Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 9 - Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

Major progress made in switching to electronic health records


Enrollment process for Texas hospitals, health care providers mirrors nation

Medical Records
The use of electronic health records is spreading throughout the country, and many Texas hospitals and health care providers are part of the progress.

The number of hospitals using health information technology has doubled in the last two years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Recently released data indicates that nearly 2,000 hospitals and more than 41,000 doctors nationwide have received $3.1 billion in incentive payments to help them institute the use of health IT.


Texas is putting up good numbers of its own, according to Stephanie Goodman, spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Goodman reports that as of Feb. 18, more than $208.9 million in incentive funds have gone to 211 Texas hospitals and more than $56.5 million has been paid to 2,704 health care providers.


"The enrollment process has gone really well in Texas," said Goodman.


The goal of the incentive program is to move hospitals and health care providers to the use of electronic health records (EHRs).


The American Hospital Association conducted a survey in 2011 that revealed that 35 percent of hospitals in the United States were using EHRs. That figure is up significantly over the 16 percent reported in 2009. Additionally, 85 percent of hospitals indicate they are likely to apply for incentive payments by 2015 to install the technology. The funding, from the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, will provide medical records that can follow patients wherever they receive health care. Its goal is to improve the quality of health care, make it more efficient and reduce medical errors.




TxDOT anticipating additional $2B for state construction projects


Wilson says one-time funding would be in form of formula-based allocations

Phil WilsonIn anticipation of additional federal funds and with better and more efficient management of tax dollars, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) this week said it is planning to leverage up to $2 billion in available funding over the next two years. Those funds will be dedicated to construction of a number of high-priority state construction projects.


TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson (pictured) said the one-time funding "provides great opportunity to accelerate some of the state's most critical projects."


TxDOT will work directly with the state's Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), local communities and the Texas Transportation Commission to prioritize projects and figure out where revenue is available to pay for them. The projects funded will receive funding through a formula-based allocation. Key factors determining which projects advance will be how they address traffic congestion, safety, maintenance and connectivity.


Vickery announces retirement as TCEQ executive director


Longtime state employee closing out 25-year career in Texas state government

Mark VickeryA 25-year career in Texas state government will come to a close in May, as Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Executive Director Mark Vickery (pictured) this week announced his retirement.


Vickery, who has led the agency as executive director since 2008, has set May as his retirement date goal, but has indicated he will stay on as long as necessary to allow the agency to transition to a new executive director.


Vickery began his career with TCEQ at what was then the Texas Water Commission. He has worked in every area of the agency - industrial and hazardous waste and municipal solid waste enforcement, waste tires, director of field operations, deputy director office of compliance and enforcement, deputy director office of permitting and registration and deputy executive director. He was named executive director in June 2008.


Vickery holds a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University. Prior to joining the TCEQ, he worked in the private sector as an exploration geologist in Midland.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


C MarshCarl Marsh, chief operating officer, Department of Information Resources


Career highlights and education: I graduated from Southeastern Oklahoma State University with a bachelor's degree in business and management.   Before joining DIR in 2010, I held senior executive positions designing, implementing and operating nationwide wired/wireless networks, hosted and managed services, as well as shared technical infrastructure for a variety of major communications companies. 
What I like best about my job is: The best part of my job is working with our customers to deliver technology solutions customized for their unique needs.
The best advice I've received for my current job is:  Understand who your customers are and serve them well.
Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Public service is an honorable career, so serve passionately.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found:  at a rodeo in a team roping competition.
People would be surprised to know that I:  have three daughters that share the initials "JMM."
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: DIR has great people - they are experienced information technology professionals that come to work every day focused on assisting our customers in solving their IT challenges. I'm really proud of the work we do.


Transportation Commisssion OK's rules on environmental review

Carlos Swonke Working with a number of partners throughout the state, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) drafted new rules to streamline the environmental review process for transportation projects. Those rules were approved this week by the Texas Transportation Commission, and are aimed at meeting a legislative mandate to complete the technical review of a draft environmental review document within a certain timeframe. State and federal law requires TxDOT to conduct an environmental review of a proposed transportation project prior to construction of the project.


"These rules will help ensure that the department takes appropriate measures to protect Texas communities and the environment, while ensuring projects steer clear of unnecessary red tape," said Carlos Swonke (pictured), TxDOT Environmental Affairs Director.


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making processes by considering the environmental impacts of actions and alternatives to those actions. Under that act, TxDOT does an environmental analysis on federally funded projects and submits it to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. The environmental impact is addressed throughout a number of steps involving federal, state and local agencies. The new TxDOT rules will ensure similar review requirements for state-funded projects.


Female state government leaders named to Leadership Texas class

Eight members of Executive Women in Texas Government, seven of whom work in Texas state government, have been chosen for the 2012 Leadership Texas Class.


They were competitively chosen from across the state to participate in what has become the longest-running women's leadership development program in the country. The eight include: Jennifer Buaas, business analyst of Texas.gov at the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR); Teresa I. Cabral, manager at the Office of Attorney General of Texas; Lucinda D. Edwards, vocational rehabilitation counselor of the Rehabilitation Services Division at the of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services; Laura P. Johannsen, team leader of management and staff development at the Texas Department of Transportation; Shannon L. Kelly, contract manager at DIR; Stephanie Nestlerode, founding partner of Omega International, Inc.; Tiffany White, legislative professional, Texas Senate; and Liza C. Willmore, legislative administrator and project manager of the Document Production Division at Texas Legislative Council.


This year-long program allows participants to explore five Texas cities and receive cutting-edge information from renowned experts, government officials and other leaders to broaden their perspective on the state. This year marks the 30th years for the Leadership Texas class. It is the first statewide program aimed at developing leadership among women to help them impact the state's future.


