Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 29- Friday, July 27, 2012

More than $780 million in grants go to transit infrastructure


Funds totaling $46 million to provide upgrades, modernizations in Texas

DART Buses
DART will receive $12 million in FTA funding for new cleaner burning compressed natural gas buses.

Approximately $46 million in federal funding is headed to Texas as part of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) programs aimed at modernizing and replacing aging transit facilities and vehicles. The Texas share is part of a total of $780 million distributed nationwide to help fund projects in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.


One example of the funding coming to Texas is the $12 million the Dallas Area Rapid Transit will receive. DART will use the money to replace aging diesel and liquid natural gas buses with new cleaner burning compressed natural gas buses. The new buses will be low floor and wheel chair equipped and will improve fuel economy, save costs and reduce emissions.


This is the third round of funding that is part of the FTA's State of Good Repair and Bus Livability program. For this round of funding, the FTA was inundated by 836 applications that together requested $4 billion in funding. For fiscal years 2010 and 2011, FTA awarded a total of more than $1.8 billion in grants for hundreds of projects relating to buses and bus facilities.


FTA officials said this new investment will allow those who depend on public transit to have a more reliable, safe mode of travel. To view the complete list of projects funded nationwide by state, click here.

Other projects funded in Texas include:

  • City of Lubbock/Citibus Facility Rehabilitation - $875,000 - Citibus will use funds for the rehabilitation of its maintenance facility, which was originally built in 1932. The rehabilitation of the project will include the replacement of the HVAC, plumbing, carpet, roof, underground storage tanks, garage doors, as well as the reconstruction.
  • Concho Valley Rural Transit District (San Angelo) - $860,800 - The Concho Valley Transit District will replace transit vehicles in its fleet that have met or exceeded their useful lives. Replacement of these vehicles will ensure continued safe, reliable transit operations and lower maintenance costs.
  • Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority - $160,000 - Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority will replace a bus wash facility. The new facility features a water reclamation system, which will improve efficiency and reduce water consumption.



TWDB approves more than $6.32 million for water projects

More than $6.32 million in financial assistance was recently approved by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) today approved financial assistance for projects for four Texas cities. The funding includes:

  • City of Brady - $2,651,990, including a loan of $1.21 million and $1,441,990 in loan forgiveness for planning and designing five major projects. They include major improvements at the city's wastewater treatment plant, creation of a wastewater reuse pipeline, a reuse pipeline to deliver wastewater back to Brady Creek Reservoir, a collection system to protect the city's water supplies from failing septic systems and a second wastewater treatment plant to treat the flows collected around the Brady lake.
  • City of Breckenridge - $2,384,878, including a loan in the amount of $1.68 million and $704,878 in loan forgiveness from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to finance water system improvements. The city plans to rehabilitate the chemical feed system, the solids contact clarifiers and dual media filters. The project will also add a third dual media filter as well as a number of other improvements required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
  • City of Cumby - $695,000 loan from the Texas Water Development Fund to finance water and wastewater system improvements. The funding will be used for design and construction phases of both a water and a wastewater project and includes relocation of 2,500 feet of water and wastewater lines and replacement of approximately 1,000 feet of 8-inch waterline with 10-inch waterline.
  • City of Grand Prairie - $582,000, including a loan of $495,000 and $87,000 in loan forgiveness from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements. The funds will be used to replace and enlarge 3,950 feet of deteriorated trunk sewer to prevent sanitary sewer overflows within the sewer system.

Contractor to be chosen in January for MoPac toll project

Officials with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority are expecting to pick a design and construction contractor for the MoPac Boulevard toll lane project in Austin by January of next year. Federal environmental clearance for the project is expected in September and officials are shooting for an early spring construction start on the $200 million project. The project will add a toll lane to each side of MoPac (Loop 1) from Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane.


Comal commissioners authorize issue of bonds for 281 project

Comal County commissioners recently approved the issuance of $14.9 million in bonds that will lead to widening of US 281 north of the Guadalupe River. The two-lane roadway will be expanded into a divided, four-lane highway to the Blanco County line. It has already been widened south of the Guadalupe River into San Antonio. Officials expect the project, which will include 5.6 miles of roadway, to begin in January of next year and take more than two years to complete.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Dean DanosDean J. Danos, executive director, Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG)


Career highlights and education: On Oct. 26, 2011, the Board of Directors selected Dean J. Danos as the Alamo Area Council of Governments' (AACOG) fourth executive director. Danos joined AACOG in August 1998 as a deputy director. Previous to joining AACOG, Danos served in a senior management capacity for the Raytheon Corporation in charge of the C-21 (Learjet) program worldwide. In addition, Danos had a distinguished military career of 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, serving as a command pilot before retiring with a rank of colonel. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Science in information systems management from Golden Gate University and is a graduate of the Air Force Air War College.


What I like best about my job is: I am surrounded by individuals with incredible capacity and passion to serve.

The best advice I've received for my current job is:  Listen. Collaborate. Develop and nurture relationships with partners.


Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Be passionate about the work you do - serve others. Know that every decision you make has an impact on someone. 


If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: on the golf course, practicing to make the U.S. Open.


People would be surprised to know that I: continue to enjoy listening to the Righteous Brothers; however, Neil Diamond is still my favorite music artist.

One thing I wish more people knew about AACOG: As a regional entity serving the 12 counties (Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Frio, Gillespie, Guadalupe, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Medina and Wilson) of the Alamo Area region, AACOG is involved in so many areas or sectors that impact everyone on a daily basis. We have programs that address aging, criminal justice/planning, economic development, homeland security, housing, intellectual and developmental disabilities, law enforcement academy, natural resources, rural transportation, weatherization, workforce and 9-1-1, to name a few.


Hunter selected as new director of TPWD Law Enforcement Division

Craig HunterA 38-year law enforcement veteran, Craig Hunter (pictured), has been selected to head up the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division. He will become colonel of the department on Aug. 1, replacing the recently retired Pete Flores. David Sinclair has been serving as acting colonel since Flores' retirement at the end of May. Sinclair will retire from the department on July 31 after four decades of service.


Craig HunterHunter was previously second-in-command of Texas' game wardens. In his role as colonel and Law Enforcement Division director, Hunter will be responsible for 532 state game wardens, fully commissioned peace officers whose focus is on conservation laws.


 Hunter joined TPWD in 1984 as a game warden and moved up in the ranks of the department. He currently oversees all law enforcement field operations for the department. He served as major in charge of the TPWD Internal Affairs Unit and Executive Production Team before being promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2006. Before beginning his career with TPWD, Hunter was a patrol officer for the Temple and Irving police departments. He also served a stint with the Lampasas County and Bell County sheriff's departments.


Hunter holds an associate degree in law enforcement from Temple Junior College and bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice from Texas A&M Central Texas. Hunter also holds a commission as an agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Another Texas roadway designated as segment of proposed I-69

Ted HoughtonAnother section of Texas roadway - US 59 from north of the Liberty County line to I-610 north in Houston, has been designated as a segment of Interstate 69. The 35-mile stretch of highway is concurrent with US 59 in that area and continues the development of I-69 in Texas. The designation was approved this week by the Texas Transportation Commission.


The Commission also approved $150 million for several I-69 upgrade projects, including a $60 million redesign and construction to interstate standards of a roadway between Driscoll and the north side of Kingsville. "The continual progress made on this project moves us closer to the development of this national transportation corridor," said Ted Houghton (pictured), Texas Transportation Commission Chairman. "The partnerships forged between local, state and federal officials all along this corridor are helping to move this project along at a brisk pace."


As a result of Commission action, the Texas Department of Transportation will soon issue an RFP seeking developers to upgrade a segment of US 77 to between Kingsville and Driscoll as part of the I-69 plan. Four groups of developers have been put on a short list for the project, with the contract expected to be awarded in the fall under design-build and capital maintenance agreements. They include: Route 77 Constructors - J.D. Abrams, L.P. and Haas-Anderson Construction, LTD; Austin Bridge & Road, L.P; Webber, LLC; and Anderson Columbia Co., Inc.


The Texas portion of I-69 represents more than half the total length of the national interstate, or 1,100 miles of the 1,800-mile route.


Nabers guest for BookPeople signing for 'Collaboration Nation'


Will be speaker for Irving event Aug. 2 with book signing following her address

Book People
Mary Scott Nabers speaks to a crowd gathered at a book signing event for her new book Collaboration Nation.

After a book signing this week at BookPeople in Austin, Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships and author of Collaboration Nation, will be among the speakers for next week's Governor's North Texas Small Business Forum & Business Expo. The event is slated for Thursday, Aug. 2, in Irving from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


The forum and expo will be at the Irving Convention Center, 500 West Las Colinas Blvd. in Irving. Nabers, who will be one of several industry experts who will speak during the event, will address "Building Bridges Between Government and Business."


The Austin businesswoman and entrepreneur has been involved in the business of partnering private firms with public entities for the last 16 years, resulting in her clients securing billions of dollars' worth of government contracts.


The luncheon keynote speaker will be Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, principal owner, president and CEO of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Sponsorships and booth space are available. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased online at IrvingChamber.com.  For more information on the event and to register, click here. Nabers will have a book signing for her new book immediately following her address.


Nabers' book is available at amazon.com.


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Carnahan ends 40-year higher education career with retirement

Francette CarnahanDr. Francette Carnahan (pictured), vice chancellor at the Texas State Technical College System for the last 12 years, will end four decades of service as an administrator and executive in Texas higher education institutions when she retires at the end of August.


As an advisor and project manager for major software conversions, Carnahan worked with numerous higher education institutions both in state and nationally including Dallas County Community College District, Amarillo College, South Dakota State Board of Regents and Central Piedmont Community College, North Carolina, and others.


