Volume 19, Issue 12 - March 19, 2021
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Climate change and the need for mitigation efforts for disaster control have resulted in more federal funding available for public entities throughout the U.S.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) soon will distribute up to $500 million from a new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program for pre-disaster mitigation projects. The funding is available for public officials at the state and local levels of government.

Contractors interested in this type of work should monitor regional funding requests because they are tied to planned projects. A few examples of upcoming projects follow.

The cities of Centreville, Cahokia, and Alorton will merge to become Cahokia Heights later this year. While that will please local community leaders, there’s a bit of sobering news as well. There is a significant problem related to major flood trouble zones, and a $22 million grant application has been submitted to the new FEMA program. If granted, the city will use the funding for projects related to sewer work, new pump stations, and other upgrades. Construction will begin soon if the funding is approved.

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas anticipates releasing a request for proposals (RFP) soon for a forensic audit of the settlement processes and finances at Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) after Winter Storm Uri.

Storm damages caused dozens of deaths and cut power to more than 4 million electricity customers.

The PUC is focusing on eight areas that are guiding its response to the winter storm:
  • Generation weatherization and emergency operations. 
  • Essential generation load. 
  • Essential customer load and load shed. 
  • ERCOT operations. 
  • Communications and governance. 
  • Market settlements. 
  • Wholesale market design. 
  • Retail market. 

At its March 12 meeting, staff said their goal was to deliver a final report to legislators by the end of the session on May 31.

The PUC on March 11 named Adrianne Brandt the agency’s new director of ERCOT accountability and tasked her with improving PUC’s oversight of the grid operator and market manager. In this role, she will be assisted by former ERCOT Chief Operating Officer Brad Jones.
The U.S. Department of Education announced on March 17 that State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and school districts in Texas are set to receive a total of $12.41 billion from the $121.97 billion in federal aid allocated to education in the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding in the ARP will support each state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia ‘s efforts to reopen K-12 schools safely in March and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most.

Funds may be used to address the impacts of COVID-19 on pre-K through 12th-grade education. 

The Secretary of Education encouraged SEAs and school districts to use the funds to equitably expand opportunities for students who need the funds most, including students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and students with inadequate access to technology.

Texas will receive the second most funding among the states with California allocated $15.07 billion.
Three major capital projects and multiple street and road improvements will be on the May 1 ballot for the city of Midlothian’s $125.58 million bond election.

The bond package will feature four propositions including $46 million for a new public safety and police headquarters.

Proposition A would fund a new public safety and police headquarters including a dispatch center, emergency operations command center, investigations suite, property and evidence management, and holding cells. The new facility would have public space separate from detainees, training, crime prevention and community action programs, victims’ relief and chaplain’s offices and patrol and administration offices and workspaces, as well as fire department administration and fire marshal offices.

Passage of Proposition B would authorize $25 million in funding for a combined city hall and library complex that would house a public library with book rooms, children’s area, and hands-on “maker” activity space, and would share space with the city hall lobby and reception areas and community meeting rooms. The new city hall would feature city council chambers with increased seating capacity for citizens and necessary communications and audiovisual technology and offices and space for customer service functions and administrative departments.

Construction of a community recreation center would be funded at $19 million with approval of Proposition C. The new venue would be operated as a family membership facility and would serve a multi-generational membership. Programs and services have been envisioned in partnership with a third party, which could assume responsibility for day-to-day operations of the facility. Amenities would include fitness and exercise spaces and gymnasium facilities, senior citizen exercise programs, indoor and outdoor pools, a splash pad, child watch center, wellness center, and locker rooms.

Top priority road projects that would be funded for $35.58 million by Proposition D are:
  • U.S. Highway 287 Southbound Exit Ramp at South 14th Street. 
  • Mt. Zion Road connection from South 14th Street to Mt. Zion Road. 
  • Hawkins Run Road from South 14th Street to Midlothian Parkway. 
  • McAlpin Road from FM 663 to Plainview Road. 
  • South 14th Street from La Paz to Dove Creek. 
  • Mockingbird Lane from Midlothian Parkway to Walnut Grove. 