TxDOT's Swan honored with 'Champions of Change' award

Champion of ChangeSam E. Swan, a 28-year veteran of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), was recently honored by the White House as one of several "Champions of Change." Swan, who is project manager for the DFW Connector Project and responsible for overseeing and managing procurement, design and construction, drew the Obama administration and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's praise for his innovation in the use of federal funding on the project. LaHood said the champions "are creating jobs in their communities and using innovative techniques to develop valuable projects to improve America's infrastructure."


When the North Texas region needed the $1.1 billion DFW Connector Project, $260 million of that was awarded through federal stimulus funds, the most of any transportation project in the country. And project owner TxDOT needed a new method of delivering the project. The result was the design-build strategy that resulted from input from throughout the transportation industry. That approach was used to untangle traffic coming and going from DFW Airport, the nation's eighth busiest facility.


In the accompanying photo, Swan (right) is shown with (from left) Secretary LaHood and other Champions of Change Paulson Chaco, director of the Navajo Division of Transportation, and Henry Perahia, chief bridge officer of the New York City Department of Transportation.


Andrade announces award of funds for aerospace collaboration

The State of Texas will commit $500,000 to BayTech, a nonprofit advanced technology business consortium, to fund the Texas Innovation Program. The program, a public-private partnership, will help link highly trained aerospace workers affiliated with Houston's NASA Johnson Space Center with private sector partners. The goal is to keep their talents in the state and coordinate them with the private sector to create new companies, expand current companies and add jobs.


"The Texas Innovation Program will work to capitalize on Texas' talented workers to meet research and development demands, and will help some of the 3,000 workers transition their skills into creating new companies and products," said Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, who announced the program at a small business forum.


In addition to the $500,000 to BayTech, $250,000 from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) was awarded to the Houston Technology Center to create a Regional Center for Innovation and Commercialization to provide resources to the scientific community in the Bay Area. The center will recommend projects to the TETF Advisory Committee for funding.


NTTA to seek bids for two contracts for financial services

Kenneth BarrThe North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) has decided to split its financial services contract and is seeking two RFQs - one for general municipal advisory services and one for public-private partnerships and project financing advisory services. Last December, the board approved a plan and timeline for procurement of major consultants. Seeking of financial consultants is the second such procurement in that process.


NTTA Chair Kenneth Barr (pictured), said seeking the RFQs "demonstrates our commitment to meeting the procurement schedule set by the board in December." He said this is just one more step toward improving transparency in the agency. This procurement and others will use the new RFQ template created in response to recommendations in last year's independent audit.


Tyler Junior College to put $25M bond issue up for vote

The Tyler Junior College Board of Trustees Thursday called for putting a $25 million bond election before voters in the district on May 12. The election will seek voter approval that will lead to the construction of a nursing and health sciences facility on the western part of the college's main campus. There are nearly $200 million worth of medical industry construction projects already completed or under construction in Tyler. 


Grayson College approves plan to expand campus in Van Alstyne

Officials of Grayson College recently approved a preliminary plan to expand its south campus in Van Alstyne. A still unused $2 million federal grant the college received in 2009 has a requirement that it must be used at a campus other than the main campus, Alan Schelbmeir, president, told trustees. This leaves only the south campus in Van Alstyne for the expansion, he said.


College officials are exploring adding space for programs in medical terminology, cosmetology with a component for barbers and in welding, he said. The grant from the Economic Development Administration of the United States Department of Commerce requires the college to provide $2 million in matching funds. The president proposed using money from the physical plant fund to pay for the expansion.


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Nederland ISD may ask voters to approve three bond proposals

The superintendent of Nederland Independent School District recently urged board members to schedule an election on three bond proposals totaling $45.1 million to pay for replacing an elementary school and renovating eight schools.


Board members expect to meet on March 1 to vote on the recommendation. The first proposition is a $7.3 million proposal to renovate eight schools with a focus on energy efficiency and security. The second proposal is for $21.3 million to replace air conditioning and heating systems at eight campuses and to renovate the high school by remodeling the science department, the social studies department and home economic department. The third proposal for $16.5 million would pay for demolishing an existing elementary school and building a new elementary school.


Scheibmeir's retirement has Grayson Co. College seeking president

Alan ScheibmeirThe retirement sometime next summer of Dr. Alan Scheibmeir (pictured) will leave Grayson County College seeking its fifth president. Scheibmeir has served as president of the college since 1996, having previously served as Vice President for Instructional Services. College officials note that eight applications for the post already have been received. Applications are being accepted through April 16.

An outside consulting firm that includes former community college presidents has been hired to help with the search. A screening committee, the search team, college personnel and the Board of Trustees will review the applications, with the trustees having the final responsibility for choosing the next president. So far, there is only one internal applicant.


Sam Houston State gets approval for two new buildings

Two new projects have been added to the Sam Houston State University capital improvements program following action of the Texas State University System Board of Regents. The projects include construction of a new CMIT/LEMIT/TDCJ (Correctional Management Institute of Texas/Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas/Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility and an expansion of the Lowman Student Center. Both projects have been a part of the master plan, but have been moved up for their starting dates.


San Jacinto College South president Murphy to leave position

Maureen MurphySan Jacinto College South President Maureen Murphy (pictured) has announced she will leave her position in June to become president of Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. Last April, she was named one of four finalists for the presidency of the St. Charles Community College in Missouri.


Murphy has served as president of SJC-South since 2007. From 2003-07, she served as the vice president for instruction and student development at Rappahannock Community College in Virginia, was vice president for instruction and student development at Wytheville Community College in Virginia and the dean of mathematics and communications at St. Louis (Missouri) Community College-Meramec.  She also is a former teacher of college-level academic courses at three Missouri institutions - St. Louis Community College, St. Charles Community College and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


Murphy received her Ph.D. from Saint Louis (Missouri) University, a master's from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Louisville.


