Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 11 - Friday, March 16, 2012

U.S. Senate transportation bill passes; now headed to House


Hutchison says rate-of-return increase represents billions of dollars nationwide

Transportation Projects
A Senate-passed transportation bill that would continue funding for projects nationwide is headed to the House.

A sweeping federal transportation bill is halfway home. The U.S. Senate this week passed a two-year, $109 billion bill that lays out a road map for highway, transit and safety programs nationwide. The bill now is headed to the U.S. House, currently in recess, where members must decide to either try again to pass their own five-year, $260 billion transportation package of bills or take up the Senate bill.


The provisions of the Senate bill would have significant impact on Texas, said U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. And supporters are hopeful it will pass the House before the March 31 deadline for reauthorizing surface transportation programs, which are set to expire on that date.


 Hutchison said the Senate bill would raise states' rate-of-return for Highway Trust Fund dollars from the current 92 percent to 95 percent, which she says represents billions of dollars. She noted that in 1993, the rate of return was 76 percent, "So we've come a long way in the right direction."


Texas' senior senator also said the bill includes $1 billion for the TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) program. Texas is the nation's number-one beneficiary of that program, said Hutchison, "and will be well positioned under the new program."


Most importantly to state and local government entities, the Senate bill at least maintains the current levels (inflation adjusted) of funding for infrastructure throughout the country. Owners of many of those projects fear they will be stalled or halted completely if the March 31 deadline is not met and will be closely watching action in the House.




Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Ron OlsonRon Olson, city manager, City of Corpus Christi 


Career highlights and education:  I've been a city manager for 34 years, served in six jurisdictions and five states. The cities I've worked in have ranged in population from 6,000 to 400,000. My budget responsibilities have ranged from $20 million to nearly $700 million. I have enjoyed each of my assignments, but the most recent one in Corpus Christi the most. I consider it a sacred privilege to hold the public trust. My education includes both a bachelor's degree and Master of Public Administration degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
What I like best about my job is:  I originally chose the city management profession because it was a way to serve people and make an important contribution to my community. Looking back on it, those were very altruistic reasons but they have proven to be what has kept me motivated in my work. Helping people and making a positive difference in my community is still what I like best about my job.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: If you see something that needs to be fixed, just do it. Don't let all of the reasons other people will give you about why it can't be done stop you from doing what you know is right.
Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Learn how to communicate honestly and relate well with people. Learn how to evaluate a problem and make a good decision. Act courageously and retain moral authority by living the highest ethical standards.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: My favorite thing to do is spend time with my wife, doing whatever spontaneous things we decide to do. My hobbies include photography, hiking, fishing, fly tying, backpacking, visiting national parks, bicycling, shooting sports and reloading ammunition, woodworking, beachcombing and a few others. Some people think I have more hobbies than any other human being. Maybe it's true. But, sneaking out of work early isn't one of them. I work hard and I play hard. 
People would be surprised to know that I:  There are a few people who are surprised to learn that I own and ride a loud and rumbling Harley Davidson motorcycle.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Corpus Christi is an absolutely wonderful place to live and work. Most people have to go on vacation to visit paradise; I get to live there every day.

Cesinger chosen for DPS director of communications post

Katnerine CesingerKatherine Cesinger (pictured), former press secretary for Gov. Rick Perry, has been named by Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw as the agency's director of communications. She will be in charge of the Media and Communications Office, which is the former Public Affairs Office.


Cesinger brings more than seven years of experience in state government to her new job. She has experience in crisis communications and public relations. She has worked closely with the Texas State Operations Center and the Texas Division of Emergency Management during state disasters.


Cesinger served as deputy press secretary for Perry for several years prior to being named press secretary. She also was communications director for the Governor's Competitiveness Council and worked in the governor's Budget, Planning and Policy Division and the Legislative Division. Before joining the governor's office, Cesinger worked in the Louisiana House of Representatives. She holds a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University.


Task force to review TxDOT transit rules, regulations

Six representatives of the transportation industry have been named to a task force to review Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) rules, regulations and compliance activities related to transit. The group will meet over the next few month and will work with TxDOT's Public Transportation Division to ensure that practices, regulations or compliance activities are not burdensome, make sense and do not interfere with the conduct of core business.


