News And People

Volume 14, Issue 9 - Friday, March 4, 2016
TPWD prepares to use larger budget for renewal efforts
With funding in hand, parks department ready for major projects 

Photo of the future Palo Pinto Mountains State Park provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
For the 2012-2013 two-year state budget period, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was allocated $23 million for state park capital repairs. By the next biennium, the department's capital repairs budget had shrunk to $11 million. For the current budget, the TPWD will be able to clear a substantial portion of its lengthy backlog of repair projects, because the Texas Legislature last year chose to dedicate the full 94 percent of sporting goods sales tax revenue to the state parks department. That move gives TPWD planners $90.6 million to work with, in terms of capital repairs.

"We were able to lay out a case where state leaders could fully understand the scale and gravity of what we are confronting and agree on the value of investing in parks," said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. "The legislative support for addressing the needs of local and state parks was simply overwhelming."

The legislature first assigned the department 94 percent of the sporting goods sales tax in the 2007 session, but the language of the bill actually allowed the legislature to dedicate up to 94 percent to the state parks. It had never done so until the 2015 session, when overtures from parks officials and conservation groups were able to persuade legislators to give the TPWD its full allotment for this biennium.

With the relative abundance of resources, opportunities for parks projects will be plentiful in the coming months and years. The TPWD created a web portal that lays out the assorted projects on the schedule for completion. There are more than 80 projects on that list, some of which are already under construction.

Visitor centers and park headquarters facilities will be replaced entirely at several parks throughout the state. Water and wastewater systems will see upgrades, as will electric utilities at many park locations. One noteworthy item will be the creation of an entirely new state park west of Fort Worth. More than $2.5 million is earmarked for the design and engineering phase of the new Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. The new park, located between Strawn and Ranger, could be opened as soon as 2020, but only if funding for post-design phases makes it through future legislative sessions. Officials estimate that the total costs could reach as high as $30 million.

Work to begin in 2018 on $1.3B freeway project in North Dallas
Construction on a $1.3 billion project to widen an 11-mile section of Interstate 635, also known as the LBJ East Freeway, between the Central Expressway and Interstate 30 north of Dallas is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2018.

Plans call for the project to provide five freeway lanes for most of the length of the highway, in addition to two tolled express lanes that will stretch for 3.7 miles from Miller Road to the Central Expressway, said Michael Morris, the transportation director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Revenue from tolls will pay for that 3.7-mile section, Morris said.

Morris also cautioned that the proposed $300 million I-30 interchange could be delayed if Proposition 7 funding, which is scheduled to become available in May 2018, falls short of expectations.
Transportation Commission allots funding for transit, ports
The Texas Transportation Commission last week awarded $35 million to rural transit providers and approved $20 million in funding for road improvements at Texas ports.

The transit grants will help pay for the construction of four bus facilities and the replacement of 325 buses and vans in rural areas. The funding includes money from the federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program, as well as federal and state funds.

"More reliable buses and vans help these rural residents maintain their independence and improve their overall quality of life by providing access to jobs, education, medical services and shopping," said Texas Department of Transportation Deputy Executive Director Marc Williams. "Newer transit vehicles also are more reliable, safer and less expensive to maintain."

For the port roads funding, nine projects were selected to receive $10 million, while the remaining $10 million will go toward improvements at the Port of Houston. The particular projects to be given funding will be decided at a later Transportation Commission meeting.

"Viewed individually, these nine projects are relatively small, but the impacts they have on our state's economic vitality are very significant for the ports that they serve and the state of Texas," said Jeff Moseley (pictured), vice chairman of the Transportation Commission.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Bruce Leslie, Chancellor, The Alamo Colleges

Career highlights and education: Mentors have played an important role in my life and I recommend every student establish a mentor relationship at each stage of his or her life. We are deliberately building a Faculty Mentoring program to enhance student access to this crucial resource. My baccalaureate was earned at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, where I met Cheryl, my best friend and partner of 47 years. Together, we have had three amazing children and eight grandchildren. Wow! I was extremely fortunate to have met a reserve officer on my ship when I was leaving the Navy. Dean Everett Wilson, of Sam Houston State University, was serving his annual two-week tour and encouraged Cheryl and me to come to Texas, and we did. We loved it, and both Cheryl and I achieved our master's degrees. I struggled again as to my next career steps. It's often the unexpected events that define our course in life. While visiting my parents in New York City, Cheryl and I caught a cab and the driver revealed he had a Ph.D. in history but couldn't find a faculty position. That was my epiphany! We exited the cab and I turned to Cheryl: "I've just now decided that we're heading to the UT-Austin Community College Leadership Program."