Improvements include constructing and reconstructing, improving and upgrading streets, roads, bridges, intersections, utility relocation, drainage, landscaping, sidewalks, acquisition of right-of-way, sign systems and signalization, traffic safety, and other operational upgrades.
Dr. Chris Allen, Superintendent, Marble Falls ISD
Career highlights and education: I served as a teacher in Birdville ISD for eight years, an assistant principal in Grapevine-Colleyville, curriculum writer for The University of Texas, high school principal, assistant superintendent, and interim superintendent in Waco-Midway ISD, deputy superintendent in Lake Travis ISD, and the last six years as superintendent of Marble Falls ISD.

What I like best about my public service is: The opportunity to help people; to draw the best out of others in a way that inspires excellence. I treasure that it allows me a chance to express the love that Christ gives me with others.

The best advice I’ve received is: Never grow weary of doing the right thing. Public service is very political, and the current political arena can be toxic. Far too often social media is dominated by a few loud and critical voices who are long on opinion and short on information. This requires a very calm, steadfast, and gracious display of patience that focuses on determining what is best and then courageously moving forward. Purposeful leadership that listens with heart and thinks with balance requires quite a bit of mental and emotional energy, so never growing tired of doing the right thing is more challenging than it first seems.

My favorite way to destress is: Either running (I run about 15 miles/week), lifting, or playing basketball.

People might be surprised to know that I: Grew up in a home that would be classified as economically disadvantaged, with two parents who did not receive a college degree, and that generally struggled in many ways. This may be a surprise because I have two other brothers, and in addition to the doctorate with which I was blessed from The University of Texas, my older brother earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Duke University. Goes to show how important it is for the family, regardless of the current circumstances, to value education. My parents were always insistent we do well in school and go to college – that created an environment to support educational attainment that overcame demographic limitations.

One thing I wished more people knew about Marble Falls ISD is: It is filled with some of the finest people you’ll meet – really! Everyone says that about their town, but Marble Falls is the closest thing to “Mayberry” I have experienced. What’s even better, is that Marble Falls ISD is 20 minutes from the Shops at the Galleria in Bee Cave, 40 minutes from Cedar Park, 45-60 minutes from Austin, and 60-90 minutes from downtown San Antonio. In addition to that, Marble Falls ISD touches three Central Texas lakes. In short, we have it all!
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) presented three design alternatives for the estimated $4.9 billion Interstate 35 Capital Express Central project that could allow for caps funded by other organizations.

At an Austin mobility committee meeting on March 11, TxDOT representatives detailed the build alternatives that would lower the mainlanes and lower or tunnel the managed lanes for portions of the 8-mile I-35 Capital Express Central project from US 290 East to SH 71/Ben White Boulevard. Two non-tolled managed lanes are proposed for each direction along I-35.

Caps are being considered between First and Fourth streets, Eighth and Ninth streets, and 11th and 12th streets that would provide space for Austin to build parkland above the lowered mainlanes and feature recreational amenities such as lawns, playgrounds, and athletic fields.

TxDOT is accepting input during a virtual public scoping meeting through April 9. The department expects to choose a selected alternative in summer 2023 and complete a finalized schematic and environmental study in late 2023. Final design and contractor selection are scheduled for late 2024, and construction could begin in 2025.
The University of Houston (UH) issued a request for information (RFI) for an endowment management software platform.

System capabilities should include verification of endowment managers, subfunds, deposits, and historical costs. Other desired features are tracking endowment manager fees and calculating beginning manager verification (MV) and ending MV.

Desired functions should be able to:
  • Calculate estimate income based on average market value. 
  • Determine which endowment is eligible by comparing market value and historical costs. 
  • Deal with exceptions. 
  • Allocate income to multiple cost centers. 