She began that service as a student secretary at the University of North Texas in 1972 and later served there for six years as associate registrar. She also worked at Grayson County College from 1982-1988 as evening administrator, coordinator of planning and associate vice president for Admissions and Records. In 1988, she was a member of the founding executive team for Lone Star College-Tomball, serving 10 years as vice president for student development and later as vice president for community and economic development.


Carnahan holds her bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of North Texas.


TEA approves plan to raise $1.7 billion for public schools

Texas Education Agency (TEA) officials recently approved a new 3.3 percent distribution plan for the $25 billion Permanent School Fund for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 as well as adopting a new investment plan for the fund used to help fund public education in Texas.


TEA board members made changes in the long term strategic asset allocation plan that call for decreasing investments in equities from 50 percent to 46 percent, increasing investments in fixed income assets from 15 percent to 17 percent and increasing alternative investments from 35 percent to 37 percent.


The new plan is expected to generate a payout to public schools in Texas of about $830 million a year to pay for public school expenses and instructional materials, according to TEA officials. The Texas Permanent School Fund is the second largest education endowment in the United States.


Price to leave post as president of UNT-Dallas in 2013

John Ellis PricePresident John Ellis Price (pictured) recently notified officials of the University of North Texas System that he plans to leave as president of the University of North Texas at Dallas in August 2013 when his three-year contract expires.


Price, who led efforts for UNT to establish a presence in Dallas, has served as CEO since UNT-Dallas opened in 2001 in rented space at a business park with 55 students. It now has 2,000 students enrolled at a 264-acre campus in south Dallas.


Price previously served as the KPMG Professor of Taxation and chair of the Department of Accounting at UNT in Denton, professor and dean of the School of Business at Jackson State University, assistant professor of accounting at the University of Southern Mississippi and as an internal revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service. Price earned a Ph.D. UNT in Denton and his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi.


Midland ISD will need $163 million to upgrade, build new facilities

An architect recently informed trustees for the Midland Independent School District that it would cost an estimated $163 million to build three new campuses, renovate elementary schools and upgrade technology in order to meet enrollment growth.


A similar plan presented by district staff in February carried a $158 million price tag, about $4.5 million less than the plan backed by consultants. Presented in February by Superintendent Ryder Warren, the staff plan called for building three new elementary schools, renovating one elementary school into an alternative school, installing water wells and spending $7 million to upgrade technology.


The plan by architects would result in 167 new classrooms and deletes an estimated $5.8 million from one proposed school renovation, reduces funding for water wells by $1.8 million and adds a $4.8 million contingency budget. The revised proposal also calls for a 93,500-square-foot school rather than the 85,000-square-foot facility proposed by district staff. The larger, 40-room elementary schools would then cost about $23.4 million each including $1 million set aside to purchase sites, build roads and extend utilities.


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Montgomery County to spend $15.2 million for airport, road projects

John Ellis PriceMontgomery County Commissioners recently approved the issue of $15.2 million in certificates of obligation to pay for a runway project and several road projects. County officials agreed to issue the debt after a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration expected to pay a third of the cost of the project was not yet available. The project needs to move forward, the county judge said.


County officials plan to extend the primary runway at the Lone Star Executive Airport from 6,000 feet to 7,500 feet, said Scott Smith, the general manager of the airport.


About $6 million of the funding will go for road projects that include upgrading four asphalt roads between US59 and Loop 494 and building a new road to connect US59 at the Valley Ranch subdivision with the Grand Parkway.


Cruz tapped as new public relations officer for Coastal Bend College

Officials of Coastal Bend College recently named Monica Cruz as the new public relations officer.


Cruz previously worked as the community liaison for Drug Free Communities Program with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and for the student services department at Coastal Bend College. Cruz holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.


Corpus Christi city manager urges $55 million bond proposal

Ron OlsonCiting critical needs such as street repair, building maintenance and park upgrades, Corpus Christi City Manager Ron Olson (pictured) recently urged city council to ask voters to approve a $55 million bond proposal in November. He also urged waiting to ask voters to approve an additional $60 million to help pay for a proposed multi-use park on the bay front.


Council members have discussed asking voters to approve funding to pay for operation and maintenance of a proposed 34-acre, $72.5 million Destination Bayfront, an effort to ramp up economic development and provide more recreation choices. Voters may balk on approving such a large bond proposal and reject sorely needed critical projects, Olson warned.


The city manager also asked council to work with city staff to prioritize and select projects addressing the three critical issues and ensure that Destination Bayfront supporters are ready to gather enough private funding to match public funding for the proposed public-private partnership. Olson urged council to propose $45 million of the proposed $55 million bond issue be used to improve streets, $5 million for maintaining buildings and $5 million for improvements to irrigation systems at city parks. Council members agreed that street repairs are the highest priority. Council also rescheduled a public hearing for July 31.



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Federal officials warn Galveston to rebuild 569 housing units

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials recently released a statement instructing Galveston city officials to make concrete steps toward replacing 569 affordable housing units destroyed by Hurricane Ike. The city risks losing federal disaster relief funding allotted for post-hurricane efforts to rebuild following the storm in 2008. The city was allotted about $350 million in disaster recovery funds to pay for replacing housing and $235 million for infrastructure projects.


