Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 22 - Friday, June 1, 2012

2012 Atlantic hurricane season officially opens today


With two storms already, officials partnering to ensure public safety, awareness

HurricaneDon't tell Beryl and Alberto that the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season begins today. The two named tropical storms made their grand entrance in the Atlantic last month well ahead of the official start of the season, marking the first time for such an occurrence since 1908. Alberto formed off the South Carolina Coast and Beryl made landfall in Florida, bringing drenching rains and driving winds with her.


Even with two storms already in the books, a research team at Colorado State University has predicted reduced hurricane and storm activity for the 2012 season. They have predicted a "below-average probability" for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean. However, they warn that whether one hurricane or a dozen, the public should prepare the same way every season because "it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season" for coastal residents.


SignThat is particularly true in Texas, where some Texans are still cleaning up from Hurricane Ike, which in 2008 became the second most costly hurricane to make landfall in the United States. It made landfall near Galveston as a Category 2 hurricane. More than 100 people were killed in Texas by the hurricane that at one point measured 600 miles in diameter. Damages totaled $29.5 billion, second only to the $108 billion caused by 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina.


The longtime hurricane researchers at Colorado State predict that during the 2012 hurricane season, there will be 10 named storms and four hurricanes, with two of them major hurricanes. They predict that there is a 42 percent probability that at least one major (category 3, 4 or 5) hurricane will make landfall somewhere along the United State coastline, a 24 percent probability of landfall along the East Coast and including the Florida peninsula and a 24 percent probability of landfall somewhere in the Gulf Coast area from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville. 



Townsend retiring from Texas Juvenile Justice Department


40-year career as juvenile justice practitioner coming to end later this month

Cherie TownsendAfter spending more than three years as head of the beleaguered Texas Youth Commission (TYC) and then being named executive director of the agency that succeeded it in January, Cherie Townsend (pictured) has announced her retirement from state service. A juvenile justice career that spanned some 40 years will come to an end on June 30 when Townsend gives up her title of executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.


Townsend was named to lead the TYC in August 2008, after the agency was rocked by allegations of abuse of some of the youth being held in its facilities, and then a reported cover-up of the incidents. The investigation that followed resulted in the exit of the entire board that had oversight of the agency and the removal of the executive director. The governor appointed Jay Kimbrough as conservator of the agency in 2007, prior to Townsend being hired.

Townsend brought an impressive resume to the position, having headed juvenile court services in Las Vegas and Arizona. Prior to those appointments, she had logged 18 years of service with the TYC, where she was director of community services.


After the TYC was dissolved and the new Texas Juvenile Justice Department organized, Townsend was named to head the new agency. But recently, after reports of youth-on-youth violence, attacks on staff and gang-like activities among residents of the facilities, Kimbrough was in early May brought back into the fray, appointed as special assistant for safety and security at the juvenile justice agency. He is likely to be named to the director's post at least on an interim basis once Townsend leaves.


"Over the last two months, it has become clear that the focus on my values and principles related to best practices in juvenile justice are detracting from the mission and work of the agency," Townsend wrote in an e-mail to her staff announcing her retirement.


Townsend told her employees, "I believe in the goals of this new agency," and commended them for their efforts to "insure safe and secure facilities, to achieve better outcomes for youth and to support their families."


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Gerry CarriganGerry Carrigan, executive director, North Texas
Tollway Authority (NTTA)


Career highlights and education:  Gerry Carrigan offers over 28 years of management and professional experience in both the private and public sectors, including nine years as a corporate officer with ENR Top 25 consulting firms, and 10 years as a public sector transportation executive. His diverse background and experience spans a broad spectrum of responsibilities encompassing the business operations of multiple offices in varied geographic markets, as well as management and delivery of large-scale public agency transportation programs. Carrigan was named executive director of the NTTA in April 2012. As the Authority's executive director, Carrigan provides key leadership to carry out policies established by the NTTA Board of Directors and to direct the staff in carrying out the Authority's mission. Carrigan initially joined the NTTA in 2008 as the assistant executive director of project delivery. In this key role, Carrigan served as a principal advisor to the Board of Directors on matters related to the Authority's multi-year, multi-billion-dollar tollway system expansion program. Under Carrigan's direction, the Authority has numerous toll road construction projects valued over $4B currently under way throughout the North Texas region, including the launch of the Authority's first alternative delivery (design-build) projects. Carrigan holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Southern Illinois University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Florida.
What I like best about my job is: Building lasting infrastructure that makes a difference in people's lives.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: The importance of good communication.
Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Be flexible: The transportation industry has a lot of moving parts. 

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found:  on my way to the airport. I enjoy going to new places and seeing new things.

People would be surprised to know that I: don't work for a foreign company! Surprisingly, that seems to be one of the biggest misconceptions about the NTTA - that we are foreign-owned. On the contrary, we are a subdivision of the state of Texas. We live and work in North Texas and pride ourselves on serving our region.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: That driving on NTTA toll roads is a choice. As long as drivers need additional mobility choices, and the nation, state and region need help funding them, toll roads will remain an option. The NTTA is just one piece in the transportation puzzle, and toll roads are one of the most financially viable options to immediately relieve congestion. And if you do choose to use NTTA toll roads, get a TollTag! They are the most economical and efficient way for drivers to use the NTTA System.

