Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 39 - Friday, Oct. 5, 2012

Schools set legislative agenda as student populations increase


Districts with fast growth facing special financial challenges blamed on restrictions

Dave VroonlandLast month, Dr. Dave Vroonland (left) found himself among friends - representatives of an education community struggling to find solutions to problems associated with an increasing number of fast growth schools. The Frenship ISD superintendent and chair of the Fast Growth School Coalition in Texas spoke at an education summit in Dickinson, North Dakota, at the request of North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple.


Vroonland knows fast growth. Since the 2004 school year, his Frenship ISD in West Texas has seen a 33 percent increase in its student population.


Dalrymple said at the summit that he would ask the state's legislature to create grant funds of $25 million for oil-impacted fast-growing schools. And that he would also seek to allow those schools to use future oil revenues against low-interest loans for school construction from a specially created $250 million fund. Vroonland's response? "In Texas, there's no support like that. It's all on the backs of the local district."


Greg GibsonFast-growth schools in Texas are no longer an anomaly. In Leander in Central Texas, the city's population has grown 249 percent since 2000. The school district, one of the fastest growing in the nation, now serves more than 33,000 students and has opened new schools every year for the last 10 years.


But with that growth come problems for local school districts, key among them the legislature's approval during the last legislative session of $4 billion in cuts to public schools. That has been a contributor to a recent State Comptroller's report that local debt statewide has increased, a third of which is attributed to public school districts.


Much of the reason for that, according to representatives of the Fast Growth Schools Coalition at a recent Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Board convention in Austin, is because of restrictions placed on schools and reduced funding thanks to legislative action. One restriction schools face is on bonding for new and existing debt. A school district's tax rate cannot exceed 50 cents per $100 valuation if new debt is being issued. That "50-cent test" prevents some school districts from issuing voter-approved bonds regardless of the need for the funding or the community's support. As a result, some school districts are forced to extend maturity dates on bonds at much higher costs on interest. That is the case in the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, according to Superintendent Dr. Greg Gibson (right).




Postal Service's consolidation/closing plans put on hold

Postal Service
U.S. Postal Services consolidation/closing plans have been put on hold.

Plans for consolidation and/or closing of hundreds of post office facilities across the country have been put on hold - for now. The halt to the U.S. Postal Service's plan has apparently fallen short on its prediction of how much could be saved through those changes.


The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) reviewed the plan and its report noted the initiative aimed at saving $1.6 billion - wouldn't. The PCR said the savings would be closer to only $46 million. So the Commission will now make its own recommendations, including alternatives to closing or consolidating 229 of 461 processing plants - nine in Texas - and to cutting back other services such as overnight mail. To achieve a $1.6 billion savings, the report notes "remarkably ambitious" improvement systemwide would have to be achieved.


The Postal Service earlier this year began a phased implementation plan that would carry interim service standards through January 2014. It called for consolidation of 140 processing plants and continued overnight first-class mail service. PRC officials said that phased-in approach would likely better allow for examination of actual savings to be realized from the Postal Service recommendations.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Kirk WatsonState Senator Kirk Watson, District 14, Austin 


Career highlights and education:  Attorney, husband and father; graduate of Baylor University and Baylor School of Law, 1981; Chair, Texas Air Control Board, 1991-1993; President, Texas Young Lawyers Association, 1994; Mayor, City of Austin, 1997-2001; Chair, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, 2004; Texas State Senator, 2007-present (Vice-Chair, Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security; Member, Senate Committees on Business & Commerce, Economic Development, Higher Education and Nominations); Chair, Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, 2011-present.
What I like best about my job is: 
The contact with people. In the Texas Senate, I have the chance to serve the community and the state I love every day. I firmly believe that the best way to serve others is to find something you enjoy that helps people, and I always have fun in this job. 


The best advice I've received for my current job is: Work hard. Listen. Be willing to act. Build new constituencies by engaging others in tough discussions about the important issues.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Look around and realize what a huge opportunity and responsibility it is to work in the Capitol and serve the people of Texas. The building alone is steeped in history and great tradition. It's a powerful legacy.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found:  On the hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake. It's one of the great treasures in our town. Or on my motorcycle.


People would be surprised to know that:
I'm a motorcycle rider and enthusiast. Since I bought a bike in 2011, I've enjoyed going on long rides through the Texas Hill Country, either on my own or with colleagues and friends. It's a great way to experience our state.


One thing I wish more people knew about the Texas Senate: Texas is a great place. But Texas can do better in how we meet the priorities of middle-class Texans. That effort to do better requires work from both the public and the people they elect to take an honest, open look at the challenges Texans face and the best ways to solve them.


(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sen. Watson will be one of the keynote speakers at the 8th Biennial Legislative Communication Conference on Oct. 16. For more information, click here.)


Political pundits highlight Legislative Communication Conference


Popular segment to feature Ramsey, Hart, Kronberg with session predictions

Ross RamseyPatricia Kilday HartHarvey KronbergOne of the most popular segments of every Legislative Communication Conference since the series began in 1998 is the segment on political pundits and their predictions for the upcoming legislative session.


This year's segment will feature three popular media representatives - Ross Ramsey (left), Patricia Kilday Hart (center) and Harvey Kronberg (right). All three have been involved in covering state politics and politicians and are close watchers of the goings-on at the State Capitol. To register for the conference, click here.


