News And People

Volume 14, Issue 22 - Friday, June 10, 2016
Biotech industry increasingly important part of Texas economy
Bioscience research, innovation steadying influence on energy cycle 

When Comptroller Glenn Hegar spoke in January before the Senate Finance Committee regarding the downturn in the energy industry, he made reference to the fact that the Texas economy is much more diversified than it was during the mid-1980s oil bust. He said that economic diversity has allowed the state to weather the ups and downs of its formerly dominant industry.

A key agent of the diversification was highlighted in stark terms this week with the publication of a report by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. The biotechnology industry plays an important role in the Texas economy and is one reason that the sharply declining oil and gas prices of the past year have not wreaked havoc on the state economy.

The report, called The Value of Bioscience Innovation in Growing Jobs and Improving Quality of Life 2016, found that the industry employs well more than 1.6 million people nationwide and does so at an average annual salary of nearly $95,000. That's more than twice the national annual average wage.

In Texas specifically, the industry is focused on academic research and the health care and medical device fields. The state's universities, led by nationally ranked schools like The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, conducted $3 billion worth of bioscience academic research and development in 2014. That amount represents nearly two-thirds of all research and development expenditures in the state. The universities also were largely responsible for bringing $1 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health.


Austin, six others present Smart City applications in Washington
USDOT competition offers $50 million to build transportation system 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to present formally the city's application for the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Smart City Challenge. The competition will award the winning city a $40 million federal grant and at least another $10 million from the private sector to jumpstart its efforts to build a modern transportation system.

Adler's presentation highlighted Austin's intention to build a pilot program to test self-driving cars using the closed environment of the city's airport. The city also plans to use the grant funds to build out its intelligent transportation systems with sensors installed throughout roadways that will convey data to a central transportation management source. That data will inform decisions made about traffic signals in an effort to manage the city's flow of traffic.

The other finalists are Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco. All of them presented applications that covered similar ground as Austin's, which fall in line with the purpose of the challenge: to use technology to improve a city's transportation system for all of its residents.

Denver's focused on an integrated data system that would draw real-time information from many sources, connecting smart vehicles to the street grid.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Michael Lyttle, Chief of External Affairs, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA)

Career highlights and education: I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1987 with an English degree and did a seven-year stint (1984-1991) at the Austin American-Statesman as a reporter and copy editor. I left the journalism biz to work for my alma mater in the College of Natural Sciences' Dean's Office, overseeing communications. After departing the 40 Acres, I had the privilege of working for two great state associations in the following four years: the Texas Dental Association and the Texas Restaurant Association. Public service work beckoned in 2000, and I joined TDHCA, maintaining my role in overseeing the communications/marketing/legislative affairs functions since that time.

What I like best about my job is: Two things really: One, that I get to work alongside a great group of colleagues and a staff that has been with me a long time. They're hard-working, wonderful, fun people, and they help make it all worthwhile. Second, it really is a thrill to get to spend a lot of my working hours in the Texas Capitol. Those of us who do legislative affairs work, I think, sometimes take the building's beauty and significance for granted. It's a really cool place.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: To "chill." It's easy to get lost in the drama and intensity of a work crisis, but people can only do their best work when they are focused and keeping an even emotional keel.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Be quick to listen and slow to speak, and please remind me of that on a daily basis!

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: At a Regents School of Austin sports event (my kids went to school there) or walking our two large pups on their favorite wooded trail.

People would be surprised to know that: I used to lead a contemporary Christian worship band and was part of a live-recorded CD release.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: TDHCA is full of smart, committed and passionate state employees who work hard to do the "right thing" on a daily basis and truly care about the people we serve.


TxDOT unveils $3 billion plan to upgrade energy corridor roads
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials recently unveiled a proposed plan, the Energy Sector Corridor Improvement Program, to upgrade roads used heavily by the energy sector. Texas Transportation commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed plan in August.