What I like best about my job is: The employees and students of the Alamo Colleges bring joy every day. Sure, there are always those who vocally express their opposition to everything, but the progress we've made as one of the most effective and influential community colleges in the nation is absolute validation of the board's strategic leadership and the amazing proactive commitment of our employees.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Cheryl has been my best mentor and continuously reminds me to ensure I don't allow the job to diminish my focus on my family. This is very challenging, and her reminders have been critical to maintaining my correct priorities.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: The politics of higher education is demanding and often personalized. In addition to my advice to identify a mentor, I also advise new senior team members not to take the vocal opposition personally, but rather believe in our purpose and the collective strategies we are pursuing, because they are improving student success.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Running errands and catching up on all the personal/family obligations that are so hard to accomplish given my 24/7 schedule. But Cheryl and I will make every effort to visit our son and his family, which includes three of our eight grandchildren, here in San Antonio. We are so blessed and are with them as often as possible!

People would be surprised to know that: I am of Scottish derivation and have always been interested in my culture and family roots. Years ago, I learned that one of my new friends in the sheriff's department played the bagpipes, an instrument I had always wanted to learn to play. My friend was a member of the Syracuse Kiltie Pipe Band, composed primarily of police, sheriff's officers and firefighters, and they would teach any interested prospective band members. So I joined the Kilties, learned to play - though Cheryl would say "fight" - the bagpipes. Eventually, I was invited to join Oran Mor, and we competed and played all over the Northeast and, today, Oran Mor is one of the top U.S. pipe bands and competes regularly at the World Pipe band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. I am proud to have been a founding member.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: The Alamo Colleges is larger than all other colleges and universities in the region combined at almost one hundred thousand students. More importantly, our high performance productivity allows us to charge a very low tuition and, in fact, we waive tuition valued at $14 million annually by providing free college to more than 10,000 dual-credit, Alamo Academies and Early College High School students, as well as to veterans and their families, foster care children and police and firefighters. I'm most proud that our degree awards have increased 110 per cent over the past few years, and we are now the second-largest producer of associate degrees/certificates in Texas.

El Paso County submits grant application for airport upgrades
El Paso County commissioners recently agreed to submit to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation a plan to improve Fabens Airport.

The improvement plan is necessary for the county to receive federal grant funds to pay for about $6.4 million in repairs and maintenance, said Pat Aduato (pictured), director of public works.

On the list of projects to be addressed if grant funds are approved are repairing potholes and cracks on the runway, improving runway lights and increasing security by adding a fence around the perimeter of the airport, she said.
Nabers among experts addressing P3 expo
Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., and a recognized expert in public-private partnerships (P3s), will be featured with three other P3 experts in a panel discussion at next week's Public-Private Conference and Expo. One of the largest gatherings of development professionals in the country, the conference 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.

"Those attending the conference will learn how this innovative funding tool can be used to deliver public projects that government otherwise could not afford - from roads and bridges to public housing and water and wastewater facilities," said Nabers (pictured).

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. Nabers will be among more than 125 leading public agency officials and industry practitioners who will share their firsthand experiences and observations regarding P3 projects throughout the country. SPI consultants Edgar Antu and Turner Kimbrough also will attend the conference. Speakers will discuss the many elements of P3 structures currently in use and how to evaluate their merits and risks. 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.
San Marcos awarded $25 million of federal disaster relief funding
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently awarded San Marcos $25 million in federal disaster funding to pay for housing and infrastructure destroyed by historic flooding last year and to aid in the city's economic development efforts.

City officials plan to use the grant to pay for new mitigation projects to reduce the threat of catastrophic flooding in the future, the mayor said.

Other cities and counties in Texas affected by floods last year are eligible to apply through the Texas General Land Office for a portion of the total of $142 million in federal disaster recovery funds available to the state.

McKinney panel to identify solutions for parking problems
McKinney City Council members recently began working with the interim city manager to appoint 15 members to a newly created committee to address parking problems in that city.

Council members agreed to appoint 11 residents, including at least four downtown merchants, two city staff members, the mayor and an at-large council member to serve on the parking committee. Interim City Manager Tom Muehlenbeck will appoint the two city staff members.

