By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
School districts throughout the U.S. are on the verge of letting large construction projects with new funding from citizen-supported bond elections. Some school districts already have secured their funding, and others will ask voters to approve bond packages in November and December.
Cumulatively, the upcoming opportunities will represent billions in new spending, and although the projects may be classified as construction, they will require a bevy of ancillary services and products. There will be universal opportunities for design, planning, architectural and engineering firms, technology and equipment companies, land work firms, landscaping companies, technology, and security firms. Examples of what can be expected follow.
Voters in Vermillion already have approved a $26 million bond issue, and school officials soon will release solicitations for construction of a new elementary school. The facility will be built adjacent to the existing middle school and will include a new gymnasium, shared spaces for middle and elementary school staff, and consolidated food service with separate serving areas.
Dallas councilmembers approved a financing strategy on October 13 that could generate $2.2 billion in estimated revenues for a new or extensively renovated Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
The city will focus on leveraging revenue bond capacity assured by local Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) generation, enacting an ordinance that results in the development of a Project Financing Zone (PFZ) limited to a 3-mile radius around the center. The zone would collect the anticipated revenues over 30 years in an area that currently contains 71 existing or under-construction hotels.
Dallas’ projections assume rooms revenue will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, then increase by a historical 4.1 percent annual inflation-adjusted growth rate.
Center officials will prepare the PFZ ordinance and correspondence to send to the Texas Comptroller’s Office by November 13.
After that, they are preparing to present a final alternative to the City Council in January or February 2022 for the renovation or replacement of the center.
Preliminary cost estimates range from $500 million options to alternatives reaching $3 billion that would involve total replacement.
The city’s Economic Development Committee was briefed on October 4 regarding the PFZ and the center’s master plan, which is in the sixth month of an estimated nine-month development process.
Texas State University launched Next is Now, its largest fund-raising campaign in university history on October 8 that aims to raise $250 million to advance initiatives including new and renovated facilities.
Aligned with the university’s strategic plan, campaign priorities include constructing a new music building and renovating the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
Estimated at $90 million, the School of Music building will serve almost 600 music majors and 80-plus faculty who are now spread across five buildings. The proposed facility will contain nearly 110,000 square feet of space for classrooms, labs, studios, faculty offices, rehearsal and practice rooms, music library, instrument maintenance room, piano technician studio, storage, and a student lounge.
The new building will be located next to the Performing Arts Center on the San Marcos campus. Originally intended for 200 music students, the current music building started out as a gymnasium that was converted in 1983.
To meet its growing research and education needs, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment envisions a $12.5 million renovation of the historic Spring Lake Hall into an interpretive research laboratory.
The center’s Discovery Hall on the first floor will be transformed to accommodate the public, while other renovations will enhance The Meadows Center’s capacity for research and to address water resource issues such as climate change, environmental STEM education, and integrated water resource management.
Early voting will begin on October 18 in Rockwall County’s $150 million bond election to fund road construction projects to keep pace with population growth.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments reports that Rockwall County has grown by 44 percent in its population over the past 10 years, and projections show that Rockwall County is the sixth-fastest growing county in the nation.
Election day is November 2 for voters to determine the future of the county’s Transportation Road Improvement Program 2021 (TRIP 21).
Among the various road projects that would receive funding are:
- SH 205 South from John King Boulevard to the county line - $10 million toward a $102 million project to widen the two-lane rural road to a four-lane urban highway with the ability to widen it to six lanes.
- SH 205 from North John King to downtown - $20 million for an $85.2 million project to reconstruct SH 205/Goliad to add context sensitive capacity.
- FM 740/FM 549 connector road - $9 million to construct a four-lane road on a new alignment from FM 549 to the Rabbit Ridge Road extension.
- FM 548 - $7.7 million for advanced planning and 10 percent right of way acquisition for a $38.5 million project to widen FM 548 to a four- to six-lane urban road from SH 66 to the Outer Loop.
Rockwall County Commissioners worked with the Rockwall County Consortium and appointed citizens to review roadway projects throughout the county and make a recommendation to the Commissioners Court as to what projects should be included.
