Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 23 - Friday, June 8, 2012

State budget requests:


Agencies told not to exceed last year's budget, prepare for other possible cuts

BudgetState budget problems haven't gone away. News from the State Comptroller's office this week noted 26 consecutive months of increasing sales tax revenues. And, Texas franchise tax receipts of $4.3 billion through May have already surpassed predictions of just $4 billion for all of 2012. Yet state agency officials were reminded earlier this week that budget constraints will once again be a big part of the upcoming 83rd Texas Legislature, which convenes in January 2013.


With the next legislative session on the horizon, agency officials are preparing their 2014-2015 legislative appropriations requests (LARs) that will become part of a budget roadmap for members of the Texas Legislature. And, even with a stronger-than-predicted growth in state revenue, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) issued a memo to the heads of state agencies, commissions, institutions and agencies of higher education and appellate courts and justices instructing them that with few exceptions, they are not to increase their basic budget requests over last year's amount.

Joe Straus 

"While our revenue growth has been healthy this year, we must plan conservatively, which is why we have asked agencies to hold the line on spending," said House Speaker Joe Straus (pictured).


There was even more squirming when the LBB asked for a supplemental request that would show how agency officials would, if necessary, reduce their baseline request by an additional 10 percent relating to General Revenue and General Revenue-Dedicated funds.


The LBB memo also alerted agency officials that they should be painfully aware that "agencies may be asked to reduce their fiscal year 2013 budgets should state fiscal conditions warrant it."


There was not much good news in the LBB edict.


Agency officials are just hopeful that the 83rd legislative session will not reap the $14 billion in cuts made in state funding last session. Those cuts left public schools laying off teachers and employees, institutions of higher education increasing tuition rates even higher and state agencies in many cases having to do even more with fewer resources - human and financial.


The only good news going into the budget-writing session is that the kind of cuts made last session are not likely to be necessary. Or at least that's what Sen. Steve Ogden (chair of the Senate Finance Committee) says. Ogden, who is not seeking re-election, told the Bryan-College Station Eagle that state revenues in Texas are growing. "The Texas economy was the last in the recession and the first out," he said, even predicting the state will have a "small, but not insignificant" budget surplus.


Hight to serve as deputy executive commissioner for IT at HHSC


Brings more than 25 years of public, private IT experience to new responsibilities

Bowden HightWith more than 25 years of information technology experience in both the public and private sectors, Bowden Hight (pictured) will now take on the role of Deputy Executive Commissioner for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.


Hight has been serving as the CIO for the agency since 2011. His new title and responsibilities were effective June 1. In his new role, Hight will oversee the technology enhancements required for federal Medicaid changes and modernizing the eligibility system. He will also continue to work toward ensuring HHSC data security and high system performance for the agency.


Prior to joining HHSC last year, Hight was IT director at the Texas Railroad Commission, where he was responsible for numerous technical upgrades and service improvement projects. He has also served as deputy director for IT at the former Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. He holds a master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Russell ZapalacRussell Zapalac, chief planning and project officer, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) 


Career highlights and education:  Born in Austin and a lifelong Texan, I've had the privilege of living in several of the state's great cities and towns including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Victoria and Yoakum. After graduating from high school in San Antonio, I returned to Austin to attend The University of Texas, pursuing a civil engineering degree. I joined TxDOT in January of this year after a long, successful transportation career in both public and private sectors. My professional focus has always been the design and construction of large transportation projects. For example, prior to joining TxDOT, I was the director of design and construction for the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies. In that capacity, I oversaw a 67-mile, $5 billion tollway program. I served as senior vice president and director of transportation for a consulting firm where I managed the 17-state central region and led 500 professionals. I also served as program manager for TxDOT's SH 130 Segments 1-4 project. I am on the board of directors for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and am the past president of that organization's public-private venture division. I also serve on the Transportation Transformation Group's Executive Committee. Present duties include oversight of TxDOT planning activities, development of a new enterprise project management system and leading the agency's comprehensive development agreements and public-private partnership program.
What I like best about my job is:  Obviously, the best part of my job is the ability to make a difference for the citizens of Texas.  My team works on some of the largest projects in the country. Typically they take years to plan and environmentally clear and build. But, when the projects are finished, there is no better feeling than knowing that you had a hand in getting people to where they need to be, safer and more efficiently. It's my way of giving something back to the people of this state.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: No matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone. Stay positive, stay focused and celebrate the wins when they happen. Through it all, don't take yourself too seriously. 
Advice you would give a new hire in your office:  Projects are not built by one person. It takes a dedicated team of planners, environmental specialist, designers, builders and all the associated support staff to successfully deliver a project. Listen to your internal and external team members, build consensus when possible, ask for help when needed and don't be afraid to make the tough decisions. 