The goal is to reduce fatalities on roads that see heavy traffic from the oil and gas industry. These roads often are found in poor condition because they were not designed to carry the frequent heavy traffic loads of trucks used by the industry, said Randy C. Hopmann, director of district operations for TxDOT. Motor vehicle deaths in the Permian Basin region increased from 250 in 2010 to 430 in 2014, while deaths in the Barnett Shale region in North Texas increased from 500 in 2010 to 650 in 2015, he said.

The Energy Sector Corridor plan calls for spending $1.8 billion to repair and improve priority 1 roads in energy sectors, including the Permian Basin, Eagle Ford, Barnett, Anadarko and Haynesville. The plan also calls for spending $1.25 billion on priority 2 roads, Hopmann said. More information on the proposal, including maps, can be found on the TxDOT website.
San Antonio city government to solicit for payroll services firm
San Antonio City Council members recently agreed to seek proposals from companies to provide payroll services for the city.

Voters approved a referendum in May 2015 to pay council members salaries rather than stipends, a move that caused city officials to change the way administrative staff members of city council members and the mayor are paid. Since 2001, the aides or assistants to elected officials were considered professional services contractors. Those staffers now will be paid through the budgets of the elected officials, thus necessitating the new payroll system.

Proposals for the payroll services contract must be submitted by June 24. Local companies or companies with an office within San Antonio may receive higher rankings as part of a city ordinance calling for preference to be given to local companies.

Sales tax allocations down for June; state distributes $618M
The Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has announced that it will distribute to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts a total of $618 million, which represents the state's local sales tax allocations for June. The amount is 1.8 percent less than in the same month of the year prior.

As has been the case for more than a year, the sustained drop in oil prices has affected parts of the state's economy negatively. But, the announcement noted that cities with a more diversified industrial profile - such as Austin, El Paso and Irving - have helped Texas as a whole better withstand the energy decline.

Texas cities will receive $404.4 million, down 1.2 percent from June 2015. The state's transit systems will receive the next highest amount, $139.9 million, which is a 1.7 percent decrease from last June. Special purpose taxing districts will receive $37.5 million and Texas counties $36.2 million. Those figures represent a 1.4 percent decrease and a 7.9 percent decrease, respectively, from June last year. View the amounts allocated by city and by county.
Eagle Pass to seek $50 million from TWDB for water system
Eagle Pass City Council members recently agreed to apply for $50 million in funding for eight projects that will upgrade the city's water system. Using state assistance will save the city about $12 million over the open market, said Jorge Barrera, the general manager of water works.

Current plans to upgrade the water system include the replacement of 20 miles of aging pipes at a cost of $16 million, the expansion of a regional water plant and the wastewater treatment plant for $12 million and the diversification of the city's water sources at a cost of $6.8 million.

City staff members also will request $3.5 million to paint and rehabilitate existing elevated and ground storage water tanks.

Longview council considers approval of land swap for park
The Longview City Council recently scheduled a closed-door meeting with city attorneys to review plans to donate Hinsley Park to private owners in exchange for building a new city park at another location.

Voters in November approved a plan to sell the land back to the original donors of the property to allow developers to build a retail project once a new park was built. The developer plans to begin construction on the new park in the summer, said Assistant City Manager Keith Bonds. City officials, however, have only conceptual designs but no final design for the new park.

Council members also plan to discuss an agreement with the Longview Economic Development Corporation to build the first phase of a hike-and-bike trail along Guthrie Creek at a cost of about $1.9 million.
Austin fire chief seeking new fire stations to reduce response time
Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr has urged city council members to build as many as five new fire stations. The new facilities are needed in order to decrease response times in several areas on the edge of the rapidly growing city.

The fire department protects 323 square miles and arrives at calls within less than eight minutes and 55 seconds about 90 percent of the time, Kerr said. In certain areas of the city, however, the response time for fire department personnel is more than 10 minutes. The department's goal is to keep that figure to below eight minutes.

Kerr also said department staff members have been developing a plan that includes suggestions for paying for the new fire stations and proposed timelines to build the new facilities in the five areas of the city most in need of quicker response time.
Socorro approves feasibility study project to build new port of entry
At the urging of one of its members, the Socorro City Council recently agreed to begin studying the feasibility of building a new international port of entry located in the border city.