Ramsey is executive editor of The Texas Tribune and editor since 1998 of Texas Weekly, a popular newsletter on government and politics in Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that post, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. He was also a Dallas-based freelance business writer, writing for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.


Hart is the Metro Columnist for the Houston Chronicle. She has worked in Texas journalism since her graduation from The University of Texas at Austin in 1977. Before joining the Houston Chronicle in March, 2011, she covered politics for Texas Monthly, contributing to the magazine's "Ten Best, Ten Worst Legislators" story every legislative session since 1989. She also spent 10 years as a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, mostly in the newspaper's Austin bureau.


Kronberg began his career in Texas politics as a contract writer for the Quorum Report in 1989. The publication was founded in 1983 and is Texas' oldest political insider's newsletter. In 1998, Kronberg bought Quorum Report and pioneered online political publishing capturing national attention. What was once a biweekly publication was transformed into a political powerhouse, publishing breaking news in real time. In 2005, Texas Monthly declared Kronberg one of the 25 most powerful people in Texas politics. Quorum Report continues as the leading subscription-based insider publication in the state.


TxDOT's Wilson to keynote D.C. transportation conference

Phil WilsonPhil Wilson (pictured), executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, will be one of two keynote speakers for the upcoming American Road and Transportation Builders Association's 24th Annual Public-Private Partnerships in Transportation Conference. Held in Washington, D.C., the Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 10-12 event will also feature Chris Bertram, U.S. Department of Transportation assistant secretary for budget and programs.  


More than 200 private sector professionals, top state transportation department officials and other industry experts are expected to attend the event and discuss recent changes to federal policies impacting public-private partnerships (P3s) in the transportation construction market. The event is being called the nation's leading summit on innovative transportation finance. Nearly 20 speakers will provide presentations on topics such as the historic changes to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA) program under the new surface transportation law - MAP-21, the future of managed lanes, the introduction of innovative technologies into the marketplace, improving P3 procurement and regional P3 market updates.


$4 million Commerce Dept. grants to help create jobs in Texas

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has invested $4.1 million in Texas to help local communities create jobs and thus stimulate the economy. The grants include:

  • $1.5 million to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council for a Weslaco Center for International Economic Development Opportunities to foster and support business and entrepreneurial initiatives for domestic and international markets;
    $1 million to the city of San Benito to help build the San Benito Cultural Heritage Museum;.
  • $950,000 to the city of San Augustine to help make critical water and wastewater infrastructure improvements to facilitate business expansion and job creation in the city;
  • $250,318 to Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant to help purchase equipment for the college's Industrial Technology Training Center, which will allow the college to add a welding component to its curriculum to help meet growing demand in this rural area for trained welders;
  • $250,000 to the city of Hidalgo to help develop a strategic master plan to facilitate development of the city's Viejo district to create a commerce center that will be a focal point for tourism as well as a base for local business development; and 
  • $247,000 to The University of Texas at Austin to help develop a public-private partnership plan for the development of the Austin Wet-Lab Incubator.

Whittenton new director of administration for Governor's Office

Suzy WhittentonSuzy Whittenton (pictured), former chief financial officer for the Governor's Office since November of last year, has been elevated to the post of director of administration, replacing Milton Rister, who was recently named executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission.


Whittenton, a Certified Public Accountant, will be responsible for overseeing financial services, human resources, information technology, support services and the compliance and oversight division.


The new director is a former director of statewide fiscal management in the Texas Comptroller's Office, was CFO of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, deputy director of administration for the Texas Animal Health Commission and CFO of the Texas Racing Commission. Whittenton holds a bachelor's degree in finance from The University of Texas at Austin.


8th Biennial Legislative Conference - Register now

TFC says up to three new state buildings in works by 2020

Officials of the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) told members of a legislative committee last week that up to three new state office buildings could be under construction by 2020. The earliest that construction would begin would likely be 2017.


The new facilities would be used for office space for some state employees who are currently housed in leased facilities. The construction timeline is based on lease expiration dates for approximately 2 million square feet of leased space. Leased space, over time, is more expensive than building a new state-owned facility, according to TFC officials.


UT-Tyler taps Bayatpoor as head of Veterans Resource Center

Amanda BayatpoorUniversity of Texas at Tyler officials recently selected Amanda Bayatpoor (pictured) as coordinator of the new Veterans Resource Center.


The center, created this past summer, is designed to provide students who are veterans the information and tools needed for a successful educational experience at the college. Active and reserve military members, their spouses and dependents are eligible for services of the resource center that maintains links to military support services and contacts for veteran affairs facilities locally available.


Bayatpoor previously was a veterans service generalist at St. Petersburg College in Florida and served as an analyst supervisor for the U.S. Army. She has an associates degree and a bachelor's degree from St. Petersburg College.


Dewhurst cites committee chairs; eliminates two committees

The stage has been set for the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature - at least in the Senate. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this week announced committee chairs for the remainder of the interim until the 83rd session begins in January. And there were some surprises. In a press release, the lieutenant governor's office said Dewhurst was "realigning appointments to match each member's specific talents to their committees to allow them more time to focus on conservative solutions to issues." Included in the realignment was the elimination by Dewhurst of two committees - Redistricting and International Relations, which was described as a cost-saving measure.


