News And People

Volume 14, Issue 23 - Friday, June 17, 2016
How far will Dallas officials go to make over city's urban highways?
TxDOT presents CityMap plan that de-emphasizes interstates 

Interstate 345 is an elevated highway that runs through Central Dallas that connects the Central Expressway with Interstate 45. That's an important role to play in the state's second-largest city. However, it also divides the Deep Ellum neighborhood from Downtown Dallas.

Transportation planners have been discussing potential solutions to the problem for many years. And, last week, those discussions took another step forward with the presentation of a draft report by planners with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) called Dallas City Center Master Assessment Process (CityMAP). The document is the product of a long-term project that aims to present multiple options for the transformation of Dallas's urban highways.

The project's impetus came from Gov. Greg Abbott's directive to provide a solution for the state's most congested highways. The report notes that, "Downtown Dallas is surrounded by several major highways that fall into the top 25 of the 100 most congested roadways in Texas" and that several of those roadways are aging and in need of maintenance or replacement.

Hoping to take advantage of both the will to tackle large infrastructure issues from the highest ranks of state government and the timing of the needed repairs, the CityMAP planners are thinking big. The report doesn't offer explicit recommendations for how to remake, for instance, the Interstate 30 Corridor or the I-345/I-45 stretch of highway. What it does do, however, is offer multiple alternatives for what the next versions of those interstates could look like.

The three scenarios offered for I-345 and I-45 are all large, but they vary in scope and in outcome. I-345 was built in 1974 and carries more than 200,000 cars daily. The report notes that it has been the focus of much attention in recent years due to the fact that many in Dallas - residents and city officials alike - see it as the primary reason that area of the city has "seen delayed economic growth and lower densities than parcels not adjacent to the corridor, with many parcels adjacent to I-345 in the CBD (central business district ) being utilized as parking lots." The elevated highway serves to cut off the Deep Ellum neighborhood - historically a cultural center for the African-American community - from the central business district of Downtown Dallas.

The first of the CityMAP report's three scenarios is a relatively modest modification of the existing highway that would remove several off-ramps from the central business district to I-345. In addition to lessening "the visual impact" of the interstate, it would cut down on the heavy traffic into and out of both the downtown area and the neighborhood on the other side of the highway. That would allow for improved bicycle and pedestrian connections between downtown and the neighborhood. The report projects that this scenario would take six years to complete.

The other two scenarios are comparatively drastic, each projected to take 24 years to reach completion. One would completely remove I-345 altogether (at a cost of between $100 million and $500 million), and the third scenario would remove the elevated lanes and replace them with a below-grade highway (at a cost of between $500 million and $1 billion).

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Suzanne Shipley, President, Midwestern State University

Career highlights and education: My three degrees are in German from Texas Tech University and The University of Texas at Austin. I have lived and studied abroad off and on for about five years. I've worked at universities in Ohio, Arizona, Maryland, West Virginia and now Texas, so I enjoy a wide range of experience with various legislative and community approaches to higher education.

What I like best about my job is: I like the wide variety of people I meet. Every day brings something new to learn. One day last month, I welcomed a professional wrestler in the morning, followed by lunch with the visiting dean of a college in London. I finished the day greeting the Korean weightlifting team to Midwestern State to train for the Olympics. Quite a range.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Take care of yourself. I try to exercise daily and eat healthy foods and keep up with family and friends, in spite of the grueling schedule presidents take on.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Bring your running shoes - we are an active staff with lots to do. But we have fun moving MSU forward together.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: In the backyard with my husband and our two dogs, Roxy and Racer.

People would be surprised to know that I: I had studied three foreign languages before entering high school. Languages, foreign and my own, have always been my passion.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Nothing keeps you young at heart like working at a university. You learn from the students the latest approaches, trends and gadgets, and your intellectual life is kept active by faculty and staff interests. University life is our own fountain of youth.

HHSC officials begin feasibility study of sale of land in Austin
Members of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) recently initiated a feasibility study of relocating the Austin State Hospital and the Austin State Supported Living Center. The purpose of the move would be to take advantage of high property values in Austin by selling the 192 acres of land on which the two facilities are located.

