TWDB begins development of brackish water resources
Staff presents contract recommendations for brackish water studies
At its first meeting of 2016 on Wednesday, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) welcomed Peter Lake for his first meeting as a board member. Lake and the other members of the board, Chairman Bech Bruun and Kathleen Jackson (pictured), heard from TWDB staff regarding a legislative mandate to study brackish water aquifers and the setting of legislative and policy recommendations to include in the Draft 2017 State Water Plan.
The 2015 Texas Legislature directed the TWDB to conduct studies to identify and designate brackish groundwater production zones in four aquifers and to report to the legislature by Dec. 1. Those four are the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, the Gulf Coast Aquifer, the Blaine Aquifer and the Rustler Aquifer. Last October, TWDB staff issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) to identify vendors to perform the study on three of those aquifers (all but the Carrizo-Wilcox), as well as three others (the Trinity, Blossom and Nacatoch aquifers). The studies of the first three are due by Aug. 31, and the others are due a year later.
According to Erika Mancha, the TWDB's team lead for Innovative Water Technologies, agency staff will conduct studies on the state's other aquifers (except for the Carrizo-Wilcox, which will be done by the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin). The three additional aquifers were included in the RFQ to be studied by private vendors "because of their complexity."
In response to the RFQ, the TWDB received 14 statements of qualifications from companies wishing to conduct the studies. Staff reviewed those statements and made their recommendations to the board this week.
Jackson asked Mancha about the legislature's very aggressive deadlines and how the TWDB staff will accomplish what is being asked of them. Mancha enumerated key milestones in the process, which include public meetings requesting feedback from all involved in the process. "Stakeholders are going to be part of the brackish aquifer research process. We will make an attempt to engage the public at all times," she said.
TWDB has already held its first public meeting, during which staff members explained the agency's approach to the brackish aquifer research and solicited input from stakeholders "as to what constitutes a significant impact" to the environment in and around the aquifers.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Mary T. Henderson, Assistant Commissioner for Regulatory Services, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services
Career highlights and education:
I began my career as a briefing attorney with the Honorable Fortunato "Pete" Benavides at the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, then entered private law practice there. Returning to my hometown of Austin, I litigated cases across Texas as an assistant attorney general serving in three different divisions of the Office of the Attorney General, including 16 years as deputy chief of the Consumer Protection Division. I also served as an assistant general counsel for The University of Texas System General Counsel's Office. My most rewarding cases included jury trials on behalf of state agencies (my quickest favorable jury verdict took less than 10 minutes) and consumer protection cases where we shut down fraudulent charitable activities. On Oct. 1, 2013, I was named to my current position as assistant commissioner of regulatory services by the commissioner of the Texas Department of Aging & Disability Services (DADS). And, this past fall, our division received special recognition for quality improvements in the regulatory process by the Association of Health Facility Survey Agencies (AHFSA). I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., and Juris Doctor from Baylor University School of Law in Waco. I am also an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), am board certified in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, am a trained mediator and a graduate of the Governor's Executive Development Program.
What I like best about my job is: Our mission and adherence to that mission. We are privileged to help provide for and protect the most vulnerable Texans, our elderly and disabled. Our regulatory services division provides licensing, certification, complaint investigation and other monitoring to ensure residential facilities, home and community support services agencies and people providing services in facilities or home settings comply with state and federal standards, in addition to ensuring that people are protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation. It is rewarding to come to work daily and see the positive impact we have on the lives of others. I also have the privilege of working for an outstanding commissioner, whose leadership, grounded in our mission and guiding principles, provides for a positive framework of collaboration and teamwork within our executive team.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Be aware of what you say and how you say it. As leaders, we need to be conscious that our words and actions can significantly impact our staff, stakeholders and all those we serve.
Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Follow the Golden Rule and realize you decide each day the attitude you bring to your office, so be the best that you can be each day. Never be afraid to ask a question, and, if you don't know the answer to a question, commit to finding the answer and follow up. Always return phone calls. Be thankful for opportunities to learn new things, and never say "it's not my job." Find a mentor and be a mentor in someone else's life.
If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Traveling to my daughter's high school soccer games or, on a nice day, going for a run around our neighborhood or doing something special with my family.
