Volume 17, Issue 5- Friday, February 1, 2019 Optional Link
Texas Senate and House file identical bills for property tax reform
Identical property tax legislation filed in the Texas House and Texas Senate would limit annual local property tax growth to 2.5 percent from the current 8 percent. If local governments want to exceed that 2.5 percent cap to generate more money, it would require 60 percent of voters to approve the increase. The tax elections could be held only in November, when voter turnout is greatest. 

This rollback rate would affect future increases proposed by school districts, cities, counties and special taxing districts who rely on the funds for services. On the other hand, this lower percentage would slow down property tax growth for business and home owners. Currently, local taxing entities, excluding school districts, can increase property tax revenue by up to 8 percent every year, without an election.
Construction on Austin State Hospital set to begin next year
Austin State Hospital
The targeted opening date for a replacement Austin State Hospital is June 2023. An architect has been chosen to assist with the hospital's master plan and the goal is to select a construction manager at risk in February through a request for qualifications process. The aging state-run hospital is located at West 41st and Guadalupe streets in North Central Austin. The three buildings that serve as a hospital and housing units on the Hyde Park campus were built in 1958. A 2014 report by the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) found that Austin State Hospital needed to be replaced because of poor condition. HHSC oversees the state's 10 psychiatric hospitals. 

Around $15.5 million in state funds was previously allocated for the hospital's redesign master plan and $300 million is the target amount for construction, pending funds from the Legislature. The vision for the project is a 240-bed, two-story structure and a goal of short stays for most patients. A possible 48-bed extension could provide housing for current long-term patients.  
Marquez and Armendariz join SPI 's consulting team
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) welcomes Marisa Marquez and Rick Armendariz as our newest expert external consultants. 

Marisa Marquez
As a former member of the Texas House of Representatives, Marisa Marquez has excellent insight into working with elected officials, shaping messages and policy. She was a member of the Appropriations Committee and developed a deep understanding of the interworkings of state agencies. 

Marquez was instrumental in the creation of the only county ethics commission in the state and appropriating funding for the inaugural University of Texas at El Paso Pharmacy School. View Marquez's profile here

Rick Armendariz
With more than eighteen years of experience in government and politics, Rick Armendariz has experience and highly sought-after skills and insight. His expertise covers messaging, government relations, advocacy, stakeholder engagement and government contracting. Armendariz has proven success in developing and executing strategy and is fluent in Spanish. 

Armendariz served as the first intergovernmental affairs officer for the city of El Paso, Texas. In that role he served as the primary liaison between the city and the elected and appointed officials of other governmental agencies. He also managed the state and federal legislative agenda. View Armendariz's profile here.
Hutto ISD considers May bond election
The Hutto Independent School District has a need for renovations and expansions at its campuses and a bond proposition of $180 million is under discussion for election ballots in May. Like many school districts, population growth is causing a need for expansion at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

An architectural firm presented a needs assessment to school board members that includes a new middle school for $59 million, increasing classroom size at the Hutto Elementary and $60 million for renovations and development at Hutto High School. Improvements to the high school's football field were proposed along with a new transportation facility. The Hutto ISD board of trustees' next meeting is set for Feb. 14, and the last day a school district can call to place a bond proposition on the May 4 ballot is Feb. 25.
Talks continue for Bridge to Pelican Island
Pelican Island Causeway Bridge
The Houston-Galveston Area Council's Transportation Policy Council is expected to vote in March on a package of transportation improvement grants. Galveston County commissioners, who applied for a grant in October, are anticipating $18 million to build a new bridge to Pelican Island. The project has made it onto the HGAC's short list for grants and that is a hopeful sign. The grants must now go through a public hearing process before a final vote from the policy council. The bridge is estimated to cost $91 million. 

Currently the county already has a commitment from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for a $45 million grant for the project as well as approval from the Galveston County Navigation District No. 1 to pay $10 million to demolish the existing bridge. The county also had $4.5 million allotted to the bridge from a 2017 bond proposal approved by voters. However, the mayor of Galveston announced the city would not commit to be the project's local sponsor, which would be required to pay the local share of the project cost without approval of a citywide vote. TxDOT has moved the deadline to April for the county to identify a local sponsor. County officials plan to discuss the future of the proposed bridge at their next meeting.
Hurricane Harvey survivors living in THUs have an Aug. 25 deadline
Hurricane Harvey survivors living in temporary housing units (THUs) provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) need to finalize their housing plans leading up to Feb. 25. Those who continue to meet FEMA eligibility requirements may be approved to remain in their current THU through Aug. 25 by paying rent. Others may be eligible to purchase their unit. However, these programs must be approved by local officials and may not be available in all areas. 