Task force members include: Lisa Cortinas, Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission; Margie Lucas, The District; Brian Baker, Spartan Transportation; Brad Underwood, TAPS Public Transit; Terry Reeves, Hill Country Transit District; and Edna Johnson, CARTS.


Because rural transit districts are generally who is affected by oversight and compliance activities under this division of TxDOT, all of the task force members operate in a rural area, although some serve both urban and rural districts.


Several health care fund options for TRS - none of them good

Brian GuthrieAs the fund that pays for health care for retired Texas school employees nears a point of running out of money, the Texas Legislature is faced with a number of options - none of which are expected to garner the favor of those retirees. Brian Guthrie (pictured), who is executive director of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, said there is no easy fix. Among the options - reduced benefits or eligibility, increases in premiums and increases in contributions from the state, employees and school districts.


By law, the legislature must allocate 1 percent of the amount paid to teachers and other school employees for their retirement health fund. This year that meant a payment of $267 million. However, lawmakers opted to fund only half that amount for the second year of the biennium. Schools and employees together pay an additional 1.2 percent of payroll to the fund and retirees who use the fund pay premiums that pay for some 30 percent of the costs. But with health care costs climbing, the fund is drying up faster than anticipated and is expected to run out of money in 2015.


Teacher groups complain that retirees, who have not had an increase in their pension benefits since 2001, cannot continue to pay higher health care benefits or lose any of those benefits. They argue that the state should increase its contribution.


Apple gets $21 million investment from Texas Enterprise Fund

Apple is planning a new Austin campus that officials say will create more than 3,600 new jobs, after the state promised an investment of $21 million in the company over 10 years through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). Apple's investment of $304 million in the campus is expected to double the size of the company's workforce in Texas over the next decade. The campus will expand the company's customer support, sales and accounting functions in the Central Texas region.


If all goes as anticipated, the project will be one of the largest job creation efforts to earn a TEF investment and one of the largest investments by a recipient of TEF funding. 


May 2012 Tx Bond Elections

New $85 million science building in future for UT-Dallas

Following the recent approval by The University of Texas System Board of Regents, The University of Texas at Dallas is making preparations to begin planning its new $85 million science building. The new building will be partnered with UTD's Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, which was completed in 2006.


The new facility is expected to facilitate nearly 50 new faculty members and 1,720 more students.


The facility will be paid for with $72.25 million from the state's Permanent University Fund bond. The university will make up the difference, including $4 million saved from other projects and $8.75 million to be borrowed. Officials are hopeful for occupancy of the building in fall 2016.


Newman selected as next president of Jarvis Christian College

Lester NewmanDr. Lester C. Newman (pictured), current executive assistant to the president and Director of Administrative Management Programs at Wiley College, has been named as the 12th president of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins. He will begin his new charge on April 2.


Before joining Wiley College, Newman was Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Vice President for Development at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. He also was president and professor of political science at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Benna, was Vice President for Academic Affairs and associate professor of political science at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has also done higher education consulting work.


Newman holds a bachelor's degree from Southern University and a master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Atlanta University. 


McKinney reviews proposed master plan for new park

McKinney City Council members recently took their first look at an outline for a proposed master plan to develop Gray Branch Community Park.


The plan, presented by the director of parks, recreation and open space for the city, calls for building the entrance to the new park at Lake Forest Drive rather than US380 because of safety concerns. The next step is to build soccer and lacrosse fields on 20 to 30 acres of the proposed 101-acre park site. Then an indoor/outdoor recreation center with an aquatic feature would be the next project, he said. The plan also calls for building three pavilions, an amphitheater, a pond and hike and bike trails connecting to the city trail system at Wilson Creek.


Some of the funding for the park will be from the McKinney Community Development Corporation, the park development fund or from bonds, the parks director said. Council is expected to vote on the master plan for the new community park on April 3.


Alisa WhiteWhite resigns as provost of Midwestern State University

 Alisa White (pictured) recently resigned as provost of Midwestern State University to accept a similar post at the University of Texas at Tyler.


White served as dean of the College of Arts and Science at UT-Tyler before accepting the job at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls two years ago. 


