News And People

Volume 14, Issue 28 - Friday, July 29, 2016
P3 pilots smart cities living lab
Dallas initiatives to spur economic development and quality of life

When Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) Executive Director Jennifer Sanders began researching solutions to the various challenges faced by her city, she and Co-Founder Trey Bowles looked at models all over the globe. Aging infrastructure, strained resources, increased density in the urban core and the need for increased technology and connectivity were problems shared by larger cities worldwide. Those challenges had been dealt with in different ways with varying degrees of success. Sanders and Bowles decided on the model of public-private partnership (P3/PPP), she said, because it allows the stakeholders to work together leveraging already existing initiatives.

Jennifer Sanders Executive Director
"We aren't trying to reinvent the wheel," Sanders said. "This model allows us to collate many varying perspectives and work to fulfill the needs of all the stakeholders. The P3 model is the best way to go."

The goal of DIA is to implement smart city solutions to facilitate and accelerate sustainable economic growth, resource efficiency and improve the quality of life in the city for its citizens. The alliance was launched at the White House last September as part of the federal smart cities initiative to help communities tackle local challenges and improve city services. After nearly a year of planning, DIA unveiled last month its multi-phased smart cities strategy beginning with a living lab in the West End district of Dallas.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Sara Hensley, Director of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department

Sara Hensley
Career highlights and education: Bachelor of science in education and master of education, with emphasis in parks and recreation administration from the University of Arkansas; director of Parks and Recreation in Virginia Beach, Va.; director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services in San Jose, Calif.; director of Parks and Recreation in Phoenix, Ariz. and currently the director of Parks and Recreation in Austin.  

What I like best about my job is: The connections you make with the community, the people you work with, day in and day out and the positive difference you make in the quality of life for the community.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Understand the political issues and players. Keep your finger on the pulse, but don't play politics.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Always be true to yourself and the profession. Tell the truth, even if it is not popular.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Spending time with my family.

People would be surprised to know that I: I have twin boys who are the love of my life.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: All of the areas the Austin Parks and Recreation Department oversees and how hard the staff works to create a better quality of life for the citizens and visitors of Austin.

Brownsville wins $10M TIGER grant for transit
Brownsville has been awarded $10 million out of $500 million the U.S. Department of Transportation has allocated for transportation projects across the country today. The winners of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants were announced today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at the White House.

Brownsville plans to use the funds to rehabilitate a regional bus maintenance facility, purchase eight hybrid transit replacement buses and renovate bus stops to include sidewalks, curb ramps and benches. The grant will also be used to widen the 2.4-mile-long Queen Isabella Causeway to South Padre Island, which will be one of the longest dedicated pedestrian/bike bridge facilities of its kind in the United States and the first of its kind in Texas.

TIGER grants support innovative projects, including multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional projects, which are difficult to fund through traditional federal programs. This year's awards focused on projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for communities.

Nabers to join Transportation Secretary Foxx for upcoming P3 program
Mary Scott Nabers
Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. and a recognized expert in public-private partnerships (PPPs/P3s), will join other panelists for a special half-day program that addresses Smart City P3s. Opening remarks for the Sept. 15 event will be delivered by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The half-day program is co-hosted by Meeting of the Minds and Smart & Resilient Cities and will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. (Eastern) at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies. Foxx will be joined by what Meeting of the Minds Co-founder Gordon Feller calls a "world-class group of transport and P3 pioneers," including Nabers, Executive Director Todd Herberghs of the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships and Frank Cutitta, editorial director and associate publisher, Smart & Resilient Cities™.

The first panel represents all aspects of the makings of a successful transportation P3 projects, from ownership to financing. The second group of panelists will use case studies from across the country and discuss best practices, successful P3 strategies and how to avoid difficult scenarios. 

HHSC names division leaders
The state Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has named the team that will guide the new Medical and Social Services division (MSS). The division will be the largest part of the agency, which is undergoing organizational restructuring, when it begins operations Sept. 1.

Executive Commissioner Charles Smith announced the team will serve under Deputy Executive Commissioner Gary Jessee. The new division will integrate client services and supports from  HHS agencies and support individuals across a broad continuum. The MSS division will consist of four departments: Medicaid and CHIP Services; Access and Eligibility Services; Health, Developmental and Independence Services and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Health Services.