TPWD sets public hearings on proposed hunting, fishing regs

Public hearings have been set throughout the state by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regarding proposed changes to next year's hunting and fishing regulations. Public input is sought on the proposed changes. The TPW Commission will make final rulemaking at its March 28-29 public hearing in Austin. To view the proposed regulations, click here.


Fort Worth mulling public-private partnerships for some projects

Betsy PriceFort Worth Mayor Betsy Price (pictured) recently urged council members to consider new ideas for some road and bridge projects. She suggested entering into public-private partnerships as well as issuing more bonds or joining with other cities and the county to pay for a backlog of these projects in order to complete the work over the next 18 months.


Because taxpayers showed no interest in adding a transportation utility fee to pay for road and bridge repairs and upgrades, City Council members will need to consider using alternative financing methods, Price said. City staff has projected that the city will have $45 million less in revenue next year than was previously estimated.


North Central Texas College delays talk on renovation plans

Regents of the North Central Texas College have delayed discussion of renovation plans for buildings on the Gainesville campus until their Feb. 28 meeting. At their recent meeting, regents heard a presentation from an architect on their options related to repairs on the 300 building or demolition of the 300 building and renovation and repurposing of buildings 100 and 600.


One option includes turning the south wing of the 100 building into a temporary location while renovations are under way on building 600. After those recommendations are completed, some college services would be moved into the building. These two renovations would cost about $1.6 million. That does not include the possible demolition of the 300 building and other renovation projects.


Midwestern State projects to begin after $2.21 million gift

Howard FarrellA $2.21 million gift to Midwestern State University is expected to jump-start a $39 million program that includes both new construction and renovations across the campus. The donation by philanthropist Kay Dillard comes after MSU met Dillard's challenge to raise a $2 million match. MSU Vice President Howard Farrell (pictured) said the university surpassed its goal, raising $2.4 million from private donors.


The construction/renovation program will include renovating the Christ Academy building, which has been vacant since it was purchased two years ago. It will be the new mass communications and counseling services home. Other projects include additions to the McCoy Engineering and Bolin Science halls, construction of parking area, a new police station, new student housing, new green space and razing several buildings. Officials say more and larger classrooms are needed, as are more laboratories. 


Austin boardwalk could cost $3.3 million more than estimated

Austin city officials recently learned the estimated cost of a proposed 1.1-mile boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake has grown from the original $17.4 million estimate to $20.7 million. That's $3.3 million more than planned when voters approved bonds in November 2010.


City officials received eight bids for the boardwalk project, with the lowest bid of $20.7 million from an Austin-based construction company, Jay-Reese Contractors, Inc., according to the director of public works. The 19 percent increase in cost most likely is due to delays in the project that was described as shovel-ready.


Staff members plan to recommend a winning bid to city council in late March or early April after exploring options for obtaining the extra funds needed to pay the increased cost of the boardwalk project. The additional funding could come from unspent bond funds, short-term borrowing or private donations, the public works director said. City staff also will review all eight bids to ensure each is a qualifying bid and eliminate any bids that are not qualified, he said.


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Dallas lowers estimates for financial impact of Texas Horse Park

Dallas city officials recently reviewed estimates for the financial impact of the proposed Texas Horse Park and found the planned facility will generate only about $54 million over the next 10 years instead of the original estimated $337 million economic impact.


The new estimate was released after learning city staff had based the economic impact of the project as proposed with private investors providing $15 million and the city spending $12 million to develop the entire park rather than the only $1 million in private investment available to supplement the $12 million from the city. City staff recently provided the new estimates to the economic development committee.


Judson ISD preparing residents for possible bond election

Daniel KershnerContinued growth is leading to overcrowding in the Judson ISD and school officials are looking to the public for input on how long-range planning should shape up. "We're getting way too big way too fast," said Daniel Kershner (pictured), the school district's director of operations. The school already has installed portable buildings for classroom instruction that are being used by about 500 elementary and 600 high school students.


Kershner said school officials are hopeful that in upcoming public meetings, residents will offer some ideas as to how to handle the growth and the needs that growth creates, as well as prepare area residents for a possible bond vote in the future.


List of projects proposed for upcoming bond election in Austin

Nearly 125 projects that total $1.5 billion have been suggested for the city of Austin's November bond election. A task force now faces the job of cutting that list by more than half to be in the ballpark for a $200 million, $300 million or $400 million package for a bond referendum. An aquatics center that was proposed by the local YMCA will not be on the list. The task force will make its recommendations this summer, with the city council to make the final decisions.


Among the renovation projects offered were several library branches. There were also street projects, for I-35 improvements and other streets. Among the high-dollar recommendations were a new Police Department headquarters, additional affordable housing and a new fire station in the Onion Creek area.


Alice to hire construction manager for multi-purpose complex

Ray de los SantosAfter getting their first look at a proposed multi-purpose complex that includes a hotel, amphitheater, aquatic center and development and training center, Alice City Council members recently authorized the city manager to issue proposals to hire a construction manager-at-risk for the proposed project.


The two consultants told council members that they used the results of numerous surveys and questionnaires to narrow down eight possible sites for the multi-purpose complex to two locations. The two locations being considered are a site across from the hospital and country club and another at the intersection of SH44 and US281. The proposed facility would need at least 18 acres of land and could be open in 2013. City Manager Ray De Los Santos (pictured) said his goal is to start construction on the complex in late May or early June.


Wichita County agrees to sell old hospital facility for $2.5 million

Wichita County commissioners, along with the Wichita Falls City Council, recently approved the sale of the Wichita General Hospital property for $2.5 million. The city and county jointly own the property.