UNT-Dallas law school awaiting appropriation for construction

Pending an appropriation from the Texas Legislature, construction on the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law facility could start in 2014. No price tag has been listed for the facility, which will be a conversion of the old Dallas City Hall building on S. Harwood, but the last legislative appropriations request when the legislature met nearly two years ago was $46 million.


If that funding is made available, officials say the design of the law school would likely begin in fall 2013, with construction in 2014 and 2015 and an opening date hoped for in fall 2015. Officials expect an initial class of 95-100 students.


The UNT-Dallas College of Law will be the only public law school in North Texas, and is expected to attract a high percentage of minority students. A bill authorizing the law school was signed in 2009. U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson will serve as founding dean of the law school.


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Harris County selects Womack to serve on housing authority board

Brian GuthrieHarris County Commissioners recently selected Gerald Womack (pictured) to replace Walter Jones on the board of the Harris County Housing Authority.


Jones, who has been a member of the board since 2003, had served as vice chairman of the board of the housing authority since 2010. Commissioners in February also replaced the chairman of the board and are negotiating terms of departure with the chief executive officer after concerns arose over spending and management of the housing authority.


Womack is president and chief executive officer of Womack Development & Investment Realtors and previously was a district manager for a congresswoman from Houston. County commissioners appoint five board members to manage the housing authority. It is not a department in the county as the agency is federally funded and receives no tax revenue from the county.


Walker County studying two options for problems with county jail

Renovate the current Walker County Jail or build a new one? That's the question county officials are currently facing. To help them in their decision-making, county officials have scheduled five public meetings to take citizen input that will help them in their decision-making.


A new jail would cost more than $15 million, while improvements to bring the existing jail up to standards would cost $13 million. It would cost another $4 million to house inmates in other facilities during construction. Among the options for a new jail would be a bond election or the issuance of certificates of obligation. While the current jail passes inspection, but needs more bed space, an updated kitchen and storage facilities. The jail also suffers from foundation problems and the laundry area and kitchen are not in a secured area.


A new jail would need to be a minimum of 68,840 square feet and would have a total of 268 beds. The county already owns property that could become the site for a new jail. 


Houston group eyeing developer for new convention hotel

Ric CampoHouston First Corp., which operates the George R. Brown Convention Center, recently began seeking proposals from developers and designers to build, own and operate a hotel and parking garage development near the convention center that could cost as much as $400 million.


Houston First Corp. was created last year with the merger of the Houston Convention & Entertainment Facilities Department and the Houston Convention Center Hotel Corp., also owns a the proposed 6.7-acre site located north of the convention center. The site is large enough to accommodate a hotel with at least 1,000 rooms and a parking garage as well as provide sufficient space for other commercial and residential projects, said Ric Campo (pictured), president of Houston First. More hotel rooms in the area are needed to help boost the convention business to its next level, he said. 


Under the proposal for qualifications, the developer would be responsible for financing the project while Houston First officials agreed to help the developer obtain hotel occupancy and sales tax rebates from the city and state and to seek other property tax abatements for the convention hotel project. The deadline for submitting qualifications is April 20.


Gillespie County hires construction manager for jail project

Gillespie County commissioners recently agreed to hire a construction manager-agent, Vanir Construction Management, Inc., to oversee final design and planning of a new jail. The action follows reports from a consultant, state officials and an advisory committee who all agreed that the current jail fails to meet state standards for overcrowding.


Commissioners have not yet decided whether to ask voters to approve bonds in November to pay for a new jail facility, but the county judge said the Austin-based construction management company will provide the county with a firm cost estimate and more information on the jail project in order to educate voters. The consultant also worked with the county on the initial planning phases of the proposed jail by producing conceptual drawings for the proposed facility.


Gregg County looking forward to east-west corridor

Bill StoudtBuilding an east-west corridor on the northern edge of Longview is the purposes of an agreement between Gregg County and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). A partnership agreement on the project includes Gregg County, TxDOT, the city of Longview and the Longview Economic Development Corp. An agreement was recently signed by Gregg County and TxDOT to extend George Richey Road to U.S. 259. The road will include five lanes.


County Judge Bill Stoudt (pictured) said not only will the project improve traffic flow, but it will also open up land for development.