The committee chair appointments include: Sen. Kel Seliger, Committee on Higher Education; Sen. Robert Nichols, Transportation; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Government Organization; Sen. Rodney Ellis, Open Government; Sen. Craig Estes, Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security; Sen. Dan Patrick, Education; Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, Intergovernmental Relations; Sen. Glenn Hegar, Nominations; Sen. Royce West, Jurisprudence; Sen. Bob Deuell, Economic Development;  Sen. Tommy Williams, Finance; Sen. Jane Nelson, Health and Human Services; Sen. Robert Duncan, State Affairs; Sen. John Carona, Business and Commerce; Sen. Troy Fraser, Natural Resources; Sen. Kevin Eltife, Administration; Sen. John Whitmire, Criminal Justice; Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Veteran Affairs and Military Installations. To view the lieutenant governor's press release and committe chair listings, click here.


Oct. 2012 Procurement Training

MARTA officials offer leadership spot to VIA's Parker

Keith Parker Keith Parker (pictured), president and CEO of San Antonio's VIA Metropolitan Transit, has been chosen to head the Atlanta, Georgia, public transit agency. Parker is expected to meet with the VIA Board of Trustees next week to discuss the job offer. If he accepts, Parker will become Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) general manager and CEO.


Parker came to San Antonio from Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2009. Under his leadership, VIA has been the recipient of millions of dollars in federal grants and its bus ridership has increased. He also helped garner funding for a streetcar system which could be built within the next four years. VIA also was moving under Parker's leadership toward starting a bus rapid transit line.


TWDB announces it will allocate $81M for water projects

Having recently received a $57 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the Drinking Water State Revolving Program, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has announced it will allocate $81 million for FY 2013 from the fund.


The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund provides loans for communities at below-market interest rates as well as loan forgiveness to disadvantaged communities, green projects and very small systems as an incentive to make projects more affordable and encourage sustainable, green practices. A pilot program was begun this year to help communities of 1,000 or fewer with water systems to begin projects that address public health compliance, water quality or water quantity issues. Up to $200,000 in loan forgiveness is available. More than $1 billion in financial assistant through this program has been awarded over the last 10 years.


William Geiger selected as new vice provost at UT-Tyler

William GeigerOfficials of The University of Texas at Tyler recently selected Dr. William Geiger (pictured) as vice provost in the Office of Academic Affairs.


In his new duties, Geiger will help oversee curriculum and academic programs as well as acting as a liaison between the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He previously was the associate dean of the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an assistant professor at the Southeast Regional Resource Center at Auburn University.


Geiger has a master's degree from the University of Florida in addition to an Ed.S. and an Ed.D. from the University of Alabama. 


Shea, Williams co-chair UNT Dallas presidential search committee

Two members of the University of North Texas Board of Regents - Gwyn Shea and Dr. Michael Williams - have been named to co-chair the search committee to find a successor to founding President John Ellis Price, who has announced he is stepping down on Aug. 31, 2013, when his contract expires.


Shea and Williams are two of the 11 members appointed to the search committee by UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson. Other members of the committee include: Dr. Jennifer Baggerly, associate professor at UNT Dallas; Genissis Cepeda, vice president of the Student Government Association, UNT Dallas; Levi Davis, manager, Dallas and Fort Worth offices for Siebert, Brandford, Shank & Co.; Laura Estrada, president and owner of Garza Business Services; Dr. Rosemary Haggett, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success, UNT System; Sophia Johnson, founder and president of ABI; Phil Montgomery, president of POB Montgomery & Co.; Dr. David Tanner, assistant professor, UNT Dallas; and State Sen. Royce West of Dallas.


Nov. 2012 Tx Bond Elections

Killeen wins $50,000 grant for energy-saving lighting

Killeen city officials plan to use a $50,000 grant to install energy-efficient lighting in the new Killeen Arts & Activities Center. The 439 new fluorescent lighting fixtures are expected to save the city about $10,000 in energy costs.


The 80,000-square-foot arts and activities center originally served as a church before the city renovated the facility that features an auditorium, meeting rooms, health and human services for Bell County and the Richard Milburn Academy. The grant was awarded through the Oncor Matching Funds Grant Program.


White House honors Matthews of Austin as champion of change

Doug MatthewsWhite House officials honored Doug Matthews (pictured), chief communications director for the city of Austin as a local innovation Champion of Change at a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C.


Matthews is one of 13 local communications officials who were recognized for providing residents greater access to a more transparent government. The chief communications director for Austin for more than three years, Matthews previously worked in communications for three cities in Florida. As part of the honor, a profile of Matthews as a Champion of Change is featured on the White House Web site. The program recognizes a different sector of champions ranging from educators to entrepreneurs for the work they are performing to serve each of their communities.


Galveston approves plan to rebuild 569 public housing units

Galveston City Council members recently approved a plan to rebuild all 569 public housing units lost in Hurricane Ike. The vote just before a state deadline expired avoided the loss of $580 million in federal disaster recovery funding the city was threatened with losing.


General Land Office officials extended a federal deadline to Sept. 28 and provided three options to the city: accept the public housing plan provided by the Land Office, lose all future federal assistance and repay any federal assistance already spent or negotiate an agreement with local and Austin-based groups who advocate for low-income housing.


