families
The U.S. Department of Education has granted The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College $422,010 for 50 students whose families are migrant or other seasonal workers. The program will serve 50 eligible workers, or their children who need significant support to succeed in college.
Harris County bond will
TDA to celebrate with Centennial Festival
In the spring of 1907, the 30th Texas Legislature created the Texas Department of Agriculture. TDA this year will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a two-day Centennial Festival celebration. The events, most of which will be held at the Fort Worth Stockyards, will kick off Friday, Sept. 14, with a reception and gala. Other events include a fun run and breakfast, cooking demonstrations and a centennial concert featuring country western star Clay Walker. For more information and to view the full agenda for the events, click here.
Biodiesel Coalition of Texas hosts conference, expo
More than 70 exhibitors will be on hand for the annual Texas Biodiesel Conference and Expo, hosted by the Biodiesel Coalition of Texas (BCOT), scheduled for the Renaissance Hotel in Austin on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 5-6. Leaders in the biodiesel industry will discuss commodity trading, biodiesel marketing, regulatory, economic development strategies and tax incentives. Dr. Perry McNeil, mayor of Denton, will deliver the keynote address. The conference provides networking opportunities for industry leaders, regulators and interested end-users. To view the conference schedule, click here. For more information and to register, click here.
TARC Conference on Regionalism set in September
The 2007 Texas Association of Regional Councils' Conference on Regionalism is set for Sept. 5-7 at the Omni Southpark Hotel in Austin. Among the confirmed speakers for the annual event are: Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson; Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; Dr. Ray Perryman, president of the Perryman Group; Texas State Rep. Mike Krusee; Austin Mayor Will Winn; and Billy Ray Hall, founding president of the Rural Economic Development Center. Some of the discussion sessions will center on topics that include school emergency preparedness and response, critical infrastructure protection, recycling and waste minimization and statewide interoperability. To view the agenda for the conference, click here. Exhibitor registration ends Aug. 3. To register online to attend the conference, click here.
E-records conference offered in October
Those hoping to reach up to 300 Texas government officials involved in the management of electronic records and compliance can exhibit at the annual e-Records Conference on Oct. 30, 2007 at the Pickle Center in Austin. Hosted by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Department of Information Resources, this one-day event provides an opportunity to meet staff from Texas agencies and universities who may be interested in content and records management products and services. The cost to exhibit is $350. The agenda focuses on implementing a program for effectively managing electronic records, including e-mail, instant messaging, wikis and blogs. The featured speaker is Jesse Wilkins, who has worked in the document industry for 12 years as a vendor, user and consultant. He has worked with public and private sector clients to develop strategies, design processes and implement systems to manage electronic records, e-mail and collaboration tools more effectively. For more information and to register, click here.