Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 44 - Friday, November 18, 2016
A Texas Sunset Advisory Committee report released this week on the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) included concerns about the agency's readiness to handle up to $80 million in projects over the next 10 years. New funding has effectively doubled the expectations placed on the agency for that time period. 

"While this new funding represents a historic opportunity for the state, it also poses a significant challenge for the department to plan, select, and deliver projects effectively and transparently, a perennial area of concern," read the report. 

Reviewers found TxDOT made good-faith efforts to address previous concerns, but more improvements in critical areas were needed. A more proactive and streamlined approach was called for in delivering highway projects, as well as a more transparent and performance-based planning and project selection process.

Winfree to lead Texas Transportation Institute
Gregory Winfree
Gregory D. Winfree was named the sole finalist to fill the position of institute director at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Texas A&M University System regents unanimously approved Winfree to fill the position being vacated by Director Dennis Christiansen in December. 

Winfree leads the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

"Gregory Winfree's background in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines will serve TTI well," A&M System Chancellor Sharp said in a statement. "We are lucky to get another exceptional and innovative mind on the team at TTI."
Texas A&M approves $200M in projects
Texas A&M University regents approved more than $200 million in new construction projects last week. They include the Global Health Research Complex, a $76.5 million biocontainment research facility. A $103.8 million Medical Research and Education Building is also planned at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center as well as a $17 million West Campus Support Building. 

The Global Health Research Complex, with a total estimated cost of $86 million, will provide state-of-the-art containment facilities to study infectious agents and diseases in plants, animals and humans. The estimated 102,000-square-foot facility will be located near the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. Construction is scheduled to begin in January.  

The new Medical Research and Education Building will include a new multi-disciplinary classroom facility and laboratories and research spaces. Construction is scheduled to begin in December. 

The West Campus Support Building will include a dining facility, gathering spaces and residence life spaces. Construction is expected to begin this month. 

Other approved projects include a $9.75 million campus electrical substantiation and capacity upgrade, a $15 million replacement of the Mosher Hall HVAC system and an additional $6 million to aid in the construction of The Gardens at Texas A&M University.
Lt. Gov. names top 10 priorities
Dan Patrick
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has released a list of his top 10 legislative priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session. Thirty low number bills have been reserved for issues the Patrick designates as high priority. 

"Starting in 2017, we will have a friend in the White House who was clearly elected because the people of this country believe in the conservative principles that have guided the way we govern in Texas -- life, liberty and lean government that promotes prosperity. I remain committed to those principles and the legislative priorities I am announcing today all reflect that commitment," said Patrick. 

The number 1 bill is the budget. The remaining issued considered highest priority include bills related to (2) property tax reform, (3) school choice, (4) sanctuary cities, (5) voter photo ID, (6) women's privacy/restroom use, (7) inappropriate teacher-student relationships, (8) abortion, (9) state spending cap and (10) hailstorm lawsuit reform. 

Other legislation that may be included in the top 30 bill numbers could reduce the handgun licensing fee; provide for ethics reforms, Child Protective Service reforms and tuition reforms; continue to reduce the state franchise tax and prohibit the government collection of union dues.

Texas Mobility Summit set to create Smart State Consortium Dec. 1-2
The Texas Department of Transportation's Texas Technology Task Force is hosting the Texas Mobility Summit Dec. 1-2, in Austin. The event is planned to advance the creation of a Smart State Consortium, encourage public-private dialogue and galvanize key leadership in developing innovative solutions to the state's mobility challenges. 

