Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 15, Issue 3- Friday, January 20, 2017
As the 85th Legislative Session wraps up its second week of discussions over bills from the House and Senate, state agencies anxiously await decisions that could affect their strategic plans and budget requests. 

 Waiting on those decisions became even more of a nail-bitter for all Texans after Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that lawmakers could appropriate a discretionary spending total of $104.9 billion for the 2018-19 biennium. This amount is less than what was announced two years ago. 

So who is getting a trim and who is getting a major cut in their funding? The answer falls upon a bill that is the only piece of legislation that must pass during the regular session of the Texas Legislature. Senate Bill 1, a budget proposal filed by Senator Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, was laid out on Tuesday allocating $103.6 billion in state general revenue over the next two years. With the addition of federal and other funds the total came to $213.4 billion. The current fiscal period has a budget of $106.8 billion.

Tax vote may fund McLennan County fairgrounds
McLennan County Commissioners are considering an election to ask voters to approve the creation of a venue tax on hotels, motels and rental vehicles to pay for upgrading the fairgrounds in Waco for an estimated cost of $34.37 million, in addition to $6.88 million for future upgrades. 

Commissioners also approved a resolution supporting a master plan for improving fairground facilities located on a 60-acre site that houses the coliseum, a show pavilion, an exhibit barn, a general exhibit building and a creative arts building. The plans calls for removing the creative arts and general exhibit buildings and replacing with an 80,000-square foot general purpose building connecting with the coliseum. 

The new facility would feature up to 65,000-square feet of exhibit space, concession stands, meeting space and restrooms. The new plan also would enlarge the equestrian facility from 300 to 1,000 animal stalls. County officials, along with officials of Waco and Waco ISD, are waiting to learn if the Texas Comptroller's Office will permit county residents to vote on a proposed 2 percent tax on hotel and motel occupancy and a 5 percent tax on rental vehicles.
San Antonio approves $830M for 173 projects
San Antonio City Council members approved an $830 million bond package to pay for 173 capital improvement projects. City Manager Sheryl Sculley told the council that this proposal would not increase property tax.

The 2017 bond propositions will include $445 million for streets, bridges and sidewalks; $139 million for drainage and flood control; $121 million for parks and recreation and $125 million for facilities. A $20 million neighborhood improvements category could also be added to the bond if it is approved next month. Approval of the category will facilitate private sector development of affordable housing.    

The next step for the council is to vote on Feb. 9 on whether to schedule a bond election on May 6. If voters approve the ballot items, the city will engage contractors and oversee projects that will benefit the residents of San Antonio. According to Sculley, about 80 percent of residents live within 1 mile of at least one bond project. 
Rodeo Austin CEO backs $620M plan for Travis County Expo Center 
Rob Golding, an Austin real estate investor who took the helm as chief operating officer of Rodeo Austin, said he backs a proposed $620 million plan to redevelop the Travis County Expo Center in northeast Austin, which now houses the annual rodeo and other events. Supporters of the redevelopment are exploring the possibility of using a public-private partnership with a developer or consortium of developers, he said. 

Rodeo Austin is the largest tenant at the Expo Center, which was built 20 years ago on about 3,000 acres of city-owned property that includes Walter E. Long Lake. The redevelopment proposal presented to Travis County Commissioners calls for creating a mid-level arena, an event center and other improvements as well as demolishing all existing structures on the property at an estimated cost of between $550 million and $620 million.
Llano approves $1.7M, continues plans for $4.6M bond election
Llano City Council members approved the issue of $1.7 million in certificates of obligation to pay for the first phase of improving the city's aging infrastructure while directing city staff to continue planning for a possible $4.6 million bond election in May. 

The certificates of obligation will be used to improve the water system and wastewater treatment plants, said John Corcorran, chairman of the Capital Improvement Planning Advisory Board. City officials also plan to request grant funding and low interest loans from the Texas Water Development Board to pay for additional improvements to the water's system and treatment. 