Cedar Park's Connealy chosen as new state fire marshal

Chris ConnealyChris Connealy (pictured), fire chief in Cedar Park since 2004, has been chosen as the new state fire marshal. Connealy boasts almost 35 years of firefighting experience, having started his career in 1978 as a firefighter in Houston. He worked his way up the ladder in the Houston Fire Department and was named acting chief in 2000. In 2001, he was elevated to fire chief, retiring in January 2004. Connealy then moved to Cedar Park to become the city's fire chief in 2004.


Connealy described his being named state fire marshal as a "dream come true." He was reported one of four finalists for the position of fire marshal. He currently serves as the presiding officer of the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and is also on the executive board of the Texas Fire Chiefs Association.


State invests $1.3 million in TEF funds in Centene Corp. in Tyler

An investment of $1.3 million of Texas Enterprise Funds have been announced as invested in Centene Corp. as it prepares to open its third claims center in the United States in Tyler. Centene provides health care-related services to organizations and individuals. The facility in Tyler will be part of the company's national managed care system, processing claims for physicians, hospitals and other health care providers.


"We are looking forward to having Centene as a new corporate citizen that will bring quality jobs to Tyler," Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass said. "By having one of the lowest municipal tax rates in Texas, an abundant workforce and a tremendous quality of life, Tyler is an ideal place for a business such as Centene to locate."


Contingent upon completion of a local incentive package, Centene is expected to create more than 300 jobs and $15 million in capital investment.


Combest Center at Texas Tech gains approval, funds for expansion

Linda McMurryAn award of $5 million will help expand and upgrade the Larry Combest Community Health & Wellness Center at Texas Tech University. The construction of the expansion was recently approved by the Texas Tech System Board of Regents and will result in a 10,000-square-foot addition. Once the addition is complete, the facility will boast more than 16,000 square feet.


"This expansion is going to let us better fulfill our mission to serve the community with affordable high-quality health care," said Linda McMurry, R.N., DNP (pictured), executive director of the Combest Center. "Within two years after the project is completed, we will be able to increase the number of patients we see to more than 25,000."


The Combest Center is one of six health care centers in the state to be awarded the maximum amount of funding available from the federal Affordable Care Act. Once completed, the center expects to create 15 more new staff positions. The expansion calls for nine new medical exam rooms, space for a blood draw/lab, a procedure/treatment room, a large meeting room, a teaching kitchen for health education and 14 new offices to serve case management/behavioral health, diabetic education and the clinical administration staff.


Collaboration Nation

Austin group proposes $240 million planetarium complex

Proposed PlanetariumAn Austin nonprofit group and a developer recently announced plans to build a $240 million, 47-story tower to house a planetarium, technology center and science museum, residential units, retail shops and restaurants in the downtown area near the State Capitol building. Project supporters predicted the complex would produce an estimated $60 million annual economic impact.


The 801,800-square-foot project proposed by Austin Planetarium and KUD International (as seen in artist's rendering at left) would include a 47-story tower to be located on state-owned land the group has offered to lease. State officials are exploring redeveloping some state properties through public-private partnerships and it could take from a year to 18 months to complete processing of the request, a spokeswoman for the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) said. The nonprofit group is working with TFC to secure a lease agreement, a spokesman for the nonprofit group said.


Austin Planetarium officials expect their share of the project cost will be about $95 million and also plan on other sources paying for about one-third of that cost. The nonprofit group has a portion of the funding needed for the project, but backers must round up more financing to complete the project expected to begin construction in late 2014. If everything falls into place, the project could be expected to open in 2016.


New center formed to address water issues throughout state

Linda McMurryA collaboration among Texas AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Engineering Experiment Station and Texas A&M University-San Antonio has resulted in the formation of a new center to address multiple water issues in the state and devise solutions to water issues. The new Water Conservation and Technology Center will support high priority projects that deal with state water issues. The center will be administered by the Texas Water Resources Institute, an entity of the Texas A&M System, and will gear toward increasing the System's ability to meet current and emerging needs in water conservation and technology statewide, according to Dr. Neal Wilkins (pictured), director of the institute. "The center will accelerate the development and adoption of new and innovative technologies to solve emerging water problems and meet future water supply needs," Wilkins said.


The center will be located at the Texas Engineering Extension Service's South Presa campus in San Antonio. It will target its work on four high priority efforts: water conservation, water reuse, groundwater desalination and energy development and water use. It will work with industry, state and federal agencies, municipalities, trade associations and other research institutions in those four areas.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Accepts $50,000 check from DSC
Safari Club

Dallas Safari Club Executive Director Ben Carter (center) presents a $50,000 check to TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith (right) and TWPD Commission Vice Chair Ralph Duggins. (TPWD photo by Chase Fountain)

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently accepted a $50,000 check from the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) leaders to support TPWD programs for public hunting, conservation, education, state parks and law enforcement.


DSC's record-setting $1 million in grants for conservation, education and hunter advocacy efforts around the world netted TPWD the largest single recipient with its $67,500 total.


Carter Smith, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, said DSC grants are helping to fund public hunting and land-lease initiatives, hunter education and youth outreach efforts, Operation Game Thief, life insurance for Texas game wardens and a variety of operational expenses across the agency. 