Pega Texas Conference 2012

Colleyville eyes $480,000 drainage project at Cheek Sparger Road

Following a recommendation by the city engineer, Colleyville city officials are considering installing a prefabricated drainage structure to reduce flooding at the same time the city is building a new roundabout at the intersection of Cheek Sparger Road and Jackson Road.


Engineers urged the city to replace old pipes with a "confab" structure that will handle more water than the old pipes currently installed under Cheek Sparger Road. Council members requested staff to return with a contract amended to include the proposed drainage upgrades. Engineers have not yet determined an estimate for the total cost of the roundabout and the drainage projects.


City officials are expecting $537,000 from Tarrant County officials who plan to use proceeds from a 2006 county bond election for the project. Construction is expected to begin in about a year when design work on the project is completed, city officials said.


Andrade urges voters to register and cast ballots in November

Hope Andrade, Texas Secretary of State, recently urged Texans to register to vote before the deadline ends on Oct. 9 and then to cast their ballots in local, state and federal elections.


Voters are not required to present a photo identification in order to vote but may use other forms of identification such as a driver's license, birth certificate, passport or utility bill, she said. More information about voting is available online at: www.http://votetexas.gov.


Garrett to retire as chief financial officer for Houston ISD

Melinda GarrettMelinda Garrett (pictured), chief financial officer for the Houston Independent School District, recently announced plans to retire from that post in December. Last year, Garrett won national recognition for her excellence in public school finance when The Council of the Great City Schools selected Houston ISD for the Award for Excellence in Financial Management.


A graduate of Bellaire High School, Garrett has a bachelor's degree from Texas Woman's University and a master's degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. She previously was a certified public accountant for an accounting firm before joining HISD as a controller in 1885. She became the chief financial officer in 2011.


Garrett also served as interim superintendent in 2009 until district officials hired Terry Grier as superintendent. District officials already have begun a search to find a new chief financial officer, Grier said.


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Austin eyeing $189 million expansion at ABIA Airport

Austin City Council members are set to decide soon whether to approve two contracts valued at about $189 million to expand the terminal and build a second parking garage at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA).


The proposed contracts call for spending $45 million to expand the terminal from 40,000 to 50,000 square feet adding a two-story, wedge-shaped structure east of the ticketing area, Plans call for adding a fourth security checkpoint, ticketing space and more retail shops and restaurants. The expansion also will greatly expand the operation of the Customs and Border Protection area to process an additional 400 passengers to allow more international flights at ABIA. The second contract is building a proposed $144 million, three-story parking garage just north of the existing parking garage on what is currently a surface parking lot.


Council members expect to consider the contract to design and build the terminal expansion in mid-October and then pursue federal grants for funding to supplement the $6.6 million in the airport's capital fund, a spokesman for the airport said. In early November, council members are expected to consider a design and build contract for the new parking garage, a partnership between the city and airport rental car companies. The new security checkpoint area could be completed as early as mid-November in time for the Formula One race, the airport spokesman said.


Seemann resigns as VP for research at Texas A&M

Jeffrey SeemannJeffrey Seemann (pictured), vice president for research at Texas A&M University, recently resigned from that job and as executive director of the Office of Sponsored Research Services at the Texas A&M University System.


Seemann resigned to become a special assistant to R. Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M University. He began as vice president for research in 2009. Chancellor John Sharp in August appointed Seemann as executive director of research services for the system office. A&M System officials selected Mark Smock, the chief operating officer, to serve as interim director of the Office of Research Services to replace Seemann.


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Angelo State wins $3 million grant for security studies

Robert EhlersThe U.S. Air Force recently awarded a $3 million grant to Angelo State University to continue and expand the Center for Security Studies (CSS), a joint program for the Air Education and Training Command of the U.S. Air Force.


The center provides men and women in the Air Force with opportunities to earn a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in cultural competence, security studies, border security and intelligence by offering eight degrees in four disciplines. Enrollment in CSS has grown by more than 50 percent since it began in 2009, said Robert Ehlers, Ph.D. (pictured), director of CSS.


Katy to demolish building to clear space for new city hall

Katy City Council members recently agreed to spend almost $20,000 to demolish an old city services building to make room for a proposed new city hall. Plans call for the demolition to begin after Oct. 15, but city officials have not yet adopted a budget or approved funding for a new city hall proposed by the mayor.


Flores chosen to head up Graduate School at UTEP

Benjamin FloresBenjamin C. Flores (pictured), professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, has been appointed dean of the university's Graduate School. He has been serving as interim dean since 2010.


In addition to those positions, Flores has also served the university as associate dean of graduate studies for the College of Engineering, director of the Division of Computing and Electrical Engineering and chairman of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.


Flores began his career at UTEP as an assistant professor in 1990 after earning a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Arizona State University. 


Did you miss Government Contracting Pipeline?

Collin College receives $4.4 million grant for technology training

Cary IsraelThe National Science Foundation recently awarded $4.4 million to the Convergence Technology Center (CTC) of Collin College to provide workforce training in technology.


Collin County officials joined in partnerships with area businesses in 2004 to create the CTC, which covers end-to-end communication via public and private networks and support of voice, data and video traffic in a secure manager, said Cary Israel (pictured), president of Collin College District. Students are able to obtain a bachelor's degree related to convergence technology and certification in other emerging technologies. Students also can be certified in Internet protocol specialization and wireless, satellite and installation processes, Israel said.


