Volume 17, Issue 33 - Friday, August 30, 2019 Optional Link
State approves $77B transportation plan to address congestion, safety
Texas Transportation Commissioners unanimously approved a $77 billion 2020 Unified Transportation Plan (UTP) on August 29 to improve safety, address congestion and connectivity, and preserve roadways throughout the state over the next 10 years.

Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg Jr. said the plan will target the state's most critical congestion improvement needs with $28 billion in funding allocated to Texas' five major metropolitan areas. The commission oversees the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which will select projects from the UTP in collaboration with local transportation leaders with the commission providing the ultimate approval for an initiative to advance.

The UTP authorizes highway projects for planning activities, development and construction. In addition to highway projects, the plan addresses public transportation, maritime, aviation, and rail.

More than $4 billion will be set aside for safety improvements. To reduce crashes and eliminate fatalities from Texas highways by 2050, an additional $600 million will go to widen roads, improve medians and bridges, upgrade guardrails, provide intersection improvements, and make safety enhancements for bicyclists and pedestrians over the next two years.

The Permian Basin will receive more than $600 million for transportation improvements, including projects on safety, connectivity, congestion relief, and mobility improvements at high-volume intersections.

Legislative and voter-approved initiatives will provide funding from oil and gas taxes, sales taxes, and other sources to the state highway fund.
HUD sets guidelines for $4.3B in disaster mitigation grant funding
Hurricane Harvey
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued program requirements on August 27 for $4.3 billion in mitigation funds for post-Hurricane Harvey recovery projects in Texas.

Of that amount, $2.11 billion must finance mitigation activities in areas that HUD has identified as "most impacted and distressed," which are the counties of Aransas, Brazoria, Chambers, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Hardin, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Travis, Victoria, and Wharton. Also included are the ZIP codes of 75979, 77320, 77335, 77351, 77414, 77423, 77482, 77493, 77979, 78934, 78945, 77612, 75956, 77632, and 78377.

The state of Texas will receive an additional $169.75 million for major 2016 floods, and the cities of Houston and San Marcos will get $61.88 million and $24.01 million in HUD assistance, respectively, for significant 2015 flooding recovery.

Mitigation activities are defined as those that increase resilience to disasters and reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property.

The funding is part of $6.88 billion in disaster relief allocated to Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) for qualifying 2015, 2016, and 2017 disasters in nine states, including Texas.

In addition to the mitigation funding, HUD recently announced $5.6 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grants to assist local and state programs associated with homeowner reimbursement, homeowner assistance, and multi-family affordable rental properties.
Sherman City Council passes $232M 5-year capital improvement plan
Rendering of police station concept
Sherman City Council approved a $232.47 million five-year capital improvement plan, including $16 million for the construction of a new police station.

The plan is a guide for capital project timelines; it is not a binding document. The city's general fund would provide $125 million for one category of projects, and the utility fund would provide $78.56 million for another group. Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance could help with $19.2 million in stormwater projects.

More than $69 million in initiatives is slated for the 2020-2021 year, but some city leaders said that the high-dollar items in the plan may never gain council approval. The Sherman Police Station project, which has been the subject of much discussion among councilmembers, is included in this list.

A projected 3.5 percent increase in the city's tax base is expected to generate the funding for several of the capital expenditures in the plan.
Rendering of Pearland surface water plant
Pearland City Council approved design contracts August 26 to move forward on the construction of a $145 million water plant with an output of 10 million gallons per day (MGD).

A $1.3 million contract for design work on the first phase of the surface water plant received approval. This phase includes construction of a raw water intake structure, pump station, and site detention features for a projected total of $53.8 million, according to the city's capital improvement plan.

Councilmembers also authorized a $2.9 million contract for final design work of the third phase that would see the construction of infrastructure to store and transfer drinking water. The council approved the final design for the second phase in March.

The construction timeline is set to start in early 2020 and conclude in 2023. More than $89 million in funding is set to come from water and sewer bonds, and $89 million in impact fees will cover the remainder of the estimated $178.4 million project cost, which will include contingency fees, design and surveying expenditures, preliminary engineering, and land and right-of-way costs.
Cancer institute awards $136M in grants for research, recruitment
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded $136 million in grants to support cancer research on August 26.

Fifty-eight academic research grant awards, 10 prevention awards, and three product development research awards were given.

CPRIT awarded eight grants totaling $35.5 million for core facility support, five grants totaling $7.6 million in early translational research, and 18 grants totaling $3.6 million for high impact-high risk research. Efforts to recruit first-time, tenure-track faculty earned 14 grant applicants a total of $27.67 million in funding.