The committee is charged with developing a comprehensive plan to solve parking problems, discussing the establishment of a municipal parking authority and deciding whether to set time limits for on-street and other surface parking. The panel also will study the feasibility of building a parking garage near a new city hall or municipal center and look into the possibility of developing public-private partnerships to address the issue. Council requested committee members submit suggestions by mid-May.
February state sales tax revenue collections totaled $2.3 billion, down 7 percent from 2015
The Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has announced that the state collected $2.3 billion in sales tax revenue during the month of February. That figure is down 6.8 percent from the same month of the year prior, a decrease that Comptroller Glenn Hegar attributed to low oil and gas prices and "continued contraction" in the manufacturing sector.

"It should be pointed out that, in the coming months, we expect comparisons to last year's collections to be more favorable, because collections in the last half of fiscal 2015 didn't grow as fast as the first half," Hegar said.

While energy production tax revenue was down heavily, vehicle sales and rental taxes and motor fuel taxes were up slightly over last year. Those figures for February were:
  • motor vehicle sales and rental taxes - $372.2 million, up 5.2 percent from February 2015;
  • motor fuel taxes - $286.5 million, up 1 percent from February 2015; and
  • oil and natural gas production taxes - $111.1 million, down 62.2 percent from February 2015.
For details on all monthly collections, see the comptroller's Monthly State Revenue Watch.
College Station approves $2M design of new police station
College Station City Council members recently approved $1.98 million for a contract to design a new police station, which is expected to cost about $25 million.

City officials are considering three city-owned sites for the new 79,000-square-foot facility, but a 12-acre site at the intersection of Krenek Tap Road and Dartmouth Street is the property expected to be chosen. The design also will include a parking lot and other site improvements.

The new police station will replace the current 29,000-square-foot facility, which lacks sufficient space for personnel and adequate storage.

UH-Clear Lake to build new recreation, wellness center
Regents of the University of Houston System recently approved construction of a new recreation and wellness center at the system's Clear Lake campus. University officials expect to select an architect and contractor to begin construction in 2017, said Ward Martaindale, the associate vice president of facilities management and construction for the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL).

One of three new buildings for UHCL approved by the 84th Legislature, the rec center is expected to open by mid-2018. The other facilities receiving funding are a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building, also expected to be completed in 2018, and a health sciences building set to open in the fall of 2018 on the Pearland campus of UHCL, Martaindale said.

Most of the new recreation and wellness center will be used for basketball courts, an indoor running track, weight room and multi-purpose rooms. The new facility also will offer lease space to tenants. State funding will pay for classrooms, offices and labs, while student fees will fund most recreation portions of the building.
Austin approves $2.5M for UT to research transportation future
Austin City Council members recently approved $2.5 million for a five-year contract with The University of Texas Center for Transportation Research to help the city determine future transportation projects and goals.

The contract calls for UT students and faculty members to study how the timing of traffic signals impacts intersections, analyze where drivers are traveling and use that information to improve the city's roads. Researchers also agreed to provide the city with a system to help its Transportation Management Center determine the priority of each transportation project, city officials said.

Marshall appoints panel to oversee use of renovated city hall
Marshall City Council members recently appointed a committee charged with deciding the future of the Marshall City Hall once renovations are completed. The director of tourism and promotions, Sarah O'Brien (pictured), had proposed creation of the committee.

Those selected by council to serve on the development committee include City Manager Lisa Agnor; Jack Redmon, director of support services; Wes Morrison, director of planning; Weldon Stutes, an employee of Tourism and Promotions; and two Marshall residents, Don Parks and Sandi Parks.

City officials have said that input from members of the public will be welcomed and considered.
Arlington to begin second phase of $14  million treatment project
Arlington city officials recently approved the $7.3 million second phase of a $14 million project to improve the quality of water at two treatment plants.

To ensure high-quality water, city officials plan to replace ozone generators and components of the control system at the two water treatment plants, said Mohammad Bayan, senior engineer for Arlington Water Utilities.

The first phase of the project replaced one ozone generator and a part of the control system at the Pierce-Burch Water Treatment plant. The original equipment was installed in the late 1990s. The second phase will replace the other aging ozone generators and control system components at both plants over the next 12 months.

Waco, county study sharing renovated Karem Shrine space
Waco City Council members recently approved an agreement with McLennan County to partner on a feasibility study of the transformation of the 88-year-old Karem Shrine building for both city and county uses. One possibility is to use the county-owned facility as a location for a court of appeals courtroom.

The agreement calls for an architect to perform a needs assessment for the three-story Shrine building and another building in an effort to create space for the public works, solid waste and utilities maintenance departments of the city, in addition to radio, engineering and road and bridge operations for the county. A business incubator has also been considered for the location; it would be a joint venture with Baylor University, the chamber of commerce, the city and the county.