 City and regional teams will have the opportunity to share their ideas and develop a common vision for the future of Texas mobility. Click here for more information. 
TWDB approves $233.6M for water projects
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) today approved financial assistance totaling $233,610,000 for the following: 
  • The City of Pearland was approved for $159.5 million for a new 10-million-gallon-per-day surface water treatment plant. 
  • The City of Lubbock will receive $35 million to reduce the risk of flooding by constructing a stormwater sewer network. 
  • The City of Anahuac was approved for $5,175,000 for a ground storage tank, elevated storage tank rehabilitation and water line replacement. Another $11,440,000 was approved for improvements to the city's wastewater system. 
  • The Greater Texoma Utility Authority on behalf of the City of Sherman, will receive $11,880,000 to expand a water treatment plant. 
  •  The City of Hondo was approved for $5,470,000 for a water distribution system and storage tank improvement project. 
  • The Greater Texoma Utility Authority, on behalf of the Lake Kiowa Special Utility District, will use $2,125,000 for improvements to the water distribution system to help address the district's water loss.  
  • The City of Cottonwood Shores will get $1,395,000 for the rehabilitation and expansion of a water treatment plant. 
  • The City of West Tawakoni will use $1,125,000 for a new ground storage tank and rehabilitation of the existing ground storage tank and an elevated storage tank. 
  • The City of Cisco will get $500,000 to plan for a new water treatment plant to address an urgent need due to flooding.
Bexar County, San Antonio create airport task force
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor plan to appoint a new task force to study regional air transportation after public sector and private sector leaders expressed growing concern about more competition from Austin and lack of adequate air access in Bexar County and the surrounding region. 

Despite improved terminal facilities at the San Antonio International Airport and other upgrades such as a new airport rental car facility expected to open late next year, many Bexar County residents are opting to travel to the airport in Austin rather than using the airport in San Antonio, Wolff said. 

 The task force will explore the feasibility of building a newer and larger airport to serve the greater region. The task force also will investigate other options for improving air transportation.
El Paso ISD to spend $669M to renovate and consolidate
El Paso Independent School District officials are planning to spend $669 million in bonds approved earlier this month to pay for 29 capital improvement projects to renovate and consolidate 16 schools into seven.  

Rebuilding Coronado High school at an estimated cost of $73.9 million is the largest of the bond projects planned by the district. Officials also plan to spend $56.8 million to rebuild Burges High School and $39.6 million on renovations to Jefferson/Silva High School.
Huntsville to begin design phase on $73 million water project
Huntsville city officials have listed improvements to water and wastewater facilities as their top priority after voters approved three bond measures this month. The design phase is expected to begin early next year on a $73 million project to improve the A.J. Brown and N.B. Davidson Wastewater Treatment plants and the Palm Street Water Plant.  

Officials also expect to begin planning soon for a new $31 million public safety facility that will house the Huntsville Police Department and Huntsville Fire Department. A new $24 million City Service Center is also planned on the site of the current building on State Highway 75 North.
Appraisal district planning new $3.2M office
Officials of the Brazos Central Appraisal District (BCAD) has received approval to build a new tax office after winning support from the College Station Independent School District, Brazos County Commissioners Court, Bryan Independent School District and College Station city officials. 

BCAD officials plan to to purchase 1.9 acres of land on Pendleton Drive in Bryan owned by the county to build the proposed 11,550-square foot facility. The total cost of the project is estimated at $3.2 million. 
San Benito moving ahead with $3 million renovation of water plant
San Benito city officials are planning a $3 million renovation of a 90-year-old water plant. The project will be accomplished in two phases and is expected to allow the facility to operate for 20 years. 

 For the first phase of the project, city officials plan to purchase a $165,000 triplex backwash pump system. The second phase includes an adjusted design plan, an automated control system, a supervisory control and data acquisition system and expanded chemical treatment containers.
Waste disposal authority eyeing one stop water shop
Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority (GCWDA) officials, along with officials of an engineering firm, held a final hearing to discuss a proposed $60.6 million project to build a regional industrial wastewater treatment plant and a $21.3 million project for construction of a new water reuse treatment plant in Mont Belvieu. 

The proposed one-stop facility would treat both industrial and residential waste and remove some of the permitting obstacles now facing industrial water users. The water reuse facility would allow companies using brine water to reuse that water and reduce costs.  Customers also would be permitted to tap into a 30-inch pipeline planned along State Highway 146 that would connect to the new regional industrial wastewater treatment plant in Mont Belvieu.
Ten cities in Rio Grande Valley to link trails
Ten cities in Cameron County agreed to join together in building hike, bike and paddling trails that link together to promote tourism and provide more exercise, recreation and transportation options for residents. The Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Transportation and Active Tourism Plan, also known as the Active Plan, includes Harlingen, San Benito, Combes, Laguna Vista, Los Indios, Port Isabel, Rancho Viejo, Brownsville, Los Fresnos and South Padre Island. 

