Volume 19, Issue 47 - Friday, November 19, 2021
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
The effects of COVID eased America’s dependence on automobiles in ways that continue to alter the fabric of U.S. infrastructure. Lockdowns inspired massive portions of the population to look for more diverse methods of travel, and public officials took note of the trends. This is obvious in funding that has been appropriated for pedestrian and bicycle travel.

Although many argue that this trend will not hold, others disagree. And, those with decision making authority related to public funding appear to be on the side of believers.

In Texas, the city of Fort Worth has an interesting upcoming opportunity. City officials announced a $4 million plan to improve safety for pedestrian and bicycle traffic along the city’s University Drive. A solicitation seeking private sector partners is anticipated in January 2022. The project calls for refurbishing urban streets, installing advanced traffic signaling, resurfacing roadways, and adding bike lanes.

Texas Instruments (TI) announced an investment on November 17 that could reach $30 billion to build up to four new 300-mm semiconductor wafer fabrication plants (fabs) in Sherman.

The 4.7 million-square-foot site north of Dallas has the potential for up to four fabs to meet demand over time. Construction of the first and second fabs is set to begin in 2022 with production from the first fab expected by 2025.

Local government and education entities, such as the city of Sherman and Sherman ISD, Grayson County, and Grayson College offered significant tax incentives to lure the development which could support 3,000 direct jobs over time.

TI is one of the largest employers in the state and the only semiconductor company headquartered in Texas. The global semiconductor company designs, manufactures, tests, and sells analog and embedded processing chips for markets such as industrial, automotive, personal electronics, communications equipment, and enterprise systems.
Harris County and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) are attempting to reach a resolution with the state over its proposed expansion of Interstate 45 in Houston.

County officials voted on November 15 to abate their lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) project that is paused and under review by the Federal Highway Administration. In the lawsuit, Harris County claimed sections of TxDOT’s North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) would displace homeowners and businesses and would violate federal regulations on air quality, flood mitigation, and other impacts.

A TxDOT spokesman said the vote supports the agency’s request that the county stay its lawsuit. However, TxDOT is waiting to see what steps the Harris County Attorney’s Office will take next.

On November 19, H-GAC’s Transportation Policy Council was set to vote on a letter from its chairman to TxDOT that extends an offer to resolve to work with the state and other stakeholders to complete the NHHIP.

The letter requests that funding for the project be continued and commits H-GAC to work with all stakeholders to follow a cooperative process to complete the NHHIP and address concerns about its design and impact.

It also notes the $500 million that H-GAC committed to the project, participation in TxDOT planning efforts, and inclusion of the NHHIP in its Regional Transportation Plan.

The Texas Transportation Commission voted on August 31 to include the $7.9 billion project in its 2022 Unified Transportation Plan but gave opponents a 90-day deadline to work with the FHWA to show support for the project prior to the commission’s December 9 meeting.
Katia Veraza joins the Strategic Partnerships Inc. (SPI) Team as a managing consultant. In this role, she leverages her experience and background in data analysis, policy research, and international relations.

She also assists SPI clients in efforts to secure a more competitive advantage in public sector marketplaces.

Prior to joining the SPI Team, Katia earned her master’s degree in political science from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. As a component of her graduate studies, she gained significant experience conducting surveys and data analyses to link public policies to statistical impacts on society and the economy.

In addition to her academic experience, Katia has also earned critical professional experience with industry sectors in multiple countries, with non-profit organizations and research firms. She is fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Italian.

Beyond these skills, she also has honed her editorial prowess through her work editing research papers and news articles for a think-tank established at the University of Oxford.

As a member of the SPI Team, Katia looks forward to applying the global scope of her experience toward more meaningful relationships with the firm’s clients.
San Antonio councilmembers approved a $2.5 billion Strategic Development Plan for the city’s airport on November 18 that will guide future development of the airfield, terminals, ground access, and other infrastructure for the next 20 years.

The plan received unanimous City Council support which allows the city to formally submit the Airport Layout Plan to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In tandem with FAA’s review, San Antonio’s aviation department will issue a solicitation to begin advanced terminal planning services, the next major step to implement this plan.