The projects are a result of a 2015 study that identified ways the city and county can save money by sharing facilities, according to Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. (pictured). If the projects are found feasible, city and county officials would be able to place existing facilities - such as a radio shop, public works buildings near the airport and a city maintenance barn - for sale, he said.
North Texas COG to build new 911 backup systems in Keene
A cut in fiberoptic lines that disrupted phone and internet services for half a day in Keene and Cleburne recently has prompted the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) to propose placing a communications tower in Keene. The outage caused the cities to be without 911 service during that time. The new tower would be designed to be part of a backup system to prevent future outages from affecting thousands of residents in those two cities.

The Keene City Council authorized the proposal to install a 911 backup system to provide an alternative communications system during major catastrophic events, said City Manager Bill Guinn of Keene. NCTCOG officials agreed to pay for building and maintaining the new system, he said.
McAllen set to begin design for $11.2 million drainage project
McAllen city commissioners recently agreed to develop a full design for a proposed $11.2 million storm drainage project before approving funding for the project.

The proposed drainage plan is designed to affect almost 1,200 homes and reduce flooding in houses, lawns and streets, according to City Manager Roy Rodriguez (pictured).

City commissioners also agreed to provide more education about storms and flooding to help residents better understand what constitutes flooding and how to respond to threats of flooding.
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Midland moves new hike, bike trail from Airpark to Hogan Park
The Midland City Council recently agreed to move the location of a new hike and bike trail from the Midland Airpark to Hogan Park.

Moving the trail will save almost $300,000 on the project, as bridges and low water crossings will not be necessary if the trail is at Hogan Park instead of the Airpark, according to city staff. Current estimates are that the Hogan Park Hike and Bike Trail will exceed five miles in length when combined with a trail planned along Fairgrounds Road.
City of Austin developing $30 million sidewalks master plan
Austin city officials recently began developing a plan that would increase by about $30 million the budget for improving sidewalks.

One version of the sidewalk master plan being developed by public works employees could increase funding for sidewalks to as much as $57 million a year, said John Eastman, the project manager. The city currently spends about $9 million annually to build about 10 miles of new sidewalks, but that rate merely keeps pace with the amount of sidewalks added to the city's tally each year. The city annexes about 10 miles of road a year without sidewalks and already has about 2,000 miles of streets without sidewalks, Eastman said.

The plan also would include $15 million for maintenance and repair on roads, leaving about $42 million in a six-year period for about 400 miles of new sidewalks to be built within a quarter-mile of schools, bus stops and parks, he said. The new sidewalk master plan will be presented for consideration to city council members in June.

Calendar of Events

LBJ School offers Construction Purchasing Certificate Program
March 7, 2016
Buyers, contract administrators and project managers interested in earning a construction purchasing certificate can do so through The University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs. The program aids in understanding and using new terms, remaining compliant with unfamiliar laws, developing control plans and schedules and staying on budget. The LBJ School's Construction Purchasing Certificate Program consists of four core courses and one elective to be completed over a period of two years. The goal of this certificate program is to provide participants with the skills and knowledge to ensure that their organization's construction projects are well managed and secure the intended results and value. The courses are complementary in nature, and each course repeats annually. The next available course is Project and Construction Management and will be held March 7-8, 2016. Registration is open.

State agencies to host 4th annual HUB vendor expo in Austin
April 7, 2016
Representatives of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Texas Historical Commission, State Office of Court Administration, Texas Education Agency, General Land Office and Texas Workforce Commission will host the 4th annual HUB vendor Fair April 7 at the J.J. Pickle Commons Learning Center in Austin. The event will provide information to strengthen HUB (Historically Underutilized Business) businesses, including marketing the business. There will be one-on-one meetings with state agencies, universities and prime vendors in construction and information technology. State agencies and universities will be exhibiting. Workshops will include "Teaming for Success," "TPASS DIR" and one specifically for veteran-owned businesses. The event and parking are free of charge. For more information, please contact Fred Snell.

Campus housing project launched through collaborative efforts 

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

Three years after passage by Texas legislators of a narrowly focused bill, a Gulf Coast state college is taking advantage of that legislation - and a public-private partnership (P3) - to build campus housing.

Lamar State College-Port Arthur (LSCPA) recently announced an agreement with a developer for construction of a $6.6 million campus housing complex for students, faculty and staff. It will be the first campus dorm built since the last dorm was demolished about 50 years ago.