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found:  Why would I sneak out early and miss all the fun?  But if I did, I would probably head home and play in the shop or outdoors. I really enjoy working with my hands, whether it's a new project with my son or just doing chores around the house. 

People would be surprised to know that: Since joining TxDOT, I have only been away from home four nights. In my previous life as a consultant, I traveled the United States, typically visiting offices and projects in two to three cities a week. For the last 10 years, I actually spent more nights in hotels than I did at home. I am happy to be home almost every night, but I think my wife is still trying to decide.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Some of the smartest and most dedicated transportation professionals in the nation work for TxDOT. These committed state servants design and build projects that are unequaled in the United States. We are proud of our history and the strong agency culture that promotes operational excellence in each facet of the business. With Phil Wilson's (new executive director) leadership, TxDOT is building on that history and culture to become a Best in Class agency and the best transportation department in the country. These next few years, TxDOT is on track to implement more transportation projects than any other state. We are modernizing systems and reaching out to stakeholders, building stronger strategic partnerships and finding innovative ways to fund and deliver major infrastructure projects that improve safety and reduce congestion. Infrastructure funding is always a challenge, but the men and women of TxDOT are up to meeting that challenge and working with others to deliver safe and reliable transportation solutions for the people of Texas.

Townsend says juvenile justice agency to open Mart facility again

The once-shuttered Mart facility that is part of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) could soon open again. The proposed 24-bed lockup would, according to TJJD Executive Director Cherie Townsend, be used to house serious teen offenders. The proposal to legislative leaders comes on the heels of reports of youth-on-youth incidents and youth attacks on facility staff.


The Austin American-Statesman reports that the facility will include a "secure intensive behavior intervention program" with eight beds to open by the end of this month and the remainder by Aug. 1. Another facility at the Mart site would be opened and house 32 beds, for which Townsend will be seeking approval from the agency's board in late June.


The Mart facility was closed after sweeping reform of the then-Texas Youth Commission that led to a significant decrease in the number of incarcerated youth. Since then, the number of violent incidents at the facilities have been reported. As a result, the Texas Department of Public Safety has loaned Jay Kimbrough, who served as conservator of the agency during the 2007 episodes, back to the agency to help ensure security and safety. And just last week, Townsend announced she will retire from her executive director role at the end of this month.


Nabers book signing announces 'Collaboration Nation'

Read Nabers
Public relations icon Julian Read was among dozens of well-wishers to attend this week's book signing at the debut of Mary Scott Nabers' book, Collaboration Nation.

Mary Scott Nabers (left), president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., signed copies of her book for those attending a book signing in her honor earlier this week. Collaboration Nation: How Public-Private Ventures Are Revolutionizing the Business of Government was released this week and is available on Amazon.com. Nabers will be feted with other book signings before the end of the year in Austin and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit maryscottnabers.com. You can also watch her YouTube video and read her CNBC blog.Signing Books



Texas invests $965,000 in Harris County chemical company

The Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) will invest $965,000 to Kuraray America Inc. to expand and create chemical production facilities in Harris County. The expansion is expected to bring in about 107 jobs and millions of dollars in capital investment in the area once the chemical production facilities are completed in September 2014.


The company has proprietary technology in polymer and synthetic chemistry applications that produces chemicals, resins, fibers, textiles, medical products and high-performance materials used in paper processing, adhesives, sizing and the manufacture of LCD screens.


Plans call for using the TEF grant to build a new polyvinyl alcohol resin production facility in La Porte and expand an existing facility in Pasadena.


More than two years of continuous sales tax growth noted

MoneySales tax revenues totaling $514.1 million are being distributed to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts in Texas by the State Comptroller's Office. The figure represents those governmental entities' share of state sales tax revenue of $2.09 billion in May, up 7.3 percent over the same month last year.


This distribution marks the 26th consecutive month for sales tax growth, according to State Comptroller Susan Combs. The June allocations of more than $514 million is up 9.7 percent over last June.


Cities will share $337.4 million, up 8.2 percent over last June's allocation. Counties will share $34.3 million, up 12.8 percent since last June. Transit systems saw their revenue increase 10.6 percent over last June, as those systems will share $116.6 million. And special purpose taxing districts will get $25.8 million among them, up 22.5 percent over June 2011. To view the allocations by city, click here. To view the allocations by county, click here.


