By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Less than a month ago, President Biden released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022
that includes $9.8 billion in funding for cybersecurity enhancements. Cyberbreaches are making the headlines too often – almost on a weekly basis – and those are only the attacks that are reported. Not only are the breaches costly, but they also are dangerous. Potential threats to public safety as a result of cyberbreaches, in fact, are daunting. The Administration has made it clear that the Federal government intends to provide as much protection to the nation’s overall infrastructure as possible.
The proposed budget allocates $110 million to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Another $750 million is targeted for additional investment in cybersecurity. The budget provides $15 million to support the Office of the National Cyber Director, and the Technology Modernization Fund is set to receive a $500 million funding allocation.
Now Congress will begin to draft spending bills related to the proposed budget. That effort is likely to last until September 30, 2021, when the current budget ends. A new budget must be adopted by that date, or the government will partially shut down on October 1, 2021. If Congress is unable to meet the deadline, a Continuing Resolution will be required to keep the government functioning until a budget is approved.
Biden also issued a new executive order
that confirms his intent to improve the nation’s cybersecurity. The directive outlines a series of new requirements that must be met by any company doing business with the federal government. The order also establishes a Cybersecurity Safety Review Board to analyze incidents and requires companies to report information about cyberbreaches.
Bills to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize the state’s power grid were signed into law on June 8 to address leadership and system failures during Winter Storm Uri.
Senate bills 2 and 3 will require the weatherization of power generation facilities, natural gas facilities, and transmission facilities to withstand extreme weather. The Texas Railroad Commission and ERCOT will be required to inspect these facilities, and failure to weatherize these facilities can result in a penalty of up to $1 million.
In addition, these bills create a “Power Outage Alert” that will provide the public with an emergency alert whenever the power supply in the state may be inadequate to meet demand.
This legislation will establish the Texas Energy Reliability Council to improve coordination between state agencies and industry during extreme weather emergencies and extended power outages.
Reforms to ERCOT include having eight fully independent board members of the 11-member board. All board members must be residents of Texas.
The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) is evaluating 68 transportation projects for possible funding in its Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).
Vision and goals outlined in the 25-year MTP guide the organization’s decisions about which transportation projects to fund and implement in the short-range plan. The MTP analyzes current trends in population, jobs, household size and economics, and more. Data informs projections about where infrastructure should be built to meet long-term transportation needs.
Developed with partner agencies, the TIP is a four-year list of transportation projects that have been approved for funding. It is guided by the vision and goals established in the MTP.
Projects that focus on adding capacity via new lanes or roads or improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities include:
- FM 1560 from FM 471 to SH 16 – Expand roadway from two to four lanes with raised median or center turn lane. Replace bridge at Helotes Creek. Add bike lanes and sidewalks. Includes drainage and operational improvements. Construction cost is estimated at $28.7 million.
- Cordova Road from SH 46 to SH 123 – Expand roadway from two to four lanes with raised median or center turn lane. Realign Cordova at SH 46. Add shared use path. Construction cost is projected to be $22.25 million.
- South New Braunfels Avenue Extension from Lyster Road to Loop 410 westbound frontage road – Extend four-lane roadway with raised median. Add separated bike facility, sidewalks, lighting, drainage and traffic improvements. Construction cost is estimated at $20 million.
Operational projects that are designed to improve a road’s multimodal operations without new vehicle lanes include:
- Broadway Corridor Phase 2 from East Mulberry Avenue to Burr Road – Reduce roadway from six lanes with center left turn lane to four lanes and center left turn lane or raised median. Add separated or buffered bike facility. Make sidewalk, bus shelter, lighting, drainage, and traffic improvements. Estimated construction cost is $28 million.
- Culebra Road from IH 10 eastbound frontage road to Callaghan Road – Reconstruct six-lane roadway with raised median or center turn lane. Add bike facility. Includes sidewalk, lighting, drainage, and traffic improvements. Construction cost is estimated at $27 million.
- Bynum Avenue / Quintana Road from West Mayfield Boulevard to McKenna Avenue – Reconstruct four-lane roadway. Add separated bike facility and sidewalks. Includes lighting, drainage, and traffic improvements. Construction cost is projected at $19 million.
VIA Metropolitan Transit submitted a project to replace older diesel buses with compressed natural gas buses for $40.81 million. Another congestion mitigation project designed to reduce emissions includes constructing a Rittiman/Gibbs Sprawl Railroad overpass for $30 million.
AAMPO is taking public input on these projects through June 27.
The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) released a request for information (RFI) to solicit input on marketing research, strategy, and implementation for online academic certificate programs.