Although the housing program has been extended through Aug. 25, 2019, those who remain in the program after Feb. 25 will be expected to pay rent to FEMA. Survivors who cannot afford fair-market rent are able to petition for a reduction by contacting FEMA. Occupants who have questions about renting THUs can get more information and be connected with a case manager by emailing femadr4332txrent@fema.dhs.gov

Some of the Hurricane Harvey survivors still residing in federally-funded manufactured housing units and travel trailers have been offered the opportunity to purchase their current unit. The sales offer is only good for 30 days after the notification letter was sent to the occupant. To be eligible to purchase a THU, the survivor must lack a permanent housing solution, through no fault of their own. Each THU's sale price will be determined by FEMA based on the unit type, number of bedrooms and number of months the applicant lived in the unit. Applicants who are unable to afford the sale price may appeal the cost to FEMA. Occupants who have questions about purchasing THUs can call 855-336-2003 or fax 512-490-1248.
Kingsville may ask voters to approve venue tax
Kingsville city officials are considering whether to ask voters to approve a 2 percent venue tax to its existing hotel/motel tax rate to fund improvements to the city's events center. Council members are also considering a public-private partnership (P3) to help upgrade the facility that now hosts rodeos, a livestock show and concerts. If approved, the proposed venue tax could raise a little more than $160,000 annually to repay revenue bonds used to fund upgrades to the J.K. Northway Exposition Center, built in the 1970. 

The proposed upgrades include new bleachers, lighting, restrooms, more recreational vehicle hookups and new concession areas. Using a P3 would increase revenue and allow additional funding for improvements on a new facade, a covered rodeo arena and a livestock barn. City council members are expected to decide in mid-February whether to schedule an election in May to seek approval of the venue tax.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Mike Novak, Executive Director, Texas Facilities Commission
Mike Novak

Career highlights and education: I'm a fourth generation native of San Antonio, entered St. Mary's University with the intention of attending law school. Graduated with a BBA and ended up passing on law school to accept a position with a large industrial construction firm to manage a two-year project on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Bye bye Law School ... hello St. Croix. No regrets skipping law school as I have never had to work for hourly rates. The entrepreneurial spirit prevailed and I started my first construction company at age 28. In the early years my firm won many industry awards for building what are now San Antonio landmarks. I subsequently founded several more specialty construction firms, which focused on unique niches ranging from drug interdiction radar facilities throughout Central and South America, to building over 5,000 cell towers across the United States. I also served tours of duty as a Bexar County Commissioner, as well as Chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

What I like best about my public service: Public service is a ministry to me ... 1 Peter 4:10 is my life scripture ... we should each use the unique gifts we have received to serve others. 

The best advice I have received for my current job: Build a team with "A" players with a passion for winning ... that's the only way championships are won.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: I can give you a job description, a title, and a compensation package, but I can't give you respect. You have to earn respect on your own.
If I ever had the opportunity to leave work early, I could probably be found: Watching the grandkids horseplay in the pool while I smoke a mean Texas brisket.

People would be surprised to know that I: Novak is Czech and I come from a family lineage of stone masons who immigrated to San Antonio at the turn of the last century. I grew up on jobsites and could build a stone fireplace at age twelve.

One thing I wish more people knew about the Texas Facilities Commission: The TFC portfolio of leased and owned facilities encompasses more than 28.5 million square feet of office, warehouse and parking facilities, supporting the needs of over 100 state agencies and housing over 60,000 state employees in 288 cities throughout Texas. We currently have over $700 million of new buildings currently coming out of ground in Austin alone as we have launched the long-planned Capitol Complex expansion. But it's about more than just brick and mortar facilities ... it's about people. Take a tour of the Texas school for the blind or the Texas school for the deaf and see for yourself what I mean.
Construction/bill to cut down on bridge/overpass accidents
Project letting by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) should begin in February 2020 for a project in Midland and Odessa. The $19 million project involves a new Interstate 20 interchange at County Road 1250, which is located west of Loop 250 and east of Farm-to-Market Road 1788. Construction would begin in summer 2020 and could last up to two years. The project would lift I-20 over CR 1250. The hope is to eventually have all intersections along I-20 feature bridges that go over highways and roads. A change expected because of the project is the reversal of entrance and exit ramps on both sides of CR 1250. One benefit of raising I-20 over CR 1250 is that trucks traveling the interstate would not have to worry about the height of bridges. 