Donna to spend $80,000 for economic development plan

Donna City Council members recently approved an $80,000 contract with a consulting firm based in College Station, Advent GX, to develop the first phase of a strategic plan for economic development during the next three to six months.


The city needs a current economic plan that reflects the new international bridge and other development in the area in order to better compete with other communities along the border, the city manager said.


$600 million bond proposal recommended by Dallas city manager

Mary SuhmWith Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings saying "the basics are important," the Dallas City Council heard a recommendation for a major bond program that would include such issues as drainage improvements, street repairs and economic development. City Manager Mary Suhm (pictured) presented her recommendation for a $600 million bond proposal that includes $221.2 million for street improvements, $323.8 million for flood, drainage and erosion projects and $55 million for economic development.


Among the proposed projects: an underground tunnel to alleviate flooding, upgrades to the Able Pump Station, resurfacing or reconstruction of nearly 150 lane-miles of streets and arteries, alley improvements, bike lanes and hike and bike trails.


The remaining money, $55 million, would go toward economic development projects, including improvements related to the University of North Texas and extending Colorado Boulevard in west Oak Cliff to facilitate development there. To view Suhm's complete list of recommendations, click here.


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Bryan Texas Utilities selects Miller as interim general manager

Gary MillerBryan city officials recently appointed Gary Miller (pictured), a group manager, as the interim general manager of Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU), the city-owned electric utility. Interim City Manager Kean Register, who previously served as group manager at BTU, selected Miller, who will take over his new duties on July 1.


Miller has worked for BTU since 2005 and currently manages power production marketing. He previously was employed by TXU and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCO). Miller replaces Dan Wilkerson, who resigned in April after serving as general manager for 28 years.


City officials earliler had agreed to change the scope of the autonomy formerly held by the utility manager by removing the authority to hire and fire employees and enter into contracts with ERCOT. City officials also merged the post of chief financial officer for the municipal utility with the same position for the city to gain more transparency into operation of the municipal utility.


City of Dallas considers procurement change favoring local vendors

The City of Dallas is considering a change in its procurement procedures that would favor local vendors. The recommendation would allow local contractors to bid up to 5 percent higher than non-local vendors and still be able to capture city contracts under specific circumstances. Noting that such a change would benefit the local economy by keeping local dollars with local vendors, most of the City Council members apparently support the change. To view details of the presentation to the City Council, click here.


Collaboration Nation

Rossi leaving post at Fort Bliss for new job in D.C.

Brig. Gen. John G. Rossi, commander of the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Bliss, recently won reassignment as director of the Quadrennial Defense Review in Washington, D.C.


Department of Defense officials also selected Brig. Gen. James H. Dickinson, commanding general of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Shaffer in Hawaii, to replace Rossi as the commanding general at the Army base located near El Paso.


Rossi, a veteran of the conflict in Iraq, previously served as deputy commanding general for fires and effects for the III Corps in Fort Hood.


Kent Hance Chapel on Texas Tech campus completed

Kent HanceAn official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony was recently held marking the completion of the Kent R. Hance Chapel on the campus of Texas Tech University. Funded through private gifts from numerous donors, the project cost more than $3.5 million. "The new chapel is a wonderful addition to our university," Hance (pictured) said. "Not only is this going to be a special place for so many of our students, alumni and friends to enjoy, it also serves as a beautiful cornerstone to the Texas Tech campus."


The non-denominational chapel will be used for a range of both religious and non-religious services, including weddings, funerals, memorial services and other events. The facility will seat 250 guests and is available to all faiths. The nearly 7,000-square-foot chapel features Spanish Renaissance architectural style, has a tower, 14 stained glass windows and an outdoor courtyard.


Construction of the chapel began in May of last year. Revenues generated by the chapel, along with an endowment set up by private donors, will be used for operational expenses. No taxpayer funds were used to construct the chapel.


Contracting Opportunities

Edmonds, Fontenot could be leaving Houston Port Authority

Port of Houston Authority Chair Jim Edmonds, whose term expires this month, may not be reappointed. The Houston Chronicle reports that Houston Mayor Annise Parker and some members of the commissioner's court have hinted that Edmonds, who has been chair since 1996, and fellow Port Commissioner Jim Fonteno, Jr. may be on their way out.


The Chronicle reports that the commissioner's court already is interviewing possible replacements for Fontenot, who has served since 1999.


TSTC opens new aerospace center expanding course offerings
Aero Dedication
Connally Aerospace Center

With the opening of the new 82,000-square-foot Col. James T. Connally Aerospace Center (pictured) at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco and classes having begun there last month, the college is increasing its ability to deliver world-class aviation and aerospace education and training.


