TxDOT to award more than $1B for relief of traffic congestion
State's largest metro areas to receive roads money
No one who lives in Houston, Austin, San Antonio or the Dallas-Fort Worth area needs to be told that traffic congestion can be a problem. But, still, drivers in those cities appreciated Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledging the issue during a speech last September in which he promised to make congestion relief a priority.
Speaking at the Brazoria County Transportation and Infrastructure Summit, Abbott stated that he would ask the Texas Transportation Commission "to create a focused initiative to identify and address the state's most congested chokepoints."
Abbott went on to say, "I'm directing TxDOT to work with transportation planners and local communities across the state to reduce congestion and get these roads built ASAP. Texans' quality of life and our state economy are counting on swift success."
As a result of that mandate, the Transportation Commission will meet at the end of this month to decide how it will allocate more than $1 billion as part of its Congestion Relief Program. Though specifics aren't yet known about which projects will be funded, how much they will get or even the total amount to be distributed, what is known is that the funding will be directed toward the state's most congested roadways in its largest metropolitan areas.
The money will come primarily from the State Highway Fund (SHF), according to David Glessner, a public information officer with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). In 2015, the Texas Legislature made sure to end the practice of shifting tax dollars intended for road construction and repairs to fund other agencies. These diversions were an attempt by budget writers to avoid going over the spending cap or raising taxes. With this Congestion Relief Program, the Transportation Commission will be able to allot the money, which in past years had been diverted to other agencies, to fund major roads projects in the state's most congested thoroughfares.
In addition to the stipulation that the money go exclusively to the state's urban centers, there are a few other stipulations about how the money will be spent. Glessner says that TXDOT officials "will work in concert with the regions to fund shovel-ready projects prioritized at the local level."
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Richard D. Ehlert, Director of Procurement, Texas Facilities Commission
Career highlights and education:
I earned my degree in applied arts (piano) from The University of Texas at Austin. I then spent 17 years in semiconductor manufacturing: 14 with Eaton Corporation's semiconductor division as a senior purchaser and worldwide sourcing specialist and three and a half years as site procurement director with Cypress Semiconductor in Round Rock. I followed that with 15 years in public service. I have been a contract specialist for the Texas Department of Mental Health & Mental Retardation (TDMHMR) and an internal procurement manager and HUB coordinator for the Texas Building and Procurement Commission (TBPC). Currently, I'm the procurement director for the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC). I oversee the award of $200 million to $700 million of appropriated funds every biennium for construction, renovation and maintenance of state-owned facilities.
What I like best about my job is: Seeing tangible results when an award is made through exemplary solicitation facilitation.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: "Risk the consequences, do the right thing." That's from my father.
Advice you would give a new hire in your office: "Don't ever forget that your job is to get your end user what he/she needs as soon as possible, LEGALLY."
If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Playing Frisbee with my three dogs.
People would be surprised to know that I: I was a piano major in college and a featured performing artist at the James Dick International Piano Festival.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: TFC manages and services more than 5 million square feet of state office space in Austin alone, yet TFC is a relatively small agency with only about 350 employees. I tell other state agencies, 'If you don't like to work, don't come to work at TFC."
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt sets priorities for 2016
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt (pictured) recently outlined her three major priorities for the coming year. Her agenda is to improve transportation options, increase economic prosperity for low-income residents and improve the civil and criminal court systems.
Eckhardt said she plans to ask the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) to focus more on options such as park-and-ride facilities and improving public transportation rather than their current focus on private vehicles. The county judge also urged officials of CTRMA, the region's toll road agency, to partner with Capital Metro, Lone Star Rail and cities in nearby counties to locate funding to provide more options for using buses, trains and bicycles for transportation, as well as providing more options for pedestrians.
The county judge also proposed adding more infrastructure to provide better transportation options in the southeastern area of the county and to buy private land there, as it is prone to flooding, and use that land for public parks.
TCEQ announces RESTORE grant application period open
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has begun to accept applications for grants funded by the federal Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The fund will help pay for Gulf Coast projects that will repair damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.
More than $56 million in funding is available for environmental, ecological or economic projects. Those projects can include restoration and protection of natural habitats, improvements to state parks in coastal areas, those that protect against coastal floods or promote tourism, as well as projects that develop the workforce and create jobs in the coastal region.
Applications will be accepted until April 15. Detailed information on eligibility and how to apply may be found on the RESTORE Act website
. The request for grant applications is also online
TWDB funds $65 million worth of water projects statewide
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) this week has approved financial assistance totaling $64,182,865 for eight water and wastewater system improvement projects and two water supply projects.