According to TxDOT, there have been more than 100 structure collisions within the 12 counties of the Odessa District in the last 6-7 years. That has prompted State Rep. Brooks Landgraf to file legislation that aims to reduce the number of overpass strikes caused by over-height semi-trucks. House Bill 799 hopes to increase accountability by holding the owner of the vehicle or their employers liable for any damage to a bridge or overpass caused by the height of the vehicle. The TxDOT reported at least 82 overpass strikes across the state in 2018 with damages exceeding more than $20 million. Less than $3.6 million of that has been collected from the drivers and companies responsible.
MPOs planning to merge in Rio Grande Valley
Officials of Cameron County and Brownsville agreed to support a merger of three organizations that handle transportation planning. The decision is contingent of their review of a finalized agreement between the three metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) in Hidalgo County, Brownsville, and Harlingen-San Benito. If the agreement is finalized, the merger would make the Rio Grande Valley the fifth largest MPO in Texas. That would make the region eligible for a pot of money containing 83 percent of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) funding compared to the 17 percent of money it competes for now. 

Harlingen, McAllen and the TxDOT Pharr District would each have two members on the board. The Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority, Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, Edinburg, Mission, Pharr and Valley METRO would each have one representative. More cities could be added to the board when they reach a population of 50,000, according to the proposed terms.
Houston introduces smart city website
The Office of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has announced a new website showing off its technology efforts. Following Hurricane Harvey, the city has moved forward to modernize Houston by offering free wireless Internet on public transportation systems. The city has also expanded its network of environmental sensors that collect data on water and air quality, sewer outflow and flood detection. 

Another smart-city move made by Houston was to migrate its computer systems to a cloud platform. The city is also working with Rice University to develop research into civic applications of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
Bellaire to work with partners on new drainage, water flow study
Bellaire city officials are working with the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to fund a drainage and water flow study of the city and the region. The study will identify how much water there is, where it is coming from and possible engineering solutions. The study will also locate funding for large regional drainage projects from other sources such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Texas Water Development Board. 

The city allotted $126,000, or 18 percent, of the funding for the study. The flood control district is contributing $446,000 and TxDOT is contributing $130,000 to the regional drainage study. While Houston city officials are not contributing financially in the study, Michael Leechy, director of public works in Bellaire, is planning to work with Houston city officials on a different project to study the sub-watershed and have agreed to provide access to reports and other useful information for the drainage study. The study is expected to take about nine months to complete and the design phase should take from 18 to 30 months before any construction on drainage projects can begin.
City View ISD calls for bond election
The City View Independent School Board has called for a $10 million bond election in May. The last bond that was passed was to build a high school in the late 90's. The bond would allow the school district to renovate every bathroom, replace lighting and update 40-year-old air conditioning and heating units at the elementary school. The bond would also cover new lighting and foundation issues at the Junior-Senior High School. 

The recommendations were compiled by a bond committee that surveyed the school district over a three-month period. 
Port of Galveston lays out master plan
Photo courtesy: Port of Galveston
The Port of Galveston in June hired a Miami-based consultant to produce a new master plan that will outline its goals for cruise, cargo shipping and commercial development. The port is now looking for public input and plans to begin scheduling meetings soon. The port is not funded by tax revenues and depends on lease agreements with companies that use the public docks. 

More than half of the port's revenue is generated by cruise ship companies that use the port and projections show that the cruise business will double in the next five to seven years. The port budgeted about $37.4 million in revenue last year. In December, the port announced it would partner with a cruise line to build a new $100 million cruise terminal at Pier 10. Construction is expected to begin in 2020.
Laredo seeking companies to manage city-owned baseball stadium
In an effort to expand the use of its city-owned Uni-Trade Stadium, Laredo city officials plan to solicit a request for qualifications (RFQ) from firms to manage the facility. The Tecolotes, a Triple-A Minor League Baseball team, manage the stadium for about half of the year. The city's parks and recreation staff manage the stadium the remaining six months and the city would rather have a dedicated management team to utilize the stadium. 