The 100-year-old former hospital facility, which had been managed by a board appointed by city and county officials, will be sold to a Dallas-area-based company. It will have 120 days to assess the facility before the sale is finalized. The facility known as the Eighth Street Campus had been leased to United Regional Health Care Systems. The company agreed to withdraw from that lease and provide funding to the company purchasing the facility to pay for demolishing the oldest portion of the building, county officials said.


Greenville seeking bids for new parkway linked to Interstate 30

Greenville City Council members recently agreed to seek bids for a contractor to build a new parkway that will connect Interstate 30 with the campuses of the high school and junior college.


Currently a dirt road, the new Monty Stratton Parkway is designed to help improve traffic congestion near the two campuses and to open up more of the southwest area of the city to economic development, city officials said.


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Beeville water district to seek approval to issue $1.4 million in bonds

Beeville Water Supply District board members recently agreed to seek approval from the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to issue $1.4 million in bonds that were first authorized in the 1970s when the district was created. After the water district completed the surface water system and raw water intake, about $3 million of the authorized $13 million in bonds remained, as bids for the project were lower than estimated.


The board agreed to take steps to issue the last remaining $1.4 million in bond funds after City Manager Tom Ginter warned that the water district is not allowed to hold that amount of bond money in reserve and must spend those funds. After paying for the cost of issuing the bonds, the district should have about $1 million to spend on about 28 repair and improvement projects on the water system, water district officials said. The board agreed to submit for approval by TCEQ all 38 items that may be repaired or improved.


Belton ISD schedules meeting to call $59.9 million bond election

Randy PittengerBelton Independent School District board members recently set a special meeting on March 1 to schedule an election on May 12 asking voters to approve a $59.9 million bond proposal to pay for three new schools.


Two new elementary schools and a new middle school are needed to keep up with enrollment increases in the district, said Randy Pittenger (pictured), board president. One new elementary school could be open in time for the opening of the 2013-14 school year if voters approve the bonds, he said.


Hewitt may issue $7.7 million in bonds for capital projects

Hewitt City Council members recently began considering the issue of $7.7 million in bonds to pay for several capital improvement projects, including street repairs and buying new equipment for the police and fire departments.


City officials also plan to upgrade parks, water and wastewater systems with proceeds from the bonds if council members approve. Voters rejected a bond proposal last year to pay for badly needed capital projects. City staff compiled the list of projects based on information gathered at public meetings, the city manager said. 


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Sinton ISD officials plan to build two wind turbines on campus

Officials in the Sinton Independent School District are bypassing the city's rejection of zoning variances and plan to go ahead with their plans to build two wind turbines at the high school campus. A contract for the turbines will soon be negotiated. A city ordinance prohibits large wind turbines within the city limits, but school officials say that does not apply to the school district because it regulates only turbines that are 10 kilowatts or weaker. The school project calls for 100-kilowatt turbines.


The school's attorney says the city cannot impose a prohibition on a school district unless there is a health or safety issue involved. However, at a city council meeting earlier this week, city officials reviewed an Attorney General's opinion from 2009 that said cities can enforce regulations regarding land development on school districts to maintain property values or based on aesthetics.


The district plans to build two 155-foot turbines using $974,000 in federal grant money and $243,000 in school district funds. Officials are hoping the return on their investment will be a savings of about $33,000 per year in energy costs. The federal funds must be used by April or they could be lost.


Bushland ISD parents rate technology upgrades as top priority

Don WoodA majority of parents at Bushland Independent School District recently urged district officials to place upgrades to technology as a higher priority than some facility improvements, said Superintendent Don Wood (pictured). About 80 parents attended the public hearing on facility needs at the school district.


Providing students with training in using technology reflects the major concerns targeted by board members in earlier discussions, he said. District officials discussed asking voters in November of this year or in May 2013 to approve bonds to accommodate expected student growth as well as to pay for technology upgrades and for improved athletic facilities.


Forestburg ISD may call $3.5 million bond election

Trustees for the Forestburg Independent School District recently began discussion on scheduling a $3.5 million bond election in May to ask voters to approve funding to upgrade facilities and buy three buses.


Using bond funds to upgrade district facilities should reduce the amount the district will be required to return to the state under the Chapter 41 designation the district recently received, said Superintendent Fonda Huneycutt. If voters approve the bond issue, district officials plan to add two classrooms to the elementary school, more restrooms for the high school, enlarge the agriculture barn, build tennis courts and buy three new buses, Huneycutt said.


Midland to hire company to design new $3 million fire station

Robert IsbellMidland City Council members recently authorized city staff to finalize a contract with an architectural and engineering firm, Parkhill, Smith and Cooper, to provide the design, specifications and architectural services for a new fire station estimated to cost about $3 million, including equipment.


Preliminary plans call for the new Fire Station 10 to feature bays large enough to accommodate ladder trucks and to have video conferencing capabilities built into the facility, Fire Chief Robert Isbell (pictured) said. City officials expect the new fire station to be completed in spring 2013.


City officials also expect to remodel Fire Station 5 and then renovate Station 5 and transfer crews and equipment from those stations to the new Station 10 while the renovations to the existing fire stations are being done. The renovations should be complete in the next four or five years, the fire chief said.


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Colleyville, Keller continue plans to merge municipal courts

City officials in Colleyville and Keller recently agreed that the municipal court facility in Colleyville would serve both cities if council members from each city approve the proposed merger. Texas legislators in 2011 won passage of legislation permitting cities with boundaries within one-half mile of each other to conduct municipal court in only one of the cities.


The proposed merger of the municipal court is estimated to save Keller about $146,875 annually and will save Colleyville about $52,819 a year, a Keller assistant manager said. City officials in Keller also agreed to pay some costs for building maintenance and other fees under the proposed agreement. The two cities have shared the jail and dispatchers in Keller since 2010, an arrangement that has benefited both cities. Sharing the municipal court could save Keller as much as $3 million to $4 million because the city does not need to expand the city's current municipal court facility, the mayor said.