The Active Plan will incorporate the Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization's master plan for trails, which is estimated to cost between $16 and $58 million. The Active Plan is expected to take more than 20 years to complete.
Groom ISD to begin $19.4M in renovations in 2017
Trustees for Groom Independent School District are planning to begin a project to renovate a campus built in 1951 by late 2017. Voters approved a $19.5 million bond to fund the project and officials expect wind energy to help repay about 80 percent of the funds. 

The renovation project will be done in phases in order to minimize disruption to the 150 students enrolled on the campus that serves students from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade.
Belton ISD weighing bond proposals from $99.2M to $150M
Belton Independent School District board members are weighing three options of $99.2 million, $127.5 million and $150 million for a bond proposal in 2017 to build facilities to meet growing enrollment. An architectural consultant presented the options to the board to build a new high school and new 800-student elementary school as well as to transform an existing school into a middle school. The consultant also advised trustees to consider staging the bond election in May 2017 rather than November to save money. 

Board members are expected to instruct the architectural firm to begin schematic designs for the high school in January. Officials hope to complete the elementary school by fall 2019.
Kilgore to begin $9M update to water, wastewater systems
The Kilgore City Council members approved agreements to begin architectural, surveying and engineering work on a $9 million plan to upgrade the city's water and wastewater system. The upgrades are expected to take about four years to complete. Council members are expected to consider issuing certificates of obligation to help pay for the plan at their Dec. 13 meeting. 

Plans call for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, a lift station, the surface water treatment plant, raw water pump station and its water distribution system in order to meet customer demand for water and wastewater services. In August, the city launched a five-phase study to validate the city's water demands and supply capacity, evaluate future water supply opportunities, examine concepts on integrating the water system, determine costs and determine an adequate future water plan.

Deer Park approves $6.8M city hall
Deer Park City Council members approved spending $6.8 million to pay for a new city hall to replace the existing 40-year-old city hall. City officials plan to use the remaining bond funds approved in 2000 that were originally allocated to repair the current city hall to help pay for the new facility. 

The cost of the planned two-story city hall is estimated to be $5.53 million while the remaining funding will be used to pay for a new security equipment, furnishings and the cost of moving current equipment. City officials expect to seek bids for construction of the city hall late this year, select the winning bid in January and begin construction in 30 to 60 days once the contract is awarded.
Kyle to study moving railroad switch station
The Kyle City Council approved $270,000 to fund an engineering study on the feasibility of moving a railroad switch station from the downtown area. An additional rail exists to allow one train to stop as another trail travels through, an action that can block traffic on Center Street from a few minutes to almost an hour. 

Hays County officials set aside $1.5 million of a $131 bond package to assist the city in paying for moving the extra rail line. The total cost of the project is estimated at $17 million.
Vermillion joins SPI as consultant
Debra Vermillion, the former Director of the Crash Data & Analysis (CDA) Section in the Traffic Operations Division of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), has joined the Strategic Partnerships Inc. (SPI) consulting team as a senior consultant. With over 30 years of hands-on experience collecting and analyzing the state's traffic crash data, Debra is one of the nation's leading experts on using data to make roadways safer.

In her role as the CDA Section Director, Debra was responsible for both the state's Crash Records Information System (CRIS) and the coordination of the Texas Strategic Highway Safety Plan. She previously managed TxDOT's state and federal safety construction programs.

As a consultant Debra will be available to public entities, mobility authorities, safety directors and private sector firms with an interest in data access and data analysis. Debra is a true subject matter expert and will offer valuable insight, guidance and assistance to SPI's clients.

Debra holds a bachelor's degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Wichita County Judge Woodrow W. "Woody" Gossom Jr.

Judge Woodrow Gossom Jr.
Career highlights and education: Serving in a number of county leadership positions, completing and helping design curriculum 2000 program, graduate of the first TAC Leadership class. 1967- B.A. Midwestern State University (MSU); 1969- M.A. University of Denver, and doctoral studies at University of North Texas (ABD); 1969-1973 U.S. Army; 1975-1998 Texas Army National Guard, Colonel (R); 1974-1982 Associate Dean of Students at MSU; 1982-1988 General Manager of City Concrete; 1989-1998 Wichita County Commissioner; 1999-present Wichita County Judge.

