Volume 19, Issue 26 - June 25, 2021
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Smart City competition continues, and benefits are coming not only to citizens at the local level of government but also to the entire country as new initiatives are launched, tested, and perfected. Recognition for exemplary effort is now more prevalent than ever as states and national organizations seek out and reward public agencies for visionary efforts.

Legislation called the “Smart Cities and Communities Act of 2021” was introduced in May. The bill proposes federal spending of $1.1 billion over five years to aid and coordinate resources for local governments interested in pursuing a Smart City agenda. The bill would establish an inter-agency council to oversee the funding.

Another bill, the Smart Intersections Act, would establish a Smart Technology Traffic Signals Grant Program to improve the functioning of traffic signals. Many planned Smart City projects will result in collaborative initiatives with private sector contractors.

Orange County, a recent global winner of the Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge, was rewarded for its work on a 100 percent renewable energy plan, a sustainable materials management master plan, and numerous upcoming transportation technology initiatives.

Houston councilmembers approved a five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) on June 22 totaling almost $8.2 billion for FY 2022-2026.

The plan focuses on drainage, transportation infrastructure, mobility, quality of life, affordable housing, and public safety, in addition to emphasizing the replacement and rehabilitation of existing facilities and the selective addition and expansion of facilities.

Planned appropriations include $6.5 billion for Enterprise Programs containing water, wastewater, and aviation projects.

The CIP contains multiple Hurricane Harvey recovery projects and $1.4 billion in planned appropriations for aviation facilities with the redevelopment of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport international terminal.

As part of the terminal project, Houston Airport System will add more gates to handle large wide body aircraft and consolidate international check-in processes in a new facility.

Out of $1.65 billion for water projects, the city plans to fund the 320 million gallons per day (MGD) expansion of its Northeast Water Purification Plant in Humble with $401.14 million.

Public works will continue to construct surface water transmission lines to access and deliver expanded treated surface water supplies for Houston and surrounding water authorities.

The department plans to replace neighborhood water mains, install chloramination chemical systems at 30 groundwater pump stations, and rehabilitate wells, ground storage tanks, and pump stations.

Another $989 million is planned for Component Unit Programs, and $710 million will go to Public Improvement and Citywide Capital Programs that support fire, general government, housing, library, parks, police, public health, and solid waste.
Kathy Langdon joins the Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) offices as an administrative assistant for all divisions of the firm. Before joining SPI, she spent time in the education and health care fields, as well as the banking industry.

Kathy obtained a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in athletic training from Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania.
Tarrant County commissioners are considering a November bond election that would include $400 million for transportation projects and $105 million for a new justice building.

The county would be required to hold an election with one proposition for all transportation projects and another for the justice building.

Of the transportation funding, $200 million would be allocated to providing a 50 percent match for city-funded projects. Earlier this year, the county received more than 196 responses to its call for proposed projects. Commissioners and a citizens bond committee have yet to rank the projects.

The city of Fort Worth’s project list includes improvements to:
  • Extension of Everman Parkway from Rosedale Springs to Cameron Hills. 
  • Extension of Heritage Trace from Saginaw Boulevard to Wagley Robertson Road.  
  • Trinity Boulevard from Salado Trail to Thames Trail. 
  • Avondale Haslet Road from Willow Creek Drive to John Day Road. 
  • Park Vista Boulevard from Timberland Boulevard to Keller Haslet Road. 
  • Bonds Ranch/Wagley Robertson from Wagley Robertson to U.S. 287. 
  • Cromwell Marine Creek Road from Boat Club to Marine Creek. 
  • Meacham Boulevard from FM 156 and Interstate 35W. 
  • WJ Boaz Road from Boat Club to Elkins School Road. 
  • Ray White North Road from Wall Price Keller to Bridge at Camrose. 
  • Ray White South Road from Mirage Drive to Wall Price Keller Road. 
  • Intermodal Parkway from BNSF Railway to FM 156. 
  • Keller Hicks Road from Lauren Way to Park Vista Boulevard. 

Arlington proposed 57 projects including multiple road widening and expansion initiatives.

The justice building is anticipated to be in design in 2022 with construction spending scheduled for August 2023 through August 2025.

According to the bond sale schedule, if the election is successful the county would sell $175.7 million in bonds through 2025 with $105 million spent on the justice building and $70.7 million on transportation projects.
Aron Kulhavy
City Manager
City of Huntsville
Career highlights and education: I have been city manager for the city of Huntsville since February 2018. Prior to this, I worked in a variety of roles for Huntsville including city planner, public works director, and development services director. I began my career working for the city of Nacogdoches as the city planner and development services director. I received my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Master of Public Administration both from Stephen F. Austin State University.

What I like best about public service is: The ability to see projects that benefit and grow a community to fruition. It is very exciting to work with developers, engineers, and contractors to make a project a reality, whether it be a public works improvement or a private development.

The best advice I’ve received is: From a former city manager. He reminded me not to take things too personally. It can sometimes be difficult in our profession, but you have to let things go or the stress can get to you.

My favorite way to de-stress is: To go hunting or fishing with the guys. I have a great group of friends who have been around each other since college days, and it’s always fun to catch up with them even if it’s a rough day hunting or fishing.

People might be surprised to know that I: Played roller hockey in college. My senior year, I was second in the Southwest Collegiate Hockey League in assists, and we had a chance to go to California and play in the national championships.

