Volume 19, Issue 41 - Friday, October 8, 2021
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
Airports in America are undergoing significant changes as focus has shifted to long-overdue, critical needs related to modernization.

Finally, there is funding for these efforts. Public officials are preparing to launch thousands of projects with objectives related to expansion, safety, increased efficiency, and compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. Most of the projects will be large and complicated, and private-sector partners will be in high demand. As the modernization trend sweeps through the country, it is important to note that airport officials share some common priorities.

As airport operations are recalibrated, millions are designated for projects that address long term issues such as sustainability, infrastructure, environmental stability, traffic congestion, technology upgrades, and security enhancements. And, although the emphasis may be on addressing these very basic concerns, it’s obvious that innovation also is a key component of what airport officials are seeking.

New and modernized airports may appear somewhat futuristic in the short term. Master planning documents outline projects that include electric vehicles, charging stations, renewable energy sources, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and data collection capabilities. Other priorities are related to weatherization, cybersecurity, and security through digital identification and facial recognition. But … there’s more!

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) is seeking ideas and proposals for an approach to the design, construction, and possible operation of a transportation project connecting the San Antonio International Airport vicinity to the downtown area.

RMA officials released a request for qualifications and proposals (RFQP) on October 1 that aims to advance an idea proposed through the RFI process for a transportation project that can efficiently and economically transport people between the general vicinity of the airport and the downtown area.

Respondents are asked to:
  • Provide an assessment of the reliability, maintenance requirements, and safety of their proposed projects and include actual data from similar facilities or systems currently in operation. 
  • Provide the anticipated maximum capacity of vehicles, passengers, or facility users per direction per hour. 
  • Describe their proposed project’s ability to serve a variety of peak demands and low volume use. 
  • Provide information regarding the proposed project’s ability to interface with other existing and possible future transportation facilities in the region. 
  • Describe their willingness to provide financing for all or a portion of the project costs. The Alamo RMA anticipates selling revenue bonds to pay for project costs, but it may need additional financing to cover any gap between bond proceeds and funds needed. 

Interested firms with concepts or ideas for a transportation project that differs from the RFQP and which can help to meet the Alamo RMA’s goals and objectives to improve mobility in the region are encouraged to submit a response to the RFI.

RMA officials originally issued the RFI in 2019 for partnership opportunities to gauge interest from both public and private entities in partnering to develop new delivery methods for transportation projects and/or develop new revenue sources or identify revenue sharing arrangements that would provide the Alamo RMA increased capacity to complete additional transportation projects.

The deadline for RFI responses is ongoing as the RMA continues to explore all options to provide mobility for the people of San Antonio and Bexar County. Proposals for the RFQP are due by 4 p.m. CST December 1.

Up to four respondents may be selected to interview with the Alamo RMA to further define their project concepts and proposals. As a result of the procurement process, the RMA may announce a finalist on February 16, 2022.
The city of Austin – a partner with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on the $4.9 billion Interstate 35 Capital Express Central project – is seeking a review of certain design elements.

City officials submitted comments into the project’s official record asking for changes to the latest proposed alternatives TxDOT is proposing.

In addition, Austin Mayor Steve Adler submitted a letter to TxDOT cosigned by eight City Council members stating the city was pleased with several design elements that supported its vision, including depressed main travel lanes, removal of the upper decks, a continuous shared-use path along both sides of the highway, and wider crossings for cyclists and pedestrians. However, the letter expressed concerns about the current alternatives that remain.

The city’s requests include:
  • Addressing health and the historic role the highway plays in impacting Austin’s communities of color in the project’s purpose and need statement, which drives design decisions. 
  • Creating more east-west connections. 
  • Including supportive structures for future caps, or large decks on top of the highway, and wide bridges as part of the project’s construction. 
  • Mitigating the impact of additional trips the project will cause by constructing transit facilities in conjunction with the overall project. 
  • If the current lane design is to be maintained, changing the designation of the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to HOV/Toll or HOT lanes, allowing them to be converted sometime in the future based on the operational characteristics of the facility. 

Construction on the Central portion of the Capital Express project from State Highway 71/Ben White Boulevard to U.S. Highway 290 E. is estimated to start in 2025.
Kilgore ISD voters will have the chance to approve a $113 million bond election on November 2 to fund school construction and improvements that address issues of aging facilities, infrastructure, capacity, and academic functionality.

Passage of Proposition A would provide $109 million for a new Kilgore High School to replace the current high school built in 1932 as well as for renovations and construction at Chandler Elementary School built in 1960.

Proposition B would fund $4 million in improvements to R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium addressing accessibility issues, along with seating, restroom, entrance, concession, and field usage.