Council members in Keller and Colleyville are expected to vote on the municipal court merger agreement in March. That agreement calls for the two cities to operate the merged facility for six years with two five-year options to renew. The merger can begin as soon as Oct. 1 if both cities approve the operating agreement.


Aransas Pass ISD to ask voters to approve bond proposal in May

Trustees for the Aransas Pass Independent School District recently agreed to schedule a bond election on May 12 to ask voters to approve bonds to pay for a new school. A citizens advisory committee recommended the bond election.


Ector County ISD exploring options for overcrowding

Hector MendezWith an eye toward asking for citizens to approve a possible bond proposal, Superintendent Hector Mendez (pictured) of Ector County Independent School District plans to work with a citizens group to explore options on how the school district can address overcrowding at some district facilities.


The 12-member citizens group plans to address concerns about large class sizes and some schools that are over capacity, as well as to determine if improvements could be made to the current junior high school model, Mendez said. Members of the citizen group plan to meet with board members on Feb. 28 to present recommendations on how the district can ease overcrowding concerns, he added.


Smithville seeking architects for new public library project

The City of Smithville has issued a request for qualifications from architects for a new public library for the city. Library staff and the Friends of the Library have been working together regarding the needs of a new facility, including an open concept, more meeting space and even a possible room that can be divided with movable walls to fill a variety of needs. Preliminary plans also include using the library to house a database, images and historical artifacts from the Smithville Veterans Memorial Park.


Officials say they need more room for more books, a computer lab and meeting rooms. They looked at adding on to the current facility, but the weight of books would not be supported for the addition of a second floor, and stairs and an elevator would take up considerable room. Funding for a new library would come from city, private, corporate, grants and fundraising.


San Antonio Fire Department awarded grant for broadband project

Erik WalshA nearly $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help the San Antonio Fire Department create its own broadband network to help better share information among first responders. Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh (pictured) said the department's network will cover the city within Loop 410. He said the SAFD has a year to spend the grant funds.


The new system for which the $921,600 grant was awarded, will allow firefighters to share streaming video of fires that will allow supervisors to better direct putting the fires out. Cameras will be purchased to attach to certain firefighting equipment. The network will be made available to all public safety employees in the city.


El Campo voters to decide allocation of funding for proposed park

Two propositions on the May ballot in El Campo will decide the fate of funding for the proposed West Loop Park. Two of the five propositions would dedicate $500,000 each for the park. One of the propositions would authorize the redirecting of funds from sales tax revenue or bonds backed by sales tax revenue. The money would be directed from the General Fund to the City Development Corp. Another proposition would redirect half a million dollars in sales tax dollars from renovation of the Little League ball park on Armory Road to the proposed West Loop park. Those funds were previously approved for the Little League park renovation, but the new West Loop Park will include new fields.


The $7.1 million proposed West Loop Park would be developed in four phases and in addition to the baseball parks, would also include a playground, fish pond, amphitheater and spray park.


UT to host 19th annual HUB/SB Vendor Fair in April

The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas System will host their 19th Annual HUB/SB Vendor Fair, Tuesday, April 17.  The event will be held at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center, 1701 Red River St., Austin, TX 78701 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The HUB/SB vendor fair is designed to give Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) owners an opportunity to market their products and/or services to UT departmental purchasing representatives, as well as to the many other State of Texas agencies located in the capital city. The vendor fair is FREE for exhibiting vendors and open to the public. Online registration and a list of participating vendors is available here.


Eagle Ford Consortium planning inaugural conference

The Eagle Ford Consortium will hold its inaugural conference in San Antonio. Pre-conference activities will be on Wednesday, Feb. 29, with the main conference on Thursday and Friday, March 1 and 2. The conference will be at the Omni Hotel Colonnade, 9821 Colonnade Blvd. in San Antonio. The consortium includes community leaders and stakeholders in the 24-county Eagle Ford Shale who will use the conference to develop sustainable models of long-term development. Highlights of the conference will include regulatory oversight, education and workforce development, advances in drilling and hydraulic fracturing, economic development and infrastructure development. The pre-conference session on Feb. 29 will focus on housing challenges and opportunities. Among the speakers will be Laredo Energy CEO Glenn Hart; The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Architecture and Program Policy Dr. Azza Kamal; Eagle Ford Consortium Chairman Leodoro Martinez; Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken; San Antonio River Authority Board of Directors Dr. Darrell T. Brownlow; Middle Rio Grande Foundation Chairman Judge Joe Luna and others. To register or sponsor the conference, click here or contact Cindy Taylor at 210-912-5868. 


Institutes on Evidence-Based Quality Improvement set in July

The 2012 Summer Institutes on Evidence-Based Quality Improvement will be held July 17-21 at the Grand Hyatt Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. The event is being offered by The Academic Center for Evidence-Based Practice (ACE), Improvement Science Research Network (ISRN) and The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. Pre-Conferences are planned for July 18 and the Call for Abstracts is currently open, with a submission deadline of March 12. For more information, click here or contact Kandice Hall at HallKM@uthscsa.edu.


2012 North American Workforce Symposium scheduled in April

The 2012 North American Workforce Symposium, hosted by North America's Corridor Coalition, is slated for Thursday, April 26, at the Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway. The event will bring together business leaders, educational partners and community organizations to help ensure trained and certified personnel for the manufacturing, supply chain and logistics industries. The symposium will also emphasize the necessity of partnerships between regional business, economic and education organizations. Among the keynote speakers is Jennifer McNelly, senior vice president of The Manufacturing Institute. The symposium is being presented in cooperation with Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas and the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council. Sponsorships are available. For more information and to view the tentative agenda, click here. To register, click here.


