Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 47 - Friday, December 16, 2016
Rex Tillerson
Rick Perry
Two Texans were named to President-Elect Donald Trump's cabinet this week. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was nominated for Secretary of State and former Gov. Rick Perry has been selected to lead the Department of Energy. Both picks bring with them strengths and weaknesses that could lead to contentious confirmation hearings.

 

Tillerson may be one of Trump's most controversial nominations due to his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson has done extensive business in Russia for the multinational oil and gas company he leads and was given the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013.

 

"Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department, and his relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none," Trump said. "I can think of no one more prepared, and no one more dedicated, to serve as Secretary of State at this critical time in our history."

 

 more

Corpus Christi officials announced chemical contamination in the city's water supply on Wednesday. Residents were asked not to drink or bath in tap water after an asphalt emulsifying agent was leaked in the water supply. 

Officials said between three and 24 gallons of Indulin AA86 were believed to have been released in a backflow incident that contaminated the water distribution system near the 6700 block of Up River Road. Local school districts canceled classes and a group of businesses filed a lawsuit against companies connected with the contamination.

Gov. Greg Abbott's office issued a statement that said the governor's office is aggressively monitoring the situation and coordinating with state agencies to handle the matter as swiftly as possible. "Governor Abbott's top priority is a transparent response and the safety of Corpus Christi residents, and our office will continue to provide any and all support to remedy this situation as quickly as possible."


Texas Government Insider will take a holiday break next week. Your newsletter will return on Dec. 30.

Texas awarded $5 million federal grant to fight Zika virus
Texas has been awarded a $5 million federal grant to combat the Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the grant as part of supplemental Zika funding approved by Congress. The grant will go toward public-health preparedness and response. 

State officials have reported 274 cases of illness due to the Zika virus through the week ending on Dec. 9. Of those, only one case in Cameron County appeared to be transmitted locally through a mosquito bite. This week four more locally transmitted cases were identified in Cameron County bringing the statewide total of locally transmitted cases to five. The Texas Department of State Health Services has allocated $18 million to efforts to fight the virus.

"Now that Texas has confirmed cases of local transmission of the Zika virus, this money will be crucial in our efforts to contain and combat further transmission of the virus," Gov. Greg Abbott said in the written statement. "Texas has been at the forefront of developing and implementing the strongest possible Zika response plan and we will continue to work with our local and federal partners to ensure our communities have the tools they need to combat the Zika virus."
MPO plans merger to secure funding
Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) officials unanimously voted to merge with planning organizations in neighboring Brownsville and Harlingen/San Benito to become eligible for a possible $146.7 million in federal and state funding for the region. The vote would create a road planning group that would be the fifth largest in Texas. 

It is now up to the Brownsville MPO and the Harlingen/San Benito MPO in Cameron County to vote on the merger after months of debate. If all three MPOs approve the merger, the Texas Department of Transportation and the governor must also approve the consolidation of the agencies.
Joint resolution filed for first responders
A joint resolution, SJR 1, has been filed in the Texas Legislature to give the surviving spouse of a fallen first responder property tax relief in the form of a total exemption. The resolution is a companion to the First Responder Property Tax Relief bill by Sen. Donna Campbell.  

"Law enforcement officers demonstrate every day that they are willing to put their lives on the line in order to protect our communities. When we lose one of these committed officers - and we have lost 18 in Texas this year - we must make it our duty to give back to their families, who must move forward without them. This legislation is one way that we can show our tremendous gratitude," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in a statement.
CPS Energy seeking contractor for $122M headquarters
CPS Energy officials are seeking a contractor for a new $122 million headquarters in San Antonio. The municipally-owned energy utility is accepting bids for a 430,000-square-foot property at Avenue B and McCullough Avenue. 
 
The 1980s buildings will be upgraded and renovated for better aesthetics and energy efficiency. The project will include a new 1,200-space parking garage and will likely feature a solar panel array. The utility will seek a LEED Gold certification for the project. Click here for more information.
School of Architecture at UT wins grant for transportation center
The University of Texas School of Architecture has won a five-year federal grant to establish a new transportation center focused on improving mobility throughout the state with an emphasis on megaregions such as the triangle between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. 