This consultant will perform phasing services, financial feasibility, and delivery method recommendations for various components of the strategic plan.

Years 0-4 would see the addition of three gates and commencement of advanced planning and environmental studies for the terminal, roadway, and parking as well as airfield pavement renewal and new terminal concessions. Baggage system upgrades and expansion of electrical capacity and air cargo operations also are planned in this timeframe.

Years 5-8 of the plan would include construction of a new $840 million Terminal C with up to 17 narrow-body gates including three to five international positions and new international arrivals hall. Other projects during this phase involve additional aircraft parking, terminal roadway realignment, a new consolidated receiving and distribution facility, construction of a new parking and intermodal center, and planning and design of Phase 2.

Years 9-13 feature renovations to Terminal A and reconstruction of the south concourse, design of a central passenger checkpoint and Terminal A North, relocation of the airport’s air traffic control tower, and parking garage expansion.

Years 14 and beyond entail completion of the terminal processor and conclusion of Terminal A reconstruction. Other projects include a new airport entrance from Loop 410, general aviation expansion, and relocation of the airport’s fire station.
M. Katherine Banks
President, Texas A&M University
Vice Chancellor of National Laboratories and National Security Strategic Initiatives, Texas A&M University System
Public career highlights and education:
  • Selected to serve as 26th president of Texas A&M University and vice chancellor of National Laboratories and National Security Strategic Initiatives for the Texas A&M University System.
  • Serving on the leadership team of Triad Management for Los Alamos National Laboratory and the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex at the RELLIS campus (2018 – present)  
  • Vice chancellor of engineering and dean of Texas A&M’s College of Engineering (2012-2021) 
  • Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Florida, Master of Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from Duke University 

What I like best about public service is: The opportunity to improve the world in which we live, through small incremental ways or large, sweeping initiatives. Texas A&M is committed to the greater good, based on its land grant mission to serve the entire state.

The best advice I’ve received is: “Surround yourself with others who have a different perspective than yours.” I build teams that include those who see issues differently than me. Having a variety of perspectives provides a more complete look at challenges and results in better solutions.

My favorite way to de-stress is: Hiking, fishing and playing with my grandchildren.

People might be surprised to know that I: Although I am an engineer, I also have a love for the arts. During my role as vice chancellor and dean of engineering, I brought art to our engineering students. We commissioned 10 original, privately funded art pieces, all inspired by science, technology and math for a newly renovated academic building, the Zachry Engineering Education Complex. The art functions as an educational tool by engaging students, faculty, and former students to explore and create in new ways.

One thing I wish more people knew about Texas A&M University is: Although we may be one of the largest universities in the nation, we are united as family through our spirit and sense of community. The Aggie network is one of the strongest in the world because of the traditions and experiences that Aggies share. Our graduates receive a top education while embracing our core values of respect, excellence, loyalty, leadership, integrity, and selfless service.
President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on November 15 and issued an executive order outlining the Administration’s implementation priorities and establishing a task force to coordinate the law’s implementation.

The order designates six priorities to guide implementation across the federal government:
  • Invest public dollars efficiently, avoid waste, and focus on measurable outcomes for the American people.  
  • Buy American and increase the competitiveness of the U.S. economy, including through implementing the Act’s Made-in-America requirements and bolstering domestic manufacturing and manufacturing supply chains.  
  • Create good-paying job opportunities for millions of Americans by focusing on high labor standards for these jobs, including prevailing wages and the free and fair chance to join a union.  
  • Invest public dollars equitably, including through the Justice40 Initiative, a government-wide effort toward a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy flow to disadvantaged communities.  
  • Build resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change and that helps combat the climate crisis.  
  • Effectively coordinate with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in implementing these investments.  

To coordinate effective implementation across the government and advance the Administration’s priorities, the executive order established an Infrastructure Implementation Task Force.

The task force is co-chaired by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu. The Office of Management and Budget, Domestic Policy Council, and the Climate Policy Office in the White House will sit on the task force along with the secretaries of the departments of Transportation, Interior, Energy, Commerce, Agriculture, and Labor in addition to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and director of the Office of Personnel Management.