The grant funds are generated by DSC's annual convention and expo. The 2013 event date has been scheduled for Jan. 3-6.


Local districts can apply for federal Race to the Top funding

Race to the TopSchool districts in Texas can skirt Gov. Rick Perry's objection to applying for Race to the Top program education funding after the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed criteria for the 2012 program. Under the auspices of the new criteria, school districts or groups of districts can apply for funding. They must serve at least 2,500 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced price lunches.


Department of Education officials note that eligibility also will be determined by a district's commitment to Race to the Top's four core reform areas. Awards will range from $15 million to $25 million, depending on the number of students served through the proposal. Funding will support learning strategies that personalize education - either in all schools in a district, in specific grades in a district or in specific subjects.


Education Secretary Arne Duncan said this round of funding "is aimed squarely at the classroom level and the all-important relationship among teachers and students." He said the goal of the program is to "take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all" model.


This new district-level competition is aimed at creating change within schools that will improve classroom practices and resources, and gives preference in the competition for funding for applications that form partnerships with public and private organizations to leverage the funding to help meet not only students' academic needs, but also their social needs and their ability to succeed.

Those ranking the proposals will be looking for applications that both provide reform and provide classrooms and teachers what they need to prepare students for successful college careers. The application is expected to be released in July with an October deadline for submission and awards made no later than Dec. 31.


One of the sticking points in applying for Race to the Top funds is teacher evaluations are tied to student test scores. But many districts strapped for funds due to state funding cuts may find the $15 million to $25 million hard to pass up.


TWU to offer Doctor of Nursing Practice degree online

The number of distance education degree offerings at Texas Woman's University (TWU) has increased to 31. The number increased with the announcement that TWU's Office of Distance Education and the TWU College of Nursing will now offer the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree online. A hybrid delivery method including both online and face-to-face classes is being offered. The 46-hour online program will begin this summer to replace the on-campus program.


The program also will provide access to advanced practice registered nurses who practice in rural areas of Texas and facilitate DNP education for nurse practitioner graduates of Texas colleges that do not offer doctoral programs. It also is intended to create opportunities for TWU nursing faculty to form research collaborations with health care providers and advanced practice registered nurses throughout Texas.


8th Biennial Legislative Conference - Save the date

University of Houston, Texas Tech quality for tier one funding

Texas TechThe state auditor recently confirmed that the University of Houston and Texas Tech University have met state criteria for access to the National Research University Fund.


Qualifying for tier-one status in research funding moves the universities closer to the goal of becoming nationally competitive Texas Techresearch universities, said Guy Bailey, president of Texas Tech. The estimate value of the research funding that may be awarded to Texas Tech and the University of Houston is about $8 million over the next two years.


The universities are two of the seven institutions legislators originally designated in 2009 to meet the statutory criteria in an attempt to increase research at public universities throughout the state. The criteria included a $400 million endowment fund, awarding at least 200 Ph.D. degrees in a year, high-quality faculty and a commitment to graduate research.


Chiles to take on role as UT Tyler assistant admissions director

Jessica ChilesJessica Chiles (pictured), former admissions recruiter, international student coordinator, admissions and financial aid counselor and director of admissions and media relations at Lon Morris College, has been named The University of Texas at Tyler's assistant director of admissions, effective June 1. She succeeds Jay Phillips, who accepted a position at Texas A&M University. Chiles will be responsible for UT Tyler recruitment coordination and management.


Chiles is a UT Tyler alumna. Prior to her service at Lon Morris, she was communication specialist for a company in the private sector. She holds an associate degree from Lon Morris as well as a bachelor's degree from UT Tyler. Chiles is currently enrolled in the UT Tyler Master of Arts in communication program.


Search committee selected to find Angelo State president

A search committee has been formed to assist in finding the next president of Angelo State University. The successful candidate will replace President Joseph Rallo, who will give up that title to become the vice chancellor of academic affairs at the Texas Tech University System. Chair of the eight-member committee is Mickey L. Long, vice chairman of the Board of Regents and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carr Scholarship Foundation.


The committee will help identify potential candidates, assist with initial screenings of candidates and ensure that their respective constituency groups are kept up-to-date on the progress of the search. Other members of the search committee include: Leslie M. Mayrand, Ph.D., RN, CNS - dean of the College of Health & Human Services and professor of Nursing, Angelo State University; Nancy Neal - chairman, Academic, Clinical & Student Affairs Committee, Board of Regents, Texas Tech University System; Alvin New - mayor, City of San Angelo; John D. Steinmetz - vice chairman, Board of Trustees, Carr Scholarship Foundation member, Board of Regents, Texas Tech University System; David J. Tarver, Ed.D. - professor of Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education, Angelo State University; Jorge Velarde - vice president and CFO, Multi-Chem in San Angelo; Suzanne Williams Taylor (Ex Officio member) - student regent, Board of Regents, Texas Tech University System; 3rd-year law student and former student government association president, Texas Tech University.


Tarrant County College reviews proposed capital projects

Emma Johnson HadleyTrustees for Tarrant County College recently reviewed projects and proposals submitted from each campus and department to be included in the budget for next year.


The projects ranged from building a new $93.6 million, 304,800-square-foot facility to house an avionics learning center to renovating an existing building at a cost of about $44.4 million as well as proposals for faculty raises and other programs, Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley (pictured) said. Trustees took no actions on the proposals, but plan to continue discussions in July, Hadley said.