The state hospital is comprised of 39 buildings on 99 acres in Central Austin, while the state supported living center has 65 buildings on 93 acres of land in West Austin. The properties are located in parts of the city with particularly high land prices and have no zoning restrictions, as the city does not zone state-owned land.

HHSC commissioners plan to hold hearings in Austin, Round Rock and San Marcos to present the options being considered and to gather public input. Agency officials expect to release results of the feasibility study Sept. 1.
Cibolo City Council commences study of potential toll road project
The Cibolo City Council has begun a feasibility study to study a potential toll road project. The proposal would extend FM 1103 at Wagon Wheel Way to Interstate 10. The extension has been discussed since 2006, but officials with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have said state funding would not be available for at least 20 years.

"Our citizens have indicated a strong level of frustration about the amount of traffic and lack of mobility," City Manager Robert Herrera (pictured) said. The project would cost about $100 million, an amount that could be funded by a private company. "They have agreed to finance construction of the road if the market and the feasibility studies come back showing that this is a good project," Herrera said.

The current route of FM 1103 would remain free to use. Council members said public meetings will gather input from residents before any decision is made.

San Jacinto River Authority will commence flood protection study
San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) officials recently received approval for a flood protection planning study when Conroe city officials agreed to contribute $140,000 to the study and Montgomery County commissioners $90,000. The SJRA will contribute $230,000.

A grant from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) required local matching funds, but the board will provide the remaining half of the costs for the $920,000 flood protection study. County officials sought the funding after two major rain events flooded more than 800 homes and businesses, requiring more than 200 rescues in that area during April and May.

The proposed study calls for focusing on the west fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Conroe. It will address flooding issues, options to reduce flood damage, update hydrologic and hydraulic data and calibrate new models. That data will be used to help in land use planning, emergency response and floodplain management and promote responsible development on the west fork of the river, said Jace Houston, general manager of the SJRA. The goal is to complete the study by December 2017.
Belton moves forward with plan to develop more bicycle trails
Belton City Council members recently authorized City Manager Sam Listi to negotiate a funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for a project that will build more hike and bike trails. They also approved $534,000 as the local contribution for the second phase of the $2.6 million project.

TxDOT officials allocated $2.1 million in federal funding for the project, which will extend the hike and bike trail network and link the city's north and south sides. The plan calls for building a railroad underpass connecting University Drive with Sparta Road.

The next step is to seek bids from engineering firms to conduct the design process and environmental studies. Construction on the trail system should begin in about two years, once the design is approved.
College Station long-range water plan calls for $145M in upgrades
The director of water services for College Station, Dave Coleman (pictured), recently informed city council members of the need to prioritize two projects to upgrade wastewater treatment plants. The projects are part of a long-range improvement plan intended to handle increasing population growth and avoid possible state penalties, Coleman said. The costs for the entire plan range in price from $120 million to $143 million.

Staff members are nearing completion of an update of the Wastewater Master Plan. The project with the highest priority is the Lick Creek treatment plant, at an estimated cost of about $44 million to $54 million. The proposed upgrades would almost quadruple capacity at the plant, which would then be able to handle 8 million gallons of wastewater each day, Coleman said. The city also needs to spend up to $13 million to divert sewage from the Carter's Creek wastewater treatment plant to the expanded Lick Creek plant. That project should be completed by 2022.

Council members plan to hold public hearings on wastewater, water and road impact fees July 14.

County officials to study funding for training center, animal shelter
Williamson County commissioners recently began discussions on drawing from more than $50 million in previously approved certificates of obligation to fund construction of a new training center for the sheriff's department and to expand an animal shelter originally built in 2007.

The training center would be located near Hutto and already is in the design phase, according to the senior director of infrastructure, Bob Daigh. County officials have allotted $8 million for that project. The sheriff's department has committed $500,000 from its asset forfeiture fund, but the project still needs another $500,000 in funding. Plans call for the training center to be completed and in service in 2017.

Located in Georgetown, the regional animal shelter serves the cities of Round Rock, Hutto, Leander and Cedar Park, as well as county residents. County officials have pledged $3 million to expand the shelter and will commit up to $2 million more in funding. Municipal governments will supply the remainder of funding needed to expand the shelter to meet the needs of the county over the next 10 years.
Lewisville wins $1.2 million federal grant to reduce flooding
Lewisville City Council members recently accepted a $1.19 million grant from the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reduce or eliminate flood damage near Timber Creek.