The school will receive $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation in fiscal year 2016-2017 and each year throughout the five-year period. Researchers from Louisiana State University, Texas Southern University and the University of Pennsylvania also will be involved in the transportation research.

Research will focus on regional planning and setting priorities for transportation, increasing access to both rural and urban communities and exploring more innovative methods to perform planning and modeling for high-traffic regions. Researchers also will examine methods to reduce traffic, increase accessibility and extend the durability of roadways and other transportation infrastructure.
Congress approves $526M for Trinity River project
The U.S. Congress has approved a $10 billion bill for water projects nationwide. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) includes $526 million in funding for the Trinity River Vision project in Fort Worth that will update flood control for the Trinity River. 

Kay Granger
"I have been a staunch advocate for TRV since its beginning, and have worked every step of the way to make this vitally important flood and economic development project a reality," said Rep. Kay Granger said in a statement. "The benefits of TRV to the people throughout the region simply cannot be overstated. That is why so many citizens, groups and community leaders have worked tirelessly to see it through."

The Trinity River project will cost an estimated $909.9 million. The plan proposes to revamp 88 miles of the river that flows through Fort Worth and to create an urban waterfront community called Panther Island.

Waco ISD plans planetarium restoration
If Waco Independent School District officials fail in an attempt to raise enough private donations to renovate and reopen a planetarium at Waco High School, board members are considering allotting up to $999,350 from the general revenue fund to help pay for reopening the planetarium that has been shut down for 20 years. A private donor has already pledged $100,000. 

District officials plan to replace the dome of the planetarium and install a new dual lens projecting system, theater seating for 45 viewers and build a dedicated entrance to allow viewing six days a week throughout the year.

If trustees approve the proposal, the guaranteed funding will allow district officials to move forward with planning and seek bids to restore the planetarium, one of only 15 planetariums in this state owned by a school district. Current plans are to open the planetarium no later than January 2018 to students from all 76 schools in the Region 12 Education Service Center in addition to students from Waco.
Ports-to-Plains Alliance leading efforts to extend I-27
Ports-to-Plains Alliance officials, along with a committee of mayors, county officials and other community leaders in West Texas, are leading an effort to extend Interstate 27. Their goal is to provide an alternative route for truck traffic and provide more economic development opportunities in West Texas, said Michael Reeves, president of the Alliance. 

At present, I-27 connects the 124-mile stretch between Lubbock and Amarillo. The designated Ports-to-Plains Corridor runs about 1,000 miles from Laredo through West Texas into Denver, Co. The cost to upgrade the entire corridor to interstate standards is estimated at around $7 billion. 

Alliance members said the upgrade is needed to handle increased trade with Mexico through Texas ports of entry such as Laredo and Eagle Pass and bypass severe congestion on I-35.
TWDB approves $883,557 for water system improvements
The Texas Water Development Board approved financial assistance totaling $883,557 for rural water system improvement projects.

Loan forgiveness in the amount of $200,000 from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund was granted to the Commodore Cove Improvement District for water system improvements. The financial assistance from the Very Small Systems reserve will allow the district to finance a reverse osmosis system, storage tank, booster pumps and additional equipment. 

Loan forgiveness in amount of $200,000  from the Very Small Systems reserve was also granted to the Loop Water Supply Corporation to install a small reverse osmosis system and evaporation ponds at the existing water treatment plant.

The City of Lueders was granted $483,557 in loan forgiveness from the Very Small Systems and Disadvantaged Community reserves. The financing will allow the city to install a new distribution line, a tank mixing system and an automatic meter reading system to address water loss.
Plano eyeing $90M park upgrades
The Plano City Council members are considering $90 million in improvements to 84 city parks as part of a proposed $257 million bond election on May 6. 

The largest projects in the list of recommended park upgrades include $12 million to renovate Carpenter Park; $8 million to build four artificial turf fields at Carpenter Park and two at Russell Creek Park; and $8 million for a new pavilion, events area and playground at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve.