Of the 10 projects, the largest funding amount was $31.5 million to a project in Kerr County for wastewater system improvements. The money will come in the form of a $14 million grant from the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP), $12.1 million in loan forgiveness and $5.3 million in loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The county will construct a first-time wastewater collection system that will serve more than 500 connections in Center Point.
The two water supply projects funded through TWDB financial assistance this week are in Kaufman and Limestone counties. The city of Kosse in Limestone County received a $1 million loan and another $1 million in a grant from the EDAP. It will build a water treatment plant, two water supply wells and transmission lines connecting the treatment plant and wells to the city's distribution system.
Fort Stockton officials review design for public safety building
Fort Stockton city officials recently got their first look at the proposed design for a new public safety building to replace the existing facility, which has been labeled as hazardous by a code enforcement official.
The new public safety building is expected to cost between $2 million and $3 million, though the project will need to be placed on hold until city officials decide how to pay for the new building, noted City Manager Raul Rodriguez (pictured).
A design firm representative said he plans to delay submitting the design for state approval until city officials are prepared financially to begin construction.
Ysleta ISD approves first phase of $430 million in bond projects
Trustees for Ysleta Independent School District recently approved moving forward with the first phase of the district's $430 million in bond projects.
Several of those projects are expected to start later this month. The projects in the first phase include an $87 million combination middle school and elementary school, a new $40 million middle school and a new $38 million elementary school, according to Pat O'Neill, an associate superintendent.
The goal is to complete the bond projects within a six-year period to avoid the higher costs that can result from increased inflation, O'Neill said.
Weatherford begins process to create tax reinvestment zone
Weatherford City Council members recently kicked off the process of creating a tax reinvestment zone (TRZ) along the Interstate 20 corridor.
Once the reinvestment zone is created, the city will designate 75 percent of the revenue generated by the TRZ to pay for roadway and public improvements, and the remainder will help pay for existing city services, such as police and fire services, according to Mayor Dennis Hooks (pictured). City officials already are in talks about several proposed retail, commercial and industrial enterprises that could get started within the year, he said.
Weatherford city officials also will explore the possibility of partnering with other local taxing entities to promote more growth within the city and in Parker County, Hooks said. City officials have scheduled a public hearing for March 22 to hear public comment on the proposed tax reinvestment zone.
Odessa selects $13.5M design to straighten University Boulevard
Odessa City Council members recently selected a $13.5 million design option to widen University Boulevard into a straight, five-lane roadway between Andrews Highway and Grandview Avenue.
Council members also had considered a $12.5 million design that would have kept the road curved, but opted for the straighter design for reasons of safety, the mayor said. The $13.5 million design plan calls for the city to purchase seven homes and one business, while the less expensive plan would have required the acquisition of six homes and additional parcels of land along the roadway. The city also plans to build new and safer fences where existing fences will be moved for the project.
Before the plan is finalized, however, council members will hold a public meeting Feb. 1 to gather feedback from residents in the area. Preliminary plans call for the project to be completed in two phases, beginning with the roadway between Grandview and Maple avenues in the spring of 2017, if council formally approves the project. The highway project should be completed about two years after the work begins, city officials said.
Austin to host two public hearings for community center
Austin voters approved funding for a new community center in the southeastern part of the city as part of a November 2012 bond election. Now, the city's parks and recreation department is beginning to act on that.
The department this month will participate in two "Community Visioning Workshops" for the new Montopolis Recreation and Community Center Project. The proposed center will be shared by both the parks department and the Austin Health and Human Services Department. The two city agencies will host the meetings Jan. 21 and Jan. 23 in an effort to give residents a chance "to collaborate with neighbors on the planning of access to the new facility, how it connects to the community and how the building and its amenities fit on the site."
The current planning and design stage will run into 2017, after which the project will be put out to bid and the contract awarded, most likely in the summer of 2017. Construction should then start in the fall of 2017 and last until the summer of 2019.
Abilene moving forward on swim center, public safety upgrades
Abilene city officials recently awarded a $561,750 design contract for a new $6 million aquatics center at Rose Park. City officials also are considering allotting $500,000 to begin a $1.3 million effort to purchase hardware and software for a new emergency communications system.
The new aquatics center will require demolition of the existing pool and construction of a facility that includes a lazy river, water slides, zero-depth entry, a party room, concessions and more parking. Construction on the center is scheduled to begin in the fall, and it is expected to open at the beginning of the following summer.