The written statement issued by U.S. Secretary of Housing Shaun Donovan following a meeting with city officials also cited a legal agreement requiring one-on-one replacement of affordable housing units. State officials signed the conciliation agreement in 2010 after the governor tried to move federal disaster funding to pay for projects in other parts of the state left undamaged by either Hurricane Ike or Dolly. Galveston city officials claimed they were not a party to the agreement and not bound by the signed agreement.


Following the appointment of three new commissioners, Galveston housing authority board members called for a moratorium on the proposed plan to replace housing units lost in the storm. The $235 million set aside for infrastructure projects included funding for a new fire station, fire trucks, a new main wastewater treatment plant and several road and utility projects.


Sabine ISD planning for possible upcoming bond proposal

Stacey BryceCiting the need to replace an elementary school built in the 1930's, Superintendent Stacey Bryce (pictured) of the Sabine Independent School District recently said is he creating a steering committee to plan for a new bond proposal.


Voters in 2009 rejected by 400 votes a $20 million bond proposal to pay for a new $15.8 million elementary school, build a new field house and add softball fields.


The aging elementary school requires expensive maintenance each year and the committee will help determine priorities for facilities upgrades to be included in a future bond election, Bryce said.


Houston hotel project seeking financing assistance through city

The Houston City Council this week delayed action on a vote to authorize the city to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for $7.4 million in funding to help a local developer turn the old circa-1910 Samuel F. Carter downtown building into a luxury hotel. If the funding - $1.8 million of which is a loan and $5.6 million of which is an economic development grant - is made available, a 22-story building on Main Street will be transformed into a JW Marriott hotel.


The developer is planning the $73 million project. If the city decides to apply for the HUD funding and is approved, city officials would turn the money over to the developer. The developer would be responsible for paying the money back with interest. Once paid back, the city could keep the $5.6 million loan repayment for other economic development projects. Alden and Magnolia downtown hotels were financed the same way.


The project financing would also include $31 million in equity from the owner and $35 million in bank debt.


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Judson ISD exploring bond election to address overcrowding

June AdairJudson Independent School District trustees recently began discussion on whether to ask voters to approve bonds to build four new schools to ease overcrowding caused by growing enrollment.


Voters rejected a bond issue less than two years ago and the district officials are using portable buildings for classrooms. A new high school opened in 2010 already has more students than the school was designed to hold, according to Superintendent Willis Mackey. He also said that purchasing portable buildings is a costly option as portable buildings do not last long and must be paid for out of maintenance and operation budgets rather than using bond funds.


Expressing concern over hiring new administrators for the new schools, June Adair (pictured), the board president at the time of the meeting, noted she is unsure about the superintendent's assessment of the need for more new schools. She also suggested expanding existing schools to avoid hiring new principals and other administrators rather than building new schools and redrawing attendance boundaries to make better use of available classroom space. Adair also said the district will need some new schools in the future. Adair has since been censured by her fellow board members and removed from the presidency in light of her recent indictment on two misdemeanor counts of campaign violations.


Marshall ISD hires private company for custodial duties

Marshall Independent School District trustees recently approved a $1.1 million, one-year contract with a private custodial firm, GCA Inc. The company also serves school districts in Plano, Garland, Kaufman and Nacogdoches.


District officials expect the move to a private custodial service will save about $230,000 during the first year of the contract and more than $411,000 over a four-year period if the contract is renewed. The custodial firm, one of six that bid on the contract, also pledged to buy $200,000 for new equipment to improve efficiency and effectiveness, said school officials.


All 38 current custodial employees who pass background checks will receive the same hourly wage now paid by the school district and receive employee-paid benefits, the finance director said. Trustees will re-evaluate the custodial contract to determine its effectiveness before renewing the one-year contract, he added.


Houston ISD wins national recognition for transportation fleet

Nathan GrafThe transportation department of the Houston Independent School District recently won selection for the second year in a row as one of the best 100 transportation fleets in the United States for 2012. HISD transports nearly 29,000 students more than 13 million miles a year in 1,002 school buses in addition to managing a non-school bus fleet of gas and hybrid vehicles that are driven 8 million miles a year.


Government Fleet, a transportation industry magazine, also ranked HISD as 52 on the list, five points higher than last year. HISD also was the only school district in the country to earn a spot on the top 100 list of government fleets. The rankings are judged on performance measures used to evaluate work progress, the ability of employees to voice opinions on procedures and the timing and efficiency for repairing vehicles.


Nathan Graff (pictured), the general manager of transportation for HISD, credited his staff of mechanics, bus drivers and administrators for HISD winning the honor for the second consecutive year.