People would be surprised to know that: I'm training with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training to complete a 100-mile bike ride (America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride) around Lake Tahoe that will take place June 5, and have completed several endurance events to benefit LLS over the years in honor and in memory of friends and family.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: I wish more people knew how extremely talented, dedicated and hardworking the staff members of DADS are; how much they care about the people we serve; and all of the things that they accomplish on a daily basis.
Texas A&M International to build $62 million academic facility
Texas A&M International University officials recently announced plans for three construction projects. The first, which will begin in the fall of 2017, will be a new $62 million academic facility, while the other projects will be a $3.9 million expansion of the Kinesiology, Wellness and Recreation Center and expanded parking near the Sen. Judith Zaffirini Student Success Center.
The new academic building will house programs in science and engineering, as well as auditoriums, laboratories, classroom space and offices. The expansion of the wellness center includes larger cardio areas, weight rooms and fitness rooms.
University officials also are working with officials of the city of Laredo to finalize plans for an athletics complex that has been approved by voters.
Bellaire to demolish public works building, use temporary buildings
Bellaire City Council members recently agreed to demolish the partially abandoned public works administration building, which has flooded several times since it was built in 1984.
Council members also agreed to buy temporary buildings to use on the current site while city officials decide on a long-term replacement for the building. The current location includes warehouses, a fire training facility and animal control facilities. The temporary buildings are estimated to cost less than $300,000 and will be funded by insurance proceeds.
The four options presented by an architect for council to consider are:
- Repair the building at its current location with no flood protection, at a cost of about $619,750;
- Renovate the building with a reconfigured floor plan and construct a flood wall, at a cost of about $3.1 million;
- Construct a new 8,930-square-foot building at the current location about two and one-half feet above the flood plain, at a cost of about $2.8 million; and
- Build a new administration building at a different site that would need to be purchased.
City Manager Paul Hofmann (pictured) said that his staff has not identified a source of funding for project.
Austin considering November transportation bond election
The city of Austin is considering placing a transportation bond package on the November ballot. No decision has been made, but Mayor Steve Adler (pictured) has spoken about the possibility multiple times, including this week.
While the mayor spoke of a few major surface streets in the city that would benefit from improvements, Adler also mentioned Interstate 35, which the Texas Department of Transportation has announced will be seeing major construction in the near future.
"We know there have been some proposals with respect to I-35 that include increasing capacity; that include putting in managed lanes so that we can have buses traveling at 45 miles per hour regardless of traffic, to encourage people to get out of their cars; and depressing lanes so that there is a visual connection of the east and west sides of I-35," Adler said last month. "And I think there might be an opportunity to do something regionally in that respect. Why not try for that?"
January sales tax allocations down slightly; comptroller's office distributes $617 million
The Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has announced that it will distribute to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts a total of $617.2 million, which represents the state's local sales tax allocations for January. The amount is a slight decrease of 0.1 percent compared to the same month of the year prior.
Comptroller Glenn Hegar also said that state sales tax revenue in December 2015 was $2.33 billion, down 1.1 percent compared to December 2014. The comptroller again noted that a depressed oil and gas market accounts for most of the dip. "This was expected, given ongoing weakness in oil and natural gas prices. Remittances from other sectors, such as construction and information, continued to grow," Hegar said.
In terms of sales tax revenue, Texas cities will receive $402.0 million, up just 0.04 percent from January 2015. The state's transit systems will receive the next highest amount, $141.3 million, which is a 1.8 percent increase from last January. Texas counties will receive $37.4 million and special purpose taxing districts $36.5 million. Those figures represent 6.9 percent and 1.9 percent decreases, respectively, from January last year. View the amounts allocated by city
and by county
Sherman begins second phase of Downtown Streetscape project
Sherman City Council members recently approved a contract to design the second phase of the Downtown Streetscape project. City officials also included $150,000 in the capital improvement program to pay for the design and as matching funds for a grant from the Transportation Alternatives Program of the Texas Department of Transportation.
The design project also will include pedestrian improvements on several city streets, including Grand Avenue, said Clay Barnett (pictured), director of public works and engineering. City officials had earmarked $60,000 for the first phase of the pedestrian improvement project and saved costs by grouping the Streetscape and Grand Avenue projects together, Barnett said.
The Streetscape project includes removing and replacing 39,800 square feet of existing sidewalk with 68,400 square feet of new sidewalks. The project also includes 14 new handicap ramps, 60 new trees and eight railroad crossings for pedestrians, Barnett said.