Lake Travis ISD
Public career and education highlights:
- Superintendent of Lake Travis ISD since August 2020
- Superintendent of Texarkana ISD for 9 years
- Principal of a Texas high school for 8 years
- Middle school and high school science teacher and coach
- Bachelors of Science in biology from Texas Tech University
- Master of Science from Texas A&M University - Texarkana
- State finalist for Texas Superintendent of the Year in 2015
- Texarkana ISD earned the Comprehensive School District STEM Leadership Award from the International Association of STEM Leaders in 2014
What I like best about my public service is: The opportunity to meet and work with a variety of people. I enjoy seeing students succeed and also adults. Whether it be a project for class, an initiative within the community, or a successful function as part of a community organization, helping people be successful is what helps make our community successful.
The best advice I’ve received is: To be mindful when making decisions. A quick decision is not always the right decision; an informed decision is generally the best decision. I've always tried to follow this concept: Do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. All three aspects of this are very important when making a decision.
My favorite way to de-stress is: Relaxing with my family. It can be watching a movie on the couch with my wife, enjoying time outside as a family, or watching our kids being involved in the things they enjoy. All of these things I truly enjoy!
People might be surprised to know that I: Grew up on a farm and milked cows twice a day. This taught me a lot about life, work ethic, and character. I also have a twin brother, and we have always been very competitive with each other as well as with our three younger siblings. On top of that, I also have a very patient and loving wife who is my best friend and partner in life.
One thing I wished more people knew about Lake Travis ISD is: Lake Travis ISD has an amazing and rich history even though the district is only 40 years old. The best part about LTISD is truly the people. From the school board to teachers to support operations to our community, LTISD is full of people who love our community but more importantly love our students and that is truly where our success is found.
The city of Abilene is evaluating the power resilience of its water utilities with plans to develop planning-level options for improving its facilities’ ability to withstand severe weather and other disasters.
During Winter Storm Uri, Abilene lost all water service for 27 hours and was under a mandatory boil water notice for six days.
Despite the city’s water system reliability reaching 99.99 percent over the past 50 years and 99.95 percent in the last 10 years, city leaders are exploring other power options such as diesel generators and microgrids.
Abilene’s two critical facilities close to an existing major gas pipeline are the Northeast Water Treatment Plant and the Northwest Pump Station; however, only the water treatment plant is viable for consideration of a microgrid facility due to average electricity usage.
A microgrid would be engaged either during a power outage or when it becomes economically advantageous to provide power to the electrical grid.
Preliminary options presented to the City Council in July ranged from taking no action on improving resilience to making immediate investments in new power generating equipment at all critical facilities for an estimated $25 million.
The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) will host a pre-bid meeting and facility walkthrough on October 19 for design-build services on a new environmental and emissions research facility on the RELLIS Campus in Bryan.
TTI’s new building will house facilities associated with electric truck and bus research, and the relationship between electric grid power and electric transportation.
Proposed research/uses for the new facility could include:
- Characterization of medium-duty and heavy-duty electric vehicle performance and efficiency.
- Characterization of electrically powered construction, agricultural, military, and other non-road vehicles.
- Interaction of vehicle charging and energy storage with renewable resources, in particular solar (photovoltaic) sources.
- Verification of simulation models and demonstrations of component (vehicle, charger, grid source, generator, battery storage) interactions in systems.
Phasing for test and research equipment would be added to the facility as funds or research requests were available.
Space requirements for the new facility include areas for an electric vehicle lab, component testing area, configuration and energy storage room, control and simulation, and two offices.
This new building will have substantial connectivity for research purposes, including high speed web connection and multiple opportunities for running sensor wires.
Construction completion is anticipated to be August 2022. The amount available for construction is to be determined.
The Kingsville City Commission approved two grant applications on October 12 seeking state funding for the construction of a fire rescue truck facility and relocation of the Pass and Tag Office at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville.
By applying for Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grants (DEAAG), Kingsville hopes to secure funds that will support its two mutual aid agreements with the base for response to fire, hazardous material, and medical calls as well as illegal access incidents.
Construction of a new fire truck facility will allow the base’s fire department to house the forthcoming aircraft rescue firefighting vehicles that are on hold due to an inability to store them safely on the installation.
Currently, the Pass and Tag building is well inside the installation and a long distance from the base’s Entry Control Point. Plans call for relocating the Pass and Tag to reduce escort time, create a more imposing initial presence for potential gate breachers, and minimize hazards to staff and others by decreasing congestion at the base’s entrance.