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Fort Worth gains $22.3M pledge for proposed downtown bridge

Federal, state and local officials recently agreed to raise $22.3 million to begin construction on the proposed White Settlement Road bridge three years ahead of schedule to avoid a possible cost overrun. As a result, construction on the bridge, needed to connect the $909 million Trinity Uptown project with downtown, is expected to begin in summer 2013 rather than in 2016.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Commissioner Bill Meadows of the Texas Department of Transportation, Maribel Chavez, the district engineer for TxDOT in Fort Worth and Michael Morris of the North Central Texas Council of Governments made the pledges so that work on all three bridges in the project will begin next year and be completed in about 2 years. The Trinity Uptown project, expected to be complete in 2021, is an attempt to convert the near north side of Fort Worth into a pedestrian-friendly area with museums, shops and residential areas in addition to providing flood control, economic development, restoration of ecologically sensitive areas and encourage more recreation in and near the river.


Texas Woman's University garners NIH grant for $452,000

Elaine Trudelle-Jackson National Institutes of Health (NIH) Biomedical/Biobehavioral Research Administration Development (BRAD) grants went to only two universities in the nation this year - and one of them is Texas Woman's University. The more than $452,000 grant will be spread out over five years and will be used to develop and support a new Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at TWU's T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences-Dallas Center.


Dr. Elaine Trudelle-Jackson (pictured), TWU professor of physical therapy and principal investigator of the BRAD grant, says the new Dallas office will help increase the amount of interdisciplinary research at the center and encourage collaborative efforts with other medical researchers in the surrounding Southwestern Medical District community.


"Our location, cross-disciplinary offerings in health care and relationships with surrounding institutions such as U.T. Southwestern Medical Center, make TWU¹s Dallas Center ideal to develop clinical research that ultimately will benefit the health of individuals and families in Texas and the nation," said Trudelle-Jackson, who is assembling a steering committee to serve as an advisory board to guide the center's research. 


Novice, Coleman ISD boards send consolidation measure to voters

Novice Independent School District board members recently agreed to consider a consolidation with the Colemen Independent School District.


Following a decision earlier this year by Texas Education Agency officials to decline extending repayment of a grant from the agency that the district could not pay back, district officials agreed to close the high school at the end of this school year and begin discussing consolidation with school districts in Coleman and Jim Ned. Texas law requires voters in both the Novice and Coleman school districts to approve the consolidation before it can take place.


Trustees for the Coleman Independent School District recently approved a consolidation with Novice ISD and scheduled an election on Nov. 6 to seek voter approval for merging the districts. Voters in the Novice school district also must approve the merger before it is finalized.


Coleman ISD officials are working with finance officials of the Texas Education Agency to correct a proposed incentive aid model as the first model was based on 62 Novice students enrolling when the actual number of students from Novice is expected to be 23, said Royce Young, superintendent for Coleman ISD. The Coleman district also will be required to assume all debts of Novice ISD if voters approve the consolidation, Young said.



Pickens to headline Texas Lyceum Water Conference

A conversation with energy leader T. Boone Pickens will highlight the Texas Lyceum Water Conference slated for Friday, Aug. 10, in Amarillo. The conference will be at the Amarillo Civic Center from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pickens will be among a number of state leaders and stakeholders who will be seeking possible solutions to the state's water crisis. Current and former members of the Texas Legislature, including former State Sen. Kip Averitt and House Natural Resources Chair Alan Ritter, municipal and water authority experts, conservationist, oil and gas industry leaders, landowner and agricultural advocates and academic experts, all of whom have studied water issues for years. There will be a number of panel discussions on issues from hydrology to energy production. To view the agenda, click here. To register online, click here.


Institute of Internal Auditors cites Austin conference in September

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) will host its 2012 Southern Regional Conference Sept. 16-19 in Austin. The event, to be held at the Hilton Austin, will feature a world-class professional development conference with an "Audit Roundup: Lasso the Possibilities" theme. Those planning to attend should note there is an early registration discount of $100 for registrations prior to July 31. Audit executives, directors, managers and staff will benefit from regional speakers in tracks on governance, IT auditing, fraud, waste and abuse and emerging issues. CPE credits are available. Among the speakers for the general session are industry experts such as Ann Bishop, executive director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas, and Mike Jacksa, senior audit manager for Farmers Insurance. IIA's Chairman Phil Tarling and the North American Board Chairman, Mike Peppers, will both be keynote speakers as well. There also will be a variety of concurrent sessions in tracks led by subject matter experts on issues from IT auditing to governmental issues to fraud, waste and abuse. For more information, click here. To view the conference brochure with the complete agenda, click here.


TASSCC planning annual conference for Aug. 12-15 in Arlington

The Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communication (TASSCC) will hold its 2012 Annual Conference on Aug. 12-15 at the Sheraton Arlington Hotel, 1500 Convention Center Drive in Arlington. The theme for this year's conference is "TASSCC All Stars 2012, Hitting IT Out of the Park." The TASSCC Annual Conference is considered by experienced public sector IT professionals as one of the best and most affordable opportunities for learning and sharing in Texas. The conference focuses on the unique opportunities and problems faced in delivering services to citizens. Networking opportunities are available and continuing education credits are awarded for those attending. Karen Robinson, executive director of the Texas Department of Information Resources will deliver the welcome with Bill Bott, consulting partner of Change and Innovation Agency, the keynote speaker, addressing "Extreme Government Makeover." Other keynote addresses will focus on advanced analytics in health and human services, transforming the public sector, technology trends and a legislative update from State Rep. John Zerwas. Click here to view the agenda and click here to register.