Harrison County, TSTC eyeing aviation training program

Hugh TaylorHarrison County commissioners recently met with officials of Texas State Technical College to discuss the possibility of working together to establish aviation education opportunities at Harrison County Airport.


The president of TSTC suggested in February that county officials partner with the college to start such a program, said County Judge Hugh Taylor (pictured). The proposal is to renovate an aging hangar into an aviation training facility for students to offer courses to train pilots and FAA controllers, tower operations and dispatch, aviation electronics, instrumentation, maintenance and repair, Taylor said. The 7,500-square-foot, tin building will be available when TSTC officials secure funding for renovations and to set up the program, he added.



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El Paso to seek approval of $468 million bond proposal

John CookAfter removing several high-dollar projects, El Paso City Council members recently agreed to ask voters to approve a $468 million bond proposal in November. Council members originally considered bond proposals ranging from $655 million to $835 million, but opted to look for alternative financing for a new soccer stadium, street upgrades and improvements to the Sun Bowl Stadium, said Mayor John Cook (pictured).


Council members agreed to include in the proposition $190 million for parks and recreation facilities, $180 million for a multipurpose entertainment and sports facility, $50 million for the zoo, $36 million for museums and $12 million for libraries. The proposal will be separated into two propositions, one that includes parks, recreation, amateur sports facilities and the other will include the multipurpose center, libraries and museums.


Council members also agreed to ask voters in November to approve a 2 percent increase in the hotel occupancy tax to build a $45 million to $55 million venue for a possible baseball team by using a public-private partnership.


Highland Park reviews options for town hall construction

Highland Park Town Council members recently began exploring options for bringing down the cost to renovate and expand the town hall and public safety buildings.


City officials have moved dispatch operations to a temporary location and signed a lease for office space in anticipation of beginning construction on the town hall and public safety buildings in early June. When construction bids came in at about $4 million over budget at $18.4 million, however, the council rejected all bids and discussed reducing costs by modifying the interior design and trying to remain on schedule with the project.


The construction manager for the project blamed the low number of bids submitted by subcontractors for the increased costs and hopes to attract more bids when the project is rebid.


The Woodlands eying $8.7 million plan for sports fields

The staff of The Woodlands recently recommended an $8.7 million plan to build additional sports fields to accommodate youth sports groups. The plan, which includes the possibility of using a public-private partnership, features added lighting to two existing parks, addition of all-weather turf to six fields and building five new sports fields.


The estimated cost of designing and building five all-purpose sports fields is $4.77 million and for replacing grass with artificial turf at four existing sports fields is $3.6 million. Board members for the township took no action on the proposal.


Former Northside superintendent Folks headed to UTSA faculty

John FolksJohn M. Folks (pictured), who recently retired from the superintendent post at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, will join the faculty of The University of Texas at San Antonio's College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) this fall semester. He will be teaching in the graduate academic and professional educational leadership programs and will serve in the university's Superintendent Certification Program and the Center for Educational Leadership, Policy and Professional Development.


Folks began his teaching career in Port Arthur. He earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Oklahoma. Before joining Northside as superintendent, he was superintendent in the Spring ISD in Houston.


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Hidalgo Co. eyeing $168 million bond proposal for drainage project

A committee exploring drainage concerns in Hidalgo County recently urged county officials to ask voters to approve a $160 million bond referendum in November to pay for drainage upgrades. The new drainage plan is designed to boost the existing county drainage system rather than digging even more ditches and ponds, the general manager of the Hidalgo County Drainage District said. County commissioners face a deadline of Aug. 6 to call the bond referendum, which also would authorize a $110 million contribution to the Raymondville Drain project.


The proposed plan calls for using gates, pumps and other control methods to maximize available space in existing ditches and ponds. Only two excavation projects requiring more land to be acquired are included in the plan, he said. The county drainage project also should benefit once construction of the proposed $256 million Raymondville Drain, a regional flood channel, is completed. It will drain floodwaters from heavily populated areas of western Hidalgo County. The county now has only one canal to carry water out of the county, but backups occur that cause widespread flooding during heavy rainfalls.


If voters authorize the Raymondville Drain, county officials are eligible to seek federal funding to cover 90 percent of the cost of the drainage project. Voter approval of the drain project also will allow it to be developed while waiting for congressional approval. County taxpayers would then be responsible for only 10 percent, or $26 million of the estimated cost of the project.


Irving eyeing plan to cut city costs in proposed entertainment center

Irving City Council members recently began considering a plan by the developer of the Irving Entertainment Center that would reduce the city's costs for that proposed project from $170 million to $100 million.


The developer said he has invested $1 million to research whether the project is viable and urged council members to approve the latest plan that would allow construction to begin within six months on the proposed entertainment center to be located on a vacant lot next to the convention center. Council took no action on the recommendation.


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TPWD approves more than $3 million in federal funds for trail grants

More than $3 million in federal funding was approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently for 26 National Recreational Trail Grant projects throughout Texas. Also approved was reallocation of $485,000 in trail funds for trail improvements in seven Texas state parks. Those seven state parks include Bastrop, Brazos Bend, Cooper Lake, Eisenhower, Government Canyon, Lake Brownwood and Martin Dies Jr. The funds will be used to renovate existing trails, make trails more accessible and assist with design, layout and other improvements.