The new department leaders are Wayne Salter, Associate Commissioner for Access and Eligibility Services; Jami Snyder, Associate Commissioner for Medicaid and CHIP Services; Lesley French, Associate Commissioner for Health, Developmental and Independence Services; and Sonja Gaines, Associate Commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Health Services. In addition, David Hagerla has been named director of MSS Cross-Division Coordination.

Salter is the current deputy executive commissioner for the HHSC, Office of Social Service. He has a bachelor's degree and an associate's degree. He is a graduate of the Florida Center for Public Management at Florida State University.

Snyder most recently served as HHSC chief deputy director for Medicaid and CHIP. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a bachelor's degree and has a master's degree from Arizona State University. 

French is the current associate commissioner of Women's Health Services Division. She is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and a member of the State Bar of Texas.

Gaines is currently the associate commissioner for Mental Health Coordination with HHSC. She holds a master's degree from Texas Women's University, a bachelor's degree the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree from William Paterson University.

Hagerla has served as deputy commissioner for Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services for the past year. He has a bachelor's degree from Auburn University and a master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.

TWDB awards funding for 15 water plan projects statewide
More than $759 million in financial assistance has been awarded by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to 15 projects in the state's water plan. The funds come from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program, created through a $2 billion legislative appropriation from the state's rainy day fund.

Among the projects receiving the largest amount of funding were:
  • El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board - $150 million to acquire land and water rights acquisition above an aquifer and to manage land and water use, provide resource protection and eventually develop the water supply.
  • City of Austin - $167,175,000, part of which will be used for  improvements at two wastewater treatment plants and construction of a reclaimed water storage tank, pump station and approximately 74,000 feet of reclaimed water transmission pipeline. The remaining funds will be used for a system-wide meter replacement project that includes installation of 230,000 advanced meters.
  • North Harris County Regional Water Authority - $225.675 million, part of which will finance the planning, design, and construction of approximately 12 miles of pipeline, three storage tanks, four hydropneumatic tanks and a pump station. The rest of the funding will be used for the planning, design and construction of approximately 17 miles of pipeline to move treated surface water from the Northeast Water Purification Plant to the City of Houston, the Authority and the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority.
The remaining projects funded include: $12 million to the city of Waco for a meter replacement project; $18 million to the city of Bryan for an aquifer storage and recovery project; $12.18 million to the city of Keller for water system improvements to reduce water loss; $4.635 million to the Trophy Club Municipal Utility District No. 1 for a transmission pipeline; $66.5 million to the Schertz/Seguin Local Government Corporation for a new well field and transmission pipeline; $15.49 million to the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority for a water system expansion project and new transmission pipeline; $4.5 million to the city of Beeville for a new well field; $75 million to the Sabine River Authority for a new pump station and pipeline; and $8.1 million to the United Irrigation District for an off-channel storage facility. 

El Paso bond panel agrees on $572.3 million in projects
An El Paso Independent School District facilities advisory committee recently identified at least $572.3 million in projects to renovate, maintain and build new facilities to place on a possible November bond ballot.

What's more, committee members also are still working to prioritize a list of possible bond projects that total almost $911 million in order to make a recommendation to board members on Aug. 9.

Among the priority projects recommended by the panel are $39 million to rebuild a middle school, $32 million to renovate Austin High School and $21 million to renovate El Paso High School. The panel also urged asking voters to approve $6.5 million to purchase laptop computers for students and teachers and $26 million to replace turf, courts and lighting for courts at the high school. Committee members are still discussing a proposed $57 million to renovate Burges High School and $40 million to renovate Jefferson High School.

Texas Historical Commission awards $20M for courthouses
Lynn County Courthouse
Texas Historical Commission (THC) officials announced the award of $20.1 million in grants to restore and repair seven county courthouses and to begin planning another county courthouse restoration.

Counties winning grants to fully renovate their courthouses are Fannin, Karnes, Lynn and San Saba. Cameron, Kleberg and Willacy won emergency grants to address critical structural problems, removal of hazardous materials or to address water damage. THC also awarded a grant to Hunt County to create construction documents needed to apply for a grant for fully restoring the county courthouse.

