News And People

Volume 14, Issue 16 - Friday, April 29, 2016
Travis County Expo Center in line for $620 million in upgrades
City council to hear plans for arena, potential bond election in June 

The Travis County Exposition Center sits on 128 acres about 20 minutes east of Downtown Austin. It was built in 1983 and is owned by the county. The facility is located within Austin's largest city park, Walter E. Long Park, which comprises 1,872 acres and features a nature preserve, a lake that hosts activities like fishing and boating and a trap and skeet shooting range.

Its most popular and biggest money-making event is the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo, though it also hosts motorcycle rallies, auto shows and races and triathlons.

However, due to its age and the great demographic and economic changes the Austin area has undergone since its construction, the Expo Center is in desperate need of renovation or replacement. A draft report of a market survey presented this week to a committee of the Austin City Council calls it "obsolete and too small." The survey recommends tearing down the facility and replacing it with a new and expanded events center. The city of Austin, Travis County and Rodeo Austin funded the survey, commissioning it in mid-2014.

The booming Austin market serves high-end clients with the convention center and hotels downtown, as well as the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack facility built for the global Formula 1 auto racing circuit. Those at the lower-cost portion of the market currently are served by the Expo Center. But, its deteriorating condition leaves the question of how long even those needs will be met and does nothing at all for the middle-market events that bypass the metropolitan area entirely, according to Brian Block, a development administrator for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Jim Reed, Executive Director, The Central Texas Council of Governments

Career highlights and education: As executive director of the Central Texas Council of Governments (CTCOG), I serve a seven-county region with both urban and rural areas. CTCOG has received numerous state and national awards for our innovative programs, including the Rosalyn Carter National Caregiver Award.

I've held the position of chair of the Texas Association of Regional Councils Executive Director's Council and am the past president of the National Executive Director's Council. I also serve on the National Council of Peers for RPO America. I have been awarded both the Al Notzon Regional Unity Award and the Walter Scheiber National Leadership Award. I was also a nominee this year for the American Institute of Certified Planners National College of Fellows.

My prior professional experiences include positions in the public, private and military sectors. I'm a past director of the Killeen-Temple Urban Transportation Study and have been appointed to several state and national committees on various issues in the planning profession. I hold a bachelor's degree in physical geography from the University of South Alabama and a master's degree in community planning from Auburn University. (War Eagle!)

What I like best about my job is: As the CEO of an organization that manages more than 143 separate grants and programs, every day presents a different and unique challenge! I love the people we work with from all the different organizations and also enjoy being of service to Central Texans in a tangible way.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: The best advice I ever received was, "Make sure the roles you choose to play in life match your soul." What that tells me is to be true to who I am as a person and to hold strong to my beliefs. This is true both in my professional and personal life. If I can be certain that the role I play at work matches who I am in my soul, I will always find myself on solid ground. The added benefit of this advice is that, if those two things match, you usually enjoy life and work that much more.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: 1. Your words and actions should always match. 2. Under promise and over deliver. 3. Our standard is to complete all our projects on time or early and on or under budget.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Either in Dallas visiting family or enjoying some activity outside ... biking, running, hiking. Sometimes you might even find me on the golf course!

People would be surprised to know that I: There are two things that would surprise most people. First, I was offered a singing contract in high school with a major record company. Second, I was one of the first Army lieutenants to fly the AH-64A Apache attack helicopter.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: I wish people understood that CTCOG is where officials from 33 cities and seven counties come together to accomplish together things they couldn't accomplish alone. Our region is larger than six states, and yet our elected officials find a way to work together for the benefit of the people in Central Texas. In the charged political environment that many citizens find themselves, the collaborative effort of all the people I work with in this area is unique and speaks well of our region. I'm immensely proud of the collaboration efforts of all the people who work with CTCOG.

Texas A&M System regents approve 11 construction projects
Regents for the Texas A&M University System recently approved 11 construction projects at campuses in College Station, Corpus Christi and Canyon. They also authorized officials at campuses in San Antonio and Corpus Christi to negotiate lease agreements with private developers to provide more student housing at those campuses.

The largest project approved is a new $225 million Engineering Education Complex at the College Station campus that will feature a public gathering space, food service area and more education space. Also approved was a $73 million Center for Infrastructure Renewal for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the Texas A&M College of Engineering to focus research efforts on issues relating to transportation safety, security, efficiency and longevity.