There were more than 80 projects statewide that applied for the federal funding, with requests totaling $11.5 million. The requests were reviewed by an advisory board, which made recommendations based on quality of project, cost effectiveness, impact on recreational trail opportunities and geographic distribution of funds. The funds are distributed by the Federal Highway Administration. The Texas funds are part of $95 million distributed nationwide. The grants are 80-20 cost-share, with the local entity paying the 20 percent. The projects receiving funding, which represents the 80 percent in grant funds include:

  • Angelina County - Cassels-Boykin Trails, $73,336, new 7-mile hike/bike trail, bridges, benches and signs;
  • Bastrop County - City of Elgin, Shenandoah Trail, $77,395, new .6-mile granite trail;
  • Bexar County - San Antonio River Authority, Helton - San Antonio River Park Trail, $150,000, new 1.1-mile granite/concrete trail;
  • Bexar County - Friends of Friedrich Wilderness Park, Friedrich Wilderness Park Trail, $76,700, new 4.7-mile natural surfaced nature trail and signs;
  • Bexar County - City of Converse, North Park Walking Trail, $55,142, new 1.2-mile asphalt trail, benches, signs and drinking fountains;
  • Brazos County - City of College Station, Iron Bridge Trail, $76,020, renovate .6-mile granite trail, benches and signs;
  • Cameron County - City of Brownsville, Belden Trail, $151,274, new 1-mile asphalt trail, benches and bollards;
  • Childress County - City of Childress, ATV & Moto Park Improvements, $180,024, motorized trail park improvements, fencing, tools and erosion control;
  • Coke County Economic Development Group, Coke County OHV Park, $50,000, new motorized trail park, restroom, utilities, parking and fencing;
  • Collin County - Trinity Trail Preservation Association, Trinity Trail Erosion Control Project, $27,960, renovation/erosion control along 25-mile equestrian trail;
  • Crosby County - White River Municipal Water District, ATV Trails, $141,200, new ATV motorized park, parking lot, fencing, signs, pavilion and tables;
  • Culberson County - Town of Van Horn, Van Horn Recreational Trails, $150,000, new 4-mile motorized trail, tools/equipment, storage shed and signs;
  • Fort Bend County - City of Richmond, Richmond Trail, $109,280, new .9-mile granite/concrete trail and bridge;
  • Harris County - City of Baytown, Nature Center Trails, Phase II, $73,350, new 1-mile granite trail, benches, signs, fencing and boardwalk;
  • Hays County - City of Dripping Springs, Harrison Ranch Park Equine Trail, $100,000, new 1.8-mile natural surface trail, parking area and signs;
  • Hopkins County - City of Sulphur Springs, Buford Park Trail, $63,960, new .5-mile concrete trail, benches, signs and bollards;
  • Jefferson County - City of Beaumont, Klein Park Walking Trail Improvements, $75,000, resurface 0.7-mile trail, ADA imp., benches, signs and drainage;
  • Lamar County - City of Blossom, Blossom Recreational Rail Trail, $100,003, new 1.5-mile asphalt trail, bridge railing and vehicle controls;
  • McLennan County - Texas Equestrian Trailriders Association, Waco Lake Reynolds Creek Trailhead, $41,976, restroom, shade, storage shed and tools hitching posts;
  • Montgomery County - Sam Houston Trails Coalition, Inc., Richards-Raven Trail Network, $150,000, new 20-mile motorized trail, bridges, trailhead, signs and NEPA;
  • Montgomery County - Greater Houston Offroad Mt. Bike Association, Spring Creek Greenway Flintridge Trail, $100,000, new 5-mile trail, renovate 6-mile natural surface trail, bridges and signs;
  • Red River County - City of Clarksville, Gate to Texas Trail, $128,000, new 2.0-mile crushed aggregate trail, bridge decking/railing and signs;
  • Tarrant County - Fort Worth Mountain Bikers Association, Gateway Park Mountain Bike Trail, $14,372, new 0.5-mile natural surface trail, signs and tools;
  • Val Verde County - City of Del Rio, San Felipe Creek Trail Improvement, $149,000, new .2-mile, renovate .2 mile-concrete trail and signs;
  • Walker County - Sam Houston National Forest, Multiple-Use Trail Rehab. Phase IV, $200,000, renovate 20-mile motorized trail, erosion control, bridge, signs and equipment;
  • Wood County - City of Mineola, Mineola Nature Preserve on the Sabine, $16,000, new 1-mile natural/crushed aggregate trail and signs.

UTA to host Government Procurement Conference 2012 in July

Government Procurement Conference 2012, hosted by ARRI Extension Centers at The University of Texas at Arlington, is slated this year for Wednesday, July 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Arlington Convention Center. Organizers call the event one of the most important and largest procurement conferences in North Central Texas. The main focus for the Conference in 2012 is to provide small businesses an opportunity to meet local, state and federal government buyers and their prime contractors. Local, state and federal government buyers were on hand for last year's event, along with more than 1,000 conference-goers. There are 60 sponsored registrations for Veteran/Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses. The event features free, informative educational workshops, buyer networking opportunities and access to resource and assistance agencies. Sponsorships and exhibit space are available. The event contact person is Jennifer Wilson at 817.272.5909 or Jennifer.wilson@uta.edu. For more information and to register, click here.


