Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 38 - Friday, October 7, 2016
Innovation awards to be presented at TWDB conference
The Texas Water Development Board will begin accepting entries for the Innovative Water Supply Awards on Oct. 10. The inaugural awards recognize projects that helped develop or conserve water supplies in Texas.  Awards will be presented at the Water for Texas 2017 conference held Jan. 23-25.

"The theme for the conference this year is innovation," said TWDB's Kathleen Ligon. The awards represent the broader innovations being applied in the field of water supply. 

Awards will be presented in three categories: technology, conservation and education. The technology award will recognize a project utilizing a new technology, advancing a current technology or using an existing technology for water supplies in a new way. 

The conservation award will recognize a project that conserves high volumes of water or advanced the field of conservation. The education award will go to a project that increases awareness about water supplies in the state. 

The submission deadline is Nov. 18. Public and private entities are encouraged to enter.  Click here for details. 
Experts to discuss challenges of 85th session at conference
Elected state leaders, agency chiefs and other state government experts will convene at the Biennial Legislative Communication Conference at The University of Texas at Austin on Oct. 13. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar will give the opening keynote on the state's economic outlook, Texas Sen. Kirk Watson will give the afternoon keynote and more than a dozen notable presenters will discuss the budget, legislative priorities and ways to better work with the legislature. 

The conference is nearing capacity and those wishing to attend should reserve a spot now. Register at lbj.utexas.edu/legislativecommunication.

An afternoon panel, "Facing the Challenges of the 85th Legislative Session" will include Porter Wilson, executive director of the Employee Retirement System of Texas; Charles Smith, executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Whitney Brewster, executive director of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Barry McBee, Vice Chancellor of Governmental Affairs at The University of Texas System, will moderate and participate.

Wilson was appointed executive director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) on June 1, 2015. ERS administers programs that provide retirement, deferred compensation and flexible benefits for more than 225,000 state employees and retirees.  Wilson most recently served as associate vice chancellor for governmental relations for the Texas Tech University System. From 1996 to 2014 he served as chief of staff for Texas State Senator Robert Duncan. He received the Texas Public Employees Association's Public Service Award for the 83rd legislative session and was named the Department of Public Safety Officers Association's Legislative Staffer of the Year for both the 82nd and 83rd sessions.

Smith was selected by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve as executive commissioner for the Health and Human Services Commission effective June 1, 2016. Smith most recently was the Health and Human Services chief deputy executive commissioner. He previously served as deputy for child support at the Office of the Attorney General from 2013-2015. He was responsible for the overall delivery of child support services performed by the division's 2,700 employees. Smith began his career in the Attorney General's office as a volunteer in the Child Support Division in 1988. He served as the division's deputy director from 2004-2013 overseeing field operations. 

Brewster is the executive director of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and she is the second executive director to lead the agency since its inception in 2009. She oversees 763 employees, a biennial budget of over $300 million and more than $1.7 billion in annual revenue collections for the state. Brewster began her professional career in Alaska as director of Alaska's Division of Motor Vehicles. Brewster serves on the Business Executive Leadership Committee, which is charged with establishing an enterprise business strategy for data center services for state agencies in Texas. She currently serves on the executive committee of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) International Board of Directors and is the 2nd Vice President of the AAMVA regional board. 

The conference, sponsored since 1998 by the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, Inc. will offer fact-based predictions for the 2017 session. Attendees will hear about the issues statewide elected officials expect to champion, get tips on working successfully with elected leaders in the Texas House of Representatives and Senate and network with government executives.  

Other confirmed presenters include: State Senator Kirk Watson, State Representative John Otto, State Representative Larry Gonzales, State Representative Carol Alvarado, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Governor Daniel Hodge, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Lt. Governor Logan Spence, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Speaker of the House Patricia Shipton, Budget Director for the Office of the Lt. Governor Mike Morrissey, Senior Budget and Policy Advisor at Texas House of Representatives Brady Franks, Legislative Budget Board Director Ursula Parks, Texas Monthly Senior Editor Erica Grieder, Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey.
Cyber security series scheduled
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and the Texas Department of Information Resources has scheduled a speaker series on topics to help protect valuable digital assets and information. 

"Our cybersecurity office is holding these events to raise awareness in order to mitigate personal risk and risk to the state," said Elliott Sprehe, DIR spokesperson.