Huntsville to host 16th Annual HUB/Vendor show

The 16th Annual HUB/Vendor show in Huntsville is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27, at the Veterans Complex - Walker County Storm Shelter at 455 State Highway 75 North in Huntsville. Sponsored by Sam Houston State University, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University's Small Business Development Center, the City of Huntsville and Walker County, this year's event seeks to expand the vendor base of the sponsoring entities and increase HUB (Historically Underutilized Businesses) participation in the government contracting arena. Purchasers and end-users from the sponsoring entities will be attending, as well as representatives of invited state agencies. Registration and setup will begin at 7:30 a.m. on the day of the event. Vendor training sessions will follow from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. To register, contact Lani Maness at 936-437-7061.


DIR to host 12th Annual Information Security Forum

The 12th Annual Information Security Forum, hosted for government personnel only by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), is slated for Tuesday, May 15. The free, one-day event is co-sponsored by the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communications (TASSCC). Conference focus this year is "Security Program Maturity," with possible topics to include security assessment process, threat landscape/risks, legal and privacy landscape, why it's important to improve security program maturity, implementing enterprise solutions and governance. Interested vendors are invited to exhibit and/or provide speakers. Sessions should be purely educational and not promote products or services. The event is targeted to Information Resource Managers and other IT and security decision-makers. For more information, contact Joy Hall Bryant at joy.bryant@dir.texas.gov or Sue Atkinson at sue.atkinson@dir.texas.gov or click here.


E-Learning Symposium 2012 planned for June 13 in Austin

Professionals who manage and design E-Learning programs in health care, government, higher education, energy and corporate settings will not want to miss this year's E-Learning Symposium 2012 Austin. The symposium is an interactive conference designed to help professionals and key decision-makers learn how to execute E-Learning programs within their organizations. The event is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, at the Omni Southpark Hotel, 4410 Governors Row in Austin. The event features leading industry experts who share their knowledge on of-the-moment topics, processes and technology within E-Learning. For more information, click here.


TxDOT sets Small Business Briefing in Houston

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will conduct its Small Business Briefing in Houston on Thursday, March 1. The briefing is designed to provide small businesses with information regarding how to do business with TxDOT and other major state agencies such as the Department of Information Resources, Health and Human Services, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and others. The Small Business Briefing will provide information on how these agencies procure services and purchase products. General industry sessions will include an overview of TxDOT construction projects, professional services (engineering), consulting contracts and state contracting for information technology products and services. Those attending will also have an opportunity to bid on On-the-Spot contracts under $25,000. To participate in the On-the-Spot contracting, participants must register online at http://tti.tamu.edu/conferences/sbb12/. The Houston briefing will be at the OMNI Houston Hotel Westside- 13210 Katy Freeway. For exhibitor and individual registration, click here. For more information, contact 1-866-480-2518.


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Government spending could
reach $4 trillion this year


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


Procurement experts believe government purchases of products and services in the United States will reach $4 trillion this year. That's good news for contractors who sell into this marketplace. In Texas, 2012 already looks like a banner year for government contracting.


The Texas A&M University System recently approved several large construction projects. The College Station campus will spend $120 million for expansion and renovation of its College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences - one of the largest construction projects in the university's history. The Board of Regents also approved an $8 million renovation of one of the oldest buildings on campus that will become headquarters for the Construction Science Department. A $1.9 million renovation of a Corps of Cadets dorm was approved and the construction of a $21 million Physical Education Activity Program building.


At Midwestern State University, a donor gift will jump-start a five-year program that includes both new construction and renovations. Projects on the drawing board include renovation of a building that will become home to the university's mass communications and counseling services. Two other buildings will get new additions and parking areas. Construction will also begin on a police station, student housing and additional green space.


Other government subdivisions also are anticipating major projects.





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Gillespie County selects

architects to design new jail

Gillespie County commissioners recently chose Wiginton Hooker Jeffry Architects of Plano to design a new county jail facility. The architects may be able to provide several options that include price estimates, the county judge said. Voters will need to know how much the new jail will cost if commissioners decide to ask voters to approve bonds to pay for a new jail facility, he said.


Two finalists selected

for Socorro city manager post

Two finalists, both from out of state, have been named for the open position of city manager for the city of Socorro. The two are Oscar Rodriguez, municipal consultant from Riverdale Park, Maryland, and Willie Norfleet, a former city manager from Compton California. The other two candidates who applied were Martin Pinon of El Paso and Alex Vidales, Socorro's municipal judge and interim city manager. These top four were chosen from more than 50 applicants.


The two finalists will meet with community members next week and then a final selection will be made. The new manager will be the first full-time manager the city has had since 2008 when the then-city manager's contract was not renewed. Vidales was named interim city manager after Manny Soto, who was serving in the interim, resigned that post.

Rolfe chosen for new COO position in Houston CVB

John RolfeJohn Rolfe (pictured), former CEO of Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been selected to fill the newly created position of chief operating officer for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, effective April 1. Rolfe also previously was vice president for economic development for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and is a former deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce. He also brings 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry to his new post. Rolfe was also director of finance and administration at the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau in California as well as the Wichita CVB.


Rolfe holds a bachelor's degree from Wichita State University. 


Water district begins early

work on treatment plant

The Colorado River Municipal Water District has begun preliminary work on a facility aimed at adding up to 2 million gallons of water per day to the area's water supply. Foundation work is under way for a new raw water production facility, which will blend treated wastewater with raw lake water supplies.


Officials say the soil must be compacted before construction can begin. Bids are expected to be awarded for construction in March. The facility is then expected to be completed next fall.


Pampa ISD selects architect to design new administrative office

Pampa Independent School District board members recently hired an Amarillo-based architectural firm, Dekker, Perich and Sabatini, to redesign a former grocery store to serve as administrative offices for the school district. The contract calls for plans for the building renovation to be completed within six weeks and the project completed in one year.