Collin College is now considered to be a National Convergence Technology Center rather than a regional center, Israel said. Other institutions in the program are El Centro College, University of North Texas, Florida State College, Fox Valley Technical College in Wisconsin, Lansing Community College in Michigan, Orange Coast College in California and Georgia Southern University.


P3C, public-private partnership event, scheduled in Dallas

P3C, the Public-Private Partnership Conference, is scheduled for Feb. 21 and 22, 2013, at the Sheraton Downtown Dallas Hotel in Dallas, Texas. The event brings together real estate community development professionals and municipal leaders to highlight the latest development trends and opportunities involving public-private partnerships across the Western United States.  The conference is a high-profile setting for municipalities to announce, unveil and discuss upcoming development projects. More than 30 cities and public agencies from across the country will take the stage next year at P3C to showcase their capital projects to a nationwide audience of developers, builders, architects and investors. P3C attendees participate in multiple networking elements within the conference, which provides presenters broad industry exposure to their projects.  The agenda is designed to touch upon the most relevant and pressing issues vital to today's successful public-private partnership ventures.  The event will bring together more than 65 thought-provoking and engaging speakers to exchange valuable insights with the country's leading development organizations. For more information and to register, visit www.P3C2013.com 


TASSCC announces Dec. 11 as date for State of State Conference

The Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communication (TASSCC) State of the State Conference is a one-day event set for Dec. 11 that brings together technology directors from Texas state agencies and institutions of higher education to discuss the strategic direction of technology in Texas. At the conference, members will examine the role of IT in state government and higher education, explore future trends, and hear in-depth discussions on topics currently impacting public sector IT. Among the speakers will be Texas Tribune Editor in Chief and CEO Evan Smith and Executive Editor Ross Ramsey, who will discuss the state of the state. Richard Froeschle of the Texas Workforce Commission will address the changing face of the Texas labor market and Doug Robinson, executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). Sponsorships are available. To register, click here.


Free Pega Texas Conference slated for Austin on Oct. 26

The Pega Texas Conference, a free, educational, one-day conference on systems modernization and business transformation, is slated from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26. The event will be held at The Commons Center, J.J. Pickle Research Campus, The University of Texas at Austin, 10100 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78758. The conference should be of special interest to agency executives, IRMs/CIOs, program managers, business managers, business analysts, IT project managers, IT developers, solution partners and team members who are passionate about reducing costs, improving customer services and increasing operational efficiencies. Information will be provided on business transformation through intelligent BPM, BPM and CRM technology in the enterprise ecosystem and success stories of legacy system modernization. The event is free, but pre-registration is required as space is limited. The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), co-sponsor, will award three hours of continuing education credit for the morning session. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. For more information and to register, click here.


National Procurement Institute hosts annual conference, expo

The National Procurement Institute, Inc. (NPI) will hold its 44th Annual Conference and Exposition on Oct. 21-24, at the Westin Galleria Hotel in Houston. Hear from the experts, such as the Opening Ceremony keynote speaker Patrick Snow, who will give you the tools for "Creating Your Own Destiny" and taking charge of your future. This year's conference also features sessions focused on leadership, the Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award and other professional development topics geared toward helping you and your agency achieve procurement excellence. The conference program also has networking opportunities, including a Welcome Reception,Opening Ceremony, Presidential Gala Dinner and a Buyer/Supplier Roundtable Luncheon. The conference is an excellent opportunity to obtain 14.25 continuing education hours (CEH) and network with your peers. Register online at www.npiconnection.org. Questions? Interested in being an exhibitor or sponsor at the conference? Contact Craig Rowley, NPI Executive Director, 702-989-8095, or executivedirector@npiconnection.org.


Water Forum III planned for Oct. 10 in San Antonio

The San Antonio Clean Tech Forum and the Mission Verde Alliance are hosting a critical and all-encompassing luncheon program - Water Forum III - Our Water: Our Future at the historic Pearl Stable in San Antonio. The Forum is set for Wednesday, Oct. 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 307 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio, 78215. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will give the opening and closing remarks. Panelists include: Robert Rivard, forum moderator and director of the Rivard Report; Calvin Finch, director, Texas A&M Water Conservation & Technology, Texas State Rep. Lyle Larson; Robert R. Puente, president & CEO, San Antonio Water System; Andrew Sansom, executive director, The Meadows Center for Water & the Environment at Texas State University; Suzanne Scott, general manager, San Antonio River Authority; Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; and Reed Williams, San Antonio City Council, District 8. The Forum will address a number of water-related issues facing our region and State. The primary focus will be the challenges the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) and the City of San Antonio face in meeting our growing city's future water needs and locating and purchasing non-Edwards sources of water. However, the water issues facing San Antonio are not unique to this region and are issues facing communities across the State of Texas. The event is intended to serve as a platform to learn how one community works to confront its water challenges and in so doing other communities statewide can see one successful model at work. Individual ticket sales are now available at www.missionverde.org . Tickets are $65 per person.


Youth-serving partners to host youth, family conference

The Strengthening Youth and Families Conference is slated for Nov. 6-11 at the Omni Southpark Hotel in Austin. It is an annual event sponsored by a collaboration of youth-serving partners, including Prairie View A&M University's Juvenile Crime Prevention Center, Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments and the State Volunteer Resource Council for Texas Youth. The conference will offer workshops related to the prevention of high-risk problem behaviors for youth, early intervention for youth who have just begun to engage in indicators of those high-risk behaviors and treatment for those youth who become trapped in those behaviors. Workshops will be geared to a multi-disciplinary audience of youth-serving professionals, volunteers and family members. Online registration only for the conference. Early bird discounts are available for registration before Oct. 5. For more information, click here.