THC received applications from 25 counties asking for courthouse restoration projects totaling $140.8 million. Commission officials determined awards based on 21 different criteria, including the age of the building, support from the county for the project and the extent to which the courthouse is endangered.

Ector County eyeing options to expand detention center
Ector County commissioners recently began looking at options to expand the Ector County Detention Center. The discussion arose after commissioners approved providing another $600,000 to the sheriff to pay for housing nonviolent inmates in jails operated by other counties or cities.

Commissioners discussed using pods and tents similar to those used at the Midland County Jail as well as building another wing at the detention center. County officials previously allotted another $7 million to add three pods, a tent, booking area and office space to the county jail. Each pod will accommodate about 72 inmates, according to Sheriff Mark Donaldson.

Federal officials also offered to provide the county with $7.5 million to help pay for expanding the detention center if county officials agreed to house 270 federal prisoners at the facility for 20 years. County officials, however, expressed concerns that federal requirements for the new addition could be different than state requirements.

Frisco to begin construction on $16 million park upgrade
Excavation on a 40,000-square-foot skate park is underway in the city of Frisco. The project is just part of Phase I plans to renovate Northeast Community Park, which spans 74 acres.

With a budget of $16 million, the plan also includes new athletic fields, walking trails, a playground, concessions, storage buildings, restroom facilities and a pond. 

Frank Phillips College gifted $4M for Dalhart branch campus
An anonymous donor recently donated $4 million to Frank Phillips College to build a new branch campus facility in Dalhart. The gift, however, is contingent on voters in Dallam and Hartley county approving a tax increase to pay for operating and maintaining the new campus facility.

The new building will allow the college to add a welding program and to expand its health sciences courses, college officials said.

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Midland moving ahead with $4.4 million aquatic center renovation
The Midland City Council recently moved forward on a $4.4 million plan to renovate the Washington Aquatic Center, approving an authorization to request bids.

Aquatic center features include a lazy river and lagoon, two flume drop slides, a bath house building, children's activity pool, a flume twist slide and two shade structures.

San Marcos unveiling plans to use $25 million in federal flood relief 
San Marcos city officials will unveil their plans for using $25.08 million in federal funding received after two flooding events last year. 

City officials estimate about $47.75 million in unmet needs such as housing and damages to infrastructure from the floods in May and October of 2015 that have remained unaddressed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the Small Business Administration or the National Flood Insurance Program.

Options council members are considering include repairing infrastructure, buyouts and relocating or elevating homes. A consultant recommended using 50 percent for housing projects, 30 percent for infrastructure projects, 15 percent on planning projects and 5 percent for administering the funding.

Midland weighing tax hike to upgrade streets and roads
The mayor of Midland recently said an increase in property taxes might be needed to begin upgrading streets and roads that cannot be repaired. The estimated cost of replacing these roads would be $112 million, he said.

A recent study indicated that roads too damaged to properly repair represent 30 percent of the roads in that city, the mayor said. He expects discussions on a possible tax hike will continue until council adopts the budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Rowlett approves $2.4 million for new water meter reading system
Rowlett City Council members recently approved $2.4 million to replace almost 18,000 water reading devices and build a new base station. The funding includes money to replace up to 500 water meters found defective during the installation process.

The new system also includes installation of base stations on two existing water towers as well as the new base station. The new system allows the data to be tracked and sent remotely rather than requiring a city employee to drive by each water meter to retrieve the data from the antenna.

Pearland to donate land for $24.8 million health sciences building
University of Houston-Clear Lake
City council members in Pearland recently approved donating about nine acres of land to the University of Houston-Clear Lake to build a $24.6 million, 52,000-square-foot health and science classroom facility. The city previously donated 14.4 acres for the campus that opened in 2010.

Area legislators were able to pass legislation providing tuition revenue bonds to pay for the new classroom facility that will allow the campus to expand its nursing program and information technology program.

University officials plan to begin construction on the new classroom facility in early 2017 and open the new building for classes in the fall of 2018.