Internal presentations are being held Oct. 7 and Oct. 12. A session open to the public will be held on Oct. 19. DIR will present a one-hour session designed to equip participants to detect and respond appropriately to common social engineering attacks. The course will deconstruct various attack techniques and participants will learn to recognize and handle attacks via email, web browsers, mobile devices and other threats.

Attendees will also learn to help identify, report, and mitigate risks from social engineering attacks. The course will also provide participants with steps and processes for reducing the risk from social engineering attacks within their own organizations. Click here to register.
Texas sends support for Hurricane Matthew response
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state approved sending resources for disaster relief to Florida. At the request of the State of Florida and through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), Texas will send resources to include the Texas A&M Forest Service All-Hazards Incident Management Teams (AHIMT). Other Texas state agencies are on stand-by to respond to any further requests from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina or other impacted states.

"As Hurricane Matthew prepares to impact the United States, it is crucial that our fellow Americans receive the assistance they need," said Abbott. "I am confident that Texas' dedicated emergency response professionals will strengthen the disaster response efforts at a time when local resources may be strained. I ask that all Texans keep those in the path of Hurricane Matthew in their thoughts and prayers as they brace for the impact of this major hurricane."

EMAC is a mutual aid system among the states where the requesting state is responsible for the reimbursement of mission costs. For more information, visit http://www.emacweb.org.
AIAI talks P3s with public officials in California and Texas
About 850 people attended the P3 Higher Education Conference in San Diego Oct. 3-4.
Public-private partnerships (P3s) have been a hot topic this week in 
California and Texas. The Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI) was in both places, generously contributing resources and expertise to help public officials discover new ways to meet critical infrastructure needs.

In San Diego, 850 people gathered for the two-day P3 Higher Education Summit that included discussions, training and working sessions related to P3s. AIAI was there to help public officials better understand the concept and the inner workings of this type of procurement option. 

When the California program ended Tuesday evening, the AIAI team traveled to Texas to meet with city and state officials in Austin for the Texas Municipal League's annual conference. Participants from all over the state attended the sessions in Austin on Wednesday and Thursday.  

As public funding decreases and the need for critical infrastructure increases, the interest in understanding more about P3s has escalated. Organizations like AIAI have stepped up to help provide public entities with the information they need develop innovative solutions to vitally needed infrastructure.
TWDB approves $54.7M for water system improvements
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved financial assistance totaling $54.7 million for water and wastewater system improvement projects.

The city of Eagle Pass will receive $44 million for water system improvements. With the funding, the city will be able to expand its surface water treatment plant from 15 million gallons per day to 18 million gallons per day. The city will also replace water distribution systems in the Las Quintas and Jardines Verdes subdivisions, replace and rehabilitate existing water tanks and construct a new ground storage tank at College Hills. TWDB previously committed approximately $8.2 million for the planning and design of the project, a leak detection study, a water audit, water modeling and a GIS-based asset management plan. 

The city of La Porte will receive $10.6 million for wastewater system improvements. The funds will be used to consolidate the city's Lomax area wastewater lift stations. The project includes replacing nine existing lift stations with a single lift station and reconstructing an additional existing lift station.

September sales tax revenue announced
The state comptroller's office announced Texas sales tax revenue totaled $2.13 billion in September, 3.9 percent lower than in September 2015.

"Subdued spending for oil and gas drilling continues to depress sales tax revenue," said Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. "Consumer spending also appears to have slowed, as sales tax collections from retail trade were down from the previous year. In contrast, construction sector receipts continued to grow."

Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in September 2016 is down 2.6 percent compared to the same period a year ago. The state collected motor vehicle sales and rental taxes totalling $395.8 million, down 4.8 percent from September 2015; motor fuel taxes totalling $294 million, down 4.6 percent from September 2015; and oil and natural gas production taxes totalling $215.9 million, down 6.2 percent from September 2015.

For details on all monthly collections, visit the Comptroller's Monthly State Revenue Watch.
Austin posts $720M bond details
Austin city officials have posted detailed information on a $720 million bond proposition on the November ballot. The bond would be used to fund transportation and mobility projects. The website provides a project and program map as well as financial and tax impact information. 

About $101 million would be used for regional mobility projects, $482 million for corridor improvements and $137 million for local mobility projects. Details are available at AustinTexas.gov/2016Bond.



