News And People

Volume 14, Issue 17 - Friday, May 6, 2016
Texas voters to decide Saturday on $5 billion in bond propositions
School districts account for vast majority of projects in elections

Photo by Ryan McNight licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Voters throughout the state will have in their hands the fate of hundreds of projects and more than $5 billion worth of bond funding when they go to the polls tomorrow. Eighty-five local entities have called bond elections for May 7, almost 90 percent of them school districts.

In addition to public education, the bond propositions include projects put forth by cities, one community college district and two port districts. The port projects total more than $100 million in contracting opportunities and range from smaller water and wastewater improvements to ship berth modernization and rail enhancements to a $35 million dock expansion.

Strategic Partnerships, Inc., has available for sale its Texas Bond Package, which provides a list of every public entity that will hold a bond referendum May 7. It also includes the dollar amount of each bond proposition and details on the proposed projects. Purchasers of the bond package will be emailed complete election results Monday, May 9. Additionally, information will be provided with the results document that outlines bond elections currently being discussed for November of this year and beyond.

The school districts vary widely in what they're planning to accomplish if the bond packages are approved. Two suburban Dallas districts, for example, are each requesting voters to OK more than $400 million worth of projects. That money will go to a variety of projects, from technology enhancements directly benefiting classrooms and students to new school construction and maintenance of existing schools. District leaders also are planning for future expansion with land purchases.

Other public education leaders have much more modest plans in mind. A small district northwest of Fort Worth needs to replace perimeter fencing around school property and to add security features like an intercom and a "buzz-in" system at a school's entrance. Another small school district, this one in Central Texas, has put up the smallest bond package, and district officials are hoping to pay for HVAC improvements and the addition of new classrooms.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Gary K. Trietsch, Executive Director, Harris County Toll Road Authority

Career highlights and education: I began my transportation career in 1967 working in the Fort Worth district of the Texas Highway Department. I received my bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1970 and my master's degree in civil engineering in 1974 at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). In 1987, I transferred to the Maintenance and Operation Division in Austin. In 1995, I was appointed district engineer in Houston. I retired from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in 2008 after building several billion dollars' worth of projects in the six-county region. I went to work in 2009 for a private consultant and, in 2014, was asked to oversee the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA).

What I like best about my job is: Two things: The people here have a dedication to their job and to the public. They try to do the right thing first and foremost. And there is so much to learn. Some things are the same, but toll roads are a lot different from tax-supported roads. We have to fund all the work we do. We work with many other governmental agencies and the public. Both can be trying at times, but that is the way you get things done. And that is the fun part.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Do whatever is assigned to you and maybe do a little bit more. You learn something with every assignment. You either learn how to do the task or you learn about the people around you. Most times, you learn both.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Work hard, try new ideas and do anything you are given. No matter where you are, you have to become one of the team members. People are always looking for new ideas, better ways to do what we have to do. And finally, have fun. No job is worth it if you are not enjoying it.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Going to a movie. My wife and I love good movies. There do not seem to be as many good ones as there used to be.

People would be surprised to know that: I graduated from UTA, especially since I live in Houston. I am very proud of that university and how much it has grown since I was a student there, both in size and in excellence. They have courses I never dreamed about, like biomedical engineering.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: It is hard to make a toll road run smoothly. The public should not notice what we do in the background. But problems do arise. We receive approximately 8,000 phone calls a day. We have more than 1.5 million accounts we are responsible for. We are fortunate that we have a staff that is truly dedicated to their job and to the public. We are more than just about the roads we build. We are about our customers who use these roads. We have to adapt to a changing world to just stay ahead.

HHSC receives extension for 1115 Waiver from federal government
Leaders of the state Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have agreed to extend a program designed to find innovative ways to deliver health care.

The 1115 Waiver funds the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP). That program consists of 1,451 projects across 20 regions of the state. They focus on limiting the frequency of expensive emergency room visits by encouraging the use of primary and preventative care. The waiver also reimburses hospitals for the costs associated with uncompensated care. The state announced this week that it was extended by 15 months, taking the program through the end of 2017 at its current funding level.

"We're pleased these innovative programs will have the opportunity to continue," outgoing HHS Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor (pictured) said. "These programs are improving health care for Texas' Medicaid clients and creating cost-savings for taxpayers."