A new multi-purpose turf is being added to the stadium so more events can be scheduled in the future. City officials plan to release the RFQ this week and to make a recommendation to city council members by March.
Cleburne seeks approval for commercial truck route
Cleburne council members approved a resolution supporting coordination efforts with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the North Central Texas Council of Governments to install a commercial truck route through the city.  

The proposed project is to establish a commercial north/south truck route along Main Street through downtown but will prohibit east/west commercial truck traffic through downtown. Trucks traveling those routes will be required to remain on U.S. 67. No turn sign would be installed to prevent tractor trailers from potentially damaging signal lights and poles. The next step is to provide the proposed routes to TxDOT and await approval.
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The 7th Annual Public-Private Partnership Conference & Expo will be held March 4-6 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. Texas Government Insider readers can use promo code 100TGI to receive $100 off their registration.  Register for the event here.

Join over 1,250 senior representatives from governments, higher education institutions and leading firms in the global construction and financial markets. The conference attracts professionals from all corners of the industry and provides a valuable opportunity to facilitate new partnerships with industry peers and public sector partners. Attendees will discover new alternative project delivery methods, strategies for implementing successful P3 projects, the nuts and bolts of how deals work, and how to manage risks associated with legal and financial frameworks. 

Attendees will participate in interactive panels, workshops, and conversations specifically tailored to the needs of public agencies evaluating P3s. The conference is designed for all levels in the market including those beginning to explore P3s and seeking to better understand where alternative and accelerated project delivery methods can be applicable.

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

Sometimes bad things happen...and lately, a number of calamities have stretched emergency operations almost to the brink of failure. Lives have been lost and damages have resulted in horrifically high costs. Natural disasters are on the increase, affecting millions of people. 

Rivers tend to flood when there is heavy rain, hurricanes cause unprecedented damage, wildfires incinerate entire towns and tornadoes and earthquakes demolish buildings, roads and bridges. Disaster teams in numerous parts of the country have been called on to perform in situations where resources are inadequate. Artificial intelligence (AI), however, is offering some much-needed relief. 

Artificial intelligence has now added a new dimension to planning and mitigation. By analyzing data, AI offers much-improved forecasting models for floods. AI can also track the progress of wildfires. When linked with drone technology, AI is adept at locating missing persons after a disaster and providing accurate information regarding damaged buildings and landscapes to make rescue efforts faster and safer. It is efficient, less costly and amazingly accurate.  

The number of citizens who have been displaced by weather-related hazards such as floods, storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures continues to grow and disaster-related expenditures have skyrocketed. In 2017, the National Oceanic and Space Administration announced a new record for economic losses from 16 weather-climate disasters. The most recent 2017 total of $306 billion exceeds the previous record by more than $100 billion. Added to 2018 figures, the two years were the costliest years for weather-related disasters on record, with total losses of $653 billion.  

Check out this article from our Pipeline newsletter!

Potter County issues $54M in debt for new courthouse
The Potter County Commissioners Court agreed to issue $54 million in certificates of obligation to pay for a new courthouse. The current facility, built in 1984, has maintenance and aesthetic problems such as leaks, musty odors, a crumbling retaining wall and lack of security features. 

The new courthouse will take the place of the former Potter County Sheriff's Office. The next step is to hire architects and a construction company and commence construction in 2020.
RFQ to be released for Ector County road repairs
The Ector County Commissioners Court has authorized the Highways and Streets Department to publish a request for qualifications (RFQ) for engineering and project management services. 

Several county roads need reconstruction and rehabilitation pavement improvements. Some of the roads in need of upgrades include Moss Avenue, Edna Street, Knox Avenue and 57th Street. The finished project will preserve, increase the load carrying capacity and extend the life of existing roadways, mainly in Precinct I.

Heiple to serve as environmental quality manager in Carrollton
Cory Heiple
Carrollton selected Cory Heiple as the new environmental services director. He will replace Scott Hudson, who is retiring after 29 years with the city. 

Heiple, who joined the city in 2015, was promoted to environmental quality manager in August 2017. His new duties include managing the environmental quality, community services/code enforcement and animal services divisions.
Kyle planning for future police facility
A police facility needs assessment is currently underway in the city of Kyle. The assessment should be completed by mid-February and will identify the square footage needed for a future headquarters that could accommodate the city's growth. The current headquarters used to be a bank and is the fourth building to accommodate a growing police force. 