TSABAA announces 43rd Annual Summer Conference in June

The Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association (TSABAA) 43rd Annual Summer Conference will be June 7and 8 at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in San Marcos. To view the agenda with speakers and topics, click here. Some of the topics include Challenges Facing Employee Benefits; Lead Your Team, Don't Just Manage the Process; the State Audit Plan; and Data Center Consolidation & Technology Sourcing. Questions should be addressed to Trina Edwards at trina.edwards@dps.texas.gov or by phone at 437-4056.  


PegaWORLD 2012 meeting slated for June 3-5 in Dallas

The Pega Texas User Group (PTUG) will hold its next meeting during the upcoming PegaWORLD 2012 planned for June 3-5 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Pegasystems is the recognized industry leader in business process management (BPM) and a leading provider of customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. The PTUG will provide the arena for members to share ideas and best practices while networking with other local Pega users from both the public and private sectors and local service providers. Those attending will meet members of the Pega in Texas Community, discuss structure for collaboration to maximize value of PTUG and discuss goals, structure and schedule for future meetings. The Dallas meeting is billed as the largest gathering of BPM professionals and will feature representatives of leading global organizations involved in "Build for Change" technology. Texas User Group Leader Denny Lowe will be the host for the event. For more information, click here. To register, click here.


Propane Emergencies Program for Emergency Responders in June

The Propane Council of Texas (ProCOT) and the Texas Propane Gas Association have partnered with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) to bring the popular national Propane Emergencies Program to Texas for an Emergency Responder's Conference on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 12 and 13, at the TEEX Brayton Training Field in College Station. The Emergency Responders Conference consists of 16 hours of training, including a half day of classroom and half day of field training exercises each day. To view the full schedule, click here. This session is geared for anyone involved with propane-related emergency and incident response activities including fire fighters, hazmat team trainers and other fire service educators, law enforcement hazmat personnel, propane professional and others. Registration is $140 per person; deadline is May 28. For additional Information or to register, click here, call 800- 325-7427 or email jmason@txpropane.com.


Third Annual Texas Unites Conference planned in June

The Texas Citizen Corps Program and the Texas Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster are sponsoring the 3rd Annual Texas Unites Conference on June 13-15. The conference will be at the Hyatt Regency Riverwalk in San Antonio. The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has joined the conference by bringing professional speakers and workshops on public health preparedness issues. By bringing these organizations together again for a third time, the Texas Unites Conference will provide additional training opportunities, discipline tracks and continuing education credits to participants. This year's conference is on track to be one of the largest annual professional, volunteer and emergency management training summits in Texas to include all Citizen Corps, VOAD, MRC and other affiliate partner programs. Featured keynote speaker is Scott Huse, personal and team development motivational speaker. Other invited speakers include Tony Russell, FEMA Region 6 Administrator; Steve McCraw, director - Texas Department of Public Safety; and Nim Kidd, chief of Texas Division of Emergency Management. For specific workshop and agenda information, or for online Registration, click here. For hotel information and reservations, click here.


AACOG announces three upcoming workshops

The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) has three workshops coming up of interest to government officials. On July 27, from 8:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., AACOG will host a Newly Elected Officials Workshop in the A. J. Notzon III Board Room at 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. The workshop is for newly elected mayors and city council members or alderman; however, any and all elected officials and city staff are welcome to attend. For information, click here. A Planning and Zoning Officials Workshop is planned for 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 16 at the Tesoro Drive address. Among the topics are comprehensive plans, importance of planning and more. For information, click here. Finally, on Sept 7, AACOG will host a Basics of Economic Development for Elected Officials Workshop. This workshop will also be at the Tesoro Drive address from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. Presentations will be provided by Charlie Zech with Denton, Navarro, Rocha, and Bernal, P.C. For more information, click 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.


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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Increasing use of technology has schools investing in broadband


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


Not so long ago, technology in public schools was very basic. That is no longer true. Hundreds of classrooms are now equipped with desktops, laptops, notebooks and/or iPads. The question is not about technology, it is about broadband and how fast and easy is it for teachers and students to access information.


There is no argument about the importance of robust Internet access. In fact, many school bond issues include funding for high-speed Internet access. Most educators say that technology in the classroom is as critical as electricity and plumbing.


The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) recently issued a report that examines education trends. It supports the critical nature of technology, reliability and speed so that students can access learning resources.


Some schools are adopting the use of digital textbooks and teachers post online assignments for students. There is an ever- increasing use of videos and all these activities put a strain on broadband networks.


Last year, Texas launched Project Share, a collection of Web tools and applications related to professional development for teachers. Educators can take online courses, interact with experts, access important digital information and provide feedback in professional learning communities. As of April of last year, more than 882,000 students and teachers had requested access to the digital content.



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TxDOT approves $17 million in upgrades to I-27 in Plainview

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials recently agreed to move forward with a $17 million project on Interstate 27 in Plainview. The project includes converting frontage roads within the city limits from two-way to one-way, adding turnarounds under overpasses at two intersections, building a new overpass and relocating or adding new entrance and exit ramps. TxDOT plans to begin construction on the project later this year.