During the length of the waiver's extension, officials with both HHSC and CMS will continue negotiations for a longer term extension.
Texas A&M officials approve new $150 million research campus
Texas A&M University officials recently announced plans to build a new 2,000-acre, $150 million research park and campus just west of the main campus in College Station. The new campus will focus on research and testing of robotics, autonomous vehicles and chemical safety.  University officials also plan to recruit private companies to develop secure research facilities on the new campus.

To be located on the former Bryan Air Force Base, now called the Riverside Campus, the new research park will include seven new buildings, as well as testing facilities and a track to test driverless cars and other autonomous vehicles such as drones, said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. The new campus also will offer a four-year degree path for students who have not been admitted to the College Station campus but want to remain in the area, Sharp said.

Plans call for spending $25 million to demolish 32 existing buildings, rebuild roads and upgrade utilities. A&M officials also plan to save a few of the existing hangars to recognize the historic role of the former World War II air force base. Officials allotted $125 million for the seven new buildings, among which is the $73 million Center for Infrastructure Renewal. Current plans are to begin construction in 2017 and open the new campus/research park in 2018.

Houston to solicit bids for citywide transportation app
Ridesharing company Uber has threatened to withdraw from the city of Houston over a disagreement about city regulations for its drivers, but Houston's municipal government is moving forward with plans to create a mobile app that combines all of the city's transportation options in one location.

The app would include the city's limousine, taxi and ridesharing companies, as well as its other transportation services. Users would select a service and be directed to the appropriate method to contact that service, said Lara Cottingham (pictured), deputy assistant director of the Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department. "We're in the process of working on an RFQ (request for qualifications) to look for companies that would provide a platform to put multiple vehicles-for-hire on board," she said.

The department's goal is to have the app ready by the time Houston hosts the 2017 Super Bowl. Still to be decided is whether the app would feature the city's public transportation services (buses, light rail).
City of Austin extends water restrictions despite full lakes
Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros (pictured) recently proposed that city council members permanently restrict the use of automatic sprinkler systems to only once a week. The recommendation came despite recent heavy rains that have filled nearby lakes that supply water to the city nearly to full capacity.

The new plan also limits hose-end watering to twice a week and remove restrictions on washing cars except during emergency situations. Those who use drip irrigation and hand-held hoses would not be under restrictions, he said. The restrictions would remind consumers that water use must be conserved continuously to ensure an adequate water supply to the city, Meszaros said.

He urged city officials to move to the conservation stage, which would assign homeowners with automatic sprinkler systems a certain day of the week to water their lawns. Those residents could use a hand-held hose to water particular spots in their yard on two other days of that week, Meszaros said. Council members voted to approve the recommendation.

Allen allots $1 million to expand, improve convention center, hotel
Allen City Council members recently approved increasing the project costs for the expansion of the Convention Center at Watters Creek by $1 million. The new plans will add 10,000 square feet to the project, which will include 300 hotel rooms and 70,000 square feet of meeting space and cost an estimated $91 million. Original plans called for building an $85 million facility with 290 rooms and 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

A review of potential bookings for the convention center and hotel revealed that adding more exhibit space should attract more business and increase the ability to host more indoor sporting competitions that are unable to use the Allen Event Center, said Karen Cromwell, director of the Allen Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The additional charges for expanding the facility will total $3 million and be divided equally among the city, the Allen Economic Development Corporation and the Allen Community Development Corporation.
April state sales tax revenue collections totaled $2.4 billion, up 3 percent from one year ago
The Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has announced that the state collected $2.38 billion in sales tax revenue during the month of April. That figure is up 3 percent from the same month of the year prior, an increase that Comptroller Glenn Hegar attributed to the strong construction services and retail sectors. The prolonged slump in the oil and gas industry continued.

While energy production tax revenue was down heavily, motor fuel taxes were up slightly over last year. The fact that vehicle sales and rental tax revenue was down severely is explained by the comptroller's office as a quirk of the calendar: "State motor vehicle sales taxes are remitted to county tax assessor-collectors, who in turn remit them to the state. To cover the costs of collecting these taxes, counties are permitted to retain 5 percent of the preceding year's collections. Counties retained that amount in April this year, but did so in May last year."