One thing I wish more people knew about the city of Huntsville is: How friendly the people are in the community. One of our former mayors said it perfectly when he stated, “Welcome to Huntsville, where a warm welcome awaits.”
The city of Dallas, Regional Transportation Council, and North Central Texas Council of Governments reached an agreement to seek $30 million in federal funds for the proposed $100 million expansion of Klyde Warren Park.

On June 23, the Dallas City Council approved the city’s participation in the interlocal agreement to apply for Surface Transportation Block Grant funds for Phase 2 of Klyde Warren Park and an advance funding agreement between the city and the Texas Department of Transportation for construction.

A 1.7-acre expansion of the 5-acre deck park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway will cover the last recessed section of the freeway with a suspended glass and steel jewel box structure. The building will feature 24,000 square feet of reception and event space and an 8,000-square-foot roof terrace.

The Jacobs Lawn, a 37,000-square-foot venue, will offer space for festivals and markets during warmer months and turn into an ice skating rink in winter months.

In addition, the project will install an iconic water fountain featuring light displays at night, install new recreation equipment and amenities at Children’s Park, and relocate My Best Friend’s Park for dogs across the street.

Park foundation officials anticipate starting construction in early 2022 with an 18-month timeline to build the decks over the freeway and 18 to 24 months to construct the amenities.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) responded to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on June 14 to describe the scope of a “pause” to a major expansion of Interstate 45.

After receiving three letters about the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) raising civil rights and environmental justice concerns, FHWA wrote to TxDOT in March asking the agency to pause further contract solicitations for the project, including requests for proposals, until the FHWA had completed its review and decided on further actions.

In its June correspondence, FHWA’s Texas Division stated the pause applies to right of way acquisition, including solicitations, negotiations and eminent domain, and final design activities.

TxDOT plans include adding four managed express lanes on Interstate 45 from downtown Houston to Beltway 8 North and rerouting I-45 to run parallel with Interstate 10 to the north of downtown and parallel to U.S. Highway 59 on the east side of downtown.

Bob Kaufman, chief communications officer for TxDOT, confirmed receipt of the most recent letter from FHWA and said the state agency is reviewing the federal requests. Kaufman noted TxDOT’s commitment to working with the FHWA and local officials while the action “indefinitely suspends key steps for this project.”

TxDOT had requested additional time to submit documents needed by FHWA for its review of the complaints. Federal authorities said TxDOT’s responsiveness in the Title VI investigation and project review are “essential to ensuring their timely completion, which in turn will determine when the ‘pause’ can come to an end.”

In addition, the FHWA will review TxDOT’s compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019 in issuing its Record of Decision for the highway project. The review will be conducted as an extension of the FHWA’s monitoring responsibilities and will guide the agency’s decisions regarding TxDOT’s compliance with the memorandum for the highway project, including project or program reassignment.
Hundreds of airports in Texas will receive millions of dollars in Airport Rescue Grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The agency will award $7.39 billion in grants to airports across the country to keep U.S. airport workers employed, construction projects going and help U.S. airports recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding for the grants comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Some of the Texas airports receiving grants are:
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International - $251.76 million. 
  • George Bush Intercontinental - $154.68 million. 
  • Austin-Bergstrom International - $61.43 million. 
  • Willam P. Hobby - $51 million. 
  • Dallas Love Field - $57.86 million. 
  • San Antonio International - $38.32 million. 
  • El Paso International - $15.67 million.

Grant funding provides economic relief to eligible commercial service, reliever, and general aviation airports. The money will help keep people safe and employed by reimbursing operational expenses, debt service payments, and costs related to combating the spread of pathogens at the airport.

Examples of eligible development would be replacing or upgrading a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, reconfiguring the terminal to accommodate increased social distancing, or reconfiguring terminal space or other facilities to accommodate health screening.

In addition, airports may use the money to provide rent relief to in-terminal retail and concession companies. This funding requires that airports continue to employ at least 90 percent of their pre-pandemic employees for those airports that cover most of the traveling public.

Funds are available until September 30, 2024, and must be obligated by that date.
College Station ISD (CSISD) trustees are considering $83.15 million in proposed capital projects for a November 2 election.

 According to the district’s latest demographic report from December, CSISD is positioned with capacity at all grade levels for the next few years and no new schools are needed.

However, the district has significant capital needs in the areas of safety and security, maintenance, renovations of aging schools, transportation, technology, career and technology education, athletics, fine arts, and land acquisition.

One of the biggest proposed projects is renovating A&M Consolidated High School (AMCHS) for an estimated $11.93 million. Another Priority 1 project calls for $11.27 million to upgrade technology infrastructure throughout the district.

The committee recommended additional Priority 1 projects to renovate Southwood Valley Elementary School for $5.45 million, improve Pebble Creek Elementary School for $2.45 million, and upgrade safety and security districtwide for $2.3 million. Technology purchases of student and teacher devices for $4.5 million earned Priority 1 status.

Priority 2 projects include upgrading lighting at several campuses for $4.75 million, replacing HVAC, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems for $4.58 million, renovating Cypress Grove Intermediate School for $3.24 million, and rehabilitating the district’s natatorium for $2.96 million.

Committee members placed construction of a $8.2 million districtwide ag facility and renovations and additions to the AMCHS field house for $4.32 million in the Priority 3 category.

August 16 is the last day to file an election for November 2, 2021.
The 87th Texas Legislature took a step toward greater transparency by passing HB 1322 to require state agencies to publish plain-language summaries of proposed