Other projects under consideration for the May bond ballot are $15 million for the design and construction of a firefighter training facility, $15 million to expand three public libraries and $12 million to build a new police substation. Council members plan to discuss the proposed bond projects at their meeting on Dec. 20.
Edinburg, Hidalgo County move forward on $150M courthouse
In a joint meeting with the Hidalgo County Commissioners, Edinburg city council members approved a pact to contribute $30 million to help pay for construction of a new county courthouse expected to cost about $150 million. While the memo of understanding outlines the intent of the city and county, both county and city officials must vote to approve a legally binding interlocal agreement.
Azle ISD seeks contractor for two new elementary schools
Azle Independent School District trustees voted to use the construction manager at risk method to seek a contractor to build two new elementary schools. The schools will be funded by bonds voters approved earlier this year. 

The deadline for prospective contracts to respond to a request for qualifications is Dec. 20. One contractor will be selected to build both Walnut Creek Elementary and Azle Elementary. Board members set a goal to begin construction in May 2017 and complete the two new campuses in about a year.
Sherman ISD considers plans for growth
Board members for Sherman Independent School District are reviewing options for new construction to accommodate expected district growth. Officials looked at options for new facilities and renovations.

A new high school may be constructed for $130 million or a $35 million expansion could fill the need. A new middle school could cost $51 million or a high school could be repurposed at a cost of $14 million. Three new elementary schools costing $26 million each are also being considered. A football stadium would cost about $28 million regardless of whether the existing stadium were renovated or a new stadium was built with a new high school.
Bastrop County reviewing five-year, $28.5M improvement plan
Bastrop County Commissioners are reviewing a proposed $28.5 million, five-year capital improvement plan to improve facilities, technology and roads. 

Most of the proposed capital improvements, $22 million, would be used to build new county facilities. The top priority is a new county communications and emergency operating center that would be the home of the new 911 dispatch department and information technology offices expected to cost about $8 million. 

The plan also calls for construction of a new $5.5 million law enforcement center, a judicial complex expected to cost $6 million and a $2 million project to expand the jail. Also included are proposals to spend $1.5 million to upgrade information technology and to spend $5.5 million improving roads.
Hays CISD approves design for new $34M elementary campus
Trustees for Hays Consolidated Independent School District approved designs for a new $34 million elementary school. 

Designed with a capacity of 900 students, the new campus will have a gymnasium with separated teaching areas to allow two physical education classes to be held at the same time. The new school will also have an outdoor space for classes on the first floor and science labs on the second floor. 

District officials expect the construction documents will be ready to begin the bid process in April.
Houston approves new venue
Houston City Council members approved plans to build the Levitt Pavilion, a new concert venue at Willow Waterhole in the southwest section of the city.  

To be located at the intersection of South Main and South Post Oak, the pavilion is being paid for by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation in Los Angeles. Houston First, a local government corporation, has agreed to pay up to $1 million for capital repairs at the new concert venue during its first 15 years of operation. 

The 30-year agreement between the city and the foundation requires the venue be available for a minimum of 25 public events a year. Officials expect the facility to begin presenting performances in 2019.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Kerri Lewis, Deputy Executive Director & General Counsel, Texas Real Estate Commission

Kerri Lewis
Career highlights and education: My career spans over 25 years and includes legal and management experience in both public service and the private sector. I have represented real estate developers, individuals, small businesses, financial institutions and government agencies in Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C. I am currently the deputy executive director and general counsel for the Texas Real Estate Commission. Prior to my current position, I served as general counsel and deputy commissioner for the Texas Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board and deputy general counsel for the Texas Real Estate Commission. I first joined the Texas Real Estate Commission as director of Standards & Enforcement Services in November, 2009. My prior state experience includes the State of Texas Credit Union Department as assistant commissioner and general counsel, The University of Texas System as a real estate attorney and the Texas Finance Commission, where I worked with their administrative law judge on licensing enforcement cases. I received my undergraduate degree in business management at Rice University and graduated with honors from The University of Texas School of Law.