Those figures for April were:
  • motor vehicle sales and rental taxes - $250 million, down 31.9 percent from April 2015;
  • motor fuel taxes - $302.9 million, up 3.2 percent from April 2015; and
  • oil and natural gas production taxes - $147 million, down 36.1 percent from April 2015.
For details on all monthly collections, see the comptroller's Monthly State Revenue Watch.
San Benito city, school district officials push for aquatic center
City commissioners from San Benito and trustees for San Benito Independent School District recently agreed to conduct a feasibility study on partnering to build a new aquatic center.

City and school district officials are planning to construct the aquatic center with pools and classrooms and locate it near the football stadium. That will allow for easy accessibility for students and residents, according to the mayor and district superintendent, who urged the feasibility study.

TWDB approves funding worth $32 million for rural projects
The members of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) this week approved funding for three local governmental entities. The total amount approved is $32.1 million. All of the projects are in rural areas.

The largest amount of financial assistance approved by the board was $24.7 million to the city of Cameron for wastewater and water system improvements. That came in the form of two new loans and about $3.5 million in loan forgiveness. The funding was provided through both the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and the Clean Water State Revolving fund (CWSRF). The money will go to improve its water treatment plant and to aid in the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant.

The other funding allotments went to the Bastrop County Water Control and Improvement District No. 2, which received $6.4 million, and the city of Wellman, which received $1.1 million.
Taylor County may go to voters with $54.6 million bond package
Taylor County commissioners are considering a $54.6 million bond election in November. If approved, the bonds would be used to pay for a new multipurpose arena, renovations to the existing coliseum and construction of a new barn and pavilion at the Taylor County Expo Center, county officials said.

The upgrades are necessary if the county wants to continue hosting the rodeo finals for Texas high schools or the statewide 4-H horse show, said County Commissioner Stan Egger (pictured).

County officials estimated the improvements and renovations to the expo center should be completed in about three and a half years.

Waco council considering $30M project to shore up city boulevard
Waco City Council members recently began considering a $510,000 engineering study that recommends spending about $30 million to provide both short-term and long-term solutions to repair an unstable portion of Lake Shore Drive.

The study recommended a $380,000 short-term fix to decrease the high rate of accidents that occur on the steep and curving road. The longer-term solutions would begin with a $2 million project to build a system of perforated drainage pipes to prevent weakening of the shale and chalk ridge. During heavy rains, the instability has caused the soil and rock to slide downhill. That project would begin in 2019.

The biggest fix recommended, however, is a $27 million project to use hundreds of 35-foot-long steel bars spaced six feet apart to hold the soil in place. That project would begin in the 2020s if approved by council members. The study also urged city officials to seek federal funding from the U.S. Corps of Engineers to repair and strengthen Lake Shore Drive.
Laredo City Council seeking architect to design fire station
Laredo City Council members recently agreed to seek the services of an architect to design a new fire station to replace an existing 50-year-old facility in the northern part of the city.

Fire Chief Steve Landin (pictured) said the new facility is needed to improve the capability of the firefighters and emergency medical crews. His goal is to seek bids by October and complete the $1.3 million facility within a year after the contract is awarded, Landin said.

Council members asked a consultant to review plans for the new fire station to ensure the project is friendly to the environment.
Stephenville City Council approves street program funding
Stephenville City Council members recently approved $1.1 million to pay for a one-year project to repair and maintain 87 miles of surface streets.

The repairs include several streets paved in bricks in the 1930s that are badly in need of repair due to the size and weight of the vehicles using the streets, the mayor said.
Glen Rose officials ready to begin $9 million sewer system upgrades
Glen Rose City Administrator Chester Nolen (pictured) recently said city officials are moving forward with a $9 million project to renovate the city's sewer facilities to meet population growth even earlier than state regulations require.

The renovations to the plant include a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that will allow the public works director to monitor the pumps, valves, treatment options and other operations from his desk, Nolen said.

While Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rules require planning for improvements to begin when a plant reaches 75 percent of its capacity and construction to begin when the plant reaches 90 percent, city council members agreed to move forward even though the sewer system is operating at about 83 percent of capacity, he said. The city received a $3.5 million grant and a $3.5 million low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board, and council members plan to fund the remaining $1.75 million needed for the rehabilitation project from cash reserves.
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Waxahachie kicks off planning for $5 million park improvements
Waxahachie city officials recently began drafting plans for a $5 million project to upgrade parks. The plans call for the installation of new playground equipment, restroom facilities and a new hike and bike trail.