The study will include information on the estimated costs and best location to establish a new port of entry, said Rene Rodriguez (pictured), an at-large member of the city council.

Rodriguez said he expected this first study to be completed in about 90 days, but the project to build a new port of entry could take as long as 10 years. City officials have not yet contacted federal officials in the United States or in Mexico about the proposal, he added.
Dallas council may rebid $200M drainage project despite delay
Following a report from the Dallas city auditor raising concerns over the bidding process, members of the Dallas City Council's Budget, Finance and Audit Committee recently began exploring the possibility of rebidding a $200 million drainage project originally awarded in April.

The project to build a drainage tunnel to help prevent flooding in eastern and uptown areas of the city was originally awarded to one bidder even though another company had submitted a lower bid. Voters approved funding for the drainage project in 2006 and 2012, but recent flooding in the area has raised the priority for the project. Several committee members expressed concern about the expected 18-month delay on the project if the project is rebid.

Abilene fire department requests school district to donate land
Abilene Independent School District officials recently began considering a request by Abilene Fire Chief Larry Bell (pictured) to donate 3.7 acres of land to the city to build a new fire station.

Voters in 2015 approved $12.9 million in bonds to replace three outdated fire stations, but the city has land available for only two of the stations, Bell said.

Superintendent David Young said he supports the donation and is exploring a land swap once the new station is completed. The current fire station could be used by the school district to store equipment. Trustees plan to vote on the request at their next meeting, Young said. If the request is approved, the city could begin construction on the new fire station as early as 2017.
Army Corps of Engineers will update Lake Whitney master plan
The Fort Worth District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently agreed to update the master plan for Lake Whitney. The update is needed due to changes in land use, population growth, recreation trends and management policies since the master plan was first developed in June 1972.

Officials with the Corps of Engineers plan to hold public meetings to discuss updated land classifications, new objectives for natural and recreational resources and management of invasive species that are threatening the natural habitat.

The master plan does not address the Shoreline Management Plan that governs private boat docks or the technical operational aspects of flood risk management of power generation at Lake Whitney.

Smithville buys land for detention pond in response to recent floods
Smithville City Council members recently agreed to spend $100,000 to buy 4.9 acres of land on which to build a new $1.1 million retention pond to help relieve flooding during heavy rains. Solving the drainage problem could cost as much as $5 million, City Manager Robert Tamble (pictured) said.

The proposed 22-foot deep detention pond is designed to hold up to 13 million gallons of water, or about 6.2 inches of rain in a 24-hour period before draining into the Colorado River, Tamble said.

A majority of the costs of the detention pond is expected to come from a hazard mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Tamble said, with the city contributing just $150,000. City officials also plan to spend $20,000 in reserve funds to pay for the installation of two culverts near SH 71 to improve drainage. The city also plans to seek assistance from the Texas General Land Office, which is now assessing needs of communities stricken by several flood events this past year.
Brazos County begins to study expansion of detention center
Brazos County officials recently approved $40,000 to hire an architectural firm to study the need to expand its juvenile detention center to meet population growth.

The Dallas-based architectural company will assess the current 49-bed facility that houses juveniles from 10 to 16 years of age and examine operations to help find the most efficient and affordable method to house juvenile defenders, the county judge said. The company will present options to county commissioners once the study is completed.

While the facility never has had more inmates than beds, the county's population growth of 10 percent annually could lead to overcrowding in the next four or five years, according to officials.
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Bellaire increases cost estimate for new police, courts building
Bellaire City Council members recently agreed to add $1.77 million to the cost estimate for a new police and municipal courts facility. Funding for the building may be included in a proposed $5.6 million bond election being considered for November.

The additional funding is needed to add about 4,100 square feet of space for the jail, the detectives division and patrol division, as well as to pay for supplies and other materials needed for the new areas, said City Manager Paul Hofmann.

The additional space also will allow for future expansion of the new police and municipal court facility. The deadline for council members to call the proposed bond election is mid-August.
Hewitt City Council approves $3.4M worth of streets projects
Hewitt City Council members recently approved issuing $3.4 million in certificates of obligation to pay for several projects to improve streets.