City council members also agreed to contribute local funding in order to qualify for the grant, which will be used primarily to purchase five homes identified as having severe repetitive flood loss.

The agreement also calls for the city to complete demolition of the homes purchased with grant funds within 90 days after settlement. FEMA officials proposed using the vacant property to build picnic pavilions, sports fields or hike-and-bike trails.

Lake Houston group unveils plans for proposed pedestrian bridge
Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority officials recently unveiled preliminary drawings for a proposed pedestrian bridge in Kingwood. Authority officials also approved an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for a $54 million project to widen Northpark Drive.

The proposed pedestrian bridge will be needed to provide safe access to a high school and several other educational facilities after Northpark Drive is expanded from four lanes to six lanes, said Stan Sarman (pictured), chairman of the authority.

Authority officials are seeking state and federal grants to pay about 80 percent of the road expansion project and plan to finance about 20 percent from authority funds.
TWDB funds $19.4 million worth of water, wastewater projects
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) this week approved financial assistance worth $19.4 million for three separate water and wastewater system improvement projects.

The city of McAllen received $8.4 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, primarily in the form of a loan, but also with $1.2 million of loan forgiveness. The funding will go toward a reclaimed water project at the city's North Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The $5.8 million the Laguna Madre Water District in Cameron County got from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund will pay for upgrades to the Port Isabel Wastewater Treatment Plant. The water district is embarking on the first phase of an advanced water treatment facility.

The final announcement this week was $5.3 million to the city of Jefferson. The city's water officials are decommissioning an out-of-use wastewater treatment plant and replacing water distribution lines, wastewater collection lines and a water transmission main.

Del Mar College approves master plan for proposed new campus
Rendering from Del Mar College
Del Mar College regents recently approved a master plan to develop a new campus in the southern area of Corpus Christi. The expansion has been in the works for several years.

The master plan calls for providing facilities for programs in architecture, engineering and culinary arts, as well as core curriculum courses and dual credit courses for high school students. Almost 40 percent of the students enrolled at Del Mar College live south of South Padre Island Drive, necessitating the construction of a campus more accessible to those students, said Claudia Jackson, director of strategic communications for Del Mar College.

Regents plan to review the master plan and decide by Aug. 22 if they will ask voters in November to approve bond funding for the new campus.
Midland weighing $125 million, five-year plan to maintain roads
Midland City Council members recently began studying a new $125 million, five-year plan to perform road repairs and maintenance. The program was proposed by city staff members.

The plan's authors call for preserving roads through sealing or resurfacing rather than rebuilding, asserting that method is more cost-effective, said Gabe McClelland, assistant transportation manager for the city. He urged council members to consider asking voters to approve bonds to tackle the problems of street and road deterioration.

The plan recommends using $10 million for maintenance and $15 million for capital improvement projects annually and divides the city into four sections. The city would focus on one section per year, with the first section coming back into rotation in the fifth year of the program.
Bellmead wins $1.9 million grant to expand and improve city road
Bellmead city officials recently received a $1.9 million grant from the Economic Development Administration to help pay for a $2.8 million project that would expand Tirey Road. Current plans call for widening the road, improving drainage and adding safety upgrades, city officials said.

The improvement project is expected to promote economic development and reduce traffic congestion. Construction should begin later this year, and the road improvements will be completed within a year.
Baytown officials consider study of waterfront conference center
Baytown city officials recently began reviewing a proposed contract to assess the feasibility of developing a waterfront hotel and conference center at Bayland Island.

The study, along with a plan of action for the project, are to be presented to city council members within 90 days after a contract with the development company is approved.
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Harlingen approves TIRZ funding for $14 million convention center
Harlingen city officials recently authorized the use of $1.7 million in revenue from three tax increment reinvestment zones (TIRZ) to help pay for building a new $14 million convention center.