The new building will protect security vetting assets in weather events and will become the first line of defense for the installation. The city has a mutual aid agreement with NAS Kingsville to respond to any illegal access.
In addition, as the Navy phases out the T-45 Goshawk the need for an upgraded Pass and Tag facility and associated safety and vetting equipment will improve the base’s chances of receiving the next generation jet aircraft when the Navy begins its ranking and selection process.
Each construction project is expected to take 24 months.
DEAAG funding is available to local municipalities, counties, defense base development authority, junior college districts and Texas State Technical College campuses, and regional planning commissions representing these communities. Grants awarded may range from $50,000 to $5 million per project, and $15 million total is available in the current round of funding.
Santa Fe ISD voters will cast their ballots in a $110 million bond election on November 2 for funds to construct a new junior high school and build an addition at the high school campus among other capital projects.
A new $73.5 million junior high school would open with a capacity of 1,500 students in 240,000 square feet. The new building will make available appropriate spaces to add career and technology education (CTE) programs and other educational opportunities. Including new fields for physical education and athletics on the same site will eliminate the need for students to cross Warpath Avenue for those activities. Coupled with new security features in the building, the safety of the students will be significantly improved.
If the bond is approved, the district would add a CTE wing at Santa Fe High School for $26.4 million to consolidate instruction space that will be designed to accommodate technology, equipment, and environments to align with industry standards.
The CTE programs are spread out across the existing high school campus, often located in rooms that have been adapted for the programs without sufficient infrastructure to effectively train students for jobs in the fields of study.
A third item in the bond package would provide $10.1 million in bond funds for priority maintenance projects including roofing, HVAC, safety, and security upgrades.
The city of Tyler plans to purchase more than 130 cellular communication devices and add traffic signal controllers as it upgrades its advanced traffic management system.
For traffic signal communications, Tyler plans to install 127 of the devices throughout the community and have four additional devices on hand if needed to cover all but 23 intersections.
Of the remaining intersections, 14 are being included in Highway Safety Improvement Projects and nine downtown intersections are being postponed due to future projects that may affect traffic flow in downtown Tyler.
The Applied Information Cellular Communication Units are 4G-LTE communication devices that allow communication to the city’s traffic signal cabinets and controllers. The system allows for future expansion into city of Tyler vehicles and the ability for emergency response vehicles to control traffic signals when responding to emergencies.
Tyler will purchase and install 84 traffic signal controllers with plans to add more controllers in future years as part of the city’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Master Plan Study.
New traffic signal controllers will replace older controllers that have reached their lifespan, standardize equipment throughout the city, and ensure the intersections can communicate with the new software.
Taking a step to address the city’s digital divide, Amarillo councilmembers on October 12 authorized $6 million to put toward a broadband access plan to expand services to low-income communities and areas with a lack of or low internet connections.
Amarillo’s education, city services, social services, health care, and banking sectors have expressed a need for improved and more affordable internet access. According to city consultants, Amarillo is one of the most expensive areas in the U.S. for internet access.
The city’s chief information officer advised councilmembers of the city’s critical infrastructure that needs better connectivity such as automated water meters, traffic systems, public safety, and smart meter projects. In addition, the city’s mobile networks consistently overload during disasters.
Under a proposed design, the expanded system would rely on 5 gigahertz signals emitted from towers in a 3-mile radius to avoid costly underground connections.
Plans to construct a new office building for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) are coming to fruition with a pre-proposal conference scheduled for 2 p.m. CST October 21.
Located in New Braunfels, the new office would be housed in a single-story, 21,000-square-foot building. Construction of the building will consist of a steel frame, with metal framing and masonry veneer/metal panel exterior walls.
The proposed facility includes a service drive and surface parking.
Estimated project budget is $8 million with substantial completion expected by 308 days after issuance of a notice to proceed.
The Governor’s Broadband Development Council recently released its 2021 Annual Report that recommended investments in improved broadband speeds, expansion to underserved areas, middle mile and last mile infrastructure, and cybersecurity awareness.
In the report issued last month, the council advised planning for and investing in speeds greater than the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) minimum 25/3 megabits per second (Mbps).
According to July 2021 estimates, approximately 96.78 percent of households in Texas have access to broadband speeds at 25/3 Mbps, but at least 286,908 households remain unserved at the minimum speed considered broadband. Approximately 246,997 of those households are in rural Texas.