This task force will drive implementation of infrastructure investments across all levels of government to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, transit, water treatment plants, and more.
Departmental coordination and environmental reviews are underway at the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) on a proposed $56 million emergency operations center.

According to a presentation to Metro’s Capital & Strategic Planning Committee earlier this month, the authority plans to initiate acquisition activities in January 2022 and begin procurement soon.

Following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Metro received a federal grant award to construct a police and emergency mobilization center at a location to be determined. Since receiving the grant award, a bank parking garage site across the street from Metro’s Downtown Transit Center and adjacent to the MetroRail Downtown station became available.

Metro’s development will include an emergency operations center for police emergency staging and mobilization needs in downtown Houston. The site also may be used as a multifunctional facility housing Metro’s community services such as a police storefront, a Metro ride store, accessibility applications, and training center as well as space for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) retail opportunities. It also will provide a garage to accommodate parking for customers, Metro employees, and Metro’s fleet pool vehicles.
Texas Military Department (TMD) is rebidding a project to provide a microgrid system for the Texas Army National Guard at Camp Mabry in Austin.

The project includes providing a microgrid system capable of islanding the segment of Camp Mabry’s electrical distribution system.

TMD seeks a system that will incorporate a new 500kW ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) solar array and a new 500kW Natural Gas Generator to two existing diesel generators; one is a 1250kW, and the other is a 300kW.

The microgrid system must include a fiber master microgrid control loop, synchronization controllers, and generator controllers within Camp Mabry. This project will include a microgrid controller that must comply with Unified Facilities Criteria and, when complete, achieve an authority to operate through the process of Risk Management Framework.

Sealed bids are due by 10 a.m. February 22. A mandatory conference video call is scheduled for 10 a.m. January 19. In addition, bidders must attend one of two mandatory site visits planned for 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. January 21, 2022.
The Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Division (TxDOT) notified consultants on November 18 of two upcoming airport solicitations.

Andrews County intends to issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) through TxDOT to provide engineering and design services, including construction administration, for several airfield improvements at the county airport.

The project scope involves reconstructing:
  • Runway 16/34 (and marking). 
  • Taxiway A, and partial Taxiway D. 
  • Connector taxiways to Runway 16/34. 
  • Terminal apron. 

Utilizing multiple engineering/design and construction grants over the course of the next five years, future scope of work items at the Andrews County Airport may include reconstructing and marking Runway 2/20; reconstructing Taxiway D, reconstructing and marking connector taxiways to RW 2/20, and reconstructing hangar access to taxiways.

To apply for the impending solicitation, interested firms must submit a qualification statement by 11:59 p.m. December 16.

South Texas International Airport at Edinburg plans to contract for engineering and design services through TxDOT to construct a Department of Public Safety hangar, associated apron, and automobile parking.

An accelerated design schedule will be required to achieve a bid opening prior to August 1, 2022.

Interested firms must submit a qualification statement by 11:59 p.m. December 21 in order to participate in the upcoming procurement.
Houston ISD (HISD) will host a pre-proposal conference at 3 p.m. November 30 for firms to provide E-Rate consultant services.

As the largest public school system in Texas and the seventh-largest in the U.S., HISD has a robust E-Rate program which consists of a dark fiber Wide Area Network currently encompassing 276 schools and numerous district non-instructional facilities.

To date, the district has received funding commitments in excess of $340 million covering Category 1 and Category 2 expenditures. The district utilizes both the Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) and Service Provider Invoice (SPI) methods for payment reimbursements which the E-Rate consultant assists with the culmination and final determination of reimbursement.

The district also will issue requests for proposals (RFPs) for dedicated internet access and cabling in the near future, when it will use the services of the E-Rate consultants during the process.
The city of Fort Worth facilitated a multi-day workshop this week to determine whether Fort Worth should pursue a feasibility study for building a new African-American museum.

Information from workshop discussions as well as a resulting report will be used not only for museum construction planning but also for program direction and funding.

The city conducted a community workshop to ensure deep engagement with the Fort Worth community, allows consultants an objective exploration of the Fort Worth museum and tourism market, and guarantee that consultants understand the unique concerns of the proposed project.

Overseeing the workshop was a 21-member steering committee co-chaired by Dr. John Barnett, a pediatric dentist and art collector, and Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc.