City officials plan to use about $1.9 million of the funding to complete Old Temple Road and $500,000 on First Street, the mayor said. The city also plans to spend $750,000 on other street improvements.
Calendar of Events

Texas K-12 CTO Council hosting technology officers conference
June 22, 2016
The Texas K-12 CTO Council, a nonprofit association comprised of chief technology officers from Texas schools, will host the Texas CTO Clinic in Austin June 22-23. The event is an opportunity for participants to learn about the latest trends in educational technology, information security and analytics. Speakers will include Larry Johnson, the CEO of the New Media Consortium, an international consortium focused on the use of technology in education. The CTO Clinic also will offer technology officers a chance to network with tech leaders in both the public and private sectors. The event will take place at the Hilton Doubletree in Austin. A schedule is available 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.

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.

Cities leading in efforts to transform government 

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

City leaders in San Francisco have launched a bold initiative and are being touted as visionaries! The mayor has announced the creation of an innovation lab called Superpublic. This project is so timely it has caught the attention of community leaders, government officials and business executives throughout the country.

The lab is designed as a home for problem-solving coalitions and its mission is to strengthen partnership bonds between the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The lab project's objective is to encourage aggressive and diverse collaboration for the betterment of city services in the future. It will be managed by the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation, the City Innovate Foundation and the federal General Services Administration (GSA). Private sector firms and three major universities will also be major stakeholders.

The City Innovate Foundation, with experience in creating public-private partnerships (P3s/PPPs) that solve urban problems, will help facilitate new partnerships as well as provide expertise. The organizers believe that focused collaborative efforts will result in product development, enhancement of services and their delivery and new processes that allow government to be more cost effective and efficient.




Lopez named chief school finance officer for TEA
Leo Lopez, who is now the executive director of finance for the Austin Independent School District, this week won selection as the chief school finance officer and an associate commissioner of the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

When he begins his new job June 27, Lopez (pictured) will oversee state education funding, compliance and financial accountability functions for TEA.

Lopez previously worked for TEA from 2002 to 2012. He has a master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

Additionally, Al McKenzie has been named the TEA's new director of state funding. He will supervise all state funding programs in this new position, including the Foundation School Program. McKenzie holds a bachelor's degree from Victoria University and a master's degree from the University of Canterbury, both located in New Zealand.

Dallas names Coatney as new fire-rescue chief
Dallas city officials recently selected David Coatney (pictured) as the Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief, effective July 13.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Coatney is currently serving as fire chief in Round Rock and worked more than 25 years for the San Antonio Fire Department, including as the director of emergency responses and in administration of Homeland Security grants. He also directed the Fire Suppression Division.

Coatney has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Wayland Baptist University.

UT System names Kazmi to new analytics position
Officials with The University of Texas System have appointed Zain Kazmi as assistant vice chancellor for health analytics and chief analytics officer.

The newly created position will allow Kazmi to oversee the development of the new UT System Clinical Data Network, a part of Chancellor Bill McRaven's Quantum Leap initiative to improve health care delivery throughout the state.

Kazmi previously was a management consultant focused on health analytics. He has a bachelor's degree from the GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology in Pakistan and a master's degree from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

Texas City approves funding for mobility plan
Texas City commissioners recently approved $80,000 over a two-year period to fund a study on improving mobility and financing transportation projects in the city.

The study, by a Houston-based transportation consulting company, is expected to identify federal and state funding for improvements to walkways, bicycle paths, road improvements and access to public transportation.

TxDOT to begin Loop 281 project in August
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials plan to seek bids in August for a $3.52 million project to expand Loop 281 in Longview. The project will increase the roadway from four to six lanes with a raised median, according to Karen Owen, director of the Longview Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Texas Transportation Commission officials also are expected to consider a $1.4 million grant to Longview Transit to fund a new transfer station east of the city's bus station and a public transportation office.

Other transportation projects that should be completed by September 2017 include a $1.3 million project to improve signals at several highway intersections.