CATEE 2012 Conference set Oct. 9-11 in Galveston

CATEE (Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency) 2012, set for Oct. 9-11 in Galveston at the Hotel Galvez, will feature speakers bringing information on timely topics, workshops on financing energy efficiency, energy management for schools and choosing the correct green rating system. The event is an educational conference and business expo connecting public and private decision-makers and thought leaders. Guest speakers in the plenary session will address issues from sustainability leadership to energy efficiency issues and the 83rd Texas Legislature. There will also be a number of breakout sessions on topics such as success in school energy management, new technologies that work and sustainable commercial buildings, to name a few. Attendees will include state leaders, government officials and staff, business owners, development professionals, facility managers, utility and energy services resources, industry experts, researchers, policy makers and clean energy and air quality advocates. Registration is now open. For more information, click here.


Texas Municipal League 100th Annual Conference, Exhibition set

A century in the making, the Texas Municipal League will hold its 100th Annual Conference and Exhibition on Nov. 13-16 in Grapevine. Hear from the experts, such as the Opening General Session keynote speaker Jim Carroll, a futurist who will discuss trends affecting public service and how to turn challenge into opportunity. Dive into concurrent sessions on leadership, smartphone apps, health care, youth, retail development, parliamentary procedure, legislation, water management and community meetings...just to name a few. And not to be missed is a walk through the exhibit hall, where delegates will find more than 300 vendors equipped with services and products to help public servants serve better. With an agenda so full, we also carved some time to celebrate 100 years of municipal excellence - join us on Nov. 14 for the TML Centennial Gala. A conference like this only comes around once every 100 years. So what are you waiting for? Register now at www.tmlconference.org.


Executive Women in Texas Government set November conference

The Executive Women in Texas Government will sponsor its 2012 Annual Professional Development Conference on Monday, Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel-Spa and Conference Center located at 1001 East McCarty Lane, San Marcos, TX 78666. This full-day event features prominent keynote speakers as well as more than 35 workshops to provide participants with opportunities for hands-on learning and development of leadership skills for multiple career levels. The conference is open to all interested professionals and is designed for those working in government and for organizations that collaborate with government agencies. Members and non-members are encouraged to view the EWTG Web site for conference details.


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Sharing best practices

for successful procurements


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


The Great Recession has caused companies of all types to re-evaluate the public sector marketplace. Many shied away from government contracting in the past because they simply did not understand the environment. The most common reasons given for avoiding public sector sales were distaste for bureaucracy and a fear of politics and government transparency.


Interestingly enough, however, there now seems to be a rush to sell to public officials. And that change is directly tied to the sweeping trend of public-private sector partnerships (P3s). In the coming months, Texas elected leaders at all levels of government appear poised to begin soliciting all types of P3s.


Texas state agencies, universities and public hospitals are currently submitting their Legislative Appropriations Requests. Lawmakers will use these documents as the foundation for building the next biennial state budget. City and county leaders are also approving budgets and updating capital improvement plans that will lay the groundwork for major projects for years to come. There will be an abundance of contracting opportunities as well as P3 engagements in the near future. That is good for private sector contractors, but it also means an increased workload for public sector executives who must manage all the procurements.


For the last 16 years, Strategic Partnerships, Inc. has been successful in teaming public and private sector partners in this growing marketplace. We have learned a lot along the way that the SPI Team will share as part of lots of "best practices," experience and advice on Thursday, Oct. 25, at a one-day event designed specifically for public sector professionals that deal with procurements, contracting, outsourcing and P3 engagements.


The upcoming session, Best Solution, Right Cost, is co-sponsored by SPI and The University of Texas at Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. The program should be of particular interest to government division/management team members, proposal development team members, financial and business operations personnel, executive and project sponsors, contract managers and proposal evaluation team members. It focuses on both big and small decisions that shape procurement outcomes and what it takes to ensure totally successful projects with exactly the right partners. The curriculum for the course was developed with extensive input from vendors, government procurement experts and sales executives who sell to government.





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Collaboration Nation

Marion ISD approves $8.95 million for facility upgrades

Marion Independent School District trustees recently approved a construction contract with a guaranteed maximum price of $8.95 million to begin phases one and two of upgrades to district facilities. The upgrades include building a new science and technology building and renovating and expanding an elementary school.


Mineral Wells ISD hires architect to assess facilities

Gail HateriusTrustees for Mineral Wells Independent School District recently hired a Fort Worth-based architectural firm to perform an assessment of facility needs. The company's previous success in helping the district win a $1.2 million grant for new heating, ventilation and air conditioning units for two elementary schools helped trustees make the decision, said Superintendent Gail Haterius (pictured).


Guadalupe County approves $5 million for capital improvements

Guadalupe County commissioners recently set aside $5 million in reserve funds to help pay for capital improvement projects.


Plans include replacing the cooling and heating system at the county jail and renovating the Justice Center to add space for district courtrooms, judges' chambers and offices for the district attorney and district clerk.


Those two projects will cost about $7.7 million and commissioners also agreed to issue certificates of obligation to fund the remaining $2.7 million cost of the capital upgrades.