Participants toured existing museums and potential museum sites, interviewed stakeholders, hosted a public forum, and held discussions with the steering committee and city staff, which is set to release a final report in two weeks.

Early efforts will focus on common themes heard from stakeholders, an estimated operating budget for such a facility, estimated endowment amount, estimated number of visitors, and general information about type of facility and general characteristics of a potential site.
Two projects in the Dallas area will receive Rebuilding America Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants as part of of $1 billion in grants announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on November 19. 

The Loop urban trails project in Dallas was awarded a $12 million RAISE grant to complete the third and final segment of The LOOP, a 50-mile urban trail in the city of Dallas. 

The $36.8 million project will add approximately 11 miles of trail, replace a two-lane, low clearance bridge with a four-lane Complete Street bridge, extend an existing Complete Street, and add access to two light rail stations. The bridge replacement includes raising the structure to meet current standards for bridges. 

In addition, USDOT awarded $8.22 million to the Enhancing Mobility within the Southern Dallas Inland Port project. 

Led by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, this $12.77 million project in Southern Dallas and DeSoto counties will implement new transit service, improve pedestrian infrastructure, and update traffic signals in the Southern Dallas County Inland Port area covering over 120 square miles, including portions of Southern Dallas and DeSoto counties, in addition to the cities of Lancaster, Hutchins, and Wilmer. 

The project has three components: the purchasing of eight electric shuttles to deliver on-demand transit; the construction of sidewalks and crosswalks near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and light rail station; and approximately 41 new traffic signals to optimize transit, pedestrian, and vehicular movements. 
A new federal report released November 16 pins the majority of power outages suffered in Texas and other parts of the South Central U.S. during February’s Winter Storm Uri on freezing and fuel issues.

The report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and NERC’s regional entities describes the severe cold weather event occurring between February 8 and 20 and how it impacted the reliability of the bulk electric system (BES), or grid, in Texas and other parts of the South Central U.S.

The Texas grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), ordered a total of 20,000 megawatts of rolling blackouts as the system teetered on total grid collapse; this represents the largest manually controlled load shedding event in U.S. history. The loss of electricity caused the deaths of numerous Texans and more than 4.5 million people in Texas to lose power.

According to the findings, a combination of freezing issues (44.2 percent) and fuel issues (31.4 percent) caused 75.6 percent of the unplanned generating unit outages, derates, and failures to start in the study area.

Protecting just four types of power plant components from icing and freezing could have reduced outages by 67 percent in the ERCOT region, 47 percent in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), and 55 percent in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator South (MISO) regions.

The final report includes 28 formal recommendations that seek to prevent a recurrence of the failures experienced during the winter storm. These recommendations include important revisions to the NERC Reliability Standards surrounding generator winterization and gas-electric coordination.

Additional recommendations address cold weather impacts on mechanical and electrical components, use of weather forecasts to better predict electric demand, and an increase in the ability to rotate rolling blackouts, amongst other recommendations.

The report also encourages additional study of the ERCOT system’s reliability issues, guidance on identification of natural gas infrastructure for protection from rolling blackouts, and additional ways to address natural gas fuel supply shortfalls during extreme cold weather events.
The Strategic Partnerships Inc. (SPI) consulting team and the clients they serve will all benefit from Clarence Wittwer’s 30-plus years of experience within the public sector. He also brings extensive expertise in the areas of water and public works.

As a utilities and public works director, Clarence provided direction for teams ranging in size from a dozen staff to 800, managed budgets from $3 million to $165 million annually, and led numerous divisions in municipal government.

He has impressive expertise gained from working in the areas of water; wastewater treatment; distribution; environmental services; fleet; facilities; streets; drainage; budget; administrative; right of way maintenance; solid waste; parks; and more.

Clarence retired as director of public works for the city of Pearland in March 2021. Prior to this, he served the city of Houston Wastewater Operations Section for almost nine years in various roles including that of assistant director. Earlier in his career, he held positions with the cities of El Lago, Seabrook, Alvin, and South Houston.