Corpus Christi approves $2.7 million for water system
Corpus Christi City Council members approved $2.7 million in emergency funding to repair and upgrade the water treatment system.

Of that funding, the council allotted $500,000 to help pay for building a test facility and then testing a new granular activated carbon filter system after several members insisted such an expensive new system be tested before spending so much on the filter system.

El Paso to seek bids for $4 million aquatic centers project

The El Paso City Council recently agreed to use a design firm and construction company working together under one contract for a $4 million project to build two aquatic centers. That method helps the city better coordinate the construction process, city officials said.

Preliminary designs call for building a 5,000 to 6,000-square-foot facility with a zero depth entry, a water play area, water slides, a spray ground, a lap pool and a splash area for toddlers. The centers will also feature cabanas, grills, a bathhouse and parking areas that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Voters approved bonds to pay for the new aquatic centers in 2012.
Amarillo eyeing tax increase to fund $900M for capital improvements
Amarillo City Council members recently began discussion on three options for a tax increase to pay for an estimated $93 million in projects to improve roads, the water system and parks.

The three options are a two-cent tax increase every year for five years, a three-cent tax increase each year for five years and a four-cent tax increase each year for five years, according to Mark Nair, a city council member.

Once council members decide on which option to support, that option will be presented to voters, who will make the final decision, said Deputy City Manager Bob Crowell.
El Paso approves five-year $107.5 million plan to upgrade airport
El Paso International Airport
El Paso City Council members approved a five-year $107.5 million capital improvement plan to maintain and upgrade the El Paso International Airport (IEPIA).

The priority projects in the five-year plan include rebuilding the primary runway and several taxiways and upgrading escalators, the baggage collection area and heating and cooling systems.

Funding for the improvements includes $50.4 million from airport enterprise funds, $18.9 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants, $14.2 million from the Transportation Security Administration and $2.5 million from the customer facility charge, city officials said.

Pasadena approves $4.4 million to renovate city-owned building
Pasadena Second Century Corp. (PSCC) board members recently agreed to fund $4.4 million to pay for renovating a city-owned building located in the older, southern part of town as part of its effort to revitalize that area.

Current plans are to renovate the basement and the first floor of the 45-year-old building donated to the city by a telecommunications company in return for the city paying real estate fees and closing costs of about $25,000.

City officials also expect to house up to 130 employees in the building once the basement renovation is completed, said Roy Mease, president of the PSCC, a nonprofit corporation created by the city to encourage economic development. The new workers in a building closed since 2011 should increase revenues to restaurants and retailers in that area, Mease added.

Pearland ISD weighing $206 million bond proposal
Trustees for Pearland Independent School District began prioritizing $206 million in capital improvement projects submitted by a bond advisory committee for inclusion in a possible November bond election.

Among the projects being considered are a $19.34 million career and technical education facility at Turner High School, a new $3.6 million administration building, a $6.7 million expansion of the agriculture facility and an $8.7 million auxiliary girls gym and locker room.

Board members also are considering asking voters to approve $19.3 million to upgrade technology throughout the district and $12.1 million to purchase new security cameras and improve security at entrances to district facilities. Board members must decide by Aug. 8 on whether to schedule a bond election this November.

Midland to seek bids for downtown properties
The Midland City Council recently agreed to seek bids for two, adjacent downtown properties to encourage private development on that land.

For proposals to be considered, city officials are requiring that bids must be at least $200,000 and construction must begin on the property within 30 months of the purchase of the property. The city also is requiring that the building be at least 10,000 square feet, fit the architecture of the downtown area, comply with zoning and provide on-site parking.

League City proposing new $8.5 million animal shelter 
League City officials included a new $8.5 million animal shelter facility in the city's five-year capital improvement plan.

Council members set a goal to begin construction on the proposed 19,000-square-foot shelter between 2017 and 2018. City officials said engineering work estimated to cost about $650,000 could begin during the next fiscal year.

Floresville moving forward with $20 million street, water projects
Floresville City Council members agreed to approve a contract in August to begin work on a new $5 million wastewater treatment plant and $15 million to replace and expand sewer infrastructure.
City officials are using loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for the new treatment plant and improvements to the city's sewer infrastructure.