In addition, one company will relocate to Texas to further its product development work after receiving a $7.47 million grant. Another medical technology firm secured a $15.42 million grant for its product development work on cancer vaccines.

Two grants totaling $1.92 million will go to research of cancer in children and adolescents, and CPRIT awarded two grants totaling $5.46 million for liver cancer mortality research. Six grants to expand cancer prevention services in rural and medically underserved populations will get a boost of $11.2 million in total grant funding.

CPRIT has awarded $2.4 billion in grants to Texas research institutions, organizations, and businesses through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs and generated more than $3 billion in additional public and private investment, according to a press release.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Alex Meade, City Manager, City of Pharr

Alex Meade
Career highlights and education: Getting hired in the city of Pharr as the city manager definitely has been the highlight of my career. I have both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Public Administration and I get to apply both on a regular basis.
What I like best about my public service: I know this sounds clich√©, but I really do enjoy helping people. Every day, folks in public service are presented with challenges ... some easy and some not so easy. The fact that we get tasked with finding solutions on a daily basis makes this job exciting. The public sector is not much different from the private sector in the fact that we both have customers to respond to and the better we know our customers, the better we can address their needs.

The best advice I have received for my current job: One of the greatest lessons I learned was during my time as a consultant. When entering a new project, it's not so important to know everything about the project or client but to know how to ask the right questions. Needless to say, the eight months I've spent on the job, I have been asking a lot of questions.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Run!!! I'm just joking. All kidding aside, I tell them not to stress. We spend more time at work than we do with our own families, and the last thing I want is for our employees to take the stresses from work back home. I try to run a very positive office where stress is what makes our job exciting!
If I ever had the opportunity to leave work early, I could probably be found: I wish I could say something cool like hunting or surfing, which I did plenty of as a kid growing up near South Padre Island, but the fact is I have no real hobbies. If I'm not at work, I'm either working out at the gym or watching TV on the couch.

People would be surprised to know that I: That every Friday I take three employees out to lunch (at my own expense) at the restaurant of their choice. Taking employees out to lunch serves two purposes: 1. I get to know about their roles in the city and any concerns they may have, and 2. I know exactly who to go to when I get a call from a citizen or elected official that requires immediate attention.

One thing I wish more people knew about the city of Pharr: The city of Pharr owns an international bridge. The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge is the seventh-largest land port and fastest growing in the U.S. It currently processes over $35 billion in global trade annually.
Lubbock leaders exploring options for first downtown master plan
City leaders in Lubbock are working on the first master plan for their downtown.

Councilmembers said the plan's direction on infrastructure and transportation will aid the city in creating an environment conducive for private investment.

Lubbock officials and staff met with downtown stakeholders on August 28 for planning sessions to discuss topics such as parking, green space, student housing, arts district interests, and connectivity among other subjects. 

According to the city's 2040 Comprehensive Plan adopted in December, the downtown area needs a clear approach to public and private improvements. The document identifies the importance of revisiting existing requirements to remove inconsistencies, preparing a new Capital Improvements Plan, and encouraging reinvestment in downtown.

City officials said they expect the master plan to be completed by the end of 2019.
Weatherford council mulls feasibility of new hotel-convention center
Councilmembers in Weatherford deliberated the feasibility of building a new a hotel-convention center at their work session August 27, and City Manager Sharon Hayes said they are looking for a private partner.

After the passage of HB 4347 that consolidated 22 standalone bills into one piece of legislation, Weatherford is now eligible for a program that encourages building local convention center hotels using state and local hotel tax rebates. Local alcoholic beverage taxes from the eligible convention will generate rebates for the first 10 years of operation.

The convention centers must be primarily used for conventions and meetings of tourists, have at least 10,000 square feet of meeting space, owned by the municipality, and be located in a separate structure from the convention center hotel.

According to the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, other cities that are eligible to pursue hotel-convention centers under this program are: Alvin, Arlington (expansion of existing authority), Baytown, Cedar Park, Celina, The Colony, Commerce, Conroe, and Fredericksburg (provided a special exception allowing private ownership of project).

Additional cities that may apply for the program are: Hutto, Kemah (expansion of existing authority), Kerrville, Kyle, Missouri City, Pearland, Presidio, Rio Grande City, Richmond, San Benito, Seabrook, and Webster.