Realizing the importance of college housing and also wanting to stimulate activity in downtown Port Arthur, both Jefferson County and the city approved tax abatements as incentives for the project. Then, an important $2 million boost came as a direct result of HB 2473 from the 83rd Texas Legislature.

Rodney Mabry to retire as president of UT-Tyler
President Rodney H. Mabry (pictured) of The University of Texas at Tyler recently informed regents of his plans to retire at the end of this year. He has served at the helm of UT-Tyler since July 1998.

Mabry has spent 42 years in higher education and previously was dean of the business college at the University of Tulsa.

Mabry also serves on the boards of the Tyler Economic Development Council, the Tyler Area Business Education Council and Discovery Science Place.

Moran named lone superintendent finalist for Whitehouse ISD
Christopher Moran recently won selection as the lone finalist for superintendent at Whitehouse Independent School District.

The superintendent for Brownsboro ISD since 2011, Moran (pictured) also has served in leadership positions at Ingram ISD, Clear Creek ISD and Franklin Road Christian School in Michigan.

Moran has a bachelor's degree from Evangel University, a master's degree from The University of Texas at Tyler and a Ph.D. from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Guinn to retire in June as city manager in Keene
Keene City Manager Bill Guinn recently announced plans to retire from that post at the end of June.

Guinn first joined the city's staff as financial manager in 2007, having also worked for several financial firms in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He attended Southwestern Adventist University and has a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Arlington.

City officials are leaning toward hiring a consultant to help find a new city manager, Guinn said.

Lee selected as interim city manager in Murphy
Murphy City Council members recently selected Fire Chief Mark Lee (pictured) to serve as interim city manager.

Lee replaced City Manager James Fisher, who resigned from that post after eight years on the job. Council members also agreed to begin a search for a new city manager.

Jelynne LeBlanc-Burley to leave CPS Energy
Jelynne LeBlanc-Burley announced last week that she is leaving her post as executive vice president and chief delivery officer of CPS Energy in San Antonio.

Previously a deputy city manager in San Antonio, LeBlanc-Burley (pictured) joined CPS Energy as executive vice president of corporate support services in April 2008. She has served in her present position since August 2013.

TWDB approves $26M for water system projects
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has approved $25.9 million in funding for water and wastewater system improvement projects.

The most significant amount approved this week was $19.7 million for water system improvements in the city of Stamford. That figure comes from a $9,530,000 loan and $10,235,708 in loan forgiveness, provided through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Stamford officials will use the money to replace 15 miles of transmission lines and portions of the city's distribution system. They also will be able to do work on the city's water treatment plant.

Marshall ISD names Nichols interim leader
Marshall Independent School District board members recently named a former superintendent, Brian Nichols, as interim superintendent.

Nichols served eight years as superintendent at the Marshall district prior to retiring in 2002. He replaces Superintendent Marc Smith, who has accepted a new post as superintendent for Duncanville ISD.

Board members said they plan to conduct their own search for a new superintendent. They also plan to post a survey on the district website to provide an opportunity for residents to share the qualities they would like to see in a new superintendent.

Hallsville names Collum superintendent finalist
Trustees for Hallsville Independent School District recently selected Jeff Collum (pictured) from a field of 51 applicants as lone finalist for superintendent.

Currently superintendent for the Benton School District in Arkansas, Collum also has worked as a teacher, coach, athletic director, principal and administrator in public education.

Collum has a master's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and certification as a superintendent from Texas A&M-Commerce.

Cisco College to interview finalists for president
Cisco College officials recently scheduled interviews with three finalists seeking to become president.

The three candidates are Thad Anglin, vice provost at the University of North Texas at Dallas, who has a Ph.D. from Nova Southeastern University; Lawrence Brandyburg, the chief executive officer and vice rector at Lone Star College in Jakarta, Indonesia, who has a Ph.D. from The University of Texas; and Matt Joiner, associate dean at Weatherford College, who holds a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University.

College officials are planning to hold informal forums at the main campus in Cisco and the Abilene Education Center to provide students, faculty, staff and the public opportunities to meet each of the finalists for president. The interviews, however, will occur in closed sessions.
Northrop Grumman

Wylie school district unveils performing arts center design plan
Wylie Independent School District officials recently unveiled preliminary plans for a new performing arts center, which had been included in a $15 million bond package approved last year.

District officials delayed the design phase for the performing arts center until they received bids for adding new classrooms in order to remain within the bond budget, Superintendent Joey Light (pictured) said.