Until recently, Clarence served on the board of directors of the Gulf Coast Water Authority. In addition, he is an EnviroMentor for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Clarence currently chairs the Membership Committee for the Water Environment Association of Texas, is vice president of the Texas Water Utilities Association at the state level, and serves on the Parks Board for the city of Alvin.

Nationally, he serves on the American Water Works Association Pump Standards Committee, the American Public Works Association Engineering & Technology Committee, and the Advisory Board of The Atlas for Cities.

Clarence earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and water professional certification from Texas A&M University.
Brian Francis, executive director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), has announced that he will be retiring effective January 31, 2022.  

Francis has been with TDLR since October 1999, when he joined the agency as deputy executive director, and he was named executive director on September 1, 2016. 

During his stint as executive director, he saw the agency grow from overseeing 24 licensing programs with 652,000 licensees to one with 38 programs and almost 1 million licensees. The agency’s growth over the years in large part was due to program consolidations mandated by the Texas Legislature. 

Before joining TDLR, Francis was assistant administrator of the Texas Real Estate Commission and a senior securities analyst at the State Securities Board. He started his more than 30 years of public service at the Texas Savings and Loan Department. 
Rice University’s board of trustees selected Reginald DesRoches as the next president of the university, effective July 1, 2022. He will succeed President David Leebron who will step down at the end of the current academic year. 

DesRoches has been Rice’s provost since Leebron appointed him as the university’s chief academic officer in 2020. DesRoches has been at Rice since 2017, when he accepted the post as the dean of engineering. Before that, he served as chair of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. 
The city of Peñitas appointed Humberto Garza as its new city manager on November 11. He takes over from former City Manager Omar Romero. 

Garza retired from the Hidalgo County Planning Department in January where he was a chief administrator. 
The city of Kyle named Amber Lewis as an assistant city manager, effective December 6. 

Lewis most recently served as city administrator for the city of Rollingwood. Prior to that, she was assistant city administrator in the city of Liberty Hill, executive director for the Housing Authority and Holdrege Development Corporation in Nebraska; and as the assistant city manager for the city of Kearney, Nebraska. 
The El Paso ISD board of trustees selected Diana Sayavedra as the lone finalist for superintendent on November 15. She will take over from Interim Superintendent Vince Sheffield. 

Sayavedra is currently the deputy superintendent for Fort Bend ISD, where she previously served as interim superintendent. 
The city of New Braunfels selected Jared Werner as an assistant city manager and Garry Ford as the director of the city’s new Transportation and Capital Improvements Department on November 15.
Werner has served in several progressively more challenging roles including athletic program supervisor, management and budget coordinator, assistant director of finance, director of human resources, and, most recently, chief financial officer.
Ford has been with the city for nearly 10 years and served most recently as the assistant public works director and city engineer. He also is the chair of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Technical Advisory Committee. 
Strategic Partnerships Inc. (SPI) Consultant Pat DiGiovanni has an impressive history for service as an executive in municipal government. Pat served as deputy city manager of the city of San Antonio. In this role, he was responsible for oversight, at one time or another, of almost every city department. He also negotiated numerous real estate and economic transactions that positioned the city for growth, and he worked on development agreements that brought hundreds of jobs to city’s urban core.

Before moving to San Antonio, Pat was the city manager of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and held several other executive positions over his 35-year career.

Pat also has nonprofit experience as president and chief executive officer of Centro San Antonio where he established the 501(c)3 corporation as a key partner with the public and private sector. He led the restructuring and rebranding of Centro, developed a long-range plan for the organization, and collaborated with the board on multiple initiatives to partner with the city, county, and other public sector entities.

Currently, Pat serves on the board of the San Antonio ISD Foundation where he is chair of the Strategic Initiatives Committee and a member of the Executive Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from November 12-18:

Product Development and Small Business Incubator Board 
Edward Crawford - Dallas 
Kimberly Gramm - Lubbock (reappointed) 
Manny Salazar - Kingsville (reappointed) 

Texas Real Estate Broker
Lawyer Committee 
Darlene Fairchild - Bryan-College Station
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality - Texas Drinking Water Watch
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 Health and Human Services Commission – Manager V

  • Texas State Securities Board – Financial Examiner II

  • Texas Legislative Council – Data Center Operator I
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