Harlingen approves infrastructure improvements for airport

The Harlingen City Commission has approved Valley International Airport's amended budget, including $400,000 for infrastructure improvements that will likely lead to operation of a second aviation services business. The budget will provide for building a north apron and parking lot around land that Sun Valley Aviation plans to lease for that business. The project will cost $1.75 million, including $150,000 for the apron and $250,000 for the parking lot. A grant of $1.5 million from the Federal Aviation Administration would pay for the remainder of the costs of the north apron.


San Angelo to look for search firm to find new city manager

San Angelo City Council members recently agreed to appoint a committee to review search firms and recommend two or three of the companies for council to hire to help find a new city manager to replace Harold Dominguez.


Dominguez is resigning from his post on March 9 to begin his duties in April as the city manager in Longmont, Colorado. City Council also appointed Michael Dane, director of finance, to be the interim city manager following the departure of Dominguez. City officials said the committee could take at least two months to select a search firm.


Burleson selects Cheatham

as its new city manager

Dale CheathamThe Burleson City Council recently selected Dale Cheatham (pictured) as the new city manager to replace Curtis Hawk, who is retiring from the job he has held since 2006. Cheatham, a former town manager in Brownsburg, Indiana, and city manager for The Colony, plans to begin his new duties in Burleson between March 12 and April 9.


Council members appointed Deputy City Manager Paul Cain to serve as interim city manager after Hawk leaves the post until Cheatham assumes those duties. Cheatham, who has a bachelor's degree from Bradley University and a master's degree from Northern Illinois University, also was a city manager in Watauga and in administration in DeKalb, Illinois.


Brenham ISD approves $26 million bond election in May

Brenham Independent School District trustees recently agreed to place a $26 million bond proposal before voters on May 12. It would pay for renovations at a middle school and construction of a new elementary school. Trustees earlier discussed asking approval of two propositions, a $12 proposal to renovate Brenham Middle School and $14 million to build a new campus replacing Alton Elementary School. Trustees, however, agreed to only one proposal on the ballot to avoid the appearance of one campus competing with another campus.


Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD eyes $17 million bond proposal

Confronted with nearly $17 million in facility repairs and renovations, Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District officials recently began discussing the possibility of asking voters to approve a $17 million bond proposal this year or in 2013.


The highest priority is replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the intermediate school at a cost of about $1.7 million, the business manager and an architect said. Other projects drawing support were building a new $3 million entrance to the high school to enhance security, replacing or upgrading the air conditioning and heating systems at remaining campuses for an estimated cost of $855,773 and adding facilities for vocational programs. District officials also suggested building a biology laboratory, expanding the band hall at the high school, upgrading the library at the high school and expanding the stadium.


Whitson announces retirement

as superintendent in Meyersville

Laura Whitson, who has served 25 years as superintendent and principal in the K-8 school system in the Meyersville school district in DeWitt County, has announced her retirement. Whitson came to Meyersville in 1987 after beginning her education career at the Eula school district in Clyde. While there, she taught special education, elementary education and was the elementary school principal. She has also worked in the Liberty Hill school district and for the Region 14 Education Service Center.


Galveston selects Lowe as finalist for director of housing authority  

Stanley LoweGalveston Housing Authority board members recently selected Stanley Lowe (pictured) as the finalist for executive director. Lowe served as director of the Pittsburg Housing Authority from 1994 to 2001. His wide experience with historic preservation in Pittsburg made Lowe an outstanding candidate for the Galveston job, the chairwoman of the board of the housing authority said.


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League City reviewing eight candidates for city manager

League City council members recently narrowed to eight the list of candidates for city manager still being considered for the post. The new city manager will replace former city manager Marcus Jahns, who resigned in July 2011.


The eight city manager candidates selected for more background checks include Robert Herrera, city manager in Hondo; Thomas Moton, an assistant city manager in Greenville, North Carolina; and James Palenick, city manager in Gastonia, North Carolina. Council members also asked the search firm to contact candidates who asked to withdraw their applications when the applicants learned their identity would be made public. Council plans to select candidates to interview on March 6.


Bob Moore resigning as superintendent at Victoria ISD

Bob MooreCiting health concerns, Superintendent Bob Moore (pictured) of Victoria Independent School District recently informed board members he has decided to step down as superintendent in June 2012 after holding that post since 2006.


Moore, with 42 years in public education, also was superintendent for the Oklahoma City Public Schools District, the Mesa County Valley School District in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Amarillo ISD. He also was employed by the DeWitt/Lavaca County Special Education Coop and as an assistant superintendent at Cuero ISD. He has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Houston-Victoria.



Buckholts ISD tags Dykstra

as new superintendent

Buckholts Independent School District recently approved a contract with Dirk D. Dykstra to serve as superintendent. Dykstra previously was a principal for Cotulla ISD.


Cedar Hill Fire Department

wins $97,692 federal grant

The Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration recently awarded a $97,692 grant to the Cedar Hill Fire Department. The grant will be used for training and to buy safety and rescue equipment, fire department officials said.


Gemini Global Group

Midland Development Corp. president announces resignation

Mike HatleyMike Hatley (pictured), president of the Midland Development Corp. and who has worked for the organization since March 2007, has announced his resignation. MDC officials say the board will work with the remaining staff on the organization's future plans. Hatley was hired as the vice president of economic development and was named president when the MDC split from the Midland Chamber.


Before joining the MDC, Hatley served from 1999 to March of 2007 as executive director of the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development. He holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Texas Tech University and is a graduate of Indiana University's Evan Bayh Center for Economic Development.