Advisory board members are discussing a recommendation to the city council to ask voters to approve about $4.6 million to repair every road in the city, but have not taken action on the recommendation.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Brooke Paup, Director of Legislative Affairs, Texas Comptroller's Office

Brooke Paup
Career highlights and education: I graduated from Texas A&M in 2001 with a BA in History, and from Texas Tech School of Law in 2005. I'm a licensed attorney. After law school, I moved to Washington, D.C. and worked as Gov. Perry's legislative director at the Office of State-Federal Relations. Hurricanes Rita and Katrina had just hit the Gulf Coast; our coastal communities were severely damaged and thousands of Louisiana citizens had evacuated to Houston. It was a steep learning curve for a staffer new to politics. After D.C., I moved to Austin and was appointed by then Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott as a special assistant attorney general. I wore many hats in OAG, as most state employees do. I helped lead our Intergovernmental Relations team and worked on special litigation cases. It was a great seven years and prepared me well for my current role as Comptroller Hegar's director of Legislative Affairs.  

What I like best about my job is: Where do I start?  I work for an elected official who truly wants to make Texas a better place. That's a powerful motivator for me when I'm out discussing his priorities. I also get to work with some of the finest people in the state, both at the Comptroller's office and in the Legislature. I am so proud of my team; I think they are one of the best legislative affairs divisions working for the stateMy son tells people that his mommy talks for a living - and he's right!

The best advice I've received for my current job is: There isn't any one piece of advice that I can point to that I would consider the best; I've picked up nuggets in each role I've held in state government. I've been lucky enough to work under Lisa Craven, Mike Reissig, Daniel Hodge, Stacey Napier and Jay Dyer. Each contributed to any success I have in my current role at the Comptroller's office. I also have to credit my parents for instilling the importance of hard work. Laziness was unacceptable when I was growing up. 

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Work hard and be polite.  Never be above a task. Hustle. Call people back. Success isn't a hard formula.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: With my family. I have two young children and I try to be as hands-on as possible despite my schedule. Family is everything to me.

People would be surprised to know that I: am a certified sommelier. Before having kids, I hosted wine tastings and taught wine education courses around the city.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency:
 How much the agency does for the state and its citizens.
Pasadena convention and rodeo facility totals $7.7M
Pasadena Second Century Corp., the city's economic development group, agreed to spend an additional $5.6 million on two capital improvement projects. City council members must approve the budget amendment before it is finalized.

If approved, an additional $4 million will be used to enlarge and improve the convention center, now estimated to cost about $11 million. Plans call for expanding the convention hall, the parking lot, adding six new meeting rooms with movable walls, a new entrance, ticket booths, administrative office and landscaping, in addition to building a concession stand and a covered structure over the livestock pens. 

The remaining $1.6 million will be spent to replace the roof of the rodeo arena, add more seating, upgrade stands, improve lighting and build new restrooms. The budget increase brings the cost estimate of the rodeo arena project to $7.7 million.
Arlington reviews $37.7M bond for active adult center
Arlington City Council members agreed to vote by the mid-February deadline on whether to ask voters to approve $37.7 million in bonds to build an active adult center that focuses more on healthy activity rather than leisure activities for adults over 55 years of age.

The term active adult center was selected because many adults over the age of 55 do not respond to being defined as senior citizens and are very health conscious, City Manager Trey Yelverton said. While the city already operates two centers dedicated to provide lunch, socialization and some exercise programs, the city needs more facilities for those over age 55, he said.

Plans call for building the proposed 65,000-square-foot center on a 25-acre site east of Lake Arlington that would feature a gymnasium, aquatic center, indoor track, theater, kitchen and indoor/outdoor lounge. If voters approve the bonds, the proposed center would be completed as early as 2020- if city officials decide to move the project up in the schedule of capital improvement projects or as late as 2022.
Denton County approves $38.6M for administration building
Denton County Commissioners approved the preliminary design for a new, three-story, 89,225-square foot county administration facility expected to cost about $38.6 million, almost $4.5 million than the original cost estimate.

The new complex will provide space for the commissioner's courtroom, county judge, treasurer and auditor and more. The new complex also features office and courtrooms space for the justice of the peace of Precinct, the Precinct 1 constable and community space. 

To be located near other county facilities on South Loop 288, the new county complex should take from two to three years to complete once construction begins.
Lewisville looking beyond $38.1M for city projects
A bond approved in November for $38.1 million is the amount officials with the City of Lewisville need to use in their budget to build a new multi-generation and aquatic center and a nature center. 

Five options were presented but only one option remained in budget for the multi-generational and aquatic center if they scratched the gym, delayed water slides, eliminated the porch and reduced the natatorium. The cost estimates for the multi-generational and aquatic center ranged from $46 million to $48 million for options 2 and 3.