Waco approves $77M bond issue to fund street, water projects
Waco City Council members recently authorized the issuance of $77 million in bonds to fund improvements to the city's water and sewer system and upgrades to streets. Council members also authorized refinancing up to $35.5 million in existing debt at a lower interest rate.
City officials expect to seek bids by the end of the year on $30 million in water projects, $50 million in wastewater projects and $5 million to upgrade streets. Among the largest efforts are a $10.2 million project to replace an 87-year-old ground storage reservoir and a $35 million project to replace a failing sewer transfer lift station.
Other projects include $21 million to replace or rehabilitate water and wastewater lines throughout the city and a separate $12.9 million allocation to replace water and wastewater lines in the China Spring Road expansion area.
Dallas targets three neighborhoods for revitalization
A new Neighborhood Plus initiative in Dallas has targeted three neighborhoods for revitalization during the next year. The neighborhoods that will benefit from the initiative are the Lancaster Road Corridor, the Parkdale/Urbandale neighborhood and the area around the University of North Texas at Dallas.
Members of the city council's Housing Committee plan to work with officials from local government, as well as other public and private agencies to incorporate pilot programs and strategies to remove blight, enhance some areas and maintain the middle class status of the neighborhoods, said Erik Wilson, the deputy mayor pro tem.
Travis County approves plan to renovate aging courthouse
Travis County commissioners recently approved a Preservation Master Plan to continue using the Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse while it is being renovated. County officials also may apply for grant funding to help pay for the courthouse upgrade, according to the county judge.
The county government is still interested in developing a downtown Austin property for a new courthouse despite the rejection by voters in November 2015 of a bond proposal to build a new facility. As a result, they are meeting with legal counsel on how to handle any proposals for developing the current courthouse. The county currently cannot accept unsolicited proposals, as the court has not set up a process to receive those proposals, the county judge said.
Pearland school district planning for November bond election
Pearland Independent School District trustees recently approved two contracts with firms to provide strategic planning for a proposed bond election in November.
Trustees, along with the director of engineering for the city of Pearland and four district administrators, reviewed qualifications from 14 companies that presented qualifications for the contracts to provide pre-bond planning, coordination and public information for the bond package later this year.
The district must focus on strategic and facilities planning to handle its growing student enrollment, said Superintendent John Kelly (pictured). Several campuses in the district are approaching their maximum number of students.
Dallas allots $40 million to maintain streets in 2016
Dallas City Council members recently allotted $40.3 million to improve the city's streets in 2016. The funding includes an additional $16.8 million just to keep some streets from deteriorating any further, according to Dennis Ware (pictured), director of street services.
The goal, Ware said, is to keep the citywide satisfaction rating of streets at 74.2 percent, which falls well below the 87 percent satisfactory level city council had set as a goal 10 years ago. Further information on scheduling of specific projects will be available at a later date on the Street Services Department's website, Ware said.
Bastrop council approves plan for rec center, emergency shelter
Bastrop City Council members recently approved a plan to use a $1.6 million federal grant to build a recreation center that could also serve as an emergency shelter. Council members also left open the possibility of a partnership with the YMCA to operate the rec center.
To be located at Bob Brant Park, the proposed 20,000-square-foot facility will include an administrative area, a gym, showers and locker facilities for both men and women. The grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires the facility be able to serve as an emergency shelter in times of need, also includes funding for a kitchen area, pantry and laundry facilities. The gym area will be used to house people in an emergency situation. The grant followed a large wildfire in the area in 2011.
When not used as an emergency shelter, the new facility also can host senior citizen activities and the Boys and Girl Club, said City Manager Mike Talbot. Officials of the Austin YMCA are expected to present a plan to city council in the next few months to partner with Bastrop in operating the new recreation facility and to expand it to 35,000 square feet at a later date.
A&M's Easterwood Airport will expand parking lot, holding area
Officials of Easterwood Airport in College Station recently announced plans to expand its parking lot and holding area to attract more traffic to the airport.
Easterwood Airport is owned by Texas A&M University and managed by a private operator. Officials are using a portion of a $475,000 grant from the Small Community Air Service Development Program of the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the upgrades, said Josh Abramson (pictured), manager of the airport.
Upgrades to the parking system and a cafe already have been completed, after the private operator pledged to spend $7 million on improvements in an effort to attract an additional carrier to the airport, which currently has two airlines offering flights to Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. The airport is not expected to be ready for a third carrier for at least a year, Abramson said.