Parkland extends contract to Royer to serve as interim CEO

Thomas RoyerParkland Health & Hospital System officials recently approved a three-month contract extension with Dr. Thomas Royer (pictured) to serve as interim chief executive officer of that facility. His six-month contract was due to expire on May 31 and will now extend through the end of August.


Royer was appointed to the post after the former CEO, Dr. Ron Anderson, was reassigned to a senior advisory position following critical inspections by federal regulators that threatened to end the facility's participation in Medicare and Medicaid because of safety concerns for patients.


Denton asking for input

on upcoming bond election

City officials in Denton are asking residents to help decide what will be in a street bond package set to go before voters in November. They are hopeful that public input will help prioritize where the $20 million bond proposition funds will be spent.


Although a Citizens Bond Advisory Committee has been appointed, city officials are hopeful that residents will let them know where problem streets are since there has not been much feedback coming through the city's Web site seeking input. The city has identified about $60 million worth of streets that need to be rebuilt, but is asking for citizens to "nominate" which streets are most in need of attention.



Chief spokesman for UT

System announces retirement

Anthony de Bruyn recently announced his retirement as the assistant vice chancellor for public affairs at The University of Texas System, where he served as chief spokesman. He was employed with the UT System for 10 years.


Sloan retiring as superintendent at New Diana school district

Superintendent Joyce Sloan (pictured) recently said she is retiring from the New Diana Independent School District after spending 45 years as an educator. She previously worked at Gladewater ISD and Gilmer ISD before joining New Diana ISD.

El Paso approves $15 million

for storm water project

El Paso City Council members recently authorized the issue of $15 million in revenue bonds to pay for $12.2 million in projects to upgrade the storm water system. El Paso Water Utilities, created in 2008, will oversee the storm water project.


The bond issue includes $2 million to buy land to preserve natural areas for storage and runoff of storm water and for park ponding projects. The bond issue also includes almost $2 million to prevent flooding along Interstate 10 between Copa and Piedras streets and also includes $200,000 to pay a consulting firm for issuing the bonds.


Tuloso-Midway ISD OKs plans

for $6.1M performing arts center

Trustees for the Tuloso-Midway Independent School District recently approved architectural plans for a new performing arts center. Board members also agreed to use a construction manager-at-risk for the performing arts project.


The plan calls for building a box theater with seating for 100 adjacent to the main performing arts center that will have audio visual equipment, lighting and sound booth and restroom facilities. The plan also calls for a new lobby area and secured access to the front entry to the school. District officials hope to find a construction manager to oversee the performing arts center project as well as for improvements to the middle school auditorium and a moisture remediation project at the high school, district officials said.


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Harrison County wins $20,000 grant for new radio equipment

Harrison County recently won a $20,000 grant to buy radio equipment for the sheriff's department. The grant is from the State Homeland Security Program and will help the county comply with federal standards for narrow band radio equipment. 


HGAC seeking partners

to address sustainability

The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) and a consortium of partnering entities that make up a coordinating committee, has issued a call for partners with proposals for case studies to show how sustainability goals can be applied at the local level in various geographic contexts. Proposals are limited to entities that are eligible for federal funding and can implement projects, not consulting firms.


The H-GAC region includes Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller and Wharton counties. The proposed study must be within the confines of those areas. Applications are due by Friday, July 6. For more information, click here.


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Midland ISD eyeing bond

election to upgrade facilities

Ryder WarrenSuperintendent Ryder Warren (pictured) of the Midland Independent School District recently urged trustees and taxpayers to consider staging a bond election in November to pay for his plan to upgrade education and facilities in the district.


The superintendent presented three top priorities he identified for the district: creating magnet middle schools, building a new facility for Midland High School and adding a third high school on district-owned property on Loop 250 and Big Spring Street. However, he said the focus of the proposed bond election would be on elementary schools as 1,200 students have enrolled since summer 2010. Board members plan to study the superintendent's plan and vote on the proposed plan by the end of July.


Guillory terminated from city manager position in Dublin

Dublin City Council members recently terminated the contract of City Manager Jerry Guillory. The city manager declined to comment on the action.


Publisher Williams added to Dallas Mayor Rawlings' staff

Shawn WilliamsPublisher Shawn Williams (pictured) has been named by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings as manager of the city's GrowSouth initiative and digital media for the mayor's office. He will also assist Rawlings with business growth opportunities.


Williams currently is publisher and editor-in-chief of Dallas South News, an online nonprofit news site. Prior to his publishing career, Williams served as a pharmaceuticals representative for more than eight years and was a sales specialist for a major IT-related company.


Williams holds a BBA degree from Texas A&M University. He will begin his job with the city on June 4.


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New Caney ISD approves fire academies at two high schools

New Caney Independent School District officials recently approved an agreement with the New Caney Fire Department and Emergency Services District #7 to create a fire academy at two high schools in the district. The fire academy will feature a two-year program to prepare junior and senior students to test with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and work for a fire department or an emergency services provider, school district officials said.


The new fire academy also will offer a junior firefighter program and work with the local fire department on public outreach and offer some training at the fire department to augment the classroom portion of the fire academy, Fire Chief Jeff Taylor said. More than 80 students have signed up to begin classes at the fire academy, which is expected to open to students on Aug. 27.