Interested in P3s?

Patek retiring as director

of parks department in Seguin

Tim Patek, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department for Seguin for the last 10 years, recently announced plans to retire from that job, effective Oct. 31.


Patek has accepted a job as parks director for Gonzales and plans to begin his new duties on Nov. 5. He previously worked five years each for the cities of El Campo and Portland.


Amarillo airport readying

for upcoming big changes

Paul HarpoleChange is in the air in Amarillo, and the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport is about to be the recipient of that change. The city commission recently approved a lease with a local development group to convert aging buildings and hangars at the airport. The city will continue to collect $10,000 per year from some businesses that rent facilities at the airport. But, it will also collect 13 percent of the rent the developers can collect after cost to renovate the old structures and build new ones is deducted.


The private firm will pay for maintenance, utility bills, taxes and insurance premiums. "It's a great use of property that would never be put to use in a hundred years," Mayor Paul Harpole (pictured) said. "It's an asset that has been dormant, languishing."


Denton County taps Gutierrez as new director of MHMR center

Denton County officials recently tapped Pam Gutierrez as the new executive director of the Denton County MHMR Center.


Gutierrez began her career at the center as a caseworker in 1987 and served in various roles including director of case management and human resources administrator before becoming chief operating officer of the center in 2008. She was appointed as interim executive director following the retirement of Bill Drybread, the former executive director.


Gutierrez has two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree from the University of North Texas.



Shedneker resigns as

city auditor in Gregory

Noel Shedneker, the auditor for Gregory, recently resigned from that post. City officials said the city could no longer afford to pay Shedneker because $140,000, or about 15 percent, of city funds disappeared this past summer.


While he usually earns $12,000 for auditing city finances, Shedneker said he was able to complete audit work totaling only $4,000 because the city's financial records are reportedly in disarray. Police in Gregory are in the process of investigating what happened to the missing city funds.


ACC Elgin campus on schedule

to open by fall of next year

Austin Community College officials recently reported construction on the new campus in Elgin is progressing on schedule with utility connections being finalized and roofing in progress.


Mechanical and electrical overhead rough-in of the building is almost complete and mechanical units are set in place on the rooftop, ACC officials reported. Contractors also have installed all the windows and exterior masonry is expected to be "dried in" by mid-October.

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Ector County ISD closes enrollment at third elementary

Ector County Independent School District board members recently cited overcrowding when officials closed enrollment at a third elementary school, Barbara Jordan Elementary School in Odessa. District officials earlier this year closed enrollment at Cavazos Elementary and Murry Fly Elementary because of overcrowded conditions.


Steeber in talks to resign as superintendent at Athens ISD

Robert SteeberRobert Steeber (pictured), superintendent at Athens Independent School District, recently said he is negotiating with board members on plans to resign from that post to accept a job at the Region XI Educational Services Center in Fort Worth. Steeber joined the district in May 2011 after Fred Hayes resigned to lead Nacogdoches ISD. A decision on Steeber most likely will be made at the next meeting of trustees scheduled on Oct. 18.


Palestine selects Lyons as

director of development services

Jeffrey Lyons recently began his new duties as director of development services for the city. Lyons joined the city six years ago as a technician for the Geography Information Systems and began serving as the interim director of development services in early 2012.


Lyons previously worked in city planning and development services for the cities of Corsicana and Mesquite before returning to Palestine in 2006. He has a bachelor's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University.


Your Ad Here!

Jefferson placed on leave as town manager in Flower Mound

Flower Mound Town Council members recently placed Town Manager Harlan Jefferson on paid administrative leave. Jefferson's contract with the city was scheduled to expire on Oct. 15, 2015.


Council members also selected Chuck Springer, the assistant town manager, as the interim town manager to replace Jefferson, who had served as town manager since 2006.


Borger approves plan

to build new event center

Eddie EdwardsBorger City Council members recently approved a resolution calling for the city to build and operate an events center for five years beginning at the start of this month and ending in Sept. 2017 if certain conditions are met. The resolution also calls for a minimum deposit of $10,000 from the city's tourism fund to be deposited in a special account maintained by the Amarillo Area Foundation to help fund the new event center.


The event center will proceed if adequate funding for the project is deposited in a designated account with the Amarillo Area Foundation and the land pledged by the Borger Economic Development Corporation is still available or another site has been secured, said City Manager Eddie Edwards (pictured). A recent $50,000 feasibility study indicates the city will receive between $430,000 and $695,000 in revenues and operating expenses and will spend from $674,000 to $855,000, Edwards said. Borger residents also would see increased revenues ranging from $163,000 and $306,000 annually from increased sales and hotel occupancy tax revenues generated by the event center, he added.


Potter resigns as director of Community Development Corp.

Chris Potter recently resigned as executive director of the Dayton Community Development Corporation. He joined the corporation in 2009 and attracted several new businesses to Dayton, city officials said.


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Jim Wells water district wins

$6 million federal grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program recently awarded $6 million in federal grants to the Jim Wells County Fresh Water Supply District One to help fund a new sewer system and wastewater treatment plant in Ben Bolt. Residents of Ben Bolt now use septic tanks that often overflow because the city has no sewer system, said Melida Rangel, general manager of the water district.