Patton Village seeking proposals for wastewater treatment project
Patton Village city officials recently began seeking proposals from engineers for two projects. The first is to design upgrades to a wastewater treatment plant, the second for the Peach Creek Dam and Lake Club project. The Texas Department of Agriculture awarded the city a $350,000 grant to pay for the latter project.
The deadline for submitting proposals for the wastewater treatment plant design is Feb. 19, and council members plan to award contracts for the project three days later. The deadline for the Peach Creek Dam and Lake Club project is Jan. 27, with contract to be awarded Feb. 4, the mayor said.
El Paso selects bus facility site for new children's museum
El Paso City Council members recently selected a site adjacent to the El Paso Museum of Art as the home of a new children's museum. Council members plan to purchase the site, a Greyhound bus maintenance facility, for $1.27 million and contribute additional funding to the museum in the future.
City officials also agreed to lease a portion of an unused facility owned by Sun Metro to allow the Greyhound facility to relocate. Greyhound officials agreed to complete the demolition and environmental cleanup of their existing facility within six months.
The children's museum is one of three quality-of-life projects included in a bond proposal previously approved by voters.
Belton to seek design that will realign dangerous intersection
Belton City Council members recently authorized City Manager Sam Listi (pictured) to negotiate a design contract to improve the intersection at Martin Luther King. Jr. Avenue, Main Street and Ninth Street.
Once a new bridge to connect MLK with Loop 121 is complete, city officials expect even more traffic and more delays, as MLK and Ninth Street are not aligned, said Angela Points, the interim city engineer. This project is expected to rectify that particular issue.
Transportation planners are considering several options to improve the intersection, including one that would require the city to buy one residential property to realign MLK and Ninth Street and another to close a portion of Ninth Street and build an esplanade with turn lanes on MLK at Main Street.
Dallas park board mulling master plan for memorial park
Dallas Park and Recreation Board members recently began considering a master plan for a new one-acre memorial park at Exposition Plaza.
The proposed park, which would be located between Deep Ellum and Fair Park, would consist of a "rotunda of trees" along with memory walls, commemorative plaques and monument benches to honor individuals and events. Voters in 2006 approved $35,000 in bond funds for a master plan for the green space.
Park board members will need to develop policies and guidelines for use of the memorial park and identify funding from public and private sources to pay for development of the park, should the project be approved. Board members, however, took no action on the proposed master plan.
Copperas Cove ISD buys bank building for administrative office
Copperas Cove Independent School District trustees recently agreed on the price and conditions to purchase the building now housing the National Banks of Central Texas. The facility will be renovated to serve as the district's new administrative offices.
Under terms of the agreement, the bank will remain in the facility until its new building is complete, a process that should take at least a year, district officials said. Once all banking operations are out of the building, the school district will take possession and begin renovations for the new administrative offices and upgrade technology.
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Midland approves $2.36 million for fields at sports complex
Midland City Council members recently approved $2.36 million to build four multi-purpose athletic fields at the Scharbauer Sports Complex.
The Midland Soccer & Baseball Complex Development Corp. is using a quarter-cent addition to the city's sales tax to fund the debt for the new fields. The goal is to complete the field upgrades in time for them to be in use by the fall, city officials said.
Gainesville supports $1.1 million pact with TxDOT for road project
Gainesville City Council members recently agreed to enter into a $1.1 million advance funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build a four-lane road alongside another project area, one that will add upgrades to US 82.
The city is saving between $60,000 and $70,000 in engineering costs by working with TxDOT rather than going it alone on the project, said City Manager Barry Sullivan (pictured). The project will extend Weber Road from US 82 past Zodiac Drive.
City officials plan to pay for the road project from the general fund, Sullivan said. Construction could begin as early as April, according to TxDOT.
Pasadena approves pact with Harris County for road project
Pasadena City Council members recently approved an agreement with Harris County to partner on a $5 million project to rebuild Garner Road from Shaver Street to Pasadena Boulevard.
Before the agreement is finalized, however, council must vote on a second and final reading.