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Recent Reports

Arlington tags Yelverton

as new city manager

Trey YelvertonArlington City Council members recently selected Trey Yelverton (pictured) as the new city manager. Yelverton, who has worked for the city since 1993, has been the deputy city manager since 2006. He previously was neighborhood services director. He was selected following a national search that resulted in 53 applicants seeking the city manager post. Yelverton has a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Arlington and a master's degree from the University of North Texas.


Texas Government Insider Archives
Volume 1-10 Archives - 11/7/03 - 2/17/12

Graham selects Casteel as new director of public works

City Manager Larry Fields of Graham recently selected David Casteel as the new director of public works. Fields previously retired as assistant executive director for field and district operations at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). He also served as an engineering assistant, district engineer and development engineer for TxDOT in Big Spring, Bowie, Childress, Corpus Christi, Laredo, San Antonio and Vernon.


Garza resigns as assistant city manager in Corpus Christi

Rudy GarzaAssistant City Manager Rudy Garza (pictured) recently resigned from his post in Corpus Christi to accept a new job with CPS Energy, the city-owned utility of the city of San Antonio.


Garza, who also acted as a lobbyist for Corpus Christi, will be the new vice president for external relations in charge of local, state and federal legislative issues for CPS. His last day in Corpus Christi is on March 9. He previously worked for TXU Energy in Dallas


Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Douglas Wilson, Pflugerville, inspector general, HHSC
  • John "Mark" cWatters of Dallas, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
  • Joe Bontke of Houston, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Daphne Brookins of Forest Hill, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • David A. Fowler of Katy, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Connie Sue Kelley of Humble, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • David Ondich of Fort Worth, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Shawn Saladin of Edinburg, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Mabrie Jackson of Plano, Statewide Health Coordinating Council;
  • Ed J. Miles Jr. of Live Oak, Texas County and District Retirement System;
  • Dorye K. "Kristy" Roe of Bryan, Texas County and District Retirement System;
  • H. Charles "Chuck" Cazalas, Texas County and District Retirement System;
  • Christopher Greeley of Houston, Task Force to Reduce Child Abuse and Neglect and Improve Child Welfare;
  • Adriana Maddox of Laredo, Task Force to Reduce Child Abuse and Neglect and Improve Child Welfare;
  • Carol Foxhall Peterson of Alpine, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Gina Bridwell of Abilene, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Stephanie Cavender of San Antonio, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Julie Crosswell of Houston, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Cynthia Tyson Jenkins of Irving, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Claudia Kreisle of Houston, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Lisa Lucero of Austin, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Becky McKinley of Amarillo, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Carmen Pagan of McAllen, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Ivy Pate of Beaumont, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Teresa Rockwell of Austin, Governor's Commission for Women;
  • Connie Weeks of Austin, Governor's Commission for Women

Duron resigns as superintendent of San Antonio ISD

Robert DuronSuperintendent Robert Duron (pictured) of San Antonio Independent School District recently submitted his resignation from that post. He plans to remain on duty until trustees appoint an interim superintendent, but plans to leave before his contract expires in June 2013, he said.


The voluntary separation agreement approved by the board will retain Duron on the payroll until Feb. 15, 2013, as the executive director of planning for the next bond election.


Grapevine approves $680,000

to open two water playgrounds

Grapevine City Council members recently agreed to spend $680,000 to build two new interactive water playgrounds for children to play and cool off at no charge during hot weather.


The two new water playgrounds will be built at Parr Park and Dove Park and will feature multicolored poles decorated with flowers and water jets that spray upward for children to play under. The water playground at Dove Park was planned as part of a pool renovation to be completed this summer, but council added the second water playground after voicing concerns that children in the northern area needed a water feature as well.


Five finalists named for Breckenridge city manager post

The names of the five finalists for the position of city manager of the city of Breckenridge have been named. They include: Ervin Joe (Sonny) Campbell, city manager in Aspermont; Terri Johnson, city administrator in Piney Point Village; Michael L. Jump, city manager in Caddo Mills; Andy W. McCuistion, city manager in Canton; and James D. Minor, city manager in Brady.

The five finalists will be interviewed in Breckenridge on Monday, March 5. City commissioners could make a decision that afternoon on bringing back the top candidates for further discussions before making a final decision.


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City of Galveston selects Palumbo as interim city attorney

Former Highland Village city attorney Dorothy "Dottie" Palumbo has been selected by the City of Galveston to serve as the city's interim city attorney. She will serve until the City Council names a full-time, permanent city attorney. In addition to her service with Highland Village, Palumbo is also a former city attorney for the cities of Abilene, Midland and Denton. She will replace on an interim basis former Galveston City Attorney Susie Green, who resigned earlier this month to take a position with the Texas Municipal League.



Lindsay ISD approves $7.9 million bond election

Trustees for the Lindsay Independent School District recently voted to place a $7.9 million bond election on the May 12 ballot. Board members are working with an architect to identify the facility projects that will be included in the proposition, district officials said.


New Diana superintendent retiring after 45-year career

Joyce SloanNew Diana ISD Superintendent Joyce Sloan (pictured) has announced her retirement, effective June 29, ending a 45-year education career. Thirty-two of those years were spent in public education.


Sloan took over as superintendent of New Diana in April 2009, after serving as interim superintendent since December 2008 when then-Superintendent Patrick Clark retired. She has also previously served as director of curriculum and special programs. She came to the New Diana ISD from Gilmer ISD, where she was an elementary school principal. Officials hope to have a new superintendent in place by July 1. 


Jonestown accepts resignation

of city manager Dan Dodson

Jonestown City Manager Dan Dodson has submitted his resignation as city administrator, effective no later than April 30. Dodson was recently named as part of a grand jury investigation regarding alleged conspiracy to illegally obtain federal stimulus funding. Dodson has worked as city administrator since 2007. City council reportedly received Dodson's letter of resignation prior to the Feb. 9 council meeting, but took no action.


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.
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