The city and the economic development corporation will contribute $3 million each toward the project, with the county adding $5.9 million. The remainder of the cost will come from state funds that resulted by a statewide voter-approved initiative that resulted in billions of dollars for transportation projects.


Three colleges in Dallas County share $5 million for job training

Three colleges in the Dallas County Community College District recently received almost $5 million in state and federal grants to provide training for students at three campuses - Eastfield, Richland and Mountain View.


Eastfield College officials agreed to provide matching funds for a $147,098 grant from the Jobs and Education for Texans program to install a 35-kilowatt wind turbine on its campus in Mesquite. It will be used for training for students for the wind energy industry. Eastfield also received a $97,698 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission to train new and existing workers in the career of managing electronic medical records and is working in partnerships with at least eight medical providers for the medical office training.


Richland officials received two grants totaling more than $500,000 to provide training for 600 employees in partnership with a manufacturing group and a physicians group in Garland.


Mountain View College officials won a $202,668 grant from the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association Skills Development Fund of TWC to train 102 students in 14 course studies in a partnership with six private companies. Mountain View officials also received $4 million from the Hispanic Serving Institution and Articulation Program of the U.S. Department of Education to provide training for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.



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Water Authority eyeing $500, 000 desalination plant near Victoria

James Murphy, a manager for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, recently told attendees of a meeting of the Victoria Economic Development Corporation that the river authority is planning to seek proposals to build a desalination plant near Victoria.


While planning for the plant to convert saltwater to freshwater is still under way, Murphy said Victoria is an ideal site for the facility because of the skilled labor force in the area, proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and ongoing development in the Eagle Ford Shale.


Current plans call for The University of Texas at San Antonio to administer the proposal for the desalinization plant and the water authority to mail the proposal to government agencies, engineering firms and corporations to identify funding for the project from a variety of sources, Murphy said. Final edits are being made to the project proposal, he added.


Fencing, International Sports Center to be built in San Antonio

Fencing CenterA $3 million fencing center is being planned in San Antonio, to be paid for with $2 million from Bexar County's voter-approved Community Venues Program, which included $80 million for sports facilities. The remaining $1 million will come from the University of the Incarnate Word, which will operate the center.


The center, which will be located at St. Anthony Catholic High School, is expected to be completed by late this year and available for NCAA fencing finals that have been awarded to the city in 2013 and 2014.


The facility, as shown in the accompanying artist's rendering, will feature 20 fencing strips. It represents the 13th sports venue project funded through the Community Venues Program. Others that will benefit are baseball, softball, soccer, track and field, rugby, tennis and swimming.


Calhoun Port Authority approves $4.5 million dredging project

Calhoun Port Authority officials recently approved plans for the South Peninsula Bulkhead and Dredging project estimated to cost about $4.5 million. Port authority officials plan to seek bids in May for the project calling for adding 750 feet of bulkhead that can be expanded for deep draft vessels. Board members then have 90 days to review the bids before selecting a winning proposal.


El Paso approves plan to beautify interchanges on Interstate 10

Joyce WilsonEl Paso City Council members recently approved the first phase of a plan to add landscaping and lighting to beautify 10 interchanges on Interstate 10 from Harkins Blvd. to Executive Center Blvd.


The renovations will begin with a $10 million project at the interchange at Airway Blvd. that is expected to be complete in 2015, said City Manager Joyce Wilson (pictured). Plans call for beautifying the freeway interchange by renovating the facade with artwork, adding wider sidewalks and installing colored lighting and desert landscaping under the bridge, Wilson said. The projects to beautify interchanges on exits at Geronimo, Trowbridge, Paisano, Downtown, Harkins, Executive Center, Piedras and Cotton are expected to cost about $171 million and could take more than 15 years to complete, according to the city manager.


The next interchange project on the priority list is upgrading the Downtown bridges at an estimated cost of $44.5 million and then a $1.8 million project to improve Railroad Arches near downtown. Current cost estimates range from $8 million to $20 million to beautify the remaining I-10 interchanges, Wilson said.


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Victoria unveils $13.82 million master plan for parks

Victoria parks and recreation staff recently unveiled a 13-year master plan for parks calling for 30 projects at a cost of about $13.8 million. The money is raised through general and utility funds, user fees, bonds, grants, sales tax and private donations.