The TSTC Waco Airport opened in 1942 as the Waco Army Air Field. The name was changed in 1949 in memory of Connally, a local pilot killed in a B-29 raid over Japan. The state began sharing the facility with the Air Force in 1965 when TSTC was established as the then-Texas State Technical Institute.


Since then, through upgrades and innovation, the facility has been helping provide training to meet the workforce needs of the future.


The airport features a dual runway with a new operational control tower and is the largest airport in the United States that is both owned and operated by a two-year public education institution. It has a full-service flight facility with two parallel runways, a nearly 15-acre ramp and an airport FBO to provide gas. The upgrades and expansion have led to high-tech training for students in FAA-certified aviation programs and aerospace operations such as aviation maintenance, air traffic control, avionics, aircraft dispatch and aircraft pilot training. The newly opened center will address workforce needs of industry partners, including composite materials, air logistics, aircraft interior and aerospace operations. Grant funding for the facility was provided by the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corporation, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Bellmead Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Hadley tapped for American Assoc. of Community Colleges

Erma Johnson HadleyChancellor Erma Johnson Hadley (pictured) of Tarrant County Community College recently won selection to the board of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The board directs the AACC, an advocacy group that represents nearly 1,200 institutions that grant two-year associate degrees.


AACC, based in Washington, D.C., promotes community and junior colleges serving more than 13 million students through innovative programs, research, information and outreach, Hadley said. Hadley began her career as a teacher 41 years ago.


Hadley now serves on the boards of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the Tarrant County Hospital District and the North Texas Commission. She has a bachelor's degree from Prairie View A&M University, a master's degree from Bowling Green University and completed the Seminar for New Presidents at Harvard University.


Amarillo group leases city-owned land for new hotel

The Amarillo Local Government Corp. (ALGC) recently approved a contract to lease city-owned property in the downtown area to build a new $69.3 million convention center hotel and parking garage in a public-private partnership.


Plans call for the corporation to sublease the land to a Sugar Land-based developer to build a 270- to 300-room hotel, a $14.4 million parking garage with retail space on the ground floor in addition to a $30.3 million baseball stadium as part of a $113 million downtown redevelopment plan.


City officials plan to lease the hotel to a hotel operator and ALGC will manage construction on the hotel for the city, which will retain ownership of the hotel. Before construction can begin, the developer must present the city with the design plan, an estimate of the budget and verification that private financing is available for the construction phase of the hotel and parking garage project, city officials said. Construction should be completed within three years once the hotel project breaks ground.


TAMU-San Antonio to offer training program for school principals

School Leadership ConsortiumOfficials of Texas A&M University-San Antonio recently signed an agreement with three school districts in San Antonio to create a new School Leadership Consortium, a program that trains educators to serve as principals. The three school districts are Southside Independent School District, East Central ISD and Harlandale ISD.


The consortium is a collaboration of UTSA, the school districts, community colleges and business partners that will work together in the program open to all employees of the three school districts. The consortium is expected to open in fall 2012 and help students complete a master's degree in school administration in two years.


In the accompanying photo, Dr. Maria Hernandez Ferrier applauds as Dr. Patti Birney, assistant superintendent of East Central ISD signs the MOU to establish an innovative principal preparation program called the School Leadership Consortium. Dr. Juan Jasso, superintendent of Southside ISD (far left) and Kathy Bruck, executive director of Curriculum & Instruction of Harlandale (far right) look on.


May 2012 Tx Bond Elections

Houston police request new downtown criminal justice campus

A Houston police commander recently requested the city council to consider replacing the current outdated and overcrowded jail, courts and patrol building located on Riesner Street and replace it with a new criminal justice campus.


Because the estimate is $55 million to renovate current facilities, police officials urged council to demolish the 60-year-old building with air conditioners mounted in its windows, outdated boilers and corroded plumbing as the building is not adequate for technology now critical to police work, said Kirk Munden, executive assistant police chief.


Munden did not present a price estimate for the new police campus, but the city's finance director said the cost to build a new campus would be substantial. City officials have allotted $25 million for upgrades to public safety facilities for the next five years. Council took no action on the request, but city officials are studying a bond issue this fall that could include funding for police facilities.


Austin not likely to face November urban rail bond vote after all

Lee LeffingwellSaying there are too many unknowns to respond to questions Austin voters will likely be asking, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (pictured) said recently that he will not support a November bond election on the issue. "We do not yet have a sufficient level of certainty regarding a plan to fund and manage operations and maintenance of an urban rail system," Leffingwell wrote on his Web site. "We also do not yet have the degree of certainty that I would like to see as it relates to a prospective federal funding match for construction costs, which is a fundamental need."