UTA is seeking information from vendors who can provide research and make recommendations around marketing to learners ages 25-plus.
The target audience will have at least an associate’s degree or equivalent and an interest in seeking a short-term, for-credit, academic certificate (credential) earned fully online from the university.
Additional objectives include learning what services and reporting capabilities are available and what are the pricing structure models and timelines that correspond to these services. To assist in preparing a cost estimation, the UTA is seeking informal budget quotes from vendors with products and services in this market.
Responses to the RFI are due by 3 p.m. CST June 18.
The city of Amarillo is taking steps to issue up to $35 million in bonds to use for relocation of City Hall as it prepares to select an architect and begin design work by the end of the year.
Councilmembers authorized staff to issue a notice of intent on August 10 to issue the bonds that could fund construction or rehabilitation of a city-owned property formerly occupied by Amarillo Hardware Company. Costs could cover demolition of the current City Hall and acquisition of additional land, if necessary.
At their May 25 meeting, councilmembers reviewed several options that included renovating the current City Hall for an estimated $28.5 million, but relocating staff and operations to the hardware site was the preferred alternative.
Dr. Mike Waldrip
Career highlights and education: I am honored to serve as superintendent of Frisco ISD, which now enrolls more than 64,000 students and is the third-largest school district in Dallas-Fort Worth. I first came to Frisco in 2002, when we were a much smaller community. I worked in several campus-based and district-wide leadership positions until I got the opportunity to serve as superintendent in nearby Coppell ISD in 2014. I returned to Frisco ISD in 2017. My bachelor’s degree is from Texas Tech University, and I have a master’s and doctorate in educational administration from Sul Ross State University and the University of North Texas, respectively.
What I like best about my public service is: Watching the successes of our students not only while they are with us, but after they leave Frisco ISD and move on to college, career or the military and make their own contributions to society.
The best advice I’ve received is: Very few decisions need to be made in the moment. You usually have time to think things through and seek input from others before making a decision.
My favorite way to de-stress is: To scuba dive. It’s the best “de-stressor” I know, and I wish I would have discovered it sooner.
People might be surprised to know that I: Love to cook, probably because I like to eat, Italian food especially. I like to make my own pasta and sauces, as well as bake bread, cake and pies.
One thing I wished more people knew about Frisco ISD is: We have so many opportunities and choices for students. Frisco ISD students can get a taste of just about every career path to see if it is what they really want to do in the future. Our Career and Technical Education Center offers more than 30 programs for students to explore, and our Independent Study and Mentorship program allows students to work side by side with a mentor to gain real-world experience. It’s great to see students’ future plans validated by these experiences, but perhaps more importantly, some students learn that the career path they had been considering isn’t a good fit after all. That saves them the time, hassle and money that can come from switching majors in college or career paths later in life.
To be eligible for state and federal funding, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is developing a Regional 10-Year Plan that proposes allocations of $4.28 billion for projects in fiscal year 2022.
NCTCOG is focusing on fully funding existing projects that are already in its system and that will be included in its Mobility 2045 plan. It anticipates that the Texas Transportation Commission will approve its 2022 Unified Transportation Plan (UTP) in August.
Other plan goals are to ensure equity of county allocations, maintain toll lanes and managed toll lanes on certain corridors, and refund previously unfunded projects.
An alternative funding solution would allow two projects in the UTP to be let as early as August. NCTCOG is not spending Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) funds as quickly as needed, so it is considering a STBG/Category 2 funding exchange for improvements to U.S. 287 and State Loop 9.
Work in Johnson County would widen U.S. 287 from two to three lanes and construct freeway auxiliary lanes, ramps, and a Texas U-turn at Lone Star Bridge. In Tarrant County, plans call for constructing up to four frontage roads along U.S. 287 from Heritage Parkway to the Johnson County Line. Those projects are expected to be let in August.
State Loop 9 work would be split into two sections to build up to two frontage roads initially with the potential addition of four more frontage roads from Interstate 35E to the Dallas-Ellis County Line and from the county line to Interstate 45.
Texas voters will be able to determine the outcome of seven state constitutional amendments on the November 2 ballot.
One measure would authorize counties to issue bonds to fund infrastructure and transportation projects in unproductive, undeveloped, or blighted areas. Previously, only cities and towns could issue bonds for these types of projects.
Another amendment would change eligibility requirements for Supreme Court, court of criminal appeals, and court of appeals justices from 10 years of experience as a lawyer or a judge to 10 years licensed experience as a lawyer or judge on a state or county court. District court judges would be required to have eight years of experience, instead of four, as a practicing lawyer or judge. In addition, justices would be required to be residents of Texas.