A specific timeline of projects will be finalized if the election is successful. Tentatively, the procurement phase for construction bids would begin in February 2022, construction would start in fall 2022, and completion would be reached in 2024-25 for all projects.
Oscar Leeser
Mayor
City of El Paso
Public career highlights and education: I came to the United States at 9 years old from Chihuahua, Mexico. I now own and operate the largest Hispanic Hyundai dealership in the nation and am serving my second term as mayor of the wonderful city of El Paso. I believe in leading with integrity, transparency, fiscal responsibility, and a no-nonsense business approach to management.

What I like best about public service is: That we can make a direct positive impact on the lives of citizens by the decisions we make every day. Ten months ago, we were the highest COVID-19 infected city in the nation, and we are now one of the most vaccinated cities in the country, with over 76 percent of our citizens fully vaccinated, and over 88 percent with one dose. We also made a concerted effort to protect our most vulnerable. Our 65-plus population is now 90 percent fully vaccinated, and over 98 percent have one dose. This is an example of when the power of public service shows its best side.

The best advice I’ve received is: Treat people the way you want to be treated. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, everyone deserves an opportunity, and everyone deserves to be heard. If you treat people accordingly, not only is it the right thing to do, but you’ll also sleep better at night.

My favorite way to de-stress: Spending time with my wife. A close second is spending time with my grandkids. Whether that’s going to one of their games, bringing them their favorite treats, or just grilling outside. The things they say make me laugh constantly, and the wonder in their eyes fills my heart.

People might be surprised to know that I: Have held a variety of jobs before I ever became financially successful or ran for office. I was a luggage handler at El Paso International Airport, I sold ladies shoes, and I was a janitor. I started in the car business and have been successful in it for 42 years. And I’m now the mayor. I have lived the American dream.

One thing I wish more people knew about the city of El Paso is: That El Paso offers a vibrant international experience and friendly hospitality, combined with extraordinary weather that it is the jewel of the Southwest. Our breathtaking sunsets and striking Franklin Mountains are surpassed only by the warmth of the wonderful people of El Paso, who always make every visitor feel special. We are named one of America’s safest cities year after year, and because of our unique location, we offer a variety of regional and international opportunities that present a unique perspective and blending of cultures unlike anywhere else in the country. Come visit! We’d love to have you.
The Northeast Texas Economic Development District and Ark-Tex Council of Governments (ATCOG) are seeking up to $100 million in federal funding to improve rail access, use coal mine property, and bring new industry to the region.

In addition, Sulphur Springs councilmembers adopted a resolution on October 5 in support of the grant application.

If the co-applicants are awarded $500,000 in the first phase of the Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge, they will be eligible for $25 million to $100 million in federal grants that they would apply to support advanced manufacturing clusters and transform economies in northeast Texas.

Phase 1 of the project will identify regional:
  • Manufacturing assets, coal mine properties, railroads, education entities, workforce. 
  • Leadership. 
  • Plan sustainability. 
  • Plan equity. 

The grant application will target specific projects such as the TexAmericas Center and Sulphur Springs Thermo Mine coal property in the ATCOG region and coal mine project closures in Harrison and Camp counties. Workforce and education entities throughout the regions will be included in the plan design.
The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) is advancing the $49 million renovation of the Borlaug Southern Crop Improvement Center to the design phase.

About 85,000 square feet of Building 1513 at the center will be repurposed to house the Department of Nutrition and the Institute for Advancing Health through Agriculture.

This renovation will create 24,000 square feet of leading-edge laboratories, 5,370 square feet of core lab facilities, and 3,300 square feet of computational lab space, which are needed by existing and new Texas A&M University faculty and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Service scientists.

In addition to labs, the project will include office renovations and additional classrooms.

The renovation and addition project is among several capital projects totaling $551.5 million that the TAMUS board recently added to the system’s five-year capital plan.

Other projects include:
  • Exterior renovation of the Academic Building at Texas A&M.  
  • Phase II of The Gardens at Texas A&M. 
  • Dock improvements at the Texas A&M’s Galveston campus. 
  • Parking garage at Tarleton State University. 
  • Dorm renovation at West Texas A&M. 
  • Student Services Building and recreation center expansion at Texas A&M-Commerce. 
  • Nuclear Engineering Education Building for Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. 
  • Physical plant projects and equipment replacement at various campuses and agencies. 

These projects were included in the capital plan pending the board’s final approval of each project.
The Port of Galveston has begun work on a $51.2 million project to stimulate the development potential of Pelican Island.

Possible uses, costs, and benefits of Pelican Island are detailed in the Galveston Wharves 20-Year Strategic Master Plan.

The document outlines a Phase 1 development scenario that includes an auto processing facility through a public-private partnership (P3) and a liquid-natural gas processing and fueling facility.