The convention center has become a top priority item and will take precedence over street and utility projects, for which the TIRZ funding had been earmarked, according to City Manager Dan Serna.
Flower Mound to study options to build cell phone towers in city
Flower Mound city officials recently began discussions revolving around available alternatives to improve spotty service for cell phones in the city.

Among the options being explored is for the city to build its own tower or to add a cell phone tower to a new fire station currently in the planning stages, officials said.

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 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. It will also 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.

TSABAA Summer Conference to be held in Corpus Christi in July
July 20-22, 2016
The Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association (TSABAA) will hold its 47th Annual Summer conference in Corpus Christi, July 20-22. The conference fosters good working relationships among the business and administrative personnel of various state agencies by providing an opportunity to discuss common problems inherent to attaining overall state objectives. It also offers formal training that supports the continuing education of state employees. The Summer Conference will feature the announcement of the TSABAA Administrator of the Year. The TSABAA represents 125 state agencies throughout Texas. Its 2016 Summer Conference takes place at the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel. Registration is open a draft agenda is online.

State, local officials are not happy about this! 

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

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is considering the establishment of a financial obligation that states would be required to make before becoming eligible for public assistance after a disaster. In short, FEMA wants every state to invest in disaster mitigation.

Public comments on the proposal - or alternatives to the proposal - have been received. FEMA officials now will use the comments to propose a rule that would create a deductible model for financial aid after a disaster. The model will likely include the awarding of "credits" if states make certain efforts to be prepared for disasters. Accumulating credits could potentially reduce the costs of pre-determined deductibles.

FEMA officials say the objective is to encourage states to pre-plan for disasters - to be better prepared by expanding their financial capacity for disaster response and recovery and to take steps toward mitigating risk. 

Schovanec to be next president at Texas Tech
The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents has named Lawrence Schovanec (pictured) the sole finalist for president of Texas Tech University. Currently the provost and senior vice president at Texas Tech, Schovanec first came to the university as a faculty member in 1982.

Regent Tim Lancaster, chairman of the presidential search committee, said that Schovanec was selected after a nationwide search and interviews with multiple finalists.

He was named provost in January 2014 and also has served Texas Tech as interim president and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Schovanec has received the President's Excellence in Teaching Award and is a member of the Texas Tech Teaching Academy.

Schovanec earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University, a master's degree from Texas A&M University and an undergraduate degree from Phillips University in Enid, Okla.
HHSC names Jessee to lead new combined unit
Gary Jessee has been named deputy executive commissioner of the newly created Medical and Social Services division of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Currently the state Medicaid director, Jessee (pictured) will take on his new role Sept. 1.

The new division combines the Medicaid/Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) division with a number of other services provided by the state. It will merge the Office of Social Services - which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and community partners programs - with Medicaid and the newly created Community Services department.

Jessee has been Medicaid director since 2015.

TDCJ announces candidates for head job
Officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) have announced the 10 candidates to replace the outgoing executive director of the agency, Brad Livingston, who will retire in August.

Three of the candidates are current TDCJ employees. Bryan Collier is the agency's deputy executive director, and Jerry McGinty is the chief financial officer. Valerie Jones is a case manager in Houston.

Todd Ishee works for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Michael Fithen worked for the U.S. Secret Service for more than 25 years.

The other candidates are Billy Humphrey, attorney Adrian Nettles, veteran municipal administrator Sammy Ragsdale, Francisco Rodriguez and Albert Timme.

The selected candidate will be named by the members of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, whose next meeting will be June 24.

Eugene Giovannini selected Tarrant County College's new chancellor 
Tarrant County College District officials recently selected Eugene Giovannini (pictured) as the lone finalist for chancellor of the junior college.

Giovannini has served since 2002 as president of Maricopa Corporate College in Scottsdale, Ariz. That school is a part of the Maricopa Community College District and works with local businesses to train employees. He previously was president of Gateway Community College in Phoenix.

Lawrence Hindt named Katy ISD superintendent
Lawrence Hindt, currently superintendent of Allen Independent School District, recently won selection as the lone finalist for superintendent at Katy ISD.

When he begins his new duties Aug. 1, Hindt (pictured) will replace Superintendent Alton Frailey, who is retiring from the state's eighth largest school district.