Thompson selected to lead Liberty-Eylau ISD
Liberty-Eylau Independent School District board members recently named Ronnie Thompson (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Thompson is currently the superintendent at Hooks ISD.

Previous to his five-year stay with the Hooks school district, Thompson was an assistant superintendent at Texarkana ISD. He also has served as a teacher in the Liberty-Eylau school district, as well as an assistant principal.

When he begins his new duties July 1, Thompson will replace Superintendent Roger Hailey, who is retiring.

Roger Arriaga tapped as chief of staff for SAWS
Roger Arriaga recently won selection as the new chief of staff for the San Antonio Water System (SAWS).

Most recently the vice president of public affairs for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Arriaga (pictured) also has been a director of government affairs for a Central Texas homebuilder. His new duties include assisting Robert Puente, the president of SAWS, in managing major project initiatives, working with the community and developing long-range plans and strategies.

Arriaga holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Arlington and a master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

Hubbard named director of Stephenville Economic Development Authority
John Hubbard recently was named the executive director of the Stephenville Economic Development Authority (SEDA).

Hubbard (pictured) recently served five years as the director of the Balch Springs Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and has served as an assistant city manager in Balch Springs, a city manager in Cockrell Hill, as director of the Hutchins EDC and as an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas-Dallas.

He has a bachelor's degree from Abilene Christian University and a master's degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. He also is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Karen Daly to resign as city manager in Hutto
Hutto City Manager Karen Daly recently announced her resignation from the position she has held since March 2014. Daly (pictured) will remain in the job until June 13, at which point the city council will decide on her replacement.

She previously was an assistant city manager in Sugar Land and Longview and the city manager in Greenville. Daly holds a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees from The University of Texas at Arlington.
Athens water board seeks bids for new headquarters
Officials of the Athens Municipal Water Authority recently agreed to seek bids for work on a new headquarters building on Lake Athens.

The projects to be bid include dirt work, a pad and a parking lot for the 4,000-square-foot facility that will house the water authority, as well as for work on the interior of the building and plumbing.

The offices of the authority are now located at an RV park at the Lake Athens Marina, and board meetings are held at the Hart-Morris Conservation Center at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Both will relocate to the new facility once it is completed.

Sherry Sylvester joins lieutenant governor's office as senior adviser
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced last week that Sherry Sylvester (pictured) has joined his office and will serve as a senior adviser.

Sylvester has served as the spokeswoman for a political action group in Austin for the last 10 years and worked as a journalist before that. She has an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University and a master's degree from George Washington University.

Darrell Auterson chosen to lead McKinney EDC
Darrell Auterson recently won selection as the new president of the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (EDC). He begins his new duties July 1.

Currently the president and chief executive officer of the York County Economic Alliance in Pennsylvania, Auterson (pictured) also has held economic development positions in Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina and California.

He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana State University.
 
Pasadena could convert donated building to municipal facility, city hall
Pasadena City Council members recently agreed to consider accepting the donation of a $5.4 million building that could be converted for use as a new city hall.

Council members also are considering a $150,000 contract with an architectural firm to develop plans for renovating the six-story building now owned by a local company. The plan calls for moving the mayor's office, along with several other city departments, to the new building and renovating the current city hall to be used by municipal courts.
Marshall names Altman as new finance director
Marshall city commissioners recently selected Elaine Altman (pictured) as the new finance director and city secretary.

Previously a U.S. Marine, Altman served in financial and accounting positions for several Dallas-based private companies before relocating to the area 18 months ago.

Altman will replace Debbie Manuel, who has been the acting finance director since April 2015, when her predecessor, Lisa Agnor, won appointment as the city manager.

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Abilene names two new administrative directors
Abilene city officials recently selected Robert Patrick to serve as the director of Public Works and Russell Grubbs as the director of the city's Utilities Division.

Patrick most recently served as an assistant city manager in Midland, where he oversaw facilities, sanitation and landfill, utilities and engineering. He also has worked as an administrator in several other cities in Texas.

Grubbs previously was water utilities manager in Nacogdoches and is a veteran of the U.S. Army.
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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.   
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