In the second phase, a proposed new Pelican Island bridge could allow for extension of rail services to the island to promote further economic development.

Other scheduled improvements include industrial and cargo development, roadway and drainage upgrades, and utility enhancements.

The existing causeway was built in the 1950s, followed a decade later by the new Texas A&M University at Galveston campus, port cargo, maritime repair services, and dredge spoil activities, though it remains largely undeveloped.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) authorized $63.6 million in flood mitigation grants on October 7 to be awarded to 13 counties, flood control districts, and cities in the Houston area.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will fund the Flood Mitigation Assistance grants to be used to mitigate flood damages and prevent future losses. The TWDB administers the annual FEMA grant program for Texas.

The 13 applications receiving fiscal year 2020 Flood Mitigation Assistance grants are:
  • Harris County - $8.5 million for drainage projects. 
  • Harris County Flood Control District - $14.66 million for acquisition projects. 
  • Harris County Flood Control District - $3.76 million for an acquisition project. 
  • City of Houston - $1.45 million for elevation projects. 
  • Jefferson County - $1.01 million for elevation projects. 
  • Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6 - $10.14 million for drainage projects. 
  • Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6 - $2.14 million for drainage projects. 
  • Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6 - $1.71 million for drainage projects. 
  • Jefferson County Drainage District No. 6 - $25,000 for a hazard mitigation plan project. 
  • City of Jersey Village - $4.53 million for elevation projects. 
  • Montgomery County - $12.4 million for acquisition projects. 
  • City of Pearland - $499,760 for elevation projects. 
  • City of Taylor Lake Village - $2.75 million for elevation projects. 

In addition to the FEMA grants, communities will contribute approximately $10.23 million of local funds. The Flood Mitigation Assistance grant program assists communities by providing federal funds for cost-effective measures to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to buildings, manufactured homes, and other structures.
The city of San Marcos will host a non-mandatory pre-bid video conference at 2 p.m. October 12 for a project involving several surface water treatment system improvements.

Project scope includes an expansion of the city’s high service pump station (HSPS) to increase pumping capacity by one pump unit, motor improvements at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority HSPS, and a new surge tank for the GBRA system.

Additionally, a new 2 million-gallon ground storage tank shall be installed to accept delivery of Alliance Regional Water Authority (ARWA) water at the San Marcos Surface Water Treatment Plant (SWTP). A new generator and electrical improvements are included in the project scope.

Estimated construction cost is $12.5 million. The city anticipates awarding the contract at the January 4, 2022, San Marcos City Council meeting.
Three Texas airports will receive $20.6 million in safety and infrastructure funding from the more than $479 million that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award to 123 projects across the nation.

In an October 5 announcement, the FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) noted the grants will foster job creation and increased safety, sustainability, and accessibility.

The Texas airports awarded grants are:
  • Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport - $9.82 million to construct an aircraft rescue and firefighting building. 
  • El Paso International - $6.33 million to reconstruct a taxiway. 
  • Robert Gray Army Air Field in Killeen - $4.44 million to rehabilitate a taxiway. 

This funding is in addition to the more than $3.1 billion in Airport Improvement Program grants awarded during fiscal year 2021 and includes American Rescue Plan Act funding to cover the usual local-match requirement.
Access to $25 million in grants has opened to local communities applying for funding to support their disaster mitigation efforts.

The Texas General Land Office (GLO), Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), and Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) encourage local entities affected by specific disasters to apply to GLO for these grants.

Funding is available to assist eligible entities in developing or updating local hazard mitigation plans approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

An approved FEMA hazard mitigation plan benefits local communities by recognizing the risks and hazards that exist, identifying ways to reduce or eliminate these risks, and qualifying communities for additional grant-funded programs.

Local jurisdictions may be eligible for up to $100,000 in support from the GLO to develop a new Local Hazard Mitigation Plan. Additionally, communities may be eligible for a lesser amount to update an existing plan or use as the local match for an approved FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program local hazard mitigation plan update award.

Communities must be in federally declared counties or ZIP codes from Hurricane Harvey, the 2015 floods, or the 2016 floods to be eligible.
Southlake councilmembers recently approved a fiscal year 2022 budget that directs almost $15 million in fund transfers toward the city’s Municipal Service Center and Public Safety Training Tower.

Total project cost is estimated at $30.9 million and is currently in the design phase.

The Municipal Service Center will provide expanded facilities to support utility billing, customer service, streets and drainage, water, wastewater, environmental services, and traffic divisions.

An expanded Municipal Service Center is required to meet the ongoing demands of infrastructure maintenance and to house other divisions needing additional space.

The new site will allow for an effectively programmed equipment yard, covered parking for heavy equipment, and a larger fuel depot for the city fleet.