Regents also approved a new $48.1 million Agricultural Science Complex with state-of-the-art research labs, a multipurpose arena and lecture halls at West Texas A&M in Canyon.
Abilene needs $229 million to upgrade water infrastructure
Rodney Taylor (pictured), director of water utilities in Abilene, recently recommended that city council members begin developing a master plan to update water infrastructure and prioritize projects needed to meet increased water consumption in the future. The necessary upgrades are estimated to cost about $229 million.

The projects include renovating a water treatment plant to process 25 million gallons of water daily at an estimated cost of $49 million and rehabilitating Kirby Lake Dam at an estimated cost of $3.9 million. The city also needs to renovate six of its 17 water tanks at a cost of about $6 million each, Taylor said.

If council members vote to develop the master plan, City Manager Robert Hanna said city staff would issue a request for proposals to identify engineering firms that can help design the infrastructure projects.
Austin Energy names four finalists for general manager
Austin city officials recently named four finalists in their search for a new general manager of Austin Energy, the city-owned utility with nearly 450,000 customers. The selected candidate will replace Larry Weis, who resigned in January to accept a new post in Seattle.

The finalists are:
  • Jacqueline Sargent, a former executive with Austin Energy, who is now general manager of the Platte River Power Authority in Colorado;
  • Terrance Naulty, a manager at Owensboro Municipal Utilities in Kentucky, who previously worked for Reliant Energy in Houston and Duke Energy in Cincinnati;
  • Deborah Kimberly, who previously served as an executive for the Salt River Project in Arizona and currently manages the energy efficiency program and green building initiatives for Austin Energy; and
  • James West, an assistant general manager of the Snohomish County Public Utility District in Washington, who previously worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Austin City Manager Marc Ott said he expects to name a finalist for the position in mid-May.
TWDB accepting grant applications for flood protection
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has issued a request for applications to local governments interested in obtaining grants for flood early warning systems or flood protection planning. Applicants must be participating in or have applied to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

The funding would go toward implementing measures to reduce loss of life and property, including early warning systems or developing response plans in the case of rising floodwaters. The TWDB has placed a priority on flood prevention in the wake of the devastating events of the last two years.

The water board has made available as much as $2 million for the grant program, which can fund no more than 50 percent of the total cost of most projects. Economically disadvantaged areas may, however, receive up to 75 percent of project costs. Applications are due by June 17.

Odessa postpones vote on proposed long-range master plan
Odessa City Council members recently agreed to postpone a vote on a proposed long-range master plan, "Envision Odessa," after a member of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee urged the delay.

Instead, council members agreed to hold a workshop to develop a priorities list of the elements in the plan. The plan set goals such as providing safer roads, helping business districts thrive, removing blight from neighborhoods and improving aesthetics around the city.

Created with the assistance of a consultant and after a series of public hearings during the past 18 months, the proposed master plan calls for establishing defined neighborhoods, providing more pedestrian connections and bike lanes, as well as more truck routes, medians and landscaping in an effort to make the area more attractive, said Assistant City Manager Konrad Hildebrandt.

The plan also calls for improving the downtown area with a new $77 million hotel and convention center being developed through a public-private partnership (P3/PPP).
Plainview, Hale County seeking proposals to build industrial park
A committee comprised of representatives from Hale County, the city of Plainview and the Plainview/Hale County Economic Development Corporation has agreed to seek proposals from contractors to build a new industrial park next to a former meat packing plant, according to County Judge Bill Coleman (pictured).

The business park project received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build the new facility to be located between Interstate 27 and the Dimmitt Highway.

Cypress-Fairbanks, Klein ISDs face $4 million in flood damages
Two Houston area school districts, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (ISD) and Klein ISD, have each said that they experienced about $4 million in damages due to floods from the heavy rains that swept through the Houston area earlier this month.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, the third largest school district in the state, had 53 campuses suffer rain or flood damage, said Roy Sprague, the associate superintendent of facilities. Two high schools and two elementary schools had significant damage to the interior and will need new flooring, drywall, partitions and furniture, Sprague said. The district also will need to replace artificial turf at Pridgeon Stadium, at which a $40 million upgrade was completed in July 2015.