Eligible cities must have a development agreement approved by a September 1, 2023, deadline to participate in the conventional center hotel program.
Bryan leaders planning regional park
Rendering of Travis B. Bryan Regional Park
Bryan councilmembers are considering $70 million for the initial phase of Travis B. Bryan Regional Park as part of a $400 million draft budget for fiscal year 2019-2020.

Development of the park, which is in the heart of the city's Midtown, would catalyze efforts to revitalize the area. The park would be located on city-owned land at the site of a former municipal golf course, the existing Williamson Park, and Astin Recreational Area along the lake.

City staff said they are honing costs, project scope, and other details, but first phase features could include construction of a new indoor athletic event complex with basketball and volleyball courts, space for gymnastics, e-gaming, small concerts, meeting rooms, and a multipurpose event center.

Preliminary plans also include upgrades to the existing league fields, spectator seating, and lighting. Construction of two new 200-foot open fields, batting cages and at least 80 parking spaces also are in the plans.

Officials also envision building additional baseball and softball fields, an amphitheater with a grand lawn, and lake improvements to revitalize the waters and allow for aquatic sports and recreation.

Councilmembers are set to vote on the proposed budget and property tax rate at their September 10 meeting.
Hallsville ISD trustees call $55M bond election for November 5
Conceptual site plan for high school auditorium
Trustees at Hallsville ISD called an election for November 5 for voters to decide a $55 million bond referendum to fund construction of a new West Elementary School, high school auditorium, junior high safety improvements, and additional districtwide projects.

The cost estimate is $29.71 million for the new elementary school that would have a capacity of 750 students in grades pre-kindergarten through fourth. The new facility would allow the district to balance elementary enrollment between three elementary campuses and improve traffic flow during student pick-up and drop-off times.

Voters will be asked to support a new $13.82 milllion high school auditorium on Hallsville High School property. The 1,000-seat auditorium will provide performance and practice space for all fine arts programs and serve as a venue for academic and extracurricular competitions, professional development, and community events.

Two million dollars in junior high safety upgrades and renovations will fund several projects such as installing a controlled entrance vestibule, replacing entry doors and hardware, providing visual access to staff at vestibule, adding secure access entry for parents and campus visitors, upgrading security cameras, and renovating the school's interior.

More than $9.4 million in district-wide improvements will fund roof repairs at several campuses, HVAC replacements, facility upgrades at Hallsville East Elementary and Hallsville Intermediate School, parking lot enhancements and repairs, buses and upgrades to the Career and Technology Education/Agriculture Department facilities as well as the athletic field house.
Transportation institute reports gridlock costs U.S. $166B per year
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute's (TTI) 2019 Urban Mobility Report discovered inefficiencies in transportation infrastructure and recommended fixes for such issues. The solution to the $166 billion-per-year problem is to add more roads and transit options, maximize efficiency in existing systems, make better use of land, and reduce and balance demand through telework and work-hour adjustments.

The TTI has made available its How to Fix Congestion guide, an interactive map of congestion conditions that includes ways to address gridlock.

Billions of hours are wasted every year on inefficient travel. The current transportation infrastructure can't meet the growing travel demand that's been fueled by job growth and the bounce-back that occurred after the 2008-2009 recession. Commuters at every level are now affected by increased trip times from overcrowded systems.

Researchers are calling for strategies to address travel through urban corridors, and stress that taking a balanced and diversified approach will lead to the best solution.
West ISD calls $21.5M bond election to replace elementary school
Sketch of proposed West Elementary School 
West ISD trustees approved a resolution calling a $21.49 million bond election for November 5 that would replace West Elementary School (WES), which was built in 1952.

District officials said the current school does not have enough classrooms and space to serve a surging enrollment. Currently, kindergarten, first, and third grades are at or over state-mandated capacity.

West ISD will apply for waivers from the state in order to exceed teacher to student ratios.

The district is in negotiations to purchase 30 acres behind West High School for the new campus, which will be able to accommodate 750 students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth in 35 classrooms. Board members are considering the sale of the current WES site to use the proceeds to reimburse the district for purchase of the new land.

Designs of the new school will be available for public viewing by the end of September, according to the district's website.
Anonymous donor gifts $50M to University of Houston in challenge
University of Houston
The University of Houston (UH) recently received a $50 million gift from an anonymous donor with the stipulation that the university raise another $50 million in matching funds.

If the university reaches that mark, it would trigger another $50 million donation, which has been named the "Aspire Fund: The $50 Million Challenge." UH officials accepted the donation and began fund-raising, but no timeline has been set to reach the goal.