What I like best about my job is: Serving people.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Listen with both ears, read with both eyes, process the information and do not let your mouth overtake the others.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Remain objective in reaching your conclusions. Recognize your mistakes and adjust.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Working on projects at home.

People would be surprised to know that I: Drove 18 wheelers while in college.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: How it really works.
Calendar of Events

Dec. 19-21, 2016
The Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency (CATEE) Conference is an educational conference and business exhibition connecting public and private decision makers and thought leaders. Its purpose is to help communities improve decisions that determine the energy and water intensity of the built environment, learn from examples and seek alternative renewable energy sources - and reduce related emissions. The 2016 CATEE Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Riverwalk in San Antonio. Register here.

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.
Feb. 27-March 1, 2017
The 2017 Public-Private Partnership Conference in Dallas provides attendees with education, networking opportunities and guidance to help public leaders successfully partner with the private sector to deliver and improve needed infrastructure. Join industry experts and practitioners to explore the advantages, limitations, considerations and opportunities for P3 investment in infrastructure in the United States. Register here.
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

The Road Improvement Program (TRIP) recently reported that pavement on 32 percent of America's roadways is in substandard condition. That results in very rough rides for motorists. Vehicles don't hold up well under constant jarring and tires don't last long either...but that's only a fraction of the real cost for motorists. The accelerating deterioration of the roads costs about $112 billion per year. That's an average annual cost of $523 per driver before any thought has been given to the costs of vehicle maintenance, time lost because of traffic congestion and the long-term effects of pollution fallout. 

Although a new federal Surface Transportation Act was approved by Congress last December, it didn't provide a permanent solution for transportation infrastructure needs. Long-term funding for state and local transportation projects continues to dwindle. That trend is expected to continue.

Lubbock names Atkinson city manager
Jarrett Atkinson
Jarrett Atkinson has been named city manager in Lubbock and will begin his duties Dec. 12. He replaces outgoing City Manager James Loomis. 

Atkinson previously served as Amarillo's city manager. His experience also includes working as local government services director for the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission. He received a master's degree from Texas Tech.
Corpus Christi and Kingsville systems will not merge
Texas A&M University System will not merge system universities in Kingsville and Corpus Christi. Chancellor John Sharp said the idea is no longer feasible and he will not ask the board of regents to vote on the recently proposed idea.

Police Chief Acevedo moves from Austin to Houston
Art Acevedo 
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo announced he is resigning to accept the position of chief of police in Houston. Acevedo served as police chief in Austin for nine and one-half years and will replace Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo when he begins his new duties in Houston. 

The first Hispanic to serve as police chief in Austin, Acevedo previously worked for the California Highway Patrol. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of La Verne. 

Interim Austin City Manager Elaine Hart said she expects to appoint an interim police chief soon and launch a national search for a new police chief. Hart expects the search will take about one year.
Mission ISD approves $8M stadium plans
Mission Independent School District trustees approved the design for an $8 million project to renovate a 40-year-old football stadium to bring the facility in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Trustees plan to select a contractor by the end of this year, begin renovating the stadium in February and complete the project in 2017. 

Plans for Tom Landry Stadium include enlarging the press box, installing an elevator, new ramps, adding 5,000 new bleacher seats on the home side of the stadium, 4,000 new bleacher seats for visitors, new concession stands and the addition of backs to reserved seats. The new press box will include offices for the home and visiting coaches, a community room, storage area, restrooms, a concession stand and a media room.

Jones named Hutto city manager
Odis Jones
Hutto has named Odis Jones as the new city manager. He will relocate from Michigan. Jones replaces Karen Daly, who resigned June 2. 

Jones has more than 20 years experience in local government and economic development. He was previously CEO of the public lighting authority in Detroit. He also served as city administrator in Obetz, Ohio, and executive director of development for Cincinnati.
Carroll ISD considers projects for May 2017 bond election
Trustees for Carroll Independent School District are weighing recommendations for capital improvement projects and new construction to include in a possible bond election in May or November 2017. 