Another measure seeks voter approval to authorize the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct to accept and investigate complaints and reports against candidates running for state judicial office.
Other amendments relate to caregivers at nursing facilities, homestead tax regulations for surviving spouses of disabled individuals, raffles at rodeo events, and prohibition of limits on religious services or organizations.
Texas Woman’s University (TWU) will become the nation’s first woman-focused university system after the passage of SB 1126 that establishes TWU’s three campuses as the state’s seventh university system.
The legislation will enable the newly formed Texas Woman’s University System to enhance operations, expand programming, accelerate community and corporate partnerships, increase philanthropy, and have a greater impact on the state’s workforce.
TWU intends to enhance operations at its Dallas and Houston campuses that could allow it to establish those campuses as stand-alone universities that better address student and community needs.
The system’s headquarters will be in Denton and initially will be made up of existing staff from the university’s Office of the Chancellor and President.
Hays CISD trustees are renewing their efforts to gain voter approval for the construction of a $29.8 million central administration building.
Board members are considering a November 2 election to pass the proposition that was among three that failed in the school district’s May 2021 bond election.
Materials for the May election sought approval to construct a new 56,845-square-foot building at the site of Hays CISD’s current central office and former transportation headquarters. It would house central office operations as well as other district departments. The transportation building would be renovated to create additional office space.
Preliminary timelines call for construction to start in January 2022 if the proposition passes this fall.
The Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Office is developing a concept plan to renovate the historic San Benito Bank and Trust Company building in San Benito and construct a new office building in Brownsville.
Built in 1903, the 13,000-square-foot two story bank building has been vacant for more than eight years in San Benito. It will house the Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office on the first floor and possibly house other county departments on the first floor.
In addition, the city’s architect will design a new building to house the Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Branch (Sub-station) Office on a .904-acre lot at 3000 Southmost Road at the corner of Southmost Road and Lima Street in Brownsville.
The new tax office will have three teller windows, with future expansion to five tellers inside the building, two or three drive-thru windows and lanes, and seating for at least 25 to 30 customers in the lobby area.
A record grant amount is aiding the city of Goliad’s efforts to improve and floodproof its deteriorating wastewater treatment plant to mitigate the effects of severe storms.
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) awarded the city $9.35 million in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Goliad’s wastewater treatment facility is nearing the end of its useful life. Located in the floodplain, excessive rains and heavy storm events impact the city’s more than 40-year-old wastewater treatment plant.
The storms cause inflow and infiltration issues, resulting in dilution which decreases the plant’s efficiency of treatment by exceeding sewage volumes. The overflow of water in the system interrupts sewer service, and ultimately affects the safety of the residents.
This project aims to improve the wastewater treatment system by replacing and rehabilitating facility components by:
- Relocating the influent lift station out of the floodplain.
- Replacing the current clarifier.
- Replacing current disc aerators and rehabilitating or replacing several disc aerator structural supports.
- Replacing filter media and replace/adjust the underdrain.
- Rehabilitating or replacing valves, electrical panels, and supports.
- Installing new piping, new piping supports, and upgrades for instrumentation and electrical components of the injection system.
- Flood-proofing the entire facility by raising or filling it or by erecting a flood wall.
- Replacing back-up generators.
- Constructing a new lab-workshop building.
City officials will develop an improvement plan and complete project design before advertising for bids.
Pat Kunz, a leader in civil engineering, will lend his considerable skills and experience to the Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) consulting team.
Pat spent his entire career in civil engineering. Immediately after his graduation from Texas A&M University he joined an engineering firm and moved up the ranks until he retired in 2020 as president of the company.
He honed his engineering and leadership skills over the decades as he spearheaded the company’s exceptional growth. His leadership was instrumental in moving the firm successfully into four new states as well as a major expansion within Texas. The firm is ranked No. 106 in Engineering News-Record magazine’s list of the top 500 design firms in the U.S.
Throughout his career, Pat dedicated his time and energy to the engineering profession by serving in numerous leadership roles with industry associations such as the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, the Texas A&M Civil Engineering Advisory Council, and the American Council of Engineering Consultants.
Pat has experience in every aspect of government contracting as well as experience in moving a company into different marketplaces, additional states, and new opportunities. He understands the importance of building relationships, incorporating unique value into proposals, selecting excellent teaming partners, and building credibility through the provision of quality services.
In addition to these skills, Pat has further expertise to offer because of his experiences related to growing a firm with attractive career opportunities for new hires, preserving the culture of a firm as changes and growth occur, and developing the spirit of teamwork that is so critical to every great organization.
His proficiency in strategy, networking, relationship building, and public outreach will be invaluable to clients of the SPI Team.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned on June 7 in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott. Guzman’s resignation is effective at 3 p.m. June 11.