Amarillo moves forward with design phase for event venue
Amarillo city officials and board members of the city's Local Government Corporation (LGC) recently agreed to contract with a company to develop a plan for a proposed multi-purpose event venue that would include a minor league baseball stadium.
The agreement calls for the design firm to present a preliminary plan to LGC members at a meeting to be scheduled in the next two months that will be open to the public. The LGC and city officials will then decide whether to move on to phase two of the proposed event venue, said John Lutz, an LGC board member.
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Victoria weighing proposal for $3.7 million road repair project
Victoria City Council members recently began to consider a proposal by the city's public works director to spend $3.7 million to repair roads in the Woodway subdivision that have been heavily damaged, first by the drought and then by the heavy rains of the last year.
The city had tried to repair the roads in 2014 by sealing over cracks, but the roads are now near complete failure and can no longer withstand the weight of garbage trucks, according to the city engineer. A majority of the damage is located where the trucks stop and start and then make turns, he explained.
Public Works Director Lynn Short said he plans to add the Woodway project to the capital improvement project list this spring, though that does not guarantee funding for the project.
Borger EDC donates land for new multi-purpose events center
Officials of the Borger Economic Development Corporation recently donated 30 acres of land at an industrial park for a new multi-purpose events center.
City officials have set aside $1.5 million for the events center and are seeking an additional $5.5 million in donations from individuals, foundations and corporations to begin construction on the facility, designed to seat 2,000. As an example of the types of groups being approached for funding, the mayor has said that city officials recently spoke to the Amarillo Area Foundation for support.
March P3 Conference will bring together public and 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.|
Austin's reputation attracts distinguished guests
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Austin - progressive, innovative, collaborative, forward-thinking! While that may read like a marquee written for the capital city by the chamber of commerce, it's actually what has attracted a distinguished delegation from Florida. Next week, 50 community leaders, elected officials and industry representatives from the Fort Lauderdale area will visit Austin for a four-day fact-finding trip organized by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance (GFLA). The alliance serves Broward County, cities and businesses in the area, and is the county's public-private partnership for economic development.
The purpose of the trip is for the delegation to learn more about Austin's successful endeavors related to issues such as education, transportation, infrastructure, health care and economic development. GFLA is hopeful that the information gathered about successful innovations and collaborations on all types of issues may be applied to similar challenges in the Fort Lauderdale area.
Gail Bulfin, GFLA vice president for membership and the trip's director, says the city's "world-class reputation" was a driving factor in picking Austin over six other U.S. cities for this exploratory trip. Similar in size to Fort Lauderdale, Bulfin said Austin also scored points because of its thriving business community, its reputation as a center for innovation and the "great personality of the city." This is not the GFLA's first foray into city visits for economic development purposes. In 2009, a similar trip was made to Charlotte, N.C. Information gathered there was incorporated in the Fort Lauderdale area to enhance similar programs.
Jones selected as interim director of aviation in San Antonio Noel Thomas Jones recently agreed to serve as the interim director of aviation for the city of San Antonio. A retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force, Jones replaces former Aviation Director Frank Miller, who has resigned from that post.
Jones will serve in the interim position while city officials conduct a national search for a permanent airport director, said City Manager Sheryl Sculley. Council members late last year approved a new Air Service Incentive Development program to improve air connectivity to the city. The program set aside $600,000 in funding for 2016 to be used to attract more flights to the airport, Sculley said.
Jones retired from the U.S. Air Force in September 2015, having last served as vice commander of all U.S. Air Forces in Europe. He is a 1980 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Tarleton State selects Sudman to lead Fort Worth campus Tarleton State University officials recently selected Philip D. Sudman (pictured) as executive director of the school's Fort Worth campus.
A former department head in biological sciences, Sudman began his new duties in Fort Worth Jan. 1. He replaces three former directors in this newly created position, which university officials say will offer a single point of contact for the campus. The move is designed to improve efficiency in the coordination of nearly 40 graduate and undergraduate programs. Two of the former directors returned to teaching,and the third became director of the school's center on the campus of Navarro College in Midlothian.
Sudman, who joined the university in 1996, has a bachelor's degree from Central University in Iowa, a master's degree from Fort Hays State University in Kansas and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.
Harlingen may alter fire station design to lower construction costs
Harlingen city officials recently agreed to request some changes in the design of a proposed fire station project after a local construction company withdrew its bid of $1.2 million to construct the 5,277-square-foot, two-story fire station.