EWTG to host former NASA engineer Shayla Rivera in Austin
|Executive Women in Texas Government (EWTG) will host Shayla Rivera at a luncheon in Austin Jan. 27. Rivera currently is a humorist, comedian, actor and writer. A graduate of Texas A&M University, she previously was employed as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas Space Systems at NASA's Johnson Space Center, for which she worked on Shuttle and Space Station programs for eight years. Her talks include subjects such as motivation, leadership, diversity, STEM education and the importance of humor. The luncheon will be held at the Austin Woman's Club and begins at 11:30 a.m. Lunch will be served at 11:45, and the program starts at noon and concludes at 1:00 p.m. Registration is open.|
March P3 Conference will bring together public, private sectors
|The annual Public-Private Conference and Expo, one of the largest gatherings of development professionals in the country, will be held March 7-9 at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas. The annual event attracts more than 1,000 development professionals and government leaders for an educational conference to discuss public-private partnerships (P3s). The three-day conference will feature discussions on the state of the P3 industry in the United States and will highlight the various types of P3s under way. Speakers will discuss the many elements of P3 structures currently in use and how to evaluate their merits and risks. More than 125 leading public agency officials and industry practitioners will share their firsthand experiences and observations regarding P3 projects throughout the country. Billed as one of the premier conferences for collaboration between public officials and private industry that are considering, developing and operating P3s, the conference will emphasize both the challenges and advantages of the P3 concept. More information is available here.|
State agencies to host 4th annual HUB vendor expo in Austin
|The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Texas Historical Commission, State Office of Court Administration, Texas Education Agency, General Land Office and Texas Workforce Commission will host the 4th annual HUB vendor Fair April 7 at the J.J. Pickle Commons Learning Center in Austin. The event will provide information to strengthen HUB (Historically Underutilized Business) businesses, including marketing the business. There will be one-on-one meetings with state agencies, universities and prime vendors in construction and information technology. State agencies and universities will be exhibiting. Workshops will include "Teaming for Success," "TPASS DIR" and one specifically for veteran-owned businesses. The event and parking is free of charge. For more information please contact Fred Snell.|| |
The world had better prepare now for Gen Z!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
There have been thousands of stories written about millennials - how they work, what they expect from life, where they prefer to live, how unconcerned they are about owning a car and why they move from job to job. We all know a lot about millennials because we've almost studied them to death.
But now there's another generation upon us and we are, without doubt, behind the curve on preparing for these young men and women. Gen Z is what they are called, and they are the individuals who were born in or after 1999. This group is just approaching college age.
Nellis resigns as Tech president; Opperman takes over in interim Texas Tech University President Duane Nellis (pictured, top) has announced his resignation. He said he plans to remain at the university as a tenured member of the Texas Tech faculty and to assist Chancellor Robert Duncan with international opportunities and innovation.
Prior to becoming president in June 2013, Nellis was president of the University of Idaho, provost and senior vice president at Kansas State University and dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University.
The Texas Tech System Board of Regents yesterday named John Opperman (pictured, bottom), the system's vice chancellor of academic affairs, as interim president. He has been an officer with the Texas Tech System for most of the past 20 years. Additionally, Opperman spent 20 years as an employee of the state of Texas, working on issues like both higher education and public education capacities, as well as state budgeting.
Opperman holds a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University and both a master's and a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin.
Georgetown hires new assistant city manager, finance director
Georgetown City Council members recently selected Wayne Reed (pictured, top) to serve in the newly created position of assistant city manager to oversee development. Council members also named Leigh Wallace (pictured, below) the city's new director of finance.
Reed, who holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree from Texas A&M University, will oversee the planning department and the hiring of the city's next economic development director, after the December resignation of Mark Thomas. Reed begins his new duties Jan. 25.
Wallace, who currently is the corporate budget manager for the city of Austin, will replace Susan Morgan when she begins her duties Feb. 8. She has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Trinity University in San Antonio. Wallace also is a graduate of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.
Alton Frailey to retire as Katy superintendent Superintendent Alton Frailey (pictured) of Katy Independent School District recently informed board members of his plans to retire in August after nine years on the job.
Frailey began his career in public education in 1983 as a teacher for Goose Creek ISD. He also has served as an assistant principal and assistant superintendent at Spring Branch ISD and as a superintendent for Desoto ISD prior to joining the Katy school district in 2007.
Board members expect to begin a search soon to find a new superintendent to replace Frailey.
Pace to serve as city manager in Lorena Joseph Pace recently won selection as the new city manager in Lorena. Pace (pictured) will replace Billy Clemons, a former state representative, who is retiring as city manager at the end of this month.
Most recently the parks and recreation director in Copperas Cove, Pace also has worked as a city court administrator and city planner during his eight years in municipal service.
Rick DeMasters to lead Celina school district Rick DeMasters, currently the assistant superintendent at Celina Independent School District, will assume leadership of the district after being named the lone finalist for superintendent.