Klein Collins High School experienced between $3 million and $4 million in flood damages, including to the roof and 23 classrooms, said Robert Robertson, associate superintendent for the district. Field lights and fencing at the baseball field and the greenhouse also will need repairs.
Round Rock ISD moves closer to construction of new high school
Round Rock Independent School District trustees recently awarded an $11 million contract to an Austin-based architectural firm to design a new high school. Board members are considering a 2017 bond election to ask voters to approve funding to build the new school, said Bob Cervi, the chief operating officer of the school district.

If the bond proposal wins approval, the new high school could be open for students as early as August 2019, according to district officials. Those officials expect to appoint a steering committee comprised of staff, parents, students and community members this year to provide input on planning and design of the new high school.

Peñitas officials kick off design phase for new municipal building
Peñitas city officials recently held a workshop with contractors to begin the design process for a new $4.6 million municipal building that will house city administration offices and the police department. The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The goal is to issue a request for proposals shortly and for the chosen contractor to begin construction as soon as possible and complete the project by the summer of 2017.

Because the USDA approved the funding in 2012, city officials noted this is the last fiscal year the city is assured funding. USDA officials could reallocate that funding, and the city would have to apply again, the mayor said.
Dallas ISD chief proposes buying, renovating $46 million building
Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa (pictured) recently proposed purchasing a 387,000-square-foot building to consolidate the district's administrative offices. The various departments now operate from the current headquarters and 20 other locations. The district could save $3.8 million in the first two years and up to $27.7 million through 2021 by combining administrative activities, Hinojosa said.

The 16-story building, which would be called the Dallas ISD Education Center, would house most administrative departments and eventually 1,600 to 1,800 school district employees. Hinojosa proposed selling 14 buildings owned by the district that are now unoccupied to help pay for the new headquarters building. The district has reserved $25 million for a new building and will use savings on leases to help fund the new site, Hinojosa said. The new building would need about $2.5 million in improvements, including new elevators, to make it compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Board members approved the proposal this week, and the superintendent hopes to finalize purchase of the building July 1 and begin moving employees in by the end of this year.
Waco to seek loan to install $12M automated water meter system
Waco city officials recently agreed to seek a loan from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to finance the installation of an automated water meter system. The move is designed to reduce costs and conserve water.

The automated system will be able to quickly identify and locate leaks, help consumers know each day how much water they are using and improve efficiency, said Lisa Tyer (pictured), the director of the city's water utility. Current estimates are the city could save 1,462 acre-feet of water a year, or about 480 million gallons, using better water management afforded by the automated meters, according to Tyer.

The long-term, low-interest loans are available through the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program and will be awarded this summer. If Waco is awarded a loan, the city plans to begin installing water meters in phases in the next budget year.
Sealy unveils new TxDOT plans for Interstate 10 improvements
Sealy city officials recently unveiled plans from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to expand and improve the intersection at Interstate 10 in the southeastern section of the city.

The improvements begin at I-10 outside the eastern edge of the city and cross to the other side of the highway with several added frontage roads and safety corrections to reduce traffic accidents in that area.

TxDOT representatives will be available at the May 10 city council meeting to hear public comment and explain the project, said City Manager Larry Kuciemba.
Longview EDC allots $1.9 million project to connect trail system
The board of the Longview Economic Development Corporation (LEDCO) recently authorized David Willard (pictured), the city manager and interim director of the LEDCO, to set aside $1.9 million to help fund the design and construction of the first phase of Guthrie Trail.

Plans call for connecting Guthrie Trail with two other trails to improve access to the Longview Regional Medical Center campus. Subsequent project phases will eventually provide 10 miles of continuous hike-and-bike trails and connect with Guthrie Creek Park and the Boorman Trail, Willard said.

The city manager plans to present the contract for studies, survey work and design of the first phase of the trail project to the LEDCO board in May and then to city council members for final approval, he said. Once a design is completed and approved, Willard said he plans to request bids from contractors in the fall of 2017, after a new fiscal year begins.
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Seguin city officials developing new street improvement plan
Seguin city officials recently began considering whether to adopt a new street improvement plan to upgrade streets, drainage infrastructure and the utility network in the city.

City Engineer Joe Ramos (pictured) said that the city government would use the comprehensive plan - which includes improvements to sidewalks, roadways and drainage infrastructure - as a guide that may be changed as conditions change. City council members will be required to approve funding for the projects in conjunction with officials from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Regional Municipal Planning Organization, Ramos said.
Rankin school district to issue bid solicitation for $18M high school
Rankin Independent School District officials recently announced plans to take bids in May for a new $18 million high school. Voters approved bonds in May 2015 to fund the new facility.