In addition, the project will feature a four-story Public Safety Training Tower with roof access and classroom to provide local training space for several city departments.

The Police Department would use the facility for training and programs including use of force decision making, less than lethal munitions, building searches/clearing, SWAT, active shooter, K-9 handling, hostage negotiation, rappelling, and the DPS Youth and Department of Public Safety (DPS) Leadership academies.

Fire Department personnel would have space to stage single and multi-company live-fire training within the city limits, and the Public Works Department would be able to conduct confined space training.

The city anticipates awarding a construction manager at risk contract by January 2022. Design is scheduled to start shortly thereafter with construction planned to start in late FY 2022 or early FY 2023. The estimated construction timeline is 12-18 months.
Aimee Armer comes to Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) with more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector where she has served as a director, board president, and founder.

Aimee is a business development professional who spent 18 years in public service, working in the nonprofit sector, on boards and community coalitions, and advocating for the health and welfare of community members. She brings a unique set of skills as a community-uniter and expert relationship builder to her role as field consultant.

In her recent position as director of development at People’s Health Clinic, Aimee rebuilt the development and donor relations program and drove awareness of important health initiatives.

Prior to that, Aimee served at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, where she utilized data insights to refine donor and community relations strategy and coached board members and staff in best practices for building donor relationships. At the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, she helped the organization leverage its research relationship with the University of Utah to attract new donors and obtain significant government support for state and federal programs.
Aimee also founded Kids Rock The World (KRTW), an empowerment program in Park City, and worked for a start-up technology company to help garner health care provider interest and maximize supply value to community partners.

Aimee holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Utah and a bachelor’s degree in humanities from the University of Southern California (USC). She is a recent graduate of Leadership Park City, a municipal program cultivating new community leaders.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced several key changes to his executive leadership team October 8. 

Effective November 1, Tom Currah will assume the role of associate deputy comptroller (ADC) for Fiscal Matters, Korry Castillo will take over as ADC for agency operations, and Phillip Ashley will become ADC for tax. 

The changes come as long-serving ADCs Karey Barton and Robert Wood plan to leave the Comptroller’s office to pursue new opportunities. 
Currah is currently the state’s chief revenue estimator and director of the Revenue Estimating Division at the Comptroller’s office. Before that, he was senior adviser and data analysis director.
Castillo serves as the director of the Property Tax Assistance Division. Prior to joining the division, Castillo served as assistant director of tax policy, director of data analysis and transparency, and manager of economic development and analysis. 
Ashley, who currently serves as ADC for fiscal matters, previously served as the director of fiscal management and held various other positions within the agency. 
The University of Texas System board of regents named Dr. Ben Raimer the president of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) on October 5. Raimer was appointed interim president of UTMB in August 2019. 

He has held numerous academic and administrative positions at UTMB over the past four decades. He is a tenured professor in the departments of Pediatrics, Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine, and Community Health. Before being named interim president, he served as the senior vice president for the Office of Health Policy and Legislative Affairs.  
The Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) appointed Michelle Kranes as chief services officer on October 4. 

Kranes most recently served as the deputy director of the Texas Pension Review Board (PRB), where she has worked with the Texas Legislature, the PRB Board, and pension systems across Texas. Before joining the PRB, she worked at the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. 
The city of Jacksonville appointed Roxanna Briley as finance director for the second time. She succeeded Kimberly Lynn who returned to her previous position as customer service manager for the city. 

Briley most recently served as finance director for the city of Palestine. Before that, she was finance director for Jacksonville and assistant finance director for the city of Greenville. 
The city of Spur selected Billy Russell Spears as its new police chief. 

Spears most recently served as a sergeant at the Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater. 
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from October 1-7:

Texas Nonprofit Council 
Kile Bateman - Wichita Falls
Sereniah Breland - Pflugerville
Deborah Healey Drago - Beaumont
Fedora Galasso - Austin
Jenifer Jarriel - Houston
Katherine Keane - San Angelo
Virginia Lewis Ford - Austin
Amy Ledbetter Parham - Buda
Adrianna Cuellar Rojas - Austin
Phillipa Williams - Dallas
Carol Zernial - San Antonio
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:

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Governor’s Adviser (Governor’s Adviser III)

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Economic Development Finance Coordinator (Administrative Assistant III)

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Marketing Specialist (Marketing Specialist III)

  • Texas Department of Motor Vehicles – Chief Information Officer

  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Competitive Housing Tax Credit Manager

  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Texas Rent Relief Financial Reporting Manager

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Purchaser

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Outreach Specialist

  • Texas Department of Information Resources – Budget Analyst V (Team Lead)

  • Texas Department of Information Resources – Program Specialist IV (Inventory Specialist)

  • City of Kyle – Assistant City Manager – Development Services
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