The funds will support the creation of four institutes that will focus on energy, infrastructure, precision medicine, and global engagement. The university also will hire faculty and create endowed chairs and professorships to oversee the new programs.

Administrators plan to apply for additional funding from the Texas Research Incentive Program and the Governor's University Research Initiative to support the institutes.
Save the date for DIR conference
October 3, 2019 / Austin, Texas
Mark your calendar to attend the DIR Technology Forum 2019 on October 3 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Commons Learning Center, J.J. Pickle Research Campus, 10100 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78758.

Journey to the Cloud: How to Get There is the theme of this year's forum, a free one-day, two-track conference for public sector IT leaders. Plan to attend educational sessions on strategic issues, technology updates, and DIR solutions and services.

More than 200 attendees from a wide variety of Texas state agencies and universities are expected to attend. The free event is only open to current Texas government or public sector staff members. Pre-registration is required and opened in early July. The cancellation deadline is September 27; a $50 fee will be charged for any no shows and late cancellations.

Complimentary morning and afternoon refreshments and a luncheon will be served. DIR invites vendors to participate by exhibiting and/or providing a speaker.

For information, email Joy Hall Bryant.
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New legislation effective Sept. 1

More than 800 new laws authored by the 86th Texas Legislature will go into effect on September 1.

Prompted by actions during Hurricane Harvey, legislators passed HB 1177 that prevents citizens from being charged with a crime for carrying a handgun without a license while evacuating from a declared state or local disaster area or while returning to that area. New legislation also clarifies rules about carrying guns in churches. Churches must post signs if they choose to prohibit guns from their premises.

Addressing reports of a backlog of untested rape kits across the state, HB 8 amends current law to extend the statute of limitations for certain sexual offenses for which evidence is collected in a rape kit. It also requires an audit of untested rape kits and sets deadlines by which the kits must be analyzed and processed.

Similar to existing laws that protect first responders, tow trucks, and transportation department personnel, a Transportation Code amendment titled Slow Down to Get Around requires drivers to move over and slow down for solid waste collection vehicles such as recycling, composting, and garbage trucks that are collecting waste. Thirty-one collection-related fatalities were reported in the U.S. in 2016.

Credit card skimming at gas stations and theft of mail will carry stiffer penalties. HB 37 changes the definition of mail to add packages dropped off by a delivery service or left for pickup.

Starting next month, SB 21 will raise the legal age to purchase, use, and possess tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. Military servicemembers at least 18 years old are exempt.

And, it will now be legal for children to operate a lemonade stand without a permit after the passage of HB 234 which states authorities may not adopt or enforce an ordinance, order, or rule that prohibits an individual younger than 18 years old from temporarily selling lemonade or other non-alcoholic beverages from a stand on private property.
TWC names Serna as executive director
Ed Serna
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) announced on August 27 that Edward "Ed" Serna has been appointed as the new executive director, effective immediately.

Serna previously served as interim executive director for TWC since January 2019 and as deputy director of TWC from 2014 to January 2019. He succeeds Larry Temple who passed away in January 2019.

In this role, Ed Serna will provide guidance on day-to-day operations of the agency, including implementation of initiatives and programs set by the commission.

Serna joined TWC in 2014 with over 29 years of experience in Texas state government. Previously, he served as the executive director of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. He also has held executive level positions at five other state agencies, ranging from chief operating officer, assistant executive director and executive director.

Governor names Bland to Texas Supreme Court
Jane Bland
Gov. Greg Abbott announced his intention on August 26 to appoint Jane Bland to the Texas Supreme Court upon Justice Jeff Brown's formal resignation to become a federal judge. This is the governor's third appointment to the Texas Supreme Court.

Bland served for more than 20 years as a trial and appellate judge before joining a private law firm. Appointed to the Texas First Court of Appeals in 2003, she authored more than 1,200 signed opinions during her tenure at the appellate court.

Before becoming an appellate judge, she served for more than six years as a civil trial court judge in Harris County.

She is board certified in civil appellate law and civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Bland is a member of the American Law Institute and the Texas Supreme Court's Rules Advisory Committee.
Vaughn serves 1st meeting as new transportation commissioner
Robert Vaughn
Newly appointed Texas Transportation Commissioner Robert "Robie" Vaughn marked his first commission meeting August 29 by helping approve the state's $77 billion Unified Transportation Plan (UTP).