Another project being planned by city staff is a new water project that should be ready for council to approve in December, said City Manager Henrietta Turner.

Calendar of Events

Public-Private Partnership Higher Education Summit set in San Diego
Oct. 3-4, 2016
Public-private partnerships are helping higher education officials meet their needs for new and renovated facilities. How this trend is growing will be discussed at the upcoming Public-Private Partnership Higher Education Summit. The summit is being described as "the premier conference for collaboration between university officers and development professionals pursuing public-private partnerships." The gathering, scheduled for Oct. 3-4 in San Diego, will feature influential decision-makers from throughout the country. Those attending will participate in two days of in-depth learning, business development and networking opportunities with facility planning, finance and business officers who are involved in public-private partnerships across the country. Speakers will show how P3s on college campuses are no longer just for student housing, but have expanded to include classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, athletic spaces and other campus infrastructure. Registration is now open and a program schedule has been released.

TASSCC 2016 Annual Conference slated in Galveston in August
Aug. 7-10,  2016
With a theme of "Catch the IT Wave," the 2016 Annual Conference of the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communications (TASSCC) will be held Aug. 7-10 at Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston. The conference will feature individual sessions on subjects such as IT Strategy, Roadmaps and Governance; Infrastructure and Cybersecurity; Leadership; and Data Management and Analytics. Addressing Organizational Leadership Perspective of Information Technology - "Current and Future Landscape" will be Phillip Ashley, associate deputy of fiscal matters, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; Larry Temple, executive director, Texas Workforce Commission; Whitney Brewster, executive director, Department of Motor Vehicles; and Thomas Suehs, former commissioner, Health and Human Services Commission. There will also be keynote speakers each day. The agenda is available and registration is now open.

LBJ School offers Construction Purchasing Certificate Program
Sept. 20-21, 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 Basics of Construction Purchasing and will be held Sept. 20-21.

Here's a way to launch long-neglected infrastructure projects 

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

The Build America Bureau is now open for business! Citizens, public officials and taxpayers who have watched this program develop have high hopes for what can result.

The bureau falls under supervision of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the objective is to provide as much assistance as possible to government entities with long-overdue infrastructure projects. The bureau is designed to be a one-stop shop for governors and departments of transportation and to encourage them to utilize federal programs, assistance and expertise. The bureau plans to streamline credit opportunities and grants and also offer advice related to innovative and alternative sources of funding.

CPS Energy names Paula Gold-Williams CEO
Paula Gold-Williams
CPS Energy's board of trustees announced that after a nine-month nationwide search Paula Gold-Williams has been selected as president and CEO. Gold-Williams has been serving as interim CEO since shortly after Doyle Beneby resigned from the position last year.

The board utilized a national executive search firm to identify a new CEO, but Gold-Williams was selected based on her performance as interim CEO.

 "Paula has done an outstanding job in her nine months as interim president & CEO and has provided solid operational guidance, strategic agility and a renewed focus on customer and employee engagement during the transition," said Ed Kelley, chair of CPS Energy's board of trustees. "She is a highly impressive talent known for her inclusive leadership style, her 'People First' philosophy and for building high performing, collaborative teams."
Gold-Williams previously served as group executive vice president and chief financial officer for the utility.  

Houston ISD taps Carranza as lone finalist for superintendent
Richard Carranza
Trustees for Houston Independent School District recently selected Richard Carranza as lone finalist for superintendent.

Most recently the superintendent for San Francisco United School District, Carranza also was a superintendent for Clark County School District in Las Vegas and served as a teacher and a principal in Tucson ISD.

He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and a master's degree from Northern Arizona University (NAU). He also completed doctoral coursework at NAU and is working on a doctorate of education through Nova Southeastern University.

Shaffstall to serve as city manager in Lake Dallas
Matt Shaffstall
Matt Shaffstall was selected as the new city manager in Lake Dallas. He will replace Police Chief Rick Ristagno, whose contract to serve as interim city manager terminates on July 31.

Previously a city administrator in Willow Park, Shaffstaff begins his new duties in Lake Dallas in early August. He also worked for the Hillsboro Main Street Program and in economic development for Richland Hills.