RFI responses are due by 5 p.m. CDT March 30.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $285 million in 556 deferred infrastructure improvements in national forests and grasslands for fiscal year 2021.

These U.S. Forest Service projects will benefit from the newly created National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund established to contribute to economic growth and job creation in rural America.

Project investments in 2021 will improve recreation facilities, visitor centers, dams, and trails. Other projects aim to increase public access by restoring and repairing roads, trails, bridges, tunnels, and parking areas.

In Texas, funding will go toward the rehabilitation of the Double Lake Recreation Area to address extensive erosion. USDA will support the planning and design in FY21 while out year funding will add new furnishings, reconfigure campsites, correct drainage, and stabilize parking.

This project will repair and restore the historic bathhouse and lodge with updated appliances, replace two bathrooms, and pave and stripe a mountain bike trailhead.

At the Boykin Springs Recreation Area, funds will go to the reconstruction and paving of 7,300 feet of the access road and parking lot to repair significant pavement loss. The project consists of removing the existing pavement, lime stabilizing the soil sub-base, and placing 8 inches of limestone aggregate base and 3 inches of asphalt surface. The existing road overall is in poor condition including alligator cracking in better sections and missing asphalt in bad sections.
The city of Arlington is considering a construction manager at risk (CMAR) delivery method for a 40,000-square-foot police evidence storage facility.

Arlington began the project by seeking architectural and engineering services to remodel an existing building at 1715 East Lamar Blvd. to house evidence storage space as well as areas for a future crime lab and police substation.

Building amenities will include secure evidence storage space with refrigeration units to hold crime evidence, storage space for other evidence, gun storage, drug storage, office space, public space for evidence return, secure area for evidence delivery and inspection, and shared restroom facilities, and outdoor covered vehicle storage space.

The design phase is scheduled from May through September, and construction is set to begin in October.
Celina councilmembers authorized funding for construction of a new 6 million-gallon water storage tank to keep up with the city’s anticipated growth in residential development.

The estimated project cost is $10.3 million, and the tank is scheduled to go online by November 2022. It will be the first of four tanks on a tank farm at the Celina Road Pump Station.

City staff said that Celina will eventually need 100 million gallons per day (MGD). Its current capacity is 4 MGD.

To further expand the city’s water infrastructure, councilmembers approved the designs for a $2.7 million expansion of the water treatment plant from .95 MGD to 3 MGD. Operations are expected to begin by spring 2024.
The University of Texas at Austin (UT) will commission a feasibility study for approximately 3,400 square feet for a 15- to 20-seat e-gaming suite at the Union Building.

Consultants will prepare a final scope of work, conceptual design, project phasing, and cost estimate.

Formerly a kitchen and café area, the suite would require significant conditioned air and information technology specifications, improvements to acoustics within the e-gaming suite, incorporation of a point of sale/front desk area, and addition of a casual games area, including mounted TVs and casual, movable seating.

The University Unions views e-gaming (also referred to as esports) as a student engagement, recruitment, and retention opportunity. The future space will be available to both competitive and casual gamers and welcoming to all. The e-gaming field is valuable for students interested in event management, communications, gameplay, coaching, and exercise science.

Work on the feasibility study is expected to begin in June.
Beating its deadline by several weeks, a major cruise line committed to starting construction in April on a new $100 million cruise terminal to serve one of the largest cruise ships in the world at the Port of Galveston.

Through a public-private partnership, the cruise line will build the terminal, then lease it from the port for an initial term of 20 years, with four 10-year extension options.

Construction of a third cruise terminal was put on hold in 2021 due to the pandemic. The cruise line exercised a contract option to extend its final decision until April. In the meantime, the cruise operator and port staff continued to lay the groundwork to move forward.

Port officials said the new terminal will generate millions of dollars in ground rent and other revenues for the port, which it will reinvest in infrastructure and capital improvements as outlined in its Strategic Master Plan.