John Smith, the parks and recreation director, said he is working with parks board members to prioritize projects for improvements and upgrades for the 18 parks located in the city.
Belton to release bid solicitation for $1.5 million in road projects
Belton city officials recently agreed to seek bids for $1.5 million in road maintenance projects, according to City Engineer Angellia Points (pictured).

The first phase of the project will focus on roads in the central and southern areas of the city. Points said the bid solicitation will go out in June. Work on the road maintenance projects should begin in July and be completed by October, she said.
Calendar of Events

SPI, ISNetworld to host Contractor Management Roundtable in Austin
May 20, 2016
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) will partner with ISNetworld to host a Best-in-Class Contractor Management Roundtable Friday, May 20, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Participants will be treated to breakfast at the AT&T Conference Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. City, county and state officials will have an opportunity to network while hearing from experts from both the public and private sectors about how to improve contractor management processes and safety. Best practices will be presented, and attendees may earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs). There is no charge for breakfast or parking. Call the SPI Team for more information and to register (512-531-3900). We hope to see you!

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.

LBJ School offers Construction Purchasing Certificate Program
July 26-27, 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 Legal Aspects of Construction Contracts and will be held July 26-27. Registration is open.

Big changes occurring in student housing on college campuses 

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

Young adults have strong feelings about lifestyles, and that is impacting university campuses in very significant ways. In fact, it is literally changing the playing field when it comes to recruiting new students.

Most residence halls and campus dormitories that once were adequate are no longer competitive. A new trend has emerged - one that is extremely attractive to prospective students.

Charles Smith appointed new HHSC leader
Charles Smith has been the chief deputy executive commissioner for the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) since July 2015. This week, in the wake of Commissioner Chris Traylor's retirement announcement, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Smith (pictured, top) the commission's next leader.

Additionally, current HHSC Chief of Staff Cecile Young (pictured, bottom) will move up and take over Smith's role as deputy.

Before coming to HHSC, Smith had served in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) as deputy for child support. He'd begun work at OAG under Abbott in 2004, when the governor was the state's attorney general. Smith is a graduate of Texas Tech University.

Cecile Erwin Young has worked for the state in various capacities for almost 30 years, beginning as a researcher for Texas Tech University. She also has worked as a legislative committee clerk, in the offices of the governor and the attorney general and at HHSC in several different positions.

Nichols takes lead at TWDB temporarily
Outgoing Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Executive Administrator Kevin Patteson has delegated his authority to Assistant Executive Administrator Darrell Nichols (pictured). The job listing for the permanent position has been posted on the agency's website, and the position will be open until May 11.

Nichols previously had served as director of Regional Water Planning and Development for the TWDB and, before that, worked for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and in the private sector. He has a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

Houston mayor appoints Costello as 'flood czar'
Steve Costello is an engineer, a former city council member and an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Houston. The man who beat him out for that position, Mayor Sylvester Turner, this week appointed Costello (pictured) the city's new "flood czar." 

He will work directly with the mayor's office to find solutions to flooding and drainage issues plaguing the city. Costello's first priority will be to develop and implement drainage and flooding strategies to mitigate the damage caused by periodic flooding, the mayor said.

Save the date!
The 2017 Legislative Communications Conference is set for Oct. 13 on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of The University of Texas at Austin. More information will be made available as we get closer to that date.

Texas A&M-Commerce President Dan Jones dies
The president of Texas A&M University-Commerce, Dan Jones (pictured), died this week.

Jones had served as president at the Commerce campus since 2008. He previously was provost and a vice president at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, a dean for the University of Houston-Downtown and an instructor at Casper College in Wyoming.

He earned bachelor's degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, master's degrees from Rice University and the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

Williams takes helm as city manager in Carthage
Steve Williams, a former administrator at Panola College, recently won selection as the new city manager in Carthage.

He previously worked for accounting firms in Shreveport, La., Tyler and Carthage and most recently served as vice president of fiscal affairs at Panola College. Williams (pictured) replaced former City Manager Brenda Samford, who retired at the end of March.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University.