Shaffstall has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of North Texas.

Mendoza to take over as TDCJ deputy executive director
Oscar Mendoza
In 1979, Oscar Mendoza began his career with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as a correctional officer. Over the next nearly four decades, he steadily moved up through positions of authority, including serving as a warden at five different TDCJ units and as regional director and deputy director for management operations in the Correctional Institutions Division. On Aug. 1, following a recent promotion, Mendoza will take over as deputy executive director of TDCJ.

Mendoza will replace Bryan Collier, who was recently named executive director of the department following the retirement in April of former Executive Director Brad Livingston.
Mendoza currently serves as director for the Private Facility Contract Monitoring and Oversight Division, which oversees contracts with private correctional units and community-based and substance abuse treatment centers. He is also a former director of the Administrative Review and Risk Management Division.

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.
City manager to move from Jersey Village to Murphy
Mike Castro
Mike Castro resigned as city manager in Jersey Village effective on Aug. 28. He will become the city manager in Murphy beginning on Sept. 12.

Castro has served in Jersey Village since 2005.

City council members plan to begin interviewing candidates to serve as interim city manager in early August.

Troxell selected to lead Leander ISD
Dan Troxell
Dan Troxell will leave his post as superintendent of the Kerrville school District to lead the Leander Independent School District, pending a final contract. Leander school trustees chose Troxell as the lone finalist for superintendent of the 37,000-student district, the third-largest school system in Central Texas.

He has led the 5,000-student Kerrville school district for 14 years. Previously, he was an assistant superintend in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district and worked in the Allen and Round Rock school districts.

Troxell earned a bachelor's degree  from the The University of Texas, a master's degree from Texas State University and a Ph.D. from the The University of Texas.

Troxell will replace former Superintendent Bret Champion, who announced his resignation in late April after being tapped to lead the Klein school district in northwest Harris County. 

Howard leaving Comanche ISD for second time
Superintendent Rick Howard of Comanche Independent School District recently informed district officials he is leaving that position for a second time to accept a job with the Texas Association of School Boards.

Howard retired as superintendent of the Comanche district in 2009, but returned to the same position in 2013. He also served as an administrator for Snyder ISD and a superintendent for Ira ISD.

Bell resigns as superintendent of Splendora ISD
Genese Bell
Superintendent Genese Bell resigned her post at Splendora Independent School District effective July 29.

Board members are expected to select an interim superintendent after interviewing several candidates. Trustees plan to select a search firm this week to assist in their search for a new superintendent.
Athens hires three new directors to lead city departments
Athens city officials selected three new directors to lead the public works department, human resources and the finance department.

Lawrence Cutrone, who has served four months as interim director of public works, was promoted to director. Sandi Pulley, who previously was a human resources director for a private company, was selected as director of human resources.

Marty Coursey, who has 20 years of experience in finance, is the new director of finance. A certified government finance officer, Coursey previously worked in finance for Highland Village.

Port of Houston closing down cruise ship operations at Bayport
Port of Houston commissioners recently agreed to close down the Bayport Cruise Terminal after spending $108 million to attract cruise ships to the terminal located on the Houston Ship Channel near La Porte.

Commissioners also authorized the sale of the gangway system at the cruise terminal after two cruise lines declined to renew their contracts despite commissioners approving $8.7 million in incentives to attract cruise lines to the terminal.

On Our Website 

Electric vehicle adoption to accelerate under White House P3 plan

Willow Park selects four finalists for city administrator
Willow Park City Council members selected four candidates for city administrator and began interviewing those finalists.

The four candidates are Mark Kaiser of Aubrey, Scott Wall of Kennedale, Susan Guthrie of Tyler and Mike Peacock of Joshua, according to the interim city administrator, Bobby Rountree.

The new city administrator will replace Matt Shaffstall, who resigned to become city manager in Lake Dallas.

Llano economic group exploring feasibility of arena, amphitheater
Llano Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) officials began discussing the feasibility of building another arena. While an arena was built several years ago, that arena was unused as it was on a slope with a steep grade, said Allen Hopson, president of the LEDC. 
LEDC also discussed other potential projects, including building an amphitheater near the river.