Executive Women in Texas Government set November conference

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


National Association of Social Workers plans annual conference

More than 1,000 social worker are expected for the upcoming 2012 National Association of Social Workers/Texas 36th Annual State Conference. The event is set for Friday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Westin Galleria in Houston. Among the speakers for the event are Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSWand his perspective on "The Social Work Story" and Vicki Hansen, LMSW-AP, ACSW, will discuss "What Social Workers Want" in the context of NASW's Social Work Reinvestment Initiative. Those attending will be able to expand their skills through targeted training, tracks representing a variety of practice areas including ethics. Supervision credits and licensing review courses for the LBSW and LMSW exams will also be available and exhibits will be open. For more information and to register, click here.


Summit on Elder Financial Exploitation set in Houston

The Houston Financial Abuse Specialist Team and the Better Business Bureau Education Foundation will host its Texas Summit on Elder Financial Exploitation on Friday, Aug. 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The event will be held at the United Way offices, 50 Waugh Drive, Houston, 77007. The event will address the growing crisis of elder financial exploitation and investment fraud through a number of sessions with featured speakers. Those attending will examine newly emerging research on why older persons may be more susceptible to financial abuse and learn about successful programs on how to prevent that abuse, prosecute perpetrators of these crimes and protect the victims. William Benson, National Policy Advisor for the National Adult Protective Services Association and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Aging will deliver the opening address. For more information, including the day's agenda, and to register, click here.


AACOG announces two upcoming workshops

The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) has two workshops coming up of interest to government officials. 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. 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.


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TPWD reinvents itself as it
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Mary Scott NabersBy Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.


State park systems nationwide are laboring to make ends meet because of dwindling revenues and reductions in state funding. Many are struggling just to stay open.


In Arizona, residents fear that half of the state's parks might close because millions in funds designated for parks have been diverted elsewhere. The Ohio state park system has grown in recent years, but funding hasn't. Staff cuts and deferred maintenance have resulted. Illinois has 300 state parks and wildlife refuges, but the state is reducing employees and closing campgrounds as a result of funding shortfalls.


The Texas state park system has suffered a similar fate. Last December, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) issued an appeal at press conferences throughout the state, asking Texans to help fund a $4.6 million gap in its operating budget. The agency urged the public to make donations to offset revenue losses due to the extreme heat, drought and devastating wildfires - all of which resulted in fewer visitors to state parks.


Because visitor fees fund almost half of the agency's $69 million operating budget, the decline in park visitations has dealt a devastating blow. To offset the loss of revenue, TPWD officials asked all Texans to do three things - make a tax-deductible donation, pay a $5 or more add-on to their motor vehicle registrations designated as a parks contribution - and to return to state parks as visitors.


Texans responded.


Donations reached $335,000 during the first three weeks after the plea for help. The total grew by $500,000 in January. Contributions topped $1 million by the end of the month. Foundations, nonprofits and private businesses then began to participate. Local fundraisers were held. Donations climbed to $1.4 million in March and $1.7 million by May.




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Collaboration Nation

Hardin-Jefferson ISD sets $22M  bond election in November

Hardin-Jefferson Independent School District trustees recently called a $22 million bond election for Nov. 6 to ask voters to approve funding to build new facilities and upgrade existing ones.


Board members said the funding will pay to build a new middle school, build new baseball and softball fields as well as construct new tennis courts if voters approve the bond proposal.


Navarro County approves $9.5 million courthouse restoration

In a 3-2 vote, Navarro County commissioners recently approved a $9.5 million project to renovate the courthouse and accepted a $4.5 million state grant to help fund the project.


The restoration and renovation project includes upgrades to the plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and mechanical systems. The courthouse also will be returned to its historical appearance. The county also must relocate county offices to leased spaces that will need improving during the 27 to 30 months expected to complete the restoration and renovation project.


Prior to the vote, a Texas Historical Commission official warned that this could be the last chance for the county to receive state help paying for the restoration. The county also could be asked to return an earlier $400,000 grant used for project planning if the restoration project does not proceed, the agency official said.


Harlingen EDC taps Garza

as new executive director

Raudel GarzaThe board of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation recently tapped Raudel Garza (pictured) of McAllen as the new executive director. Garza replaces Bill Martin, who resigned to take a position with the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce in Iowa and Illinois.


Garza has served as executive director of the Rio South Texas Economic Development Council since September 2010. He previously was president of the Mission Economic Development Authority, executive director of the Pharr Economic Development Corporation and a realtor and developer.