What I like best about my job is: My position affords me the opportunity to make a positive difference for consumers in Texas. Working in collaboration with policy makers and industry stakeholders, I am able to advocate for what is best for consumers of real estate services in Texas while at the same time facilitating economic growth and opportunity across Texas for our license holder population.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: View change as a challenge because if you are not changing you are falling behind. I took this advice and then applied the Serenity Prayer principles to the work environment ... have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Be passionate about your work and remember that every person in the agency is a valuable contributor to the agency's mission. Be a team player, communicate, collaborate and don't hesitate to ask questions!

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Hiking on one of Austin's many scenic hike and bike trails or playing or watching sports with my husband.

People would be surprised to know that I: I have written a suspense novel (not yet published) and am a certified teacher of English as a Second Language.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: In our quest to protect consumers of real estate services in Texas, we demand integrity, accountability and high standards of both license holders and ourselves. I am particularly proud of the work that our staff and Education Standards Advisory Committee have done over the past few years to dramatically improve the quality of content and delivery of required education courses. This hard work will result in better educated and prepared real estate agents to assist Texas consumers with one of the biggest purchases they will make - a home.
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. 2, 2017
The Houston-Galveston Area Council's 2017 Election Law Workshop will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, in Houston. The event is designed for everyone charged with conducting elections. Participants will receive detailed updates on election laws and step-by-step procedures for conducting an election; including duties prior to election day, on election day and after election day. Click here to register.



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

The Internet of Things (IoT) is alive and well in cities from Dallas, Texas, to Leeds, England. Singapore is said to be one of the very smartest among cities earning designation as a "smart city" when it comes to IoT technology solutions. The U.S., unfortunately, is not the global leader when it comes to the use of IoT technology. Cities, however, are among the greatest "first adopters" in America. 

Since the IoT is being referred to as the third wave in the development of the Internet and the marketplace is growing so fast, it is impossible to project the eventual size and impact. It is obvious though that average citizens need to understand the IoT a little better. A simple explanation is that the Internet of Things is the interworking of devices, vehicles, buildings and other diverse items that are connected remotely for data exchange and analysis. The result is more efficiency in problem solving and creating economic benefit. 

Taxpayers are paying for IoT solutions. Public officials have found that the technology offers ways to reduce costs, plan more efficiently, ensure public safety and move transportation with less congestion.




Broadnax named Dallas city manager 
T.C. Broadnax
T.C. Broadnax has been named city manager in Dallas and will begin his duties on Feb. 1. He will replace City Manager A.C. Gonzalez.

Currently the city manager in Tacoma, Wash., Broadnax began his career in public service as a budget analyst for Broward County in Florida. He also worked in city government in Pompano Beach, Fla., until he became an assistant city manager in San Antonio in 2006. Broadnax joined Tacoma as a city manager in 2012. 

He has a bachelor's degree from Washburn University and a master's degree from the University of North Texas.
Houston mayor to create Office of New Americans
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is creating an Office of New Americans to serve as a hub and information clearing house for immigrants. The department will replace the existing Office of International Communities and work with a task force to make assessments and recommendations about services needed by immigrant communities.


Land named city manager in Coppell
Mike Land
Mike Land, currently the deputy city manager in Coppell, will step up to serve as the new city manager in 2017. 

He will replace Clay Phillips, who is retiring in March 2017. Phillips has agreed to assist in transitioning Land to his new job until he retires. 

Previously a town manager in Prosper, Land joined Coppell as a deputy city manager in 2012.
Nixon taps Rice as interim city administrator
Nixon City Council members named Harold Rice as the interim city administrator. 

When he begins his new duties on Jan. 3, Rice will replace City Secretary Gina Trotter, who has served as city administrator since October.




DuBus selected to lead Mexia ISD
Lyle DuBus
Lyle DuBus was selected as the lone finalist for superintendent by Mexia Independent School District trustees. 

Currently serving as superintendent of Harts Bluff Independent School District since 2013, DuBus was previously an assistant superintendent at Grand Prairie ISD. He also was a teacher at school districts in Arlington, Carrollton and Killeen. 

Dubos has a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's degree from North Texas University and a doctorate from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Belton ISD plans new high school
Trustees for Belton Independent School District are planning a new high school. Board members are considering four different options with costs between $99.2 million and $150 million. 

Board members are considering a bond election in May or November to the fund the construction of the high school.