The largest projects in the Parks 2025 Master Plan are a $2.25 million plan to develop several hike-and-bike trails and $2 million to develop a community park in the northern area of the city.


The master plan also calls for $1.7 million to rebuild about a mile of Red River Street in Riverside Park, $1 million to develop a soccer complex at the community center, $260,000 to develop a mountain bike route and install security lighting, $200,000 to acquire land and $100,000 to clean the Guadalupe River.


Texas South International Alliance formed in San Marcos

Texas Alliance
Texas South International Alliance participants at recent meeting.

Representatives of the city of San Marcos and the Greater San Marcos Partnership have come together to participate in the Texas South International Alliance.


The alliance includes mayors and economic development leaders from Brownsville, Corpus Christ, Laredo, McAllen, Edinburg and San Antonio, with a goal of discussions aimed at attracting international investment to the southern Texas region.


The effort has been led by San Antonio City Council member Elisa Chan. The group has already met twice, in Brownsville and Corpus Christi. The next gathering will be in June in San Marcos. "We are pleased to be involved with this broad range of cities who, like us, have a strong interest in recruiting foreign direct investment," said San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero. He said a group approach to attracting international investments is more likely to succeed than an individual entity.

At the recent meeting in Brownsville, said Greater San Marcos Partnership President Amy Madison, work was begun on a strategic plan outlining each city's infrastructure assets and attributes, and then discussion of a future business recruitment trip to China later in the year. South Texas, because of its access to the border as well as the Gulf of Mexico, is in a very strategic position for global economic growth, said the group.


Shown in the accompanying photo at the TSIA meeting are (left to right): Mike Gonzalez, director, United Brownsville; Rudy Rodriguez, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Eduardo Campirano, director, Brownsville Navigation District; Elisa Chan, Councilwoman, City of San Antonio; Deputy Consul General Xie Yunliang, Chinese Consulate General; Joe Adame, mayor, Corpus Christi; Tony Martinez, mayor, City of Brownsville; Amy Madison, president & CEO, Greater San Marcos Partnership; Jason Hilts, Brownsville Economic Development Council; Roland Mower, Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation; and Reynaldo (Rey) Cano, City of San Antonio Economic Development Department.

San Jacinto College uses $4.9 million grant for technology training

San Jacinto College officials plan to use a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement a job-training program, the Information Technology Training for Tomorrow Project, for students seeking employment in the field of information technology.


The project calls for training students in information technology security, mid-level IT training and IT soft skills training to provide workers trained and certified for those jobs. District officials will work with IBM to develop the new IT security courses to provide students who successfully complete the training to receive certification with national accreditation, college officials said.


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Bloomington ISD eyes $2.4 million domed gymnasium

Bloomington Independent School District trustees recently began discussions on building a $2.4 million domed gymnasium that would also act as a shelter for residents during natural disasters and other emergencies.


District officials plan to use $1.8 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to contribute $600,000 to the project that would be part of the Texas Safe Shelter Initiative. The district's master plan includes an athletic complex with a new outdoor track, football stadium and fields for baseball and softball to be built on the site of the current football stadium.


The plan calls for building a plaza east of the stadium to serve the gym and football field with a ticket office and concession stand. There will also be a 20,000-square-foot gym facility with seating for 800, restrooms, a kitchen area and dressing rooms. District officials hope to begin construction on the track and field portion of the project after the football season ends in 2013 and to complete the new track in six months.


Corpus Christi RTA to spend $2.1 million for fuel station

John VallsRegional Transportation Authority officials in Corpus Christi recently agreed to spend $2.1 million to build a fueling station capable of fill-up of six buses with compressed natural gas in nine minutes. The board awarded the construction contract to ANGI Equipment Systems in Wisconsin.


The new fueling station should be ready for operation in October when the first 10 buses using compressed natural gas arrive. It is part of the agency's goal to use natural gas rather than diesel fuel in all 81 of the fixed-route buses now operated, said John Valls (pictured), chairman of the RTA. Construction on the new facility is expected to begin in two to three months, he said.


Edinburg forms Local Government Corp. to leverage private funds

The City of Edinburg has formed a Local Government Corporation (LGC), with the goal of leveraging $12 million in private investment. The city and The University of Texas-Pan American will work together to identify funding options that can be used to construct new student housing and retail establishments in an area west of the city hall.