Leffingwell said the citizens of the city would be asked to approve an initial investment of $275 million toward the first phase costs of $550 million. The mayor said that given the upcoming bond issue being planned in the city, an electric rate increase being discussed and the possibility of spending cuts or a tax increase, he does not feel comfortable in seeking yet another bond issue in today's economy. "It's my strong feeling that 2012 is not the right time to bring urban rail to the ballot."


Leffingwell did say, however, that he is confident the urban rail issue will eventually be brought before city voters and will still be operational between 2019 and 2021.


Cleburne ISD eyeing $10 million bond election

Trustees for the Cleburne Independent School District recently began considering calling a $10 million bond election within the next year and a half to pay for safety and security upgrades and other improvements to facilities.


Trustees plan to use the proposed bonds to upgrade software, repair roofs, create a safe loading zone for buses at the high school, repair running tracks at two middle schools, repair a gymnasium floor at a middle school, buy new choir risers and shells to replace aging equipment and paint some facilities. District officials also said a $10 million bond issue would not require trustees to raise property taxes.


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Keller approves $8.63 million for jail facility, animal center

Keller City Council members recently agreed to issue $6.5 million in certificates of obligation to pay for an $8.63 million project that includes remodeling a 12,000-square-foot jail holding facility and renovations to the animal shelter and adoption center. The remaining costs will be paid for by a quarter-cent sales tax assessed by the Keller Crime Control and Prevention District, city officials said.


Plans call for renovating about a 9,000-square-foot area of the jail and court space to create an animal shelter and adoption center to serve city residents as well as residents of Colleyville, Southlake and Westlake.


Houston Councilman Sullivan will resign next month

Mike SullivanHouston City Councilman Mike Sullivan (pictured) is planning to give his fellow Council members plenty of time to replace him when he resigns next month. Sullivan, who won the recent Republican primary for the post of Harris County tax assessor-collector, said his resignation will be effective Jan. 1, 2013. That is when the new county tax assessor-collector, which could be Sullivan or his Democratic opponent, will be sworn in. If Sullivan were to win, he cannot, by law, hold both offices. His resignation will be effective whether he wins or loses in the General Election.


The advance notice will allow the Council time to put a candidate for his Council position on the November ballot and avoid the cost of a special election. The Council has until Aug. 8 to add a City Council race to the November ballot. Currently serving his third term on the Council, Sullivan would be prohibited from running again because of term limits.


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Feds OK use of commuter rail cars on Denton County rail line

The Federal Railroad Administration recently approved a waiver to allow the A-train commuter rail line in Denton County to use new commuter rail cars resembling streetcars on a track previously limited to freight trains.


The new A-Train commuter rail cars are durable enough to use the same tracks as freight trains or the Trinity Railway Express and are engineered to disperse energy to minimize injuries if a crash occurs, Denton transportation officials said. Until the new rail cars are available, the transportation agency is using rail cars on loan from Trinity Railway Express that were used on its 21-mile route connecting Denton and Carrollton. The new rail cars will be added gradually after testing is completed.


El Paso approves route for proposed downtown trolley

El Paso City Council members recently approved a preliminary 5.2-mile route for a proposed trolley system connecting the downtown area with The University of Texas at El Paso.


The route selection is part of a $1.3 million study that council members approved earlier for a proposed streetcar system serving downtown and is required for the city to apply for $90 million in state funding to help pay for the trolley system. City officials selected a Nevada-based consultant to perform the design and environmental study, which must completed by September.


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O'Donohoe resigns as planning director in Galveston

Wendy O'Donohoe, the director of the planning department in Galveston, recently resigned from the job she has held for 11 years. O'Donohoe is leaving to accept employment with the Office of Development of The University of Texas Medical Branch, she said.


City officials appointed Lori Schwarz, the assistant director of planning and special projects, to act as interim planning director once Schwarz leaves the post responsible for overseeing planning and development. That job ensures compliance with strict rules for preservation districts and where development near beaches often must comply with both federal and state regulations.


City officials also are still searching for a new director of economic development, a director of finance and a police chief. Henry Porretto is serving as the interim chief of police and Judy Murphy is the acting director of finance until those posts are filled.


Nabers book signing slated at BookPeople in Austin in July

A second Austin book-signing featuring Mary Scott Nabers and her book, Collaboration Nation: How Public-Private Ventures are Revolutionizing the Business of Government, is slated for Tuesday, July 24, in Austin. Those who missed her earlier Austin event can participate in a book signing with the author beginning at 7 p.m. on that date at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar in Austin. The book signing is free and open to the public, unless otherwise stated. To get a book signed at the event, a copy of the event book must be purchased from BookPeople. Those who cannot attend the event can pre-order a signed copy on the BookPeople Web site. For more information about the book, click here.