McKinney council selects finalists for city manager
McKinney City Council members recently selected two finalists, Paul Grimes (pictured, top) and Mark McDaniel (pictured, bottom), for city manager following a national search that began in February.

Grimes currently is the village manager in Orland Park, Ill., and previously was a director of administration in Cranston, R.I. He also worked in the private sector and was an officer in the U.S. Navy. He has a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and a master's degree from Indiana University.

McDaniel is an assistant city manager in Dallas who has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of North Texas. He previously served as a city manager and deputy city manager in Tyler and an assistant city manager in Corpus Christi.
LeFleur Transportation

San Marcos ISD names Cardona as lone finalist for superintendent
Trustees for San Marcos Independent School District recently named Michael Cardona (pictured), the chief school officer for Houston ISD, as the lone finalist for superintendent.

Cardona has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and a master's degree from Texas A&M-Kingsville. He currently is pursuing a doctorate degree from Texas A&M University.

John Schumacher named Mason superintendent
John Schumacher recently won selection as superintendent at Mason Independent School District. When he begins his new position May 19, Schumacher (pictured) will work with Superintendent Pam Kruse, who is retiring, to help in the transition of duties.

During his 32 years in public education, Schumacher has been a teacher, coach, athletic director and principal. Most recently, he was an assistant superintendent at Johnson ISD and a principal for Marble Falls ISD.

Schumacher has a bachelor's degree from the University of Wyoming and a master's degree from Montana State University. He earned his certification as a superintendent from Texas Tech University.

Rockwall ISD names Villarreal superintendent
Trustees for Rockwall Independent School District recently selected John Villarreal as the lone finalist for superintendent.

Currently an assistant superintendent for Carroll ISD, he also was a principal and assistant superintendent in the Temple school district.

Villarreal has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Hardin-Simmons University, as well as a master's degree and an Ed.D. degree from Tarleton State University.
Lubbock to replace city manager temporarily
Lubbock City Council members recently appointed Deputy City Manager Quincy White as the acting city manager to replace City Manager James Loomis. The city manager will be out of office for four to six weeks while on medical leave.

White began his new duties as acting city manager May 4.

Diaz resigns as bridge director in Eagle Pass
Mario Diaz recently resigned as the bridge director for the city of Eagle Pass, though he agreed to remain on the job for another month.

Interim City Manager Roberto Gonzalez said he is beginning the process to hire a new bridge director to replace Diaz (pictured). The city's bridge revenue equals about $9 million annually.

King named interim president of TVCC
Jerry King, currently the vice president of instruction at Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC), recently won selection to serve as interim president of that college. He replaces Glendon Forgey.

Having joined the college in 1975 as a professor, King (pictured) also has served as a dean, vice president and chief instructional officer for TVCC.

J.D. Phillips appointed Texarkana utility director
The city managers of Texarkana in both Texas and Arkansas recently appointed J.D. Phillips as the new director of Texarkana Water Utilities.

Phillips has served as interim director since September 2015. He joined the water utility 25 years ago.

On Our Website 

U.S. Senate to vote on $9 billion water bill

Taft names Mills as interim city manager
Taft city officials have selected Bruce Mills (pictured), who recently was appointed as the interim police chief for that city, to add the duties of interim city manager.

Mills replaces former City Manager Ray De Los Santos, who resigned in late April. Mills had replaced the former police chief, who also resigned earlier last month.
Railroad Commission of Texas Staff ReportSunset Advisory Commission

State Bar of Texas Staff ReportSunset Advisory Commission

Board of Trustees of Employees Retirement System of Texas Staff ReportSunset Advisory Commission

Central Colorado River Authority Staff ReportSunset Advisory Commission

Palo Duro River Authority of Texas Staff ReportSunset Advisory Commission

Sulphur River Basin Authority Staff ReportSunset Advisory Commission

Upper Colorado River Authority Staff ReportSunset Advisory Commission

An Audit Report on Financial Processes at the Texas Board of Nursing

An Audit Report on Selected Contracts at the Department of Public Safety
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • James Hicks, Abilene, Taylor County Criminal District Attorney;
  • Roger Cox, Amarillo, Canadian River Compact Commission;
  • S. David Deanda Jr., Mission, Presiding Officer of the Hidalgo County 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   
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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