A construction firm that specializes in building construction facilities and state and federal buildings, was represented before the joint meeting of the city council and the Economic Development Corp. by Sen. Eddie Lucio, president of Rio Consultants Inc. Corplan is developing the 250-unit student housing project, which Lucio said could also result in a new conference center, restaurants and a hotel in the area.


The LGC can issue revenue bonds and collect revenue from the projects created and the city can levy an impact administration fee. The next step is for private investors to work with the university and then propose a hotel and anchor restaurant and for the LGC to issue bonds.


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.


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. 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.


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Data breaches point toward importance of cyber security


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


Public officials often find themselves walking a tightrope between the public's insistence on openness and transparency and the government's responsibility for data security. The stress of their plight is likely to increase.


Cyber security is a growing concern, yet government officials lack the funds to increase network security and the pressure on them to move data to "the cloud," is intense. The vulnerability of all data is an issue of significant concern.


Fear of cyber attacks against the federal government led Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to lobby hard for additional funding. Her efforts to upgrade the security of government computer systems and the nation's critical information systems were made extremely difficult, to say the least, because of budget problems. She sought millions of dollars in the 2013 federal budget to fund a variety of security projects, including an intrusion prevention system and the formation of a team to respond to national cybersecurity threats and hazards. A report by the federal Government Accountability Office revealed that the number of cyber security incidents among two dozen key federal agencies increased more than 650 percent in the last five years.


Just this week, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller said that while terrorism is the agency's current top priority, he predicts that cyber threats will soon be the number one threat to the United States.
Local governments are no different and public officials at every jurisdictional level of government struggle with data vulnerabilities. At a CIO Academy in California last month, Texas Chief Information Officer Karen Robinson told an audience that cyber security should play a larger role in the IT culture in Texas. 


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Gemini Global Group

Burleson ISD approves $1.84 million for facility repairs

Burleson Independent School Districtboard members recently agreed to spend $1.84 million for long-term maintenance and repairs to about 10 facilities in the district. Plans call for replacing air conditioning units, repairing roofs and adding a driveway to upgrade student safety. Asbestos will also be removed from facilities including the administration building, the high school, a middle school and an elementary school. Work on the facility upgrades should begin this summer, district officials said.


Gilmer wins $542,000 grant

to upgrade local housing

Jeff EllingtonThe Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs recently awarded a $542,000 grant to Gilmer to pay for repairing or replacing dilapidated homes in that city.


The grant will pay to repair or replace homes for six residents who meet qualifications, said City Manager Jeff Ellington (pictured). City officials expect to take applications from homeowners in about two months, Ellington said. If a home is too deteriorated to be repaired in a cost effective manner, the city will replace it with a "site-built" or a manufactured home, he said.


Midland awarded $700,000 federal block grant

Midland city officials recently received notice that the city will get $700,000 in federal community development block grant funds. The money will be spent to assist low-income and moderate-income residents, city officials said.


HDI Solutions

Fort Bend ISD selects Bassham as new director of facilities

Fort Bend Independent School District trustees recently selected David Allen Bassham as the new executive director of facilities and school services. He previously was operations systems manager for the East Baton Rouge School District in Louisiana. Bassham has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from American Intercontinental University.


Plainview approves $125,000

for comprehensive growth plan

Jeffrey SnyderPlainview City Council members recently approved a $125,000 contract with a Sugar Land-based consultant, Kindig Keast Collaborative, to create a comprehensive plan to help guide future growth in that city.


The contract calls for the comprehensive plan to include a snapshot of the city, plans for current and future land use, parks, planning for capital improvements, water and wastewater service, transportation and public facilities, said Assistant City Manager Jeffrey Snyder (pictured).


Seadrift asking for bids for new garbage collection service

Seadrift City Council members recently voted to terminate the city's contract with Waste Management Inc. for garbage collection and to seek bids for a new contract for those services.


The current contract for garbage collection will end on June 30 and the city is required to provide the company with a 90-day notice of the cancellation of that contract. The new contract will contain more specific language regarding an annual spring clean-up project and providing pick up of electric waste once a year, city officials said.