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


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.

Media Notice

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Convention centers, hotels can help boost local economies


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


City leaders throughout Texas are following a national trend as they seek innovative ways to generate much-needed revenue. They are turning to public-private partnerships to finance and construct facilities that attract visitors and out-of-town revenue. And convention and conference centers are at the top of the list of attractive projects.


Anything that draws tourists or visitors to a community is considered a valuable economic asset. Not only does the cash infusion help local business owners, but the additional sales tax revenues also come back into the coffers of cities, counties and special districts to help fill budget gaps.


Numerous Texas cities have initiated public-private partnerships (P3s) to build revenue-generating facilities. The city of Dallas owns the new Dallas Omni Hotel, which is located adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center, but it was financed, constructed and will be operated and managed by Omni Hotels and Resorts. A public-private partnership also made the $66 million hotel and conference center in Lubbock possible.


Just this week, the Amarillo Local Government Corp. leased city-owned land to a private developer, where a nearly $70 million convention center hotel and a $13 million parking garage will be built. Once the hotel is constructed, it will be owned by the city and leased long-term to a hotel operator. The developer will share in the resulting revenues over a period of years.

In all cases, local job creation climbs and local businesses benefit from all the activity related to the construction projects. The salaries of hotel and conference center employees will circulate in the community as well. Additionally, most cities impose a hotel occupancy tax on rooms and these revenues go directly into city budgets.


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City of Wharton looking at upgrades to wastewater plant

Andre GarzaThe City of Wharton is gearing up to discuss necessary upgrades to its wastewater treatment plants as the city faces having to reapply for permits in 2014 from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. City officials say those upgrades could cost upwards of $1.5 million. City Manager Andres Garza (pictured) recently told the City Council that numerous upgrades will be necessary to meet the permit requirements.


The wastewater and water treatment plants were among a number of existing facilities that were the subject of a recent energy audit of city facilities. The audit addressed HVAC systems, lighting buildings, water fixtures, traffic signals and building automation. All were subject of studies to show deficiencies that if corrected could cut city energy usage and save money.


El Paso seeking private partner to develop former mall property

With a goal of creating a public-private partnership to develop a former mall site, El Paso city officials recently approved $1 million to demolish the abandoned Northpark Mall, a library building and a movie theater.


City officials previously paid $6 million to acquire the 23-acre abandoned mall property. Plans are to develop a master plan for the site and request proposals from developers who may want to buy or lease the site in the late fall, City Manager Joyce Wilson said. The demolition should be complete in January.


Port Arthur selects Johnson, Rose as finalists for city manager

Floyd JohnsonPort Arthur City Council members recently selected Floyd Johnson (top) and Gregory Rose (bottom) as the finalists for city manager. The new city manager will replace Steve Fitzgibbons, who left that post in January.


Council members plan this week to interview the two finalists and hold a public reception to permit citizens to meet them, but have not announced a date for selecting the new city manager.


Gregory RoseJohnson currently is director of the North West District of the Pompano Beach Redevelopment Agency in Florida and was a former city manager in Fort Lauderdale and Richmond, California. Rose currently serves as president of a Dallas-based company, Rose Consulting Group, LLC, that provides consulting serves to governments and other organizations. He previously served as a city administrator in Hyattsville, Maryland, and a city manager in North Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Refugio hires superintendent

for its wastewater plant

Dave Furzer has been hired by the city of Refugio as the new superintendent of the city's wastewater treatment plant. His hiring follows the resignation of two employees of the plant. Since their resignations, the city has been using the services of its engineering firm, LNV Engineering, to supply the credentials necessary to run the plant.


Furzer was working under LNV at the plant before the city chose to make him a city employee. The city is required to have a certified operator at the plant.


Mission could seek feasibility study for convention center

Alex MeadeA new convention center could be in Mission's future. The Mission Economic Development Corp. will soon vote on whether to secure a feasibility study regarding a possible convention center in the city. If the EDC votes for paying for the $100,000 study, it will also have to be signed off on by the city.


Noting the continued growth of the city, Mission EDC CEO Alex Meade (pictured) called a convention center a "staple" for cities the size of Mission. A feasibility study would determine if the city and the EDC could afford to build a convention center and what size it would need. It would also take into consideration the fact that several area cities already have convention centers. Meade noted that a convention center not only would attract conventions and other events, but also likely increase the city's hotel and sales tax revenues from out-of-town visitors.