A five-year district employee, DeMasters (pictured) will replace Superintendent Donny O'Dell, who is retiring after 28 years with Celina schools. DeMasters served as a principal at Celina High School before being selected as assistant superintendent in 2012.
Before joining Celina ISD, he also served as an assistant superintendent for Van Alstyne ISD.
TCC seeks national search firm for chancellorThe Tarrant County College District (TCC) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to identify an executive search firm that can conduct a search for the district's next chancellor. Former TCC Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley died in October 2015, since which time General Counsel and Vice Chancellor Angela Robinson has served as acting chancellor.
The deadline for submitting a proposal is Feb. 4.
Blake to serve as road and bridge administrator in Grimes County Greg Blake recently agreed to serve as the road and bridge administrator for Grimes County. He replaced Bob Cochrane, who left that job in August.
A former officer in the U.S. Army, Blake has worked as a welder and in project management at several private companies. He holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Texas A&M University.
Olson begins new duties as director of transportation in Killeen David Olson recently began his new duties as the director of transportation in Killeen. A licensed engineer, Olson (pictured) replaced George Lueck, who retired in September 2015.
Previously employed nine years in the private sector, Olson has performed both engineering and management duties. In Killeen, his purview will include developing, implementing and maintaining the city's transportation plan; overseeing operation of the traffic signal system; and coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation and other entities on regional mobility projects.
Olson is a graduate of Texas A&M University.
Humble ISD to hire search firm to replace retiring superintendent
Humble Independent School District board members recently agreed to hire a search firm to find a new superintendent. The new superintendent will replace Guy Sconzo, who will retire Dec. 31.
Trustees now plan to meet with members of the Superintendent Search Committee to discuss the timeline and the next step in the search process.
Melancon selected as city manager in Gladewater Theo Melancon recently won selection as the city manager in Gladewater. Once he begins his new duties, Melancon (pictured) will replace Sean Pate, who resigned to become a city manager in Bonham.
Melancon currently is the city administrator for Eldorado. He also worked as an analyst for the state of Louisiana prior to joining Eldorado almost three years ago.
Bailey to retire as Rockwall superintendent Superintendent Jeff Bailey (pictured) of Rockwall Independent School District recently announced he is retiring, effective Aug. 31, after six years in that post.
During his 33 years in public education, he has been a teacher, coach, principal and deputy superintendent with Plano ISD.
Board members plan to hire a search firm to help find a new superintendent and have set a goal to announce Bailey's replacement by late spring.
Cuero ISD taps Colwell as interim superintendent Trustees for Cuero Independent School District recently tapped Ben Colwell (pictured) to serve as interim superintendent.
Colwell has replaced former Superintendent Jim Haley, who resigned in December to take the reins at Pecos ISD.
A former coach, business manager and assistant superintendent for the Cuero district from 1971 to 1982, Colwell also was a superintendent for the Luling and Alvarado ISDs before retiring in 2001.
Cheryl Orr takes over HR duties for DART Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officials recently selected Cheryl D. Orr (pictured) as the vice president of human capital. Her new duties include overseeing human resources, including recruiting and retention and organizational development.
During her 30 years of public service, Orr has held several administrative positions with two counties in Virginia, Norfolk State University and the cities of Norfolk and Alexandria in Virginia. She most recently was the ethics and diversity officer for Dallas.
Orr has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She also holds a certificate in organizational development from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Franklin named as assistant superintendent at Mesquite ISD Treva Franklin recently won appointment to a newly created post as assistant superintendent in charge of instructional services at Mesquite Independent School District.
A 28-year employee of the Mesquite district, Franklin (pictured) has worked as a teacher, counselor and administrative officer in charge of curriculum. She also was a teacher at Galena Park ISD and Mt. Pleasant ISD.
Jourdanton ISD selects McAllister as superintendent Jourdanton Independent School District trustees recently named Theresa McAllister (pictured) as superintendent.
A former coach and teacher at school districts in Lockhart and Brenham, McAllister joined the Jourdanton district as a basketball coach and teacher in 1995. She later served as a principal, technology director and assistant superintendent. McAllister had been named interim superintendent toward the end of 2015 but has now taken the role permanently.
McAllister has both bachelor's and master's degrees from Schreiner University. She also earned her certification as a superintendent from Texas A&M University at San Antonio.
|Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments: |
- Andrew Kim, New Braunfels, Presiding Officer of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability;
- Stacy Hock, Austin, Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability.
Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.
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