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Vaughn to the commission on August 12 for a term set to expire on February 1, 2025.
The commission governs the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and is responsible for policymaking regarding the state's highway system, developing a statewide transportation plan, assisting the development of public transportation, and adopting rules for TxDOT's operation.

Vaughn of Dallas is the owner of a privately-held investment partnership and board chairman of an oil and gas firm.

He is a member of The University of Texas System Chancellor's Council Executive Committee and the McDonald Observatory and Department of Astronomy Board of Visitors and a life member of The University of Texas at Austin Development Board and the Longhorn Foundation Advisory Council.
SPI, Cornerstone to host Lunch & Learn on 'Battle for Talent'
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) and Cornerstone on Demand are teaming up to host a Lunch & Learn Forum from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, September 11, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. 
The program will be about retaining great employees and what some successful organizations are doing to win the "Battle for Talent."

John Llamas, a talented speaker with three decades of work in human resources and information technology, will lead the program. As a member of Cornerstone's Thought Leadership and Advisory Services group, Llamas leverages his in-depth knowledge and comprehensive mastery of human capital management to help implement new and effective human resources programs throughout the country.

Parking is free, and continuing education credits will be available. Food will be served during the program. Registration is now open.  

For information, call Taylor Kerr at SPI at 512-531-3914.

Austin selects Snipes as new resource recovery director
Ken Snipes
The city of Austin has selected Ken Snipes as the lead candidate for the director of Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), effective September 23.

As ARR director, Snipes will be responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and maintaining economical and efficient resource recovery, recycling, and reuse services for the city.

Snipes has worked at Seattle Public Utilities since 2007, most recently as director of solid waste and chief administrator officer. He also serves as a civil engineering manager-program superintendent with the U.S. Air Force.
Bastrop names Job, Altgelt to assistant city manager posts
Bastrop City Manager announced the promotions of James Altgelt and Trey Job to assistant city managers on August 28.

James Altgelt
Algelt will be the assistant city manager of public safety and community support, and Job will be the assistant city manager of development services.

In his new role, Altgelt will serve as police chief and oversee fire, emergency management, public information, multi-media, library, convention center, special events, Main Street, and information technology operations. He previously served as Bastrop's director of public safety, chief of police, emergency management coordinator, assistant police chief, and assistant emergency management coordinator.

Trey Job
Job will be Bastrop's director of public works and responsible for streets, water, wastewater, parks, building maintenance, engineering, Bastrop Power & Light, capital projects, and planning and development.
Magnolia hires interim city administrator
Kerry Lacy
The Magnolia City Council approved a contract August 27 to hire Kerry Lacy as the interim city administrator. Magnolia's mayor said he would like Lacy to start his new role September 9.

He replaces the late City Administrator Paul Mendes who passed away August 22.

Lacy previously served in city management for several Texas cities most recently as an interim city manager for the cities of Somerville and Dayton. He also served as city manager for the cities of Elgin, San Augustine, Watauga, Liberty, and Jasper.
Round Rock director earns national parks academy distinction
Rick Atkins
City of Round Rock Parks and Recreation Director Rick Atkins will be inducted as a member of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration at the annual National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) annual conference in September.

Once inducted, Atkins will be part of an elite group nationwide of only 125 members and one of only 20 members in the state of Texas.

Academy members must have served for at least 15 years in a high level of administration in a park and recreation agency or as a recognized educator in parks and recreation administration, or they must be a political appointee who manages a park and recreation department for an agency with a population of more than 500,000.

Gov. Greg Abbott has announced these appointments/reappointments from August 23-29:

Bonnie Hellums - Houston, Health and Human Services Transition Legislative Oversight Committee

Dr. Wayne Carson - Arlington, Health and Human Services Transition Legislative Oversight Committee

Rebeca Aizpuru Huddle - Bellaire, Judicial Compensation Commission (reappointed)

Carlos Amaral - Plano, Judicial Compensation Commission

Ysmael Fonseca Jr. - McAllen, 464th Judicial District Court judge
Texas State Auditor - Audit Report on Facilities-related Contracts at the Department of Transportation

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services - FY 2020 Business Plan

U.S. Department of Agriculture - Importance of Inland Waterways to U.S. Agriculture
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 Boerne - Communications Manager
  • Texas Legislative Council - Facilities Coordinator
  • Texas Department of Public Safety - Counselor V, Victim & Employee Support Services (3 positions available)
  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - CPA - Research Analyst
  • Office of the Texas Governor - Lead Editor (Editor III)
  • Office of the Texas Governor - Proofreader (Editor II)

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: Devin Monk 
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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