Harris County approves $105M for Astrodome renovation 
Harris County Commissioners approved a $105 million plan to renovate the Astrodome by elevating the floor to create two floors of underground parking. The proposed plan would also remodel 550,000 square feet of the building into public space. 
 
County officials authorized the county engineer to pay $10.5 million to fund the initial engineering and architectural phase of the project. The plan also calls for raising the floor of the Astrodome 30 feet to create 1,400 underground parking spaces.

Funding for the project would include a maximum of $35 million from the general fund and $70 million from hotel occupancy tax and parking revenue.
DART seeking proposals for 11 acres at Mockingbird Station 
Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials are requesting proposals from commercial builders to enter into a public-private partnership (P3/PPP) to develop 11 acres of parking lots near Mockingbird Station. DART officials used a similar P3 to develop Mockingbird Station properties that opened in 2001.

"DART sees this as a unique opportunity for one of our parcels of property situated in a prime location," Gary C. Thomas, DART president and executive director, said in a statement. "An aggressive marketing effort to seek developers for the designated areas at Mockingbird Station should provide us with creative solutions benefiting the community and the city, a public-private partnership collaboration and long-term economic benefits for the agency."

DART officials hired a commercial real estate broker to handle the proposals from interested developers. Located near the northeast corner of Mockingbird Lane and US 75, the property is zoned for retail and hotel development, office space and high-density apartments.
New junior high, athletic complex top $35M Smithville ISD ballot 
Voters in Smithville Independent School District will decide on whether to build a new $22 million junior high school, a $7 million stadium and athletic complex and spend $5.5 million to expand and renovate existing campuses when voting on a $35 million bond proposition in November. 

Designed to accommodate 400 students, the new junior high school would feature a secure main entry, a science and lecture labs, computer labs, modernized classrooms, a band hall, a special education area, gymnasium, library/media center and a cafeteria. To save money, district officials agreed to build the new junior high school adjacent to the high school to share parking and other resources. The new junior high campus should be completed for the academic year beginning in 2019. 

The new multi-purpose athletic stadium complex, expected to cost $7 million, will feature grandstand seating for 5,000, a track, concession stands, a ticketing area, restrooms, storage space, offices and press box. The  athletic complex should be completed in 2018. 
Lakeway eyeing construction of $30M performing arts center 
Lakeway city council members are considering a proposal to build a $30 million performing arts center. A study performed by consultants proposed a site on Ranch Road 620, but the mayor also suggested considering an 82-acre site near Lohman's Crossing for the facility. 
 
The proposal calls for the 65,448 square-foot performing arts center to feature a main theater to seat 800 people, a box theater to accommodate about 250 people and a rehearsal hall with seating for 100.

City officials are waiting from a ruling from the Texas Attorney General's Office on whether the city can use revenue from the hotel occupancy tax to help subsidize the project.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Wray Weldon, Assistant Provost, Enrollment Management, The University of Texas at Dallas
 
Wray Weldon
Career Highlights and Education: After graduating with a bachelor of science in Computer Science from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1986, I began my career as a Software Engineer at the Raytheon E-Systems Division in North Texas where I spent 11 years designing digital imaging technology and deployment at the Defense Mapping Agency in Reston, Va., and Bethesda, Md. After completing a master of science degree in management information systems from The University of Texas at Dallas and a doctorate in administration from Trinity College, I worked in the telecommunications industry as a member of the scientific staff at Nortel Networks/Avaya for 13 years. During this time, I was part of a team of engineers developing wireless intelligent network services, web conferencing, and security architectures. In 2011, I accepted an opportunity to transition into higher education initially focusing on technology solutions, and later appointed to the role of Assistant Provost, Enrollment Management at UT Dallas. The scope of my current role includes admissions, recruitment, event management, business management, document processing and technology operations.

What I like best about my job is: The opportunity to serve a growing population of new students enrolling at UT Dallas and interacting with a great group of colleagues throughout the university.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Build relationships through partnerships with other administrative and academic departments, working collaboratively to achieve strategic goals, deliver technology solutions, and improve operational processes in support of student success.
 
Advice you would give to a new hire in your office: Maintain a positive attitude, develop a servant leadership model and continually seek to learn from others.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: Camping and hiking in the Texas Hill Country with my wife, Dorothy.