She began her 22-year career in the Texas judiciary on the 309th District Court in Harris County, following an appointment by former Gov. George W. Bush, and then ascended to the Houston-based Fourteenth Court of Appeals.
In 2009, former Gov. Rick Perry appointed Guzman to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Texas. When she was elected to a full term in November 2010, she became the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in Texas. She was re-elected in 2016.
Should the governor appoint a replacement to her Place 9 seat, that justice would serve the remainder of Guzman’s term, which expires on December 31, 2022.
Rockwall County Judge David Sweet was elected President of the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ (NCTCOG) Executive Board at NCTCOG’s 55th annual General Assembly on June 4.
Sweet will lead the 17-member board for the next 12 months. He was first elected to NCTCOG’s Executive Board in 2018 and served as director, secretary-treasurer, and vice president before being elected president. He assumes the leadership of NCTCOG from Town of Prosper Mayor Ray Smith.
The Executive Board is the policy-making body of the Council of Governments which serves 16 North Central Texas counties.
Lamar University selected Dr. Jaime Taylor as the sole finalist in its presidential search on June 8. He will succeed Dr. Kenneth Evans who will retire in June.
Taylor has served since 2018 as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. Before that, he was interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he spent most of his career as a faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
The city of Cibolo appointed Wayne Reed as their new city manager, effective July 12. He will take over for Interim City Manager Bryan Hugghins who filled the position after Robert Herrera resigned in May.
Reed is an assistant city manager for the city of Georgetown. Prior to that, he worked as a deputy city manager and community development director in Centennial, Colo., planning director for the town of Berthoud, Colo., and a planner for the cities of Arvada, Colo., and Denton.
Dallas County Commissioner Theresa Daniel will lead the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) for the next year after being elected chair of the 44-member transportation policymaking body for the Dallas-Fort Worth area on June 10. She takes over as chair of the RTC from Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon.
Daniel has served on the transportation policymaking body since 2018. She has represented Dallas County as a commissioner since 2013. She spent last year as vice chair of the RTC after a year as secretary.
The Laredo City Council approved the appointment of Orlando Navarro as planning and zoning director, effective July 1.
In addition to working as the development director of an investments company, Navarro served eight years as a planning and zoning commissioner for the city.
El Paso, Harris, and Travis counties stand to receive more than a million dollars each in competitive local park grants from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).
They join 35 community parks statewide that were awarded $21.6 million in grants by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to purchase or develop public recreation areas or facilities.
The recipient of an approximately $1.3 million urban outdoor grant for its playground, sport court and skatepark renovations, El Paso County’s proposed developments include renovation of sport court, skatepark and playground facilities at Agua Dulce, Westway, Estrella, Sparks, Gallegos, and Ascarate parks.
Travis County is the recipient of an approximately $1.4 million urban outdoor grant for its Onion Creek Greenway Phase IV project. Proposed developments and renovation include hiking trails, picnic facilities, restroom, utilities, and playscape features.
Harris County will receive a $1.5 million urban outdoor grant for its Challenger Seven Memorial Park. Proposed developments and renovation elements include a boardwalk, an outdoor classroom, accessible trailhead, kayak launch, wetland restoration, and the all-inclusive playground.
Commissioners awarded the city of Houston a $898,000 urban outdoor grant for its Sunset Heights Park. Proposed developments and renovations include site preparation, signage, site work and utilities, concrete walkway and tricycle track, renovated bus shelter as a pavilion, stage area/seat wall, native landscaping, interpretive signage, chimney swift tower with interpretive signage, water spray feature, site furnishings, playground equipment, and fitness stations.
The commission awarded several grants to cities and counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, North Texas, Central Texas, East Texas, the Houston area, South Texas, South Central Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, West Texas, and the Panhandle.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from June 4-10:
Texas Historical Commission
Monica Zárate Burdette - Rockport (reappointed)
Lilia Garcia - Raymondville (reappointed)
John Nau III - Houston (reappointed)
David Gravelle - Dallas (reappointed)
Tom Perini - Buffalo Gap (reappointed)
Independent Ombudsman for State Supported Living Centers
Candace Jennings - Austin
Podiatric Medical Examiners Advisory Board
Leslie Campbell - Plano (reappointed)
Renee Pietzsch - Georgetown (reappointed)
Amanda Nobles - Longview
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 State Health Services – Manager III (Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section)
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – HR/Staff Services Generalist
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Statewide Procurement Contract Developer - Team Lead
Texas Sunset Advisory Commission – Policy Analyst
Texas Department of Information Resources – Business Analyst IV