Plans call for the new sewer plant to be built in four phases, with the first phase being construction of a new water tower. City officials will build two lift stations to push wastewater to the plant in phases two and three and install 351 sewer connections to serve more than 500 residents. Construction is set to begin in spring 2013 and the wastewater system completed in about two years after construction begins, Rangel said.


Shirley Trull will be retiring

as city secretary in Ennis 

Shirley Trull, city secretary in Ennis, recently announced her retirement from that post effective Nov. 1. A city employee for 36 years, Trull began her duties as city secretary in 1974 after working as a billing clerk and bookkeeper.


City officials appointed Renee Mitchell to take over Trull's duties as finance director and Donna Batchler as the new city secretary, effective Nov. 1. Batchler previously served as city secretary in Ferris and as a tax collector in Ennis for 14 years. Mitchell previously was an assistant for Trull.


Check our Web site for additional press releases

It probably comes as no surprise that we get dozens of press releases from a variety of state agencies, colleges, universities, nonprofits and local government entities seeking inclusion in the Texas Government Insider each week. Space limitations prevent us from using them all. However, we recently began posting a select number of those that didn't make it into TGI on the Strategic Partnerships, Inc. Web site. Each week, we pick out some of the press releases that feature information we think will be of interest to the majority of our readers and post them under Government News on our Web site. Readers are encouraged to bookmark and check that page often, as we attempt to post new information there as it is received.


Gladewater in running as staging site for TransCanada pipeline

A company affiliated with the TransCanada pipeline recently informed Gladewater economic development officials that the company is looking at 4.72 acres of land at the industrial park to use as a staging area for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.


Gladewater is one of several cities being considered by AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company as a staging area for the pipeline proposed to carry oil from Canada, North Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, said Robert Johnson, director of the Gladewater Economic Development Corporation. The company would need to lease the property from 2013 through 2015 to store rock on the property that would be removed following completion of the project, City Manager Sean Pate said. Board members approved Johnson's request to continue pursing the pipeline project.


Recent Reports
  • dot-gov, City of San Antonio newslettter 
Texas Government Insider Archives
Volume 1-10 Archives - 11/7/03 - 9/28/12

Henderson eyeing project

to move jail to new facility

City Manager Mike Barrow of Henderson recently urged City Council to consider spending about $1.4 million to renovate a 19,000-square-foot former National Guard armory facility into a police station.


Barrow also suggested transforming the old police station into retail or office space as the facility is currently located in a good retail area. Moving to a larger facility would be beneficial, he said, because the current police station may not be able to be expanded to handle future growth.


A recent survey of residents indicated that 64 percent of those surveyed support using the old armory building purchased by the city for $195,000 as a jail, he said. The city also could add a second floor and expand the armory space to 24,000 square feet if necessary, Barrow added. City officials expect to ask for bids on the jail renovation project in November and complete the new jail in June 2013.


Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Jodie Harbert III of College Station, Advisory Council on Emergency Medical Services;

  • Don Phillips of Graham, Advisory Council on Emergency Medical Services;

  • Karen Pickard of Ovilla, Advisory Council on Emergency Medical Services;

  • Shirley Scholz of Ransom Canyon, Advisory Council on Emergency Medical Services;

  • Alan Tyroch of El Paso, Advisory Council on Emergency Medical Services;

  • Herman Law of Burkett, Central Colorado River Authority;

  • Cydney C. Donnell of Fredericksburg, Employees Retirement System of Texas Board of Trustees.

Robstown ISD reduces its

proposed bond by $1 million

Osvoldo RomeroRobstown Independent School District trustees recently cited an administrative mistake and reduced a bond proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot by $1 million. Voters now will decide whether to approve $12.5 million in bonds rather than $13.5 million agreed upon by board members. District officials plan to use the bond funds to build more classrooms, a cafeteria and a library at the high school.


The error occurred when the board secretary did not attend a special meeting at which commissioners agreed to ask for $13.5 million to cover any additional costs of the renovation project and the bond counsel did not amend the election order before forwarding to the board secretary. The board secretary sent the $12.5 million election order to the county, said Osvaldo Romero (pictured), president of the board. Because the county already released 3,000 ballots, Robstown officials declined to pay an additional $15,000 or more to correct the ballot and voters will be asked to approve $12.5 million instead of $13.5 million, Romero said.


While the mistake may cause some misunderstanding, Romero said he is confident that district officials will be able to find federal and state funding to help the school district pay for any additional costs of the school renovation project.


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Gillespie County to unveil more plans for proposed new jail

Gillespie County commissioners scheduled a public hearing for Monday, Oct. 8, to reveal more plans to issue bonds to pay for a proposed jail center. The facility would have space for courtrooms, adult probation offices, training facilities and dispatch center. Commissioners scheduled a bond election to be included on the Nov. 6 ballot.


Plans call for building the new jail and justice facility behind the current Gillespie County Law Enforcement Center and moving those confined to jail from the downtown area if voters approve the bond proposal. Commissioners began discussing a new jail facility in 1992 when the Texas Commission on Jail Standards cited Gillespie County for overcrowding. 


Lufkin approves $7.1 million

in capital improvements

Lufkin City Council members recently approved a five-year plan for a $7.1 million capital improvement program. Projects approved include a new $1 million fire station, an $800,000 municipal court building and several projects to rebuild and upgrade streets and roads throughout the city.


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.
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