A planning committee of citizens and district employees spent time this year touring district facilities to identify possible capital improvement projects to present to board members. Committee members found many district facilities were inadequate, especially when compared to neighboring school districts. Recommendations by the Capital Needs Planning Committee can be found at carrollbudget.com.

Jeffries to retire as superintendent of Greenville ISD
Superintendent Don Jefferies of Greenville Independent School District announced he is resigning from that post effective on March 1.  

Previously a high school principal for the district, Jefferies became superintendent in the spring of 2008. In the past, Jefferies was an associate superintendent of schools in Scottsdale, Ariz., an assistant superintendent for Mineral Wells ISD and a superintendent for West Orange Cove ISD.
Conroe to use reserve funds to kick off $74M capital improvement plan
Conroe city council members agreed to use reserve funds to begin work on $74 million in capital improvement projects and to replace that money later when bonds are issued. The 44 capital improvement projects are in various stages ranging from design to construction and include streets, city facilities, parks, water and sewer projects. 

A new $5.3 million fire station in the northwest part of the city is expected to be complete by June 2017. A new $2.1 million fire training facility will be located in the Conroe Industrial Park. Officials are still searching for a new location for a planned $54 million wastewater treatment plant.

TxDOT to discuss US281 interchange plans in Pharr
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials are planning to hold a public meeting in March 2017 to discuss current plans to improve traffic flow at the US 281 interchange in Pharr. Engineers are expected to provide information from a recent structural analysis of the pillars of the interchange to determine if the structure can handle more traffic.
Shenandoah seeks legislation to build events center
Shenandoah city officials are planning to propose legislation in the upcoming session of the state legislature that would allow the city to build an events center estimated to cost between $20 million and $40 million. Officials hope to pay for the project using revenue from hotel occupancy taxes (HOT). However, some planned uses of the center are disqualified for HOT funds under current legislation. 

To be located east of Interstate 45, the new events center would be designed to host large events such as graduations, sporting events and conferences. Using HOT funds for sports facilities is not currently allowed. Since officials want to use only HOT funds for the project, a legislative fix is necessary in order for the project fulfill all of its intended uses.

Chambers County plans new justice center
Chambers County commissioners gave the go-ahead to an architectural company to provide a new design for a new justice center and jail to be located next to the courthouse in Anahuac. The original $85 million plan for the project was presented in August. 

The new facility would include a new 240-bed jail facility and a justice center with courtrooms and offices for the district attorney, county clerk and district clerk. The new center would provide for about 100 more beds than the current jail.
Plano approves Dallas-Houston high-speed rail project
Plano City Council members approved a resolution in support of a 240-mile high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston. The North Texas Regional Transportation Council and several other area cities also voted to support the proposed high-speed rail line. 

Officials said a high-speed rail line connecting Dallas and Houston could help alleviate traffic in the area and allow residents of Plano and nearby communities to use the DART system to travel to Dallas to catch the train and arrive in Houston in about two hours. 

Current plans are to begin construction on the rail line in 2017 and begin offering some rail service by 2021.
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week include:  

Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

On Our Website 

President elect's infrastructure plan calls for increase in P3s

Houston to begin $41M affordable housing renovation
An affordable housing complex in the Fifth Ward of Houston will receive a $41 million renovation as a result of a public-private partnership (P3/PPP) between the City of Houston, the U.S. Department of Housing of Urban Development, the City of Houston and a bank. 

Built in 1970, the Cleme Manor Apartments features 25 two-story buildings with 284 housing units. The renovation includes new drywall, doors, windows, appliances, heating and air conditioning systems and water heaters that are all energy efficient. The renovation project also includes the office area, the laundry area, community spaces and a new play area.
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • D. Scott Ridley, Ph.D., Lubbock, State Board for Educator Certification;

  • Tommy L. Coleman, J.D., Livingston, State Board for Educator Certification;

  • Carlos Omar Villagrana, Houston, State Board for Educator Certification;

  • Alvin Collins, Andrews and Midland, Real Estate Research Advisory Committee;

  • Doug Jennings, Fort Worth, Real Estate Research Advisory Committee.
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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 
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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