Council members discussed finding additional funding to pay for the higher costs as well as delaying construction of the nature center for a year and re-allocating funding to pay for higher costs. No final decisions were made on the options.
Tyler may spend $30M or more to upgrade waste water system
After agreeing to pay $593,000 in state and federal fines for poorly maintaining the city's waste water system without admitting guilt, Tyler city officials signed a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice requiring the city to upgrade the wastewater system featuring 690 miles of pipe, 22 lift stations and two treatment plants. 

City officials also agreed to identify problems with the sewer system and fix those problem claimed to be caused by improper disposal of grease and tree roots growing into pipes as the major problems with the system.

While city officials estimate the cost below $30 million to bring the waste water system up to state and federal standards, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials estimate the cost will be about $65 million to prevent frequent sewer overflow experienced by residents.
San Antonio in talks with Amtrak about train service to Austin
Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and San Antonio officials are working with Amtrak to conduct a feasibility study of ridership and revenue if commuter rail service between San Antonio and Austin were available for the 80-mile trip between the two cities, according to Ray Lopez, chair of the Alamo Area MPO and a city councilman in San Antonio.

Currently, Amtrak offers one trip daily between San Antonio and Austin, but the two-and-one-half hour trip takes too long for most commuters, Lopez said. With a goal to complete the feasibility study by midyear, Amtrak officials plan to release the report with information on the estimated cost to improve Union Pacific tracks to allow trains that would travel an average of 90-miles-an-hour and significantly reduce travel time for commuters between the two cities. 

The mayor of San Antonio estimated the city will spend about $100,000 on the Amtrak study. If results for commuter rail service appear positive, supporters will focus on obtaining private investors for the project. The quest to work with Amtrak came after the Lone Star Rail project collapsed when Union Pacific officials withdrew from the project.
El Cenizo seeking $75,000 for fitness park project
El Cenizo city officials are working with the United Independent School District to build a new fitness park estimated to cost about $150,000, according to Mayor Raul Reyes. Using land donated by the school district, city officials plan to develop a workout area with assorted equipment in addition to building a soccer field.

To pay for the fitness park, city officials have applied for a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a plan to match the grant using city employees to perform the labor and supplying the equipment for the fitness park, the mayor said. If the grant application is not approved, city officials will search for other financing available to municipalities.
Former New York mayor helping Austin house homeless people
Austin city officials won a $1.5 million grant from a charity led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to be used over a three-year period to create and pay for innovation teams to develop new methods to house the homeless. Seven cities throughout the world received awards from the Bloomberg charity this year. 

The monetary award will allow the city to implement support and opportunities to exchange ideas and lessons learned from teams in other cities and for Austin's innovation team to experiment with different approaches to homelessness.
Austin housing homeless youth with $5.2M shelter
Austin city officials plan to use a $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to establish new housing options and an emergency shelter for homeless persons ranging from ages 18 to 24.

The city, along with Seattle and San Francisco, were included in the 10 communities selected from a field of 130 communities to receive grants from the federal initiative to end youth homelessness by 2020. 

To come up with an effective plan, Mayor Steve Adler said he plans to ask local non-profit groups, government agencies on all levels, and business groups to work together to produce a comprehensive plan to serve homeless youth. The planning group also will work with a new youth advisory council comprised of homeless and formerly homeless youth.
Aqua SUD seeking bids on $42M wastewater  system
Officials of the Aqua Special Utility District plan to seek bids on the second phase of a new $42 million wastewater system to serve residents of Palmview, one of the last cities in the Rio Grande Valley to allow the use of septic tanks. 

Plans, which have been developed over a ten-year period, call for building about 160,000 linear feet of sewer lines and four lift stations to serve 1,600 homes in the city and surrounding area. The wastewater will be delivered to a treatment plant in Mission. 