The Council also encouraged using a portion of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allotment to establish public-private partnerships (P3s) for broadband projects, praising P3s as proven means to combine essential government leadership and private-sector investment.
Best practices from other states also should be explored as they continue to invest in and deploy broadband infrastructure with initiatives well-suited for efficiency, equity, and accessibility.
Studying broadband demand at community, regional, and statewide levels as well as funding digital literacy programs were other recommendations included in the report.
Dallas ISD’s Minority Women Business Enterprise division is partnering with the Dallas Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council to host the 2021 ISD Day.
Also known as the Independent School District Buyer & Vendor Networker Day, the free webinar is scheduled for 1 p.m. November 10.
Among the organizations set to participate are school districts from:
- Fort Bend
- San Antonio
At the 2020 ISD Day, participants learned about current and upcoming business opportunities, networked with buyers from statewide school districts, developed procurement contacts, and gained helpful hints on doing business with local school districts.
Registration is open now for the 2021 ISD Day.
The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) selected Dr. Rodney Watson as its new deputy executive director on October 14.
Watson joins TASB from Spring ISD where since 2014 he has served as superintendent. In 2021, he was named National Superintendent of the Year by the National School Foundation Association. Prior to joining Spring ISD, Watson served as the chief human resources officer for Houston ISD.
In January 2022, he is set to succeed former Deputy Executive Director Dan Troxell who became TASB’s executive director this summer.
Before joining TASB, Troxell held multiple administrative roles, serving as a principal at Round Rock and Allen ISDs, principal and assistant superintendent at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, and superintendent at both Kerrville and Leander ISDs.
The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) board of directors elected Michele Wong Krause of Dallas as board chair for a two-year term on October 12.
Appointed to the DART board in 2014 to represent the city of Dallas, Wong Krause recently served as vice chair. She also presently serves on the American Public Transportation Associations (APTA) Executive Committee.
The former city of Dallas associate municipal judge is currently in private law practice.
The city of Diboll has hired Jason Arnold as its new city manager, effective November 1. He will take over from Interim City Manager Keith Wright.
Arnold currently serves as an assistant city manager for the city of Lufkin. Before joining Lufkin, he worked for the cities of College Station and Harker Heights.
The city of Kaufman hired Stewart McGregor as the new executive director of the Kaufman Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
McGregor previously worked six years in economic development for the cities of Forney and Grand Prairie. Before that, he was a legislative staffer to a member of the Texas House of Representatives during the 84th Legislative Session.
The city of Horseshoe Bay named Jeff Koska as its interim city manager on October 13 following the resignation of City Manager Stan Farmer.
Koska had been serving as the city’s utilities director and director of community services for 13 years. Before that, he was general manager of Kingsland Municipal Utility District.
The Decatur ISD board of trustees named Dr. Chad Jones as the finalist for the superintendent position.
Jones is currently the superintendent of Sinton ISD where he has served for 12 years. Before that, he was the superintendent in West Hardin and Iola ISDs.
He is expected to begin in his new position with Decatur ISD in early November.
Four rural Texas hospitals will benefit from $531,000 in state grants as they expand their telehealth services for children.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) awarded the grants to help the hospitals expand or implement telehealth services that connect their patients with pediatric specialists and subspecialists through video chats and phone calls.
HHSC awarded the grants to:
- Lake Granbury Medical Center in Granbury.
- Navarro Regional Hospital in Corsicana.
- Terry Memorial Hospital/Brownfield Regional Medical Center in Brownfield.
- Titus County Hospital in Mount Pleasant.
Each of the four hospitals submitted telehealth expansion plans to HHSC and were awarded funding based on the technology, equipment, and supplies needed to implement their projects. Texans in more than 25 counties will benefit from the expansion.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from October 8-14:
Aerospace and Aviation
Tony Curry - Dallas
John Guevara - Harlingen
John Mulholland - Missouri City
Jim Allmon - Waco
Shelly Lesikar deZevallos - Houston
Aimee Burnett - Southlake (reappointed)
Lauren Dreyer - McGregor (reappointed)
Jennifer Kurth Williamson - Southlake (reappointed)
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:
Texas Department of Information Resources – Program Specialist VI
Office of the Texas Governor – Economic Development Finance Specialist
City of Pflugerville – Streets and Drainage Superintendent