Before his two-year stint at Allen ISD, Hindt served as superintendent for Stafford Municipal School District and as an assistant superintendent for Fort Bend ISD.

Liebman named interim city manager in Celina
Helen Liebman recently won selection as the interim city manager in Celina. She will replace former City Manager Mike Foreman, who resigned June 10. City officials said that they will evaluate Liebman's job performance toward the end of the year and could make the appointment permanent at that time.

Most recently the director of planning and development , Liebman (pictured) also worked as a senior planner in Allen from 2009 until 2011 before coming to Celina. She also owned a consulting company in Coppell and worked as a planning manager for two private engineering companies in the area.

Three state senators to serve on SWIFT panel
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick this week appointed three members of the Texas Senate to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) Advisory Committee.

The appointees are Sen. Charles Perry, of Lubbock, who will serve as co-chair; Sen. Craig Estes, of Wichita Falls; and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, of McAllen.

Advisory committee members are tasked with reviewing the operation, function and structure of the fund at least twice a year and advising the Texas Water Development Board on other water-related issues.
Teresa Shelton selected Laneville superintendent
Laneville Independent School District trustees have named Teresa Shelton the district's new superintendent. She began in her new post June 1.

Shelton (pictured) had been serving as a principal in the district. She replaced Brian Nichols, who left the district after 14 years for a similar position at New Summerfield ISD earlier this year.

Richard Mitchell named Strawn superintendent
Trustees of the Strawn IndependentSchool District have named Richard Mitchell (pictured) the lone finalist for superintendent. He has served as a principal in the Strawn school district since 2002 and previously was a teacher and principal for Cleburne ISD.

Mitchell earned a bachelor's degree from Texas Wesleyan University, his teacher certification from Texas Woman's University and a master's degree from Tarleton State University.
Talbot resigns as city manager in Bastrop
Bastrop City Manager Michael Talbot (pictured) recently submitted his resignation. He first served in the post from 1993 to 1997 and became city manager again in 2006. His resignation is effective Sept. 1.

Previously a city manager in Mission and Terrell, Talbot also worked as a vice president for a bank in Terrell. He 
has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from The University of Texas at Dallas.

Vela to take reins as city manager in Sweetwater
David Vela, a former deputy city manager in Abilene, recently won selection as the city manager in Sweetwater.

Vela (pictured) has been the city manager in Alice since late 2015. He had previously been the assistant city manager and interim city manager in Abilene, in addition to his time as deputy city manager.

Poteet names Middleton as city administrator
Poteet City Council members recently selected Richard Middleton, who has been serving as interim city administrator, as the new city administrator.

Middleton previously served five years as the finance director for Poteet and has 30 years of experience in public administration.

Oak Ridge North chooses panel to research Robinson Road project
The Oak Ridge North City Council recently formed a subcommittee to create a list of questions to ask an engineering firm that presented five alternatives to widening Robinson Road.

The five alternatives for widening the city's main street range in cost from $1 million to $5.4 million. The road project will be placed on the ballot for Oak Ridge North voters to decide, the mayor said.

On Our Website 

Fields joins Duncanville district administration
Andrea Fields has been named assistant superintendent for operations at Duncanville Independent School District. She had been a deputy superintendent for Longview ISD.

During her 37 years in public education, Fields (pictured) has been a teacher, assistant principal and deputy superintendent. She begins her new duties in Duncanville in mid-July.

Fields has a bachelor's degree from Louisiana Tech University and a master's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University.
An Audit Report on Incentive Compensation at the Permanent School Fund, General Land Office, Employees Retirement System, and Teacher Retirement System

Funding The State Water Plan Through The SWIFT Program, Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Mark Harvey, Houston, Texas Radiation Advisory Board;
  • Neal Leavell, Lampasas, Texas Radiation Advisory Board;
  • Gerald Powell, Bay City, Texas Radiation Advisory Board;
  • Missy Shorey, Dallas, Texas Radiation Advisory Board;
  • Simon Trubek, Houston, Texas Radiation Advisory Board;
  • Kenneth Krieger, Lacy Lakeview, Texas Radiation Advisory Board;
  • Karen Newton, San Antonio, Texas Radiation Advisory Board.
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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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Editor: Peter Partheymuller   
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