People would be surprised to know that I: I have a strong interest in World War II history and build scale model replicas of warbird aircraft.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Although UT Dallas has experienced significant growth in the number of newly enrolled students in recent years, our admissions office continually seeks to provide highly personable service for families, nurturing each individual and helping prospective students make decisions that will lead to success.
Calendar of Events

Oct. 11, 2016

Accessibility of Things is a free, hands-on digital accessibility workshop for public-sector staff. This half-day event will provide foundational knowledge for making websites, documents, e-learning and mobile applications perceivable by people with disabilities as required by Title 1, Chapters 206 and 213 of the Texas Administrative Code. Jeff Kline, program director of Statewide EIR Accessibility at DIR, and Hiram Kuykendall, Microassist Chief Technology Officer, will show participants how various types of content are perceived on different digital devices. While not required, attendees are encouraged to bring their own tablets and smartphones (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.,) for the Desktop vs. Mobile exercise portion of the program. Accessibility of Things is hosted by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) and will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, in Austin. A course outline and registration information is available on the DIR Calendar. Seating is limited and registration is required.

 

Oct. 11, 2016

Started seven years ago by San Antonio Clean Technology Forum, the annual Water Forum brings together municipal, educational, economic and political interests for engaged, informed discussions regarding regional water issues. This year's event, Water Forum VII: A Legacy - Edwards Aquifer Authority at 20 Years, will feature the fifth annual Water for Life Award, presented by the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum. Click here for details and registration.

 

Oct. 20-21, 2016

The South Texas Women Leading Government (WLG) Conference will be held at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Campus in Brownsville. The registration deadline is Oct. 7. Conference topics will include: Tips for a Highly Effective Manager and Leader, Preparing to Take a Leadership Role in Your Organization, The Confidence Code in Your Everyday Actions, Authentic Communication Strategies and Tips to Build Your Social Networks and Roundtable Discussion with five female City Managers.

 

Jan. 23-25, 2017

The Water for Texas 2017 Conference in Austin, Texas, will showcase innovative scientific, planning and financial solutions to water challenges; interactive data and technology; and compelling conversations on water issues that affect all Texans. Panel discussions, workshops, and exhibits will offer the opportunity to network and engage with industry leaders, elected officials and TWDB Board members and staff. A conference agenda is available. Register here.

 

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

Industry officials report that 2016 could be one of the biggest years ever for health care technology and construction. That trend will likely continue and escalate even more in the near future.

Patients have become accustomed to state-of-the-art technology, the latest medical equipment and impressive hospital facilities. Most patients won't settle for anything less and that is driving lots of demand as hospital systems strive to flourish in a very competitive marketplace. There are a few problems, though, and ones that are not easily solved.






Austin ISD to sell or lease 10 properties 
Trustees for Austin Independent School District agreed to issue requests for proposals and bids on 10 district-owned properties with a total estimated value of $95 million. The properties placed on the market include the administration complex just west of downtown that officials estimate is worth $33.6 million. 
 
District officials are accepting proposals from investors and developers who may wish to buy or lease the properties as well as encouraging community organizations to submit proposals. More information on the request for proposals may be found here.
 
District officials are having a pre-bid conference on Oct. 18 at Allan Center cafeteria and will offer property tours beginning on Oct. 20. The deadline for submitting proposals is Dec. 14.


Lake Travis ISD chief eyeing $220M bond for 2017 
Superintendent Brad Lancaster of Lake Travis Independent School District is urging community and board members to support a $220 million bond election in 2017.

The district needs a third middle school and one or two new elementary schools to meet student enrollment that grew by 76 percent in the last 10 years, Lancaster said. Almost another 5,700 students are expected to enroll by 2025.

The district also needs bond funding for upgrades, repairs and renovations to existing schools, buy new school buses and improve technology, said Lancaster




Peñitas to use $4.2M for new city hall complex
Peñitas city officials are planning to build a new city hall complex using a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The new civic complex will house city hall, the police station and other municipal offices. 
 
City officials also are counting on increased revenue from sales taxes at new commercial sites to fund part of the project. Work on the new civic center is expected to begin in 2017.




Corpus Christi focuses on middle schools for $194M bond
Corpus Christi Independent School District board members are focusing on middle schools in their efforts to help voters understand a $194 million bond proposal on the November ballot. 
 
The plan approved by trustees call for building two new middle schools and spending $8.5 million on renovations to an existing middle school. Two other middle schools would be closed and consolidated. Board members also plan to renovate five high schools and expand classroom space at two elementary schools. Also on the bond ballot is a proposal to spend $21 million to improve an athletic complex. 