The new collection system will be completed in four phases, with the first phase expected to be completed by the end of 2017 and plan to award contracts for the second phase of the wastewater collection system in February. To fund the project, officials are using $29.3 million award from the Economically District Area Program of the Texas Water Development Board and $12.8 million in loans from the agency's Clear Water State Revolving Fund.
Calendar of Events

"The Road to 2020" Census Bureau Training
Jan. 24, 2017
Come learn what your community needs to do to get ready for the 2020 Census on Jan. 24 at the Alamo Area Council of Governments in San Antonio. The training will help you prepare a timeline, get introduced to critical state and local government involved, learn how to recruit and hire census workers and discover how to update geographical boundaries for census reporting. San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor will provide opening comments at the training and Assistant Regional Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Vicki McIntire, will be in attendance. There is no cost to attend, but pre-registration is required here.
Jan. 23-25, 2017
The Water for Texas 2017 Conference in Austin, Texas, will showcase innovative scientific, planning and financial solutions to water challenges; interactive data and technology; and compelling conversations on water issues that affect all Texans. Panel discussions, workshops, and exhibits will offer the opportunity to network and engage with industry leaders, elected officials and TWDB Board members and staff. A conference agenda is available. Register here.

Feb. 2, 2017
The Houston-Galveston Area Council's 2017 Election Law Workshop will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, in Houston. The event is designed for everyone charged with conducting elections. Participants will receive detailed updates on election laws and step-by-step procedures for conducting an election; including duties prior to election day, on election day and after election day. Click here to register.

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

For four decades, help has been just one phone call away. Whether saving lives or protecting property, the country's 911 systems were the foundation of how first responders and emergency personnel handled crisis situations in America. 

Now, however, the basic emergency communication provided by 911 systems and operators has been expanded and enhanced with apps and software. Technology has improved response time and efficiency. Gathering detailed information that is critical in an emergency has become a cornerstone of quality. Every minute counts when emergencies are critical in nature and the more information that responders have, the greater the quality of their care. 

The latest trend is Smart911 technology. A growing number of public safety agencies are using this technology to add another layer of protection for citizens. It allows individuals, before there is an emergency, to build a safety profile online. Citizens are encouraged to provide pertinent information in that profile about themselves, family members, property and even pets. 

Tyler ISD eyeing $200M for high school upgrades
Tyler Independent School District officials are planning to renovate two high schools if trustees decide to call a $200 million bond election in May, according to Superintendent Marty Crawford at a meeting of the Tyler-Smith County chapter of the NAACP. 

There are plans to renovate several parts of  Robert E. Lee High School, but leave some sports and arts venues untouched. A new two-story building is planned for John Tyler High School that will accommodate the administration and reception area, a new fine arts facility and auditorium, kitchen and cafeteria. Trustees face a deadline of Feb. 17 to call a bond election for May.
Hays County ISD calling for input on $265M bond proposal
Hays County Independent School District trustees are asking for public comment on a proposed $265 million bond election in May recommended by a growth impact committee following several months of examining district facilities.

District officials are looking at design plans calling for building two new elementary schools at a cost of about $34 million each and a new high school estimated to cost about $122 million to handle enrollment that has tripled in the last decade. 

Several more public meetings are planned prior to board members finalizing the bond language and voting in February whether to schedule a bond election on May 6.

Midland wants remaining $25M for infrastructure upgrades
Citing the completion of a $40 million sports complex funded by the city's 4B tax, Midland Mayor Jerry Morales urged council members to use additional revenue from that special tax fund to pay for upgrading parks and roads that assist in economic development. 

While originally created to pay for building and maintaining the sports complex, the 4B tax also can be used for projects such as improving or building roads, bike trails and sidewalks. Once the city repays the $14 million in debt for the sports complex, $25 million will remain in the 4B tax funds.

Plainview, Hale County to develop business park
Plainview city officials are partnering with Hale County to develop a new business park to attract more companies to the area to create jobs, according to Plainview Mayor Wendell Dunlap.

A $1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration is providing funding to provide water and sewer service to the companies at the proposed business park. The partnership calls for the city and county to partner 50/50 on buying land near the 100 acres already purchased to develop a business park to attract businesses that will employ between 30 and 100 people, the mayor said.

 The business park project is in the design phase and construction should begin by the end of this year, he added.
City streets of Paris need $11M bond for repair
Paris City Council members expressed support for scheduling an $11 million bond election in May after City Manager John Godwin outlined the 11 road upgrades considered priority projects.

If voters approve the bonds, the priority plans include a $2.8 million project to improve 24th Street S.E., $2.6 million for 33rd Street S.E., $1.8 million for Church Street and a $1.7 million project to improve Graham Street. At least 18 streets are in need of repair, but the city should focus on the priority projects, Godwin said.
Tyler approves design contract for $5M trail 
The Half-Cent Sales Tax Board of Tyler approved a $487,565 contract with an engineering company to design a 4.2 mile section of the $5 million Legacy Trail project, a regional trail system. City council members must approve before the contract is final. City officials plan to use grant funding to pay 70 percent of the cost and have the city pay 30 percent to fund the hike and bike trails. 