The port will pay the city of Galveston at least $300,000 a year. Based on passenger volume, officials anticipate this amount to increase if annual passenger numbers at the new terminal grow beyond 600,000.

Based on adjusted plans and timelines, the terminal is now scheduled to be completed in October 2022 with the Oasis-class ship beginning service in November 2022.
Is your government organization struggling to manage its appeals processing?

County and city governments are burdened with manual, paper-based, and extremely time-intensive appeals processes. Additionally, citizens who wish to reduce their tax burden by filing an appeal or exemption are faced with the same complex procedures and antiquated systems, as well as a lack of visibility into the process and inefficient communication with the appropriate government office.

Attend AST’s webinar at 1 p.m. EDT March 25 to learn how its Appeals and Exemptions solution provides government organizations with the missing pieces to the appeals management puzzle – automation, efficiency, and centralized, accurate data.

Eliminate inefficient, manual paper processes and adopt no-touch, completely remote appeals and exemptions management.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner appointed Troy Finner as the city’s police chief.

Finner, who will succeed Art Acevedo effective April 5, most recently served as executive assistant chief with the Houston Police Department. Before that, he was assistant chief of South Patrol Command.
San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh appointed Alex Lopez and Jeff Coyle as assistant city managers, effective March 22. 
Lopez most recently served as the director of the Economic Development Department. She previously served in multiple executive leadership roles in the department, including deputy and assistant director and interim chief equity officer.
Coyle most recently served as the director of government and public affairs. Before that, he was director of public affairs and government relations for a Texas communications firm and a television reporter.
Harris County selected Barbie Robinson as its new public health director. She will succeed Dr. Umair Shah who accepted the position of health secretary for the state of Washington. 

Robinson most recently served as director of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services. 
Austin ISD named Dr. Laura Stout as associate superintendent of secondary schools, effective April 1. 

Stout most recently served as executive director for school leadership at Corpus Christi ISD. 
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from February 19-March 18:

Texas State Board
for Educator Certification  
Kyrsten Arbuckle - Austin
Melissa Isaacs - Jewett
Bob Brescia - Odessa
Rohanna Brooks-Sykes - Spring (reappointed)
Emily Garcia - Dallas (reappointed)

Texas Historical Records
Advisory Board 
Tara Turk-Zaafran - Houston
Jelain Chubb - Austin (reappointed)
Malinda Cowen - Beeville (reappointed)

Dental Review Committee  
Reena Kuba - The Colony (reappointed)
Jessica Bell - Highland Village (reappointed)
Brenda Olivarez - Rockport (reappointed)

Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District 
Weldon Riggs - Black Hill Community in Atascosa County (reappointed)

Advisory Committee to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice on Offenders with Medical
or Mental Impairments  
Sanjay Adhia - Sugar Land (reappointed)
Denise Oncken - Houston (reappointed)
Roger Rodriguez - El Paso (reappointed)

Early Childhood Intervention Advisory Committee  
Sarah Abrahams - Austin (reappointed)
Catherine Carlton - Arlington (reappointed)
Cynthia Lopez - Austin (reappointed)
Patricia Reedy - Texarkana (reappointed)
Patricia Rosenlund - Mission (reappointed)
Lizzeth Saldana - San Antonio (reappointed)
Jeremy Triplett - Austin (reappointed)
Ryan Van Ramshorst - San Antonio (reappointed)

Governing Board of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission
Alex Bunin - Houston (reappointed)
Gonzalo Rios Jr. - San Angelo (reappointed)

Interstate Mining Compact Commission 
Jim Wright - Orange Grove
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Economic Indicators

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Employment Forecast 

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 Transportation – Assistant Maintenance Section Supervisor I

  • Texas Department of Information Resources – Telecommunications Specialist I

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Contract Administration and Procurement Purchaser V

  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Director of Texas Homeowner Assistance Fund

  • Texas Water Development Board – Asset Management Program for Small Systems (AMPSS) Coordinator
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