More information is available at www.ccisd.us.
Peters named superintendent for Caldwell ISD 
Andrew Peters was selected the lone finalist for superintendent at Caldwell ISD. 
 
Peters was a superintendent for Marfa ISD. He will replace former Superintendent Timothy Cuff once his contract is finalized following the required 21-day waiting period.

Joe Don Lee has served as interim superintendent for the Caldwell school district since August.


Alice airport awarded $500,000 for fencing
The Texas Transportation Commission has awarded $500,000 in state and federal funds to Jim Wells county to improve Alice International Airport. The funds will be used for engineering, design and construction of about 20,000 linear feet of fencing. 
 
The project will help mitigate wildlife issues currently experienced at the airport. The fence is meant to protect animal wildlife while also preventing injury to the public or aircraft that could occur due to wildlife running onto the landing strips.
Beaumont allots $7.4M for fire station
Beaumont city council members agreed to spend $7.4 million for a new fire station project. The project had been delayed a year after contractor bids were higher than expected. City officials reviewed the design for the fire station and removed features totaling $370,000 from the revised design plan.

The most recent plan calls for replacing an existing fire station on the city's north side with a 29,000-square-foot building designed to provide firefighters with more access to major north-south streets and Interstate 10.


Clarendon plans $3.9M water system upgrades 
Clarendon city officials are considering increasing water rates to help pay for $3.9 million in improvements to the city's distribution system. Aldermen are scheduled to vote on Oct. 13 on the water rate increase. 
 
The city received a $1.387 million grant from the Rural Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in addition to a $2.5 million loan to be repaid over a 40-year period to help fund the improvements to the water system. Current plans are to begin seeking bids for the project in February 2017.

City officials plan to replace cast iron distribution pipes and exchange 700 existing water meters for auto read meters to reduce the man hours spent each month reading manual meters.




TWC, TEA approve $7.8M for private preschool programs 
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced $7.8 million in grant funds for private prekindergarten programs. School districts will use the planning and implementation funds to partner with eligible child care providers to provide prekindergarten classes to 3- and 4-year old children.

Child care providers must be rated 4-star (the highest level of certification) through the Texas Rising Star program. The Prekindergarten Partnership Grant is intended to allow school systems to expand early childhood education to more children in Texas.


Azle moves forward with new $9M city hall, police station 
The Azle City Council agreed to issue $9.01 million in certificates of obligation to pay for a new city hall and police station. Council members previously agreed to purchase 14 acres of land on Main Street as the site for the new facilities. 
 
In addition to providing needed space for city staff, officials hope the move to Main Street will also help stimulate economic growth in the downtown area.
Houston joining program to support historic preservation 
The Houston Planning and Development Department has joined the federal Certified Local Government (CLG) program designed to create partnerships with the U.S. Department of Interior, state agencies and local governments to support historic preservation. 
 
Being included in the CLG program provides the Planning and Development Department with more access to federal and state funding and technical assistance in preservation efforts within the city. The grants can be used for surveys, design work, structural assessments and for rehabilitation.

To be accepted in the program, city officials had to agree to enforce state and local regulations for designating and protecting historic properties and create a qualified commission to review historic preservation projects to ensure all regulations are met. City officials also agreed to ensure public participation in planning historic preservation projects and maintain an accurate survey and inventory of historic preservation projects in Houston. More than 2,000 cities and counties participate in the CLG program that is administered by the National Parks Service. The Texas Historical Commission is the CLG state partner.


San Antonio seeks proposals for new boat operator
San Antonio city officials issued a request for proposals for a new, 10-year contract to manage and operate passenger boats along the San Antonio River. City council members previously awarded a contract to a Houston company to design the new river boats to cruise the river. 
 
Once a winning proposal is selected, the new 10-year contract will begin October 1, 2017. The project calls for the company to provide tour, charter and taxi services along the river using the newly designed river boats. The Center City Development and Operations Department has set a deadline of Jan. 6 to submit proposals to operate the fleet of river boats. 

Click here for details.
JOB BOARD
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week include:  


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On Our Website 


 
Road to Zero Coalition plans to end traffic fatalities
 

RECENT REPORTS
GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Chad Craycraft, Dallas, Texas Ethics Commission;

  • Katie Kennedy, Houston, Texas Ethics Commission.
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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.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Priscilla Loebenberg 
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