Burcham to resign as chief financial officer for Lubbock

The chief financial officer for Lubbock, Andy Burcham, recently said he plans to resign from that post to accept a position as the assistant vice chancellor for treasury and cash management at Texas Tech University. Previously employed in banking, Burcham went to work for the city in 1998. City Manager Lee Ann Dumbauld, who previously was the chief financial officer for the city, will oversee the finance office until a new chief financial officer is hired, city officials said.


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Marble Falls selects Penrod as director of secondary academics

Eric PenrodTrustees for the Marble Falls Independent School District recently selected Eric Penrod (pictured) as the director of secondary academics. Penrod currently serves as principal of Marble Falls High School and previously served as associate principal at Leander High School. He will continue his current duties until the end of the school year and then move to the central office after the school year ends, district officials said.


Bryan utilities board to issue bond for transmission projects

Bonds totaling $70 million have been approved by the Bryan Texas Utilities board to pay for new transmission lines and an automated meter-reading system. Officials do not expect an increase in customers' electric bills as a result. The city will consider approval of the bond sale on March 27.


The bond proceeds will be used for new transmission lines that will cost $42 million, another $8.4 million to buy a system to read smart meters that have been installed and $18 million to refinance old debt - bonds that were issued over the last decade that will be reissued at a much lower interest rate. The $42 million for new transmission lines will be reimbursed by the Public Utility Commission over the next 30 years, officials said. 


Amarillo to spend $640,000 for new education center at zoo

Amarillo City Commission members recently approved a bid of $640,000 from Tri-State General Contracting Group to build a new 3,669-square-foot education center at the Amarillo Zoo.


Plans call for the Bill and Alice O'Brien Education Center to have an interactive classroom, housing for animals used for education, a covered stage, administrative offices and office space. The city is providing $53,357 in capital improvement funds to help pay for the project, with the remaining costs paid with zoo admission revenues, a state grant and donations from individuals and foundations. The new education center should be completed in October, a spokesman for the city said.


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Hitchcock ISD to narrow down finalists for superintendent

Hitchcock Independent School District trustees recently began reviewing 36 applicants for superintendent in an effort to select 11 finalists who will be asked to interview with all school board members.


District officials opted to conduct their own search rather than hiring a search firm to find a replacement for former Superintendent Mike Bergman, who resigned last spring. Interim Superintendent Lee Knapp also is assisting in search efforts. Board members set a goal to name a lone finalist on April 23.


Sealy ISD suspends Kana

in superintendent position

Scott KanaSealy Independent School District trustees recently voted to suspend Superintendent Scott Kana (pictured). Board members also appointed Assistant Superintendent Mary Hiozek as interim superintendent. Kana is suspended with pay for an undetermined time, the board president said.


While trustees declined to comment on the reason for the suspension, The Sealy News reported that the superintendent, who has been with the district for about a year and a half, may have failed to follow district policy when he allegedly took students from an alternative education program to a home baseball tournament for two days and purchased food and beverages for those students.


Grayson County delays buying building for appraisal district

Grayson County commissioners recently agreed to postpone for a week a vote to authorize the purchase and renovation of a building to house the Grayson Central Appraisal District.


Appraisal district board members had recommended the county spend $1.957,065 to purchase and renovate a 23,000-square-foot building on Travis Street with 80 parking spaces to replace the 15,000-square-foot leased facility that appraisal district employees now occupy. Board members recommended the county pay $550,000 in cash in addition to including the existing appraisal district facility valued at about $100,000 for a total cost of $660,000 for the property on Travis Street. The cost estimate for renovations is not a firm figure as appraisal district officials would need to bid the project to get an accurate estimate of remodeling the facility, appraisal district officials said.


El Paso to sell land to TxDOT

for link to Interstate 10

The El Paso Public Service Board recently agreed to sell 26 acres of land to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to be used for a new road to connect Trans Mountain Road from Interstate 10 to Doniphan Drive.


TxDOT officials agreed to pay $793,000 for the land to build Spur 276 and estimated the project that consists of a four-lane divided road at a cost of about $22 million. The new spur, which will also feature bicycle lanes and sidewalks, will provide relief to motorists in the congested area near a high school, an outlet mall and a community college.