Alexander resigns as city manager for city of Bonham

Corby Alexander, the city manager in Bonham, recently resigned after serving in that post since April 2007. Council members were expected to meet this week to accept the resignation.


Lumberton ISD selects Chandler as new assistant superintendent

Gerald ChandlerTrustees for Lumberton Independent School District recently selected Gerald Chandler (pictured), a middle school principal, to be the new assistant.


Chandler, who joined the district in 2002, will fill the post that has been vacant since John Valasco was promoted to superintendent in 2011. 


Northrop Grumman

Orangefield selects Patterson

as lone superintendent finalist

Stephen PattersonDr. Stephen Patterson (pictured), director of curriculum for the Orangefield ISD and a 10-year veteran in the school district, has been named the lone finalist for the superintendent position. He will replace former Superintendent Phillip Welch, who resigned in March. Since that time, Kay Karr has been serving as interim superintendent.


Patterson holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Lamar University and a doctorate from Stephen F. Austin State University.


Socorro ISD appoints O'Neill

as interim superintendent

Board members for Socorro Independent School District recently appointed Pat O'Neill as the interim superintendent to replace Xavier De La Torre, who is resigning to become county superintendent in Santa Clara County, California. O'Neill, who is assistant superintendent for administrative services, will assume the interim role on June 21, and plans to return to that post once trustees select a new superintendent.


Board members hired a search firm to help find a new superintendent and plan to interview two or three applicants as well as hold community forums with the finalists in July and then name a lone finalist by July 31, a spokesman for the district said.


Pflugerville ISD taps Galow

as new deputy superintendent

Troy GalowPflugerville Independent School District board members recently named Troy Galow (pictured) as the new deputy superintendent. Galow is the deputy superintendent at Copperas Cove ISD and previously held several posts at Leander ISD. He is expected to begin his new duties on June 18.


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Shockley picked to serve

as CEO of El Paso Electric

Thomas ShockleyThomas Shockley (pictured), who served as interim chief executive officer of El Paso Electric since February, recently won selection to permanently fill that post for the publicly owned utility. Shockley replaces David Stevens, who left that post.

Shockley previously served about two years as a member of the board of directors of El Paso Electric and originally said he had no interest in pursuing the permanent post. In May, however, Shockley asked board members to consider him for the post.


Willow Park preparing

to name new city administrator

Willow Park City Council members recently agreed to find a new city administrator and transfer the current city administrator, Candy Scott, into the newly created position as budget and financial analyst. Scott, a city employee for 12 years, began as an administrator assistant, served as city secretary and was named as city administrator in 2009.


The realignment permits the city to search for a new city administrator with a college degree and some experience, said city officials, who plan to hire a search firm to find a new city administrator within two to three months, the mayor pro tem said.


Texas Government Insider Archives
Volume 1-10 Archives - 11/7/03 - 6/1/12

Sharyland ISD selects Richter

as finalist for superintendent

Virginia RichterSharyland Independent School District trustees recently selected Virginia Richter (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Richter currently is an administrator for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district. Richter, who also teaches a training course for principals at the University of Texas-Pan American, began as a teacher at Mission ISD. On July 1, she will replace former Superintendent Scott Owings, who resigned in February.


Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Pam Rollins of Dallas, Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders;
  • Stephanie Sokolosky of Harlingen. Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders;
  • Vickie Mitchell of Montgomery, Continuing Advisory Committee for Special Education;
  • Debbie Unruh of Austin, Continuing Advisory Committee for Special Education;
  • Erin Wilder of Pflugerville, Continuing Advisory Committee for Special Education;
  • Gregory Wilhelm of Midlothian, chair, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • John P. Combs of Liberty Hill, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Harold C. Gaither Jr. of Quinlan, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Lois Gamble of Austin, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Rachel R. Logue of Georgetown, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Franklin "Scott" Spears of Austin, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Jennifer Tharp of New Braunfels, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Raymond Wheless of Allen, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Cecilia M. Wood of Austin, Parental Rights Advisory Panel;
  • Mackenzie Kelly of Austin, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Aaron W. Bangor of Austin, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Rodolfo "Rudy" Becerra Jr. of Nacogdoches, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Margaret Larsen of Austin, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Patty Watson of Flower Mound, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities;
  • Cathleen Parsley of Austin, chief administrative law judge, Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings;
  • Alan D. Conner of Dayton, Coastal Water Authority Board of Directors;
  • J. Brett Busby of Houston, justice of the 14th Court of Appeals in Harris County.