Governor's North Texas Small Business Forum & Business Expo

Coalition forms to improve North Texas region's air quality

The North Texas Commission to form the Clean Air Texas Initiative (CATI) is a new program that will work with the North Texas business community to help develop and implement strategies to improve air quality in the region. It is the result of a merger of the North Texas Clean Air Coalition and the Texas Business for Clean Air.


"Both TBCA and the Coalition have done great work to engage the business community on air quality issues in our region," said Mabrie Jackson, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission. Jackson said the new organization will continue efforts to bring businesses from throughout the region together to take on the clean air challenge.


The Clean Air Texas Initiative is led by a steering committee composed of representatives from both predecessor organizations and the North Texas Commission. It will continue many of its processors' programs, including the "Working for Clean Air Awards." This program recognizes organizations in North Texas that demonstrate outstanding efforts to improve regional air quality. The Initiative kicks off its work on July 30 with the "Clean Air Texas: Take Action Week," coinciding with the release of the 2012 "Working for Clean Air Awards" application. During the week of July 30 - August 3, CATI will work with partner organizations all across the region to educate employees about ozone pollution, its causes and steps that can be taken to positively impact regional air quality.


Pruitt to retire as municipal

judge in city of Dayton

Glenn Pruitt, municipal judge in Dayton for 19 years, recently announced he is retiring from that post. Pruitt attended Texas A&M where he played football and then served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He returned to earn a bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State University and attended South Texas College of Law.


Dallas to review plan to build parking garage, retail space

Dallas city officials are working with a development company in planning for a new 300-space underground parking garage with retail shops and restaurants to be located above ground near the city-owned Omni Dallas Hotel.


City officials expect to pay for the parking facility and retail development using revenue bonds remaining from paying for building the $500 million hotel that opened for business in November and revenues anticipated from the parking garage and retail businesses.


While previous plans were to build an office building on the proposed site, studies indicate that the two-acre site located near the convention center would be better used for restaurants, entertainment and bar facilities, the developer said. Before work can proceed on the project, city council must still approve the plan for the underground parking garage, he said. Architects are still working on the design phase for the retail spaces to be located above ground, he added.


Interested in P3's?

Rollingwood appoints Herrera

as full-time court administrator

Rollingwood city officials recently appointed Belinda Herrera as the new full-time municipal court judge and authorized the court to operate five days a week instead of only two days a week. Herrera also is a municipal judge for Bee Cave and Austin.


Herrera replaces Mark Cohen, an Austin attorney who urged city officials to expand the two-day-a-week schedule because it was inefficient and embarrassing to the city. Cohen then resigned after serving 16 years as the part-time municipal judge. The court will now be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., the mayor said.


Allen ISD moves forward with $36 million service center

Facing vigorous opposition from some residents, trustees for the Allen Independent School District recently agreed to move forward with the design phase for a new $36 million service center.


The new 145,000-square-foot facility will consolidate the transportation, maintenance, athletic grounds keeping and food services departments of the school district. The facility also includes fueling stations, a training area for 600 attendees and a maintenance shop for vehicles as well as parking for 130 buses. The new facility is on a 42-acre, $4.6 million parcel of land near Watters Road that trustees purchased after they backed off of an earlier 55-acre, $1.9 million site near Malone Road following strong opposition to that site.


Northrop Grumman

Fort Worth creates committee to oversee passenger rail efforts

Fort Worth City Council members recently created a Passenger Rail Working Group comprised of 14 members to oversee city participation in an initiative to develop passenger rail service from southwest areas of the city to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Council also heard an update on the proposed TexRail project from Dick Ruddell, chief executive officer of The T.


City Council member Jungus Jordan, who holds Place 8, is the chairman of the committee. Other members are: Mayor Betsy Price; Joel Burns, District 9 council member; Danny Scarth, District 4 council member; four members of the T Board, Gary Cumbie, Rosa Navejar, Gary Havener and Steve Berry; Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley; Bill Thornton, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce; Dee Kelly Jr. of the Fort Worth Black Chamber of Commerce; Michael Morris, director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments; and the president of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber.


Price and Jordan have taken the lead in continuing talks with Fort Worth and Western Railroad on the passenger rail project.


Marlin eyeing $6 million loan to upgrade water, sewer systems

Elizabeth NelsonMarlin City Council members recently began considering whether to accept a $6 million loan to upgrade the water and sewer systems.


Mayor Elizabeth Nelson (pictured) told council members the city would not be required to repay $1.2 million of the proposed $6 million loan offered to Marlin by the Texas Water Development Board. City officials may face fines from the state for violations and negatively impact prison operations if upgrades to the water and sewer system are not made.


If the loan is accepted, the city will be able to rebuild about three miles of water lines, replace aging sewer lines, rehabilitate lift stations and replace existing meters with an automated system for reading meters, Nelson said. Council members expect to vote on the project funding at their meeting on Sept. 11.



Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

seeking part-time consultants

Strategic Partnerships, Inc. is seeking part-time consultants with experience and knowledge regarding the operations of cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas and in the Dallas-Fort Worth or Houston area public school districts. The ideal candidates for these part-time positions will be retirees who are former school district superintendents or C-level administrators and staff or former city managers or county officials who served in the Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston areas. To apply, please email a resume to jobs@spartnerships.com.


Fryar selected as lone finalist for superintendent at Veribest

Bobby FryarTrustees for Veribest Independent School District recently selected Bobby Fryar (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Fryar currently is the superintendent of the Crosbyton Consolidated Independent School District located east of Lubbock.


Fryar has a bachelor's degree and a superintendent's certification from Angelo State University. Board members expect to formally hire Fryar in mid-August after the required 21-day waiting period.


Burnet approves contract

for new $1.8 million fire station

Burnet City Council members recently approved a contract with an architect firm to design and build a $1.8 million fire station near the airport on US 281.


City officials expect construction on the new fire station to begin in early 2013 as soon as all planning for the facility and the bid process are completed, said David Vaughn, city manager.


Fort Worth to host meeting
of big city mayors in Texas

Mayors of 16 of the largest cities in Texas are planning to meet in Fort Worth next week to discuss issues such as education, transportation and water and then work together on common goals.


The mayors, who represent a total of about 9 million Texans, are from Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Amarillo, Arlington, Corpus Christi, Laredo, Lubbock, Plano, Denton, Garland, Grand Prairie and Irving.


The purpose of the meeting is to discuss issues affecting cities and work together to address critical issues affecting those large cities, said Mayor Betsy Price, who is hosting the meeting of mayors representing urban areas.


Pruf LED - superior LED lighting

Corpus Christi to consider bid to private museum management

Corpus Christi City Council members recently began considering a bid from a private company to manage the Corpus Christi Science and History Museum. Council members are expected to vote on the proposal to privatize operation of the museum on Aug. 21.


In the proposed pact, the company, Corpus Christi Museum Joint Ventures, proposes to manage the museum for two years and share any profits, while at the same time maintaining the level of revenue the museum has earned under management of the city. The proposed agreement also requires the private company to retain at least professional museum staff members to manage and care for exhibits that include 1554 Spanish shipwrecks found off the coast and a life-sized replica of one of the ships operated by Christopher Columbus in his explorations.


Canutillo ISD to build new

$21 million school building

Trustees for the Canutillo Independent School District recently agreed to move forward with plans to build a new $21 million school that will serve students from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade. District officials also plan to spend another $19.2 million to upgrade and expand existing schools throughout the district to house growing student enrollment.


Construction on the new 146,977-square-foot school, located near Paseo del Norte, is expected to begin in December and open to students in August 2014. The school will feature 20 elementary classrooms, 12 middle school classrooms, two science labs, a choir room, a band room, library, two computer rooms and a weight room. It will also have a competition gymnasium and a multipurpose room with a stage and a basketball court. Voters approved bonds in 2006 and in 2011 to pay for the facility that will follow standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.


The renovation of existing schools will add space for a fine arts program, add new classroom wings and expand the size of classrooms, according to district officials.


SPI on Twitter

Superintendent candidate withdraws name in Socorro ISD

H.T. Sanchez, one of the three finalists selected to become the next Socorro Independent School District superintendent, has apparently withdrawn his name from consideration for the job.


Sanchez had already conducted interviews with community members and school officials before withdrawing from the finalists list. Officials plan to announce their pick for the next superintendent by the end of this month.


Recent Reports
Texas Government Insider Archives
Volume 1-10 Archives - 11/7/03 - 7/20/12
Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Steve Tull of Valley Mills, chair, Texas Commission on Fire Protection;
  • Rene Garza of Austin, Pharmaceuticals and Therapeutics Committee;
  • Scott Schams of College Station, Pharmaceuticals and Therapeutics Committee.
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Harris County supports

extending Metro program

Harris County commissioners recently agreed to support extending the Metro General Mobility Program to improve mobility in the region. County officials appoint two members of the nine-member board of directors of Metro, the transit agency that includes Harris County, the city of Houston and 14 surrounding cities and villages, including Katy, West University, Bellaire and Missouri City, who appoint the remaining members of the Metro board of directors.


The Metro General Mobility Program is funded by 25 percent of the agency's 1 percent sales tax revenue collected in participating cities, villages and the county and is used for building roads, street maintenance, traffic signs and upgrades for drainage and other needs related to transit in all participating


Although the chairman of Metro has called for freezing the general mobility program to 2014 levels and retaining any increase in revenue on mass transit projects such as a light rail system, officials of most cities and villages support continuation of the general mobility program at its current level. These municipalities have grown to rely on the upgrades to infrastructure as the economy has faltered and cut tax revenue.


Morris County selects Betts as emergency management head 

Morris County commissioners recently appointed Larry Betts as the new County Emergency Management Coordinator. Betts replaces Doug Stanley, the police chief in Daingerfield, who held that position before his recent death.


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
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