The trail project is using an abandoned railroad corridor along the west side of the Old Jacksonville Highway for the longest portion of the trail. The city will manage design of the trail project and the Texas Department of Transportation will manage construction. TxDOT officials plan to seek construction bids for the trail in a year and complete the project in about two years
West Tawakoni commits to $1.13M for water system upgrades
The West Tawakoni City Council agreed to issue $1.125 million in certificates of obligation to pay for upgrades to the city's water system. 

The Texas Water Development Board approved the low-interest loan to be repaid over a 30-year period that will permit the city to rehabilitate the existing ground storage tank and the elevated storage tank north of the city to correct identified deficiencies. The city also plans to increase high service pump capacity and build a new ground storage tank.
Johnson tapped as sole finalist to lead Hearne ISD
Adrain Johnson
Dr. Adrain Johnson, who has served as interim superintendent at Hearne Independent School District, won selection as lone finalist for superintendent of that district. 

Before coming to Hearne, Johnson served as the assistant superintendent for administration at Spring ISD, appointed superintendent for North Forest ISD and was an associate commissioner with the Texas Education Agency. Johnson has a doctorate in educational administration from Baylor University. 

Johnson, who will be the fifth new superintendent to lead that district in five years, replaced former Superintendent Raul Nuques, who was terminated from that post in July 2016.

Conroe unveils designs for new fire station and training facility
Conroe Deputy Fire Chief Greg Nesom unveiled design plans for a new $5.2 million fire station and a $4.3 million fire training facility to be located on a 20-acre site on Farm-to-Market Road 1484. 

The plans call for a six-story rescue tower, a three-story burn building and a 2-acre driving pad to allow city firefighters to train at home rather than travel to a trailing facility in southeast Houston. The new fire station, the seventh to serve the city, features space to house one fire engine to be staffed by four firefighters at all times as well as space for equipment, Nesom said.
Smithville receives FEMA grant to reduce flooding
Smithville city officials won an $831,600 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a five-acre, $1.1 million water retention pond to reduce flooding in the northeast section of the city. 

City officials agreed to pay $277,200, or 25 percent, of the cost for the 15 to 22 foot deep retention pond designed to relief flooding to a 256-acre area of the city prone to flooding, said City Manager Robert Tamble. The pond should mitigate a 10-year storm event that equals to about 6.2 inches of rain falling in a 24-hour period, he said.

Burke to serve as superintendent for Splendora ISD
Jeffrey Burke
Jeffrey Burke has signed a three-year contract with Splendora Independent School District to serve as the new superintendent. 

Beginning his career in education in 1995 as a teacher and coach for Little Cypress-Mauriceville ISD, Burke also was a principal at Argyle ISD and Anderson-Shiro ISD, a program director for Alvin ISD and an assistant superintendent for Georgetown ISD. 

 Burke has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Lamar University and an Ed.D. from Texas A&M University.
Victoria approves $1.7M for streets and utility lines
The Victoria City Council approved $1.7 million to pay for rehabilitating a section of Red River Street and replacing utility lines, curbs and gutters.

Plans call for paving the street with asphalt once the water and sewer lines are replaced, but does not include sidewalks, said Public Works Director Lynn Short. A request was turned down to provide bike lanes along the street used by students of the University of Houston because Victoria has a shortage of space and issues with right-of-way. Work on the project should begin in late May or early June.
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week: 
Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

On Our Website 

WIIN Act provides $10B for water projects

Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:  
  • Jessica Quillivan, Magnolia, Presiding Officer of the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners;
  • Sherif Zaafran, Houston,Texas Medical Board;
  • Michael Cokinos, Houston, Texas Medical Board;
  • Kandace Farmer, Highland Village, Texas Medical Board;
  • Jeffrey Luna, Livingston, Texas Medical Board;
  • LuAnn Morgan, Midland, Texas Medical Board;
  • Jayaram Naidu, Odessa, Texas Medical Board;
  • John Steen III, Houston, Presiding Officer of Texas Racing
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Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Kristin Gordon 
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