The assessment will cover several options, including building a new facility and retrofitting existing buildings. The scope of the approved proposal includes a 20-year needs assessment that includes parking.
Denton selects Fox as municipal court judge
Holly Fox
Holly Fox will begin her new role as Denton's presiding municipal court judge on Feb. 11. Fox will replace Robin Ramsay, who resigned in September after nearly 23 years in that position. 

A magistrate judge, Fox has worked in cities across Denton County. She also worked in New York as a special agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1998-2002 and as an assistant criminal district attorney in Hidalgo County Texas from 1995 to 1998.
Plano names Israelson city manager
Mark Israelson
The Plano City Council has chosen Mark Israelson as the new city manager. Israelson will replace City Manager Bruce Glasscock, who announced he will be retiring at the end of April. 

Israelson has worked for the city of Plano for 19 years. He started as a budget analyst in October 1999 and served in other positions until he was named as a deputy city manager in 2015. In May 2018, Israelson was appointed to senior deputy city manager. 

Stovall appointed as Hunt County judge
The Hunt County Commissioners Court approved the appointment of Bobby Stovall as the county judge. Stovall was one of two final candidates named for the judge position on Jan. 22, from a field of 10 people who interviewed for the position. 

The need for the appointment arose following the passing of County Judge John L. Horn in September 2018. Precinct 1 Commissioner Eric Evans has been serving as the county judge pro tem since Jan. 1. Former Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Latham served as county judge pro tem following Horn's death, until he retired at the end of 2018.
Sealy selects Worley for economic development
The board of the Sealy Economic Development Corporation selected Robert Worley as its new director. He will replace Kim Meloneck, who retired in September. 

Worley has previously worked as president or executive director at economic corporations in Brazoria County, Bryan-College Station and Dumas.
Collins to retire from Sunset Valley
Clay Collins
Clay Collins notified Sunset Valley city officials that he plans to retire as the city's administrator on April 30. Collins has held this position for 10 years. He said he gave a three months' notice to ensure he would be able to oversee completion of a new facilities for police and public works that will be completed this spring.

Prior to his position with the city, Collins worked for the Capital Area Council of Governments as the deputy executive director for 12 years. If a new city administrator is not hired by May 1, city staff will perform the administrator duties on an interim basis.
Manson stepping down from city manager position
Mindy Manson
Wylie City Manager Mindy Manson announced she will retire effective April 30. Manson has been with the city for 24 years. 

She was hired with the city in 1995 as assistant to the city manager, was promoted to assistant city manager in 1998 and was promoted to city manager in 2006.

Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments/reappointments from Jan. 25-Jan. 31:

Will Dixon
- Corsicana, Navarro County Criminal District Attorney
Ashley Wysocki- Dallas, 254th Judicial District Court
Jaime Tijerina- McAllen, 464th Judicial District Court
Greg Perkes- Corpus Christi, Thirteenth Court Of Appeals
Ron Simmons- Carrollton, Texas Mutual Insurance Company Board Of Directors
Wes Hambrick- Houston, Director Of The Office Of State-Federal Relations
Legislative Budget Board- Summary of Recommendations Presentations House Appropriations Committee
Texas State Auditor's Office- Audit Report on Selected Contracts at the Historical Commission
Texas State Auditor's Office- Audit Report on Medicaid Managed Care Contract Processes at the Health and Human Services Commission
Texas State Auditor's Office- Audit Report on Information Technology Contract Oversight at the Department of Transportation
Texas Education Agency- 2018 Annual Report
Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas- 2018 Annual Report
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Click here to view all job openings and guidelines for job submissions to SPI. New jobs added this week:  
  • City of Lewisville- Utilities Manager
  • City of Jarrell- City Manager
  • City of Copperas Cove- Director of Public Works
  • City of Laredo- Bridge Operation Superintendent
  • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board- Project Manger IV Lead
  • Texas Water Development Board- Water Conservation Specialist
  • Texas Department of Agriculture- Data Quality and Reporting Specialist
  • Texas Department of Public Safety- OGC- Staff Attorney I-III
  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts- CPA Accountant IV/V Statewide Fiscal Programs
  • Denton County Transportation Authority- Project Manager
  • San Antonio River Authority- Intergovernmental Coordinator 
  • Brazos River Authority- Assistant Public Information Officer in Waco
  • Central Texas Council of Governments- Regional Planner
View our Texas Government Insider and Government Contracting Pipeline newsletter archives

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 
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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