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Texas City ISD forms group to decide criteria for superintendent

Texas City Independent School District trustees recently created a focus group comprised of 63 parents, students, business leaders, elected officials, clergy members, taxpayers who are not parents and district administrators to draft the criteria and qualities they want for a new superintendent. The new superintendent will replace Bob Brundrett, who resigned last summer.


The focus group, which were nominated by trustees, plans to meet with consultants in three sessions on March 21 to discuss the criteria and qualifications they seek. The goal is to select a lone finalist for superintendent on May 10.


Llano hires private company to manage municipal golf course

After experiencing two years with a budget deficit of around $130,000 annually, Llano City Council members recently authorized the city manager to finalize a contract to privatize management of the Llano Municipal Golf Course.


The contract calls for paying Two Pro Club Management no more than $2,000 per month to manage the golf course and RV park, including employees and marketing for the facility. The current four full-time employees at the golf course will be able to choose whether to remain with the private company following a 30-day trial period or to move into three city jobs that are currently unfilled, the city manager said.


Bastrop County delays selection of county judge replacement

Bastrop County Commissioners recently delayed selecting an interim county judge to replace Ronnie McDonald, who resigned to seek election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Commissioners, however, designated John Klaus, the commissioner for precinct 3, as the presiding officer and signatory for county documents until an interim county judge is appointed.


The interim county judge will serve until January, when the candidate who wins the election in November will assume the post of county judge. Commissioners said they plan to name an interim county judge in time to preside over the next regular meeting of commissioners scheduled on March 26.


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Texas Government Insider Archives
Volume 1-10 Archives - 11/7/03 - 3/9/12 

Austin County selects Kimes

as interim county treasurer

Austin County commissioners recently selected Elery Kimes as the interim county treasurer. Kimes, who previously was employed at an accounting firm, will replace Cathleen Frank, who resigned as county treasurer. Kimes also worked as a reserve officer for the Angola Police Department and Steuben County Sheriff's Department.


Kimes will remain as interim treasurer until the election in November unless he decides to seek election to the post and wins that election. County officials have discussed abolishing the elected position and replacing it with a treasurer hired by the county, but made no decision about the treasurer's post remaining an elected position.


Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Linda Ryan Thomas of Longview, presiding officer, North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority;
  • Will "Bill" Hubbard Jr. of Tioga, presiding officer, Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority;
  • Dennis Burleson of Mission, presiding officer, Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority;
  • David Allex of Harlingen, presiding officer, Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority;
  • Kyle Jones of Marble Falls, Texas Interagency Council for Genetic Services.
Lt. Governor's appointments
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has announced the following appointments:
  • A. Charles Fischer, Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee.

Grant funds will help

upgrade VFD radio systems

A grant of $445,275 from the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant program will help the Geronimo Volunteer Fire Department fund a regional communications project. The volunteer fire departments of Geronimo, Marion, Cibolo, York Creek, New Berlin, Sand Hills, Kingsbury, McQueeney and Lake Dunlap will benefit with an update of the regional radio system.


Geronimo applied for funding on behalf of the nine departments that are participating in the project. The funding will be used to update the current analog VHF radio system to a P25 VHR radio system. Some of the funds will also pay for equipment installation and configuration. It is hoped that the new equipment will help the fire departments become compliant with interoperability standards set by the state. Operators will be able to communicate with local, state and federal agencies.


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Orange County to advertise for new road and bridge engineer

Orange County commissioners recently agreed to advertise for applicants for a road and bridge engineer who has qualifications required by the Texas Department of Transportation.


Commissioners agreed to advertise for qualified applicants for the post after the county attorney advised that the county must attempt to hire a person with qualifications required by TxDOT for the salary budgeted for the position. They must do that before being allowed to use a road administrator in that post rather than a professional engineer as required by TxDOT.


Grimes County announces

new emergency manager

Air Force veteran David Lilly has been chosen as Grimes County's emergency management coordinator. Retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant, Lilly served tours in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has previously served at Easterwood Airport for the Transportation Security Commission and with the Texas Workforce Commission in Bryan.


While in the military, Lilly was responsible for planning and practicing emergency exercises. He began his new post this week, replacing former Bryan police officer William Cross, who left the position after only one week.


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