Richwood names Coon city manager
Michael Coon
Richwood City Council members named Michael Coon as the new city manager. 

Currently an assistant to the city manager in Lake Jackson, Coon also was a budget analyst for the City of San Antonio. Coon holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Brigham Young University.
Dell Medical School to establish neuroscience clinic
The Dell Medical School at The University of Texas received a pledge of $50 million from the Mulva Foundation to establish a neuroscience clinic for research and patient care for those with Alzheimer's disease, bipolar disorder, strokes and other neurological illnesses. 

The foundation also pledged to donate $25 million to the MD Anderson Cancer Center operated by The University of Texas System in Houston to focus on advanced treatment for melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, and prostate cancer.


Thomas tapped for superintendent at Diboll ISD
Vicky Thomas
Vicky Thomas was selected as the lone finalist for superintendent at Diboll Independent School District. She has served as interim superintendent for the district since June. 

Previously a superintendent in Fayetteville, Ark., Thomas also was a deputy superintendent at Pasadena ISD. Thomas has a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas and a master's degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Marshall plans $1.8M city hall upgrade
Marshall City Manager Lisa Agnor recently told city commissioners that city staff plan to ask for bids in early January for a contractor to perform $1.8 million in improvements to Memorial City Hall. Plans for the upgrades are expected to be available by the end of the month.


Midland approves $110M for wastewater plant upgrade
The Midland City Council approved an agreement with an oil and gas company to spend as much as $110 million to improve the city's wastewater treatment plant. The company will pay for the upgrades. 

The city agreed to supply reclaimed water from the upgraded plant to the company for oil and gas development in the Midland Basin. The plan calls for adding new pipelines and water lines that should last as long as 30 to 40 years.


Travis County, cities plan youth sports complex
Travis County and the cities of Lakeway and Bee Cave are considering a new youth sports complex. Lakeway has purchased 70 acres off Bee Creek Road for a new county-owned facility. 

County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said the county has set aside $1.2 million for the design of the facility that could cost between $15 million and $20 million. He hopes to include some funding for the project in the next county bond package. Officials are also hoping to receive some funding from the city of Bee Cave.
JOB BOARD
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week include:  
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On Our Website 


 
Feds award assistance for transit oriented developments
 

RECENT REPORTS
GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Chris Davis, Alto, Texas County And District Retirement System Board Of Trustees;

  • William Metzger, Sunnyvale, Texas County And District Retirement System Board Of Trustees;

  • Deborah Hunt, Georgetown, Texas County And District Retirement System Board Of Trustees;

  • Don Hase, Arlington, Governing Board Of The Texas Indigent Defense Commission;

  • Alex Bunin, Houston, Governing Board Of The Texas Indigent Defense Commission;

  • Jon Burrows, Temple, Governing Board Of The Texas Indigent Defense Commission;

  • Richard Evans, Bandera, Governing Board Of The Texas Indigent Defense Commission;

  • Missy Medary, Corpus Christi, Governing Board Of The Texas Indigent Defense Commission;

  • Benjamin A. Montañez, San Antonio, OneStar Foundation Board;

  • Randy H. Skinner, Dallas, OneStar Foundation Board;

  • Yvonne S. "Bonnie" Brown, Raymondville, OneStar Foundation Board;

  • John Bielamowicz, Waxahachie, State Board of Examiners of Psychologists;

  • Susan Fletcher, Plano, State Board of Examiners of Psychologists;

  • Ronald Palomares, Dallas, State Board of Examiners of Psychologists;

  • Alan Conner, Dayton, Coastal Water Authority Board Of Directors;

  • Amy Granberry, Portland, Specialty Courts Advisory Council;

  • Brent Carr, Fort Worth, Specialty Courts Advisory Council;

  • Rebecca DePew, Holland, Specialty Courts Advisory Council;

  • Alicia Franklin York, Houston, Specialty Courts Advisory Council;

  • Bill Palmer Jr., Boerne, 451st Judicial District Court;

  • Grant Kinsey, Gatesville, 440th Judicial District Court;

  • Nicole Bishop, Boerne, Kendall County Criminal District Attorney.
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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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