The plan is to review the second lowest bid of $1.5 million and attempt to reduce costs to about $1.1 million by changing design features or eliminating some items, said City Manager Dan Serna. Seeking a second round of bids would likely delay the fire station project by several months. City officials have planned to bring fire service to the west side of the city for several years and would prefer not to delay the project, Serna said.
NTTA, NCTCOG to discuss transportation future of North Texas
Two transportation organizations around the Dallas-Fort Worth area are hosting meetings this month that will give a glimpse of the region's transportation future.
The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) is concerned with the immediate future. It will host a vendor forum Wednesday, Jan. 27, in Dallas. NTTA staff will present information about 2016 contract opportunities for future projects, as well as how to do business with the authority. Those attending will have the opportunity to meet with NTTA staff, including senior buyers from purchasing, maintenance, project delivery and information technology.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is hosting public meetings next week, Jan. 12 and 13. The NCTCOG is developing the region's long-range transportation plan, called Mobility 2040, and is seeking public input regarding major roadways, transit projects and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure between now and 2040. The plan is expected to be adopted by the Regional Transportation Council in March.
In Bandera, Hegemier takes city administration duties temporarily Bandera City Council members have announced that Mayor John Hegemier (pictured) will serve as interim city administrator to replace Lamar Schultze, the former city administrator, whose contract was terminated by a council vote.
Council members also dismissed City Secretary Karen Chesler and Mike Armstrong, the code inspector, from their posts.
Various members of city staff will help with administrative duties to assist Hegemier while he performs the basic duties of city administrator. Council members also are launching a search for a permanent city administrator, city secretary and code inspector, Hegemier said.
Carroll names Wrehe assistant superintendent for financial services Carroll Independent School District trustees recently tapped Scott Wrehe (pictured) as the new assistant superintendent for financial services.
Wrehe most recently was chief financial officer for Joshua ISD, and he previously worked for school districts in Burleson and Fort Worth. He also was vice president for the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Texas Association of School Business Officials.
Wrehe has a bachelor's degree from Texas Christian University.
SWIFT application period open until Feb. 5
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has opened the application period for the 2016 funding cycle of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program. The preliminary, two-page application may be submitted either online or by hard copy until Feb. 5.
For this year's funding cycle, the TWDB has said that it will be able to "accommodate approximately $1 billion in financial assistance, with approximately $650 million available for new applications."
Projects must be listed in the approved 2016 Regional Water Plans and the subsequent 2017 State Water Plan to be eligible for the SWIFT program.
Laredo council funds convention center study
Laredo City Council members recently approved $96,500 to pay for a feasibility study for the construction of a convention center.
The study will include an updated market analysis, a review of community facilities and market potential, as well as an analysis of the economic and fiscal impact of a convention center.
Dickson selected as Karnack superintendent Amy Dickson recently won selection as the superintendent for Karnack Independent School District.
When she begins her new duties Feb. 1, Dickson (pictured) will replace former Superintendent Cozzetta Robinson, who is retiring after 38 years with the district.
Previously director of elementary education at Marshall ISD, Dickson also was a principal at an elementary school.
Trinity names Reynolds interim superintendent
The Trinity Independent School District Board of Trustees has named John Reynolds as the district's interim superintendent.
Reynolds began his tenure this week. He replaces Dave Plymale, who resigned in December to take the superintendent position with Goliad ISD.
Dallas developers to fund affordable housing study The city of Dallas and two private partners have agreed to pay $115,000 for an affordable housing study by the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The Dallas Public-Private Partnership Fund also agreed to provide an additional $10,000 for the study.
Federal officials have pushed the city to adopt an official affordable housing policy or risk having to repay federal funding. The study is one of several steps the city council's Housing Committee is taking prior to putting forth policy proposals this summer, said Scott Griggs (pictured), chair of the committee.
Representatives from the cities of Austin and Houston, Habitat for Humanity and the Real Estate Council also have addressed or will provide information to the committee to review, Griggs added.
Debbie Sadler resigns as Yoakum economic development director
Debbie A. Sadler, who served as the director of economic development in Yoakum during the last year, recently resigned from that post.
While city officials and members of the Economic Development Board are finding a new executive director, board members will continue with initiatives begun by Sadler to encourage economic development, said Kevin Coleman, the city manager.
|Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointment: |
- Michael Truncale, Beaumont, Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board.
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