San Antonio appoints three civic leaders to lead 2017 bond effort
San Antonio city officials recently appointed Eddie Aldrete, a banker, Carri Baker, a law firm manager, and Darryl Byrd, the co-chair of SA Tomorrow, to lead the city's effort to schedule a bond election in May 2017.

The latest estimate for the bond package being developed to address increasing growth in the city is $850 million. Most of the projects under consideration are for streets, bridges, drainage, flood control, parks and recreation, housing, new facilities and improvements to existing city facilities.

Sherman asking for bids to extend road 
Sherman city officials recently asked contractors to submit bids to build a $1.07 million extension of a roadway to serve new development.

Current plans call for Travis Street to be become a four-lane divided roadway to extend to the west side of US75. The city is funding the project, according to Clay Barnett, director of public works and engineering.

Houston panel to study police, court complex
The mayor of Houston recently formed a new committee to study the need to build a new facility for the police department and municipal courts. 

Barron Wallace, an attorney, and Loula Sklar, a retired real estate executive, will co-chair the commission and nominate other members for the mayor to appoint.

El Paso ISD names three area superintendents
Trustees for El Paso Independent School District recently named three new area superintendents to oversee the district's three regions.

Blanca Garcia, a former high school principal, is assigned to oversee Area 1. She will replace Marielo Morales, who is retiring at the end of August.

The new superintendent for Area 2 is Carla Gonzales, a former high school principal who replaces Royce Avery. Avery resigned to serve as superintendent at Manor ISD.

The superintendent for Area 3 is Dino Coronado, a former school support officer at Houston ISD. He replaces Taryn Bailey, who was promoted as the new chief schools officer for the school district.

Keith selected finalist for Happy superintendent
Ray Keith
Ray Keith has been selected as the lone finalist for superintendent at Happy Independent School District.

Before serving as a high school principal for the Happy school district, Keith was a teacher and administrator at Petrolia ISD.

Keith has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Midwestern State University. He has his superintendent certification from Angelo State University.

Cameron County approves bank building renovation plan
Cameron County commissioners recently approved the design plan to renovate a former bank building in Brownsville to house several county offices.

County officials plan for the tax assessor-collector's office, the justices of peace and county clerks in the three-story building.

Plainview to add 14-acre land tract for proposed business park
Plainview City Council members recently agreed to add nearly 14 acres of land to an economic development project with Hale County to transform a former meat packing plant into a business park.

City and county officials purchased the plant and 82.63 acres of land for $120,000 and created the Plainview Community Development Program to transform the property located on Interstate 27 into a business park.
Before the purchase of the land is finalized, however, city officials must hold two public hearings on the proposal.

Flower Mound begins planning library expansion, new city hall
Tom Hayden
The Flower Mound town council authorized city staff to move forward in planning for a new $16 million city hall and a library expansion estimated to cost about $11 million.

Plans are to use funding from the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to help pay for the new city hall, said Mayor Tom Hayden. Board members must approve use of TIRZ funds before construction on the city hall can begin, Hayden said. The new city hall will be located at the same site as the existing town hall.

The mayor also said he expects to request TIRZ board members to vote for funding for the library project when they adopt a budget in August. Almost one-half of the $11 million to $12 million cost of the library expansion will be used to renovate the existing library, Hayden said.

Weatherford moving on hike, bike trail
Weatherford City Council members recently agreed to begin the engineering phase of a project to extend the Town Creek Hike and Bike Trail by more than a mile to connect with a park, elementary school and a shopping center.

City officials have agreed to contribute $300,000 to the project in order to qualify for a grant from the Transportation Alternative Program administered by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Preliminary plans call for adding a new traffic signal on Santa Fe Drive and dedicated trail right-of-way to Washington Drive when work on the trail begins during the late summer of 2017.


Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Rohanna Brooks-Sykes, Spring, State Board for Educator Certification;
  • Arturo J. "Art" Cavazos, Harlingen, State Board for Educator Certification;
  • Sandie Mullins Moger, Houston, State Board for Educator Certification; 
  • Laurie J. Turner, Corpus Christi, State Board for Educator Certification
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