South San Antonio ISD taps Robinson as lone finalist

Rebecca RobinsonTrustees for the South San Antonio Independent School District recently selected Rebecca Robinson (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Robinson currently is the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Eagle Pass ISD. Board members are expected to finalize the contract with Robinson on June 28.


TCEQ dissolves Bexar Metropolitan Water District

The board of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently officially dissolved the Bexar Metropolitan Water District. In November, 74 percent of the voters residing in the water district voted to dissolve the water district and merge it into a division of the San Antonio Water System (SAWS).


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San Antonio proposes funding for center's expansion

San Antonio city officials recently proposed a plan to pay for a $325 million renovation of the 426,000-square-foot Convention Center. The renovation, which expands part of the center and demolishes another part of the facility is expected to add more green space at HemisFair Park and attract more business to the convention center.


Instead of using only occupancy tax revenue for the project, the plan calls for issuing $544 million in public facility corporation lease revenue bonds to pay for the renovation project and to refinance an existing $254 million hotel occupancy tax debt for previous expansions of the convention center. The plan also allows the city to capture about one-third of the incremental growth of that occupancy tax revenue annually to repay that existing debt.


City council members expect to vote in June on whether to create a public facility corporation that is expected to begin the process of issuing bonds by October. City officials plan to sign a design-build contract by September and complete the entire expansion project by summer 2016.


Nordheim ISD selects Wilson as lone finalist for superintendent

Kevin WilsonNordheim Independent School District board members recently selected John "Kevin" Wilson (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Wilson currently is a principal for North Hopkins ISD and previously was a principal at Bowie ISD and a teacher at Louise ISD.


McAllen approves $25,000 for cameras at international bridge

McAllen City Commission members recently agreed to spend $25,000 to buy and install wireless security cameras at the Anzalduas International Bridge.


The new wireless cameras are necessary to replace cameras that became inoperable after vandalism occurred and rodents ate through fiber-optic lines and disabled the existing security cameras, disrupting security operations, the mayor said.


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Varma tapped for Texas Medical Board District Review Committee

Surendra VarmaDr. Surendra K. Varma, M.D. (pictured) of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center was recently chosen by the governor to serve a six-year term on the Texas Medical Board District Review Committee (DRC).


Varma is a professor and vice chairman of pediatrics and the associate dean of the Office of Graduate Medical Education. She also is the Ted Hartman Endowed Chair of Medical Education. The DRC, comprised of physicians, doctors of osteopathy and public members, reviews complaints filed against persons licensed by the Texas Medical Board to practice medicine in this state. Members of the review committee also decide appropriate disciplinary actions.


Isaly retires as superintendent at Huffman ISD; Soileau named

Superintendent Jean Isaly of Huffman Independent School District recently announced her retirement from that post. Isaly has worked for the school district for 29 years as a teacher and as an administrator.


Board members selected Dr. Benny Soileau as the new superintendent effective July 1. Soileau currently is the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Huffman ISD and previously was a principal and teacher. He has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Lamar University in addition to a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.


Cuero eyeing $1 million plan to renovate old federal building

Cuero City Council members recently began consideration of a $1 million plan to renovate a former federal building that houses the Cuero Heritage Museum, the visitor's center and public meeting rooms. The architect proposing the renovation urged council members to seek private funding to preserve the historic building in the downtown area.


Miller to retire as assistant superintendent at Wylie ISD

Brian MillerBrian Miller (pictured), assistant superintendent for business and finance at Wylie Independent School District, recently announced he plans to retire from that post effective Aug. 30. Miller, who joined the district in 2003, previously worked for school districts in Ector County, Azel, Carrolton-Farmers Branch, Victoria, Waco and Conroe.


Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Paula Gomez of Brownsville, Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke;
  • Suzanne Hildebrand of Live Oak, Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke;
  • Floristene Johnson of DeSoto, Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke;
  • John N. Rutledge of Austin, Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke;
  • Sockalingam "Sam" Kannappan of Houston, Texas Board of Professional Engineers;
  • Edward Summers of Austin, Texas Board of Professional Engineers;
  • Robert Hootkins of Austin, Texas Medical Board District Review Committee.
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Keuhler resigning as chief financial officer for Wichita Falls

Ronald Kuehler recently announced his resignation as chief financial officer for Wichita Falls Independent School District to accept a similar post at Duncanville ISD. Kuehler previously worked for Burleson ISD.


Board members selected Laura Lee Brock, the current finance director, to be the interim chief financial officer.


Puig to be new superintendent at Culberson County-Allamoore

Marc PuigTrustees for the Culberson County-Allamoore Independent School District recently selected Marc Puig (pictured) as the new superintendent. Puig currently is superintendent for Luling ISD and previously was employed at Mount Pleasant ISD, Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD. Puig is scheduled begin his new duties on June 11.


VIA deputy director Lozano resigns to accept new job

Roland A. Lozano, deputy director of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, will be leaving his post after accepting a job as interim president and CEO of the Brooks Development Authority. Lozano is a former assistant city manager in the Alamo City and begins his new job today, Friday.


Because he will be the interim president and CEO, Lozano was hired as an independent contractors. He has said he has no interest in applying for the job full-time.


Crawford to retire as chief financial officer for Tyler

Daniel Crawford recently said he is retiring as the chief financial officer for Tyler. Crawford, who served in Tyler for 16 years, previously served as finance director for DeSoto and Kerrville.


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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