Once the design for the performing arts center is completed, district officials will seek bids for the new facility, Light said.

Abbott, TWC to host small business forums
The Office of the Governor and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) this week announced the locations for the 2016 Governor's Small Business Forums. The first will take place April 14 in El Paso and be hosted by the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. First Lady Cecilia Abbott will attend and present the State of Texas Small Business Awards.

The other Small Business Forums will be hosted in cities throughout the state, including Brenham, Brownsville, San Angelo, San Marcos and Waco.

The Small Business Division of the Governor's Office will offer Service Provider Grants worth up to $10,000. They are intended "to enhance and diversify projects and activities benefiting" small businesses and Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs).
Hobbs appointed acting city manager in Robinson
Greg Hobbs this week won selection as acting city manager in Robinson.

He replaced former City Manager Robert Cervenka, who had agreed to terminate his contract with the city. Hobbs, who joined the city in 1979, has been the water utilities director.

Carrollton planning $4M project to upgrade sidewalks near schools
Carrollton City Council members recently began considering a $4 million proposal to upgrade about 25 miles of sidewalks near schools by the end of 2018. The city currently has 587 miles of sidewalks, of which more than 160 miles are rated as poor or very poor, said Cesar Molina, the city engineer.

The first phase of the project would spend about $1.29 million to rehabilitate 8.7 miles of sidewalks near 12 schools located in Dallas, Lewisville and Carrollton-Farmers Branch school districts, Molina said.

In 2017, the plans call for improving about 9 miles of sidewalk at a cost of $1.3 million, with $1.2 million dedicated in 2018 to repair 7.2 miles of sidewalks.

San Benito to upgrade water treatment plants
Faced with possible violations of state water quality standards, San Benito city commissioners recently agreed to upgrade a water treatment plant built in 1928.

City officials plan to spend about $350,000 on a maintenance plan to improve high-service pumps, backwash pumps and add new filters at the water plant. The goal is to remove trihalomethane, a chemical compound found slightly above the allowable limit in recent tests at the water plant, said Assistant City Manager Art Rodriguez.
Garrett to retire as airport director, EMS coordinator in Weslaco
George Garrett has retired from his position as the emergency management coordinator and airport director in Weslaco after 21 years with the city.

A licensed commercial pilot, Garrett (pictured) also served as president of the Texas Airport Managers Association and established the public works emergency strike team for the Rio Grande Valley following a deadly explosion in 2004 across the border in Nuevo Progreso.

City officials transferred the duties of emergency management coordinator to the fire chief and are discussing whether to hire a new airport director, contract out the duties or contract with a private company to manage the airport, City Manager Mike Perez said.

On Our Website 

Austin ISD allots nearly $1 million for planning to improve school facilities
Austin Independent School District trustees recently approved $934,453 for a contract with a company to help develop new strategies on how to modernize aging schools.

The one-year contract has a renewal option, as district officials plan to move forward with large changes to facilities over the next 20 years, said Nicole Conley (pictured), the district's chief financial officer. The vendor has earned recognition for its ability to help modernize aging facilities in districts such as the District of Columbia, Conley said. About 50 campuses in the district are more than 50 years old.
In the Feb. 26 edition of Texas Government Insider, we incorrectly identified College Station Mayor Nancy Berry as the mayor of Bryan. We regret the error.
State of Texas Federal Portion of the Statewide Single Audit Report for the Fiscal Year Ended August 31, 2015
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Jennifer Smothermon of Abilene, Presiding Officer of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists;
  • Kenneth Bateman, Richardson, Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists;
  • Rachel Logue, The Hills, Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists;
  • Evelyn Husband Thompson, Houston, Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists;
  • Shawn Sparrow, Beaumont, Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners;
  • James Scott, Beaumont, Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners;
  • Brad Taylor, Orange, Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners;
  • David L. Meaux, Orange, Jefferson and Orange County Board of Pilot Commissioners;
  • Guy "Tony" Fidelie Jr., Wichita Falls, Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Grant Program Advisory Board;
  • Kathy Ann LaCivita, San Antonio, Chair of the Texas Diabetes Council;
  • Joan Colgin, Dallas, Texas Diabetes Council;
  • Aida "Letty" Moreno-Brown, El Paso, Texas Diabetes Council;
  • William "David" Sanders, Dallas, Texas Diabetes Council;
  • Clyde Siebman, Pottsboro, Presiding Officer of the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority;
  • Rad Weaver, San Antonio, Presiding Officer of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority .
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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: Peter Partheymuller   
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