Jaklich resigns position as superintendent at Harlandale ISD

Robert JaklichSuperintendent Robert "Bob" Jaklich (pictured) of Harlandale Independent School District recently resigned from that post to serve as the new superintendent at Victoria ISD.


Jaklich joined Harlandale ISD in 1997 where he served as a principal and administrator until named as superintendent in 2002. He has a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's University, a master's degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville and a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin.


Round Rock ISD selects Salazar-Zamora as deputy superintendent

Round Rock Independent School District officials recently selected Martha Salazar-Zamora as the deputy superintendent of instruction and administration. Salazar-Zamora, who has been an educator at Houston ISD and in South Texas for 25 years, replaces Deputy Superintendent Toni Garcia, who is retiring.


Jim Haley selected to serve

as Cuero ISD superintendent

Jim HaleyJim Haley (pictured) recently won selection as superintendent for Cuero Independent School District. He is an assistant superintendent at Sweeney ISD and previously was superintendent at Damon ISD and Waelder ISD. Haley graduated from Abilene Christian University and Sul Ross State University.


San Felipe Del Rio CISD taps Ruark-Ackermann for interim post

Board members for the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District recently selected JoAnne Ruark-Ackermann, the former chief financial officer for the school district, to serve as the interim superintendent for the district.


Pampa ISD selects Young as finalist for superintendent

David YoungBoard members of Pampa Independent School District recently selected David Young (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Young will replace Superintendent Barry Haenisch, who is retiring.


Young previously served as a teacher and administrator at Bryan ISD and an assistant superintendent at Midway ISD.


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Boyd School District accepts 

superintendent's resignation

Boyd School District Superintendent John Emshoff has resigned, effective June 30. The board of trustees has not yet appointed an interim superintendent, but planned to meet this week to discuss the search. Emshoff was superintendent at Boyd for more than two years, after having previously served as assistant principal and high school principal.


Meyersville ISD taps Herrington

as its new superintendent

Tina HerringtonTrustees for the Meyersville Independent School District trustees recently selected Tina Herrington (pictured) as the new superintendent. She begins her new duties on June 6.


Herrington currently is a principal at Schulenburg ISD and previously worked as a teacher and administrator for school districts in Weimar, Sealy and Goliad. She will replace Superintendent Laura Whitson, who is retiring at the end of this school year after 25 years as an educator.


South San Antonio ISD hires 

firm to find superintendent

South San Antonio Independent School District trustees recently approved spending $22,000 plus travel and other expenses to hire an Illinois-based search firm to find a new superintendent.


The next step is to meet with search firm officials to decide on a timeline for the search. The board president, however, said trustees might decide to wait until next year to begin the search as they were warned that attracting superintendents currently employed is a challenge, as those superintendents are unlikely to leave at the beginning of a new school year.


Arlington superintendent's contract not renewed

Jerry McCulloughArlington ISD Superintendent Jerry McCullough's (pictured) career with the school district was ended Thursday night as the school board voted not to renew his contract. A separation agreement was approved that allows McCullough to remain on administrative leave with pay and benefits until his contract ends in January. Deputy Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos was named interim superintendent.


Plano ISD selects Fortenberry

as new chief financial officer

Trustees for the Plano Independent School District recently selected Stephen Fortenberry as the new chief financial officer. He replaces former CFO Richard Matkin, who is the new superintendent for the district.


Fortenberry, who begins his new job on July 2, currently is the chief financial officer at McKinney ISD. He also worked as an accountant and assistant director of finance at three other school districts. Fortenberry has a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University.


Steck named to take over as

superintendent for Marlin ISD

Michael SteckTrustees for the Marlin Independent School District recently selected Michael Steck (pictured) as the new superintendent. Steck previously was superintendent at Veribest ISD and served as an administrator at Lueders-Avoca ISD and Hawley ISD. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston and a master's degree and Ph.D. from Lamar University.


City Administrator Thomas

to retire at Fair Oaks Ranch

After 20 years of service to the city of Fair Oaks Ranch, City Administrator Roy Thomas has announced his retirement. His retirement date has been set for January of next year. Thomas said the timing will be perfect for the city to bring in a new administrator to help implement the city's eight-year plan.


Como-Pickton CISD selects Handlin as superintendent

Kay HandlinThe board of the Como-Pickton Consolidated Independent School District recently selected Dr. Kay Handlin (pictured) as superintendent. Handlin previously was an assistant superintendent at Daingerfield-Lone Star ISD and also employed by Hughes Spring ISD, Malakoff ISD and Marshall ISD.


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