The project includes a new auditorium, gymnasium, vocational building and administration building, as well as a new 80,000-square-foot high school that will replace the current school built in 1953, noted Superintendent Keith Richardson (pictured).

The new high school campus is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Calendar of Events

TxPPA's Summer Momentum Conference to be held in Kerrville
June 8-10, 2016
The Texas Public Purchasing Association (TxPPA) will host its Summer Momentum Conference in Kerrville this June. Seminars and speakers from throughout the state will offer valuable information and lessons for public-sector procurement professionals. In addition, the TxPPA's annual vendor showcase will take place Thursday, June 9. It is a one-day-only opportunity to meet with public-sector buyers and managers, and an opportunity for vendors to showcase their products and services, make new contacts and develop new leads. The conference will be held at the YO Ranch Hotel and Conference Center in Kerrville. An agenda is available online and registration is open.

AACOG to play host to Aging in Texas Conference in mid-July
July 12-15, 2016
The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) will host the Aging in Texas Conference (AiTC), an annual gathering of individuals who work within the aging community. Designed for professionals from a range of settings, the AiTC supports professionals in the field of aging with the most current research, training and innovative tools and resources.  With educational programming covering a variety of areas, this conference will be beneficial to everyone involved with caring for the state's senior citizens, from administrators to service providers. It will take place beginning July 12 at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk hotel in San Antonio. A schedule is available and registration is open.
Creative collaborations - boosting revenues for state parks, government coffers 

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

"Luxury" is not a word often associated with accommodations at state parks. However, a public-private partnership (P3/PPP) in West Virginia is out to change that notion.

In Lewis County, the Stonewall Resort State Park is celebrating the opening of 20 luxury cottages in a new development on the lakeshore. Collaboration between public officials and private partners made the project possible.

"Cottage" at this state park is not a small, bare, screened-in structure where visitors will bring sleeping bags, propane stoves or lanterns. The cottages are two-story, four-bedroom accommodations with all types of amenities - Wi-Fi, central heat and air, washers, dryers and upscale kitchens.

Comptroller survey will gather input on procurement process
The Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts is conducting a survey of state vendors in an attempt to study the "feasibility and practicality of consolidating state purchasing functions into a few state agencies or one state agency."

The endeavor comes out of the 2015 legislative session's Senate Bill 20, which modified state contracting practices in the wake of procurement controversies.

The announcement of the survey stated that the comptroller's office wanted to gauge the opinions of vendors, in addition to state employees, and considered it "important to consider vendors' impressions and experiences of doing business with state agencies in this process."

TWDB may announce interim leader next week
The members of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will meet Thursday, May 5, to consider the appointment of an interim executive administrator.

Kevin Patteson currently serves in that role, but he announced last week that he will step down to take over at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA).

Hayes to retire as city manager for Beaumont
After 23 years with the city of Beaumont, City Manager Kyle Hayes (pictured) recently notified city officials he plans to retire at the end of this year.

Hayes began his career with the city as an intern in 1993 and served as city manager for 14 years.

Bret Champion selected as leader of Klein ISD
Klein Independent School District board members named Leander Superintendent Bret Champion (pictured) the lone finalist for the district's leader. He will begin in his new position in July.

Champion has worked in the Leander district for 22 years, starting as a teacher. He was named superintendent in 2008.

He received his doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's degree from Texas State University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston.

Madeline Burillo to lead HCC's Southwest College
Houston Community College (HCC) board members recently selected Madeline Burillo (pictured) as president of the Southwest College of HCC.

Burillo has served as interim president of that campus since September 2015 and worked for HCC since 1999. She has degrees from Universidad de Puerto Rico, the University of Phoenix and Sam Houston State University.

Howard named finalist for president of Lamar Institute of Technology
Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall recently selected Lonnie L. Howard (pictured) as the lone finalist for president of Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT). The new president will replace Paul Szuch, who is retiring this summer.

Selected from a field of almost 40 applicants, Howard currently is president and chief operating officer of Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, Wash.

Before beginning his new duties, Howard must be confirmed by the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System.

Blake Cooper resigns as superintendent for Commerce school district
Superintendent Blake Cooper (pictured) of Commerce Independent School District recently resigned from that post, effective June 30.

Named as superintendent of the year in 2015 by the Region 10 Education Service Center, Cooper began his career in public education as a teacher for Sheldon ISD in 1982. He also taught in the Sulphur Springs ISD, Garland ISD, Winnsboro ISD and Edgewood ISD before becoming a high school principal for the Edgewood district.

Prior to joining the Commerce school district, Cooper served as an assistant superintendent for Kaufman ISD. He graduated from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce).

Tom Noonan to lead Austin visitors bureau
Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau officials recently selected Tom Noonan (pictured) as the organization's new president and chief executive officer.

He will start the job May 6 and replace Bob Lander, who is retiring after 14 years leading the bureau.

Noonan currently is president and chief executive officer of Visit Baltimore, a marketing organization for that city. He previously worked for 18 years in sales and as a marketing executive for the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, including leading the Dallas bureau in Washington, D.C.

Port Lavaca names Bradshaw city manager
Port Lavaca City Council members recently appointed Robert Bradshaw (pictured) as the new city manager. He replaces former City Manager Bob Turner, who is retiring.

A native of Port Lavaca, Bradshaw previously worked for Fort Pierce, Fla. He begins his new duties June 1.

Temple to host public meetings on 10-year transportation CIP
Temple city officials recently scheduled a community briefing for May 3 to discuss the city's proposed $121 million transportation capital improvement plan (CIP) for the next 10 years.

Along with project engineers, city officials will present future plans and answer questions from residents about the 10-year, multi-modal plan, which addresses capacity, connectivity and public safety of roads, trails, sidewalks and bike lanes, said Public Works Director Nicole Torralva.

Maintaining and improving existing roadways and investing in new infrastructure will be discussed at this meeting and two others planned for May 16 and 17, Torralva said.

Webb CISD names Gonzalez superintendent
Trustees for Webb Consolidated Independent School District recently selected Humberto D. Gonzalez (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent.

Gonzalez has 22 years experience in public education. He is required by state law to wait 21 days before signing a contract with the school district.

Decatur ISD approves design for new gym
Decatur Independent School District trustees recently approved a preliminary plan for a new gym at Rann Elementary, chosen from among three proposed options.

The board is expected to vote on a final design in June, district officials said. While a final price tag is not yet available, the new gymnasium is expected to cost about $1.5 million. Voters last May approved bonds to pay for the project.
Northrop Grumman

Mike Garr selected as city administrator in Bandera
Mike Garr recently won selection as the new city administrator in Bandera from a field of four finalists for the position.

Previously a fire inspector in Farmington, Mich., Garr (pictured) most recently served as a part-time assistant librarian.

Garr has a master's degree in public administration.

Pool to lead construction services for Mesquite ISD
Don Pool recently won selection as the executive director for construction services at Mesquite Independent School District.

Pool (pictured) comes to the district after having served for eight years as executive director of operations at Wylie ISD. He also worked in the home building industry before entering the public sector.

He has a bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas.
Gonzalez to lead Eagle Pass city government
Eagle Pass City Council members recently selected Roberto Gonzalez as the interim city manager, replacing former city manager Hector Chavez.

Gonzalez previously served as city manager for Eagle Pass and as the general manager of the city's Water Works System.

On Our Website 

Vernon council to consider new reservoir
Vernon City Council members recently began discussions on a proposal by the mayor to build a new surface water reservoir to meet the city's needs during future droughts.

The city is the only municipality in its region that uses only groundwater and needs to consider adding a surface water option to ensure adequate water supply during a drought, the mayor said.

Council took no action on the mayor's proposal.

La Vernia ISD appoints Rigoberto Abrego as CFO
La Vernia Independent School District trustees recently appointed Rigoberto Abrego as the new chief financial officer. He replaces Kati Burke, the previous chief financial officer, who has left after two years on the job.

Abrego previously was an assistant superintendent for the Edinburg Consolidated ISD and chief financial officer for Ignite Public Schools in Edinburg.
A Report on State Employee Benefits as a Percentage of Total Compensation; Texas State Auditor
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Mike S. Sullivan, Kingwood, Texas Military Preparedness Commission;
  • Shannalea Taylor, Del Rio, Texas Military Preparedness Commission;
  • Kevin Pottinger, Keller, Texas Military Preparedness Commission;
  • Dennis Lewis, Texarkana, Texas Military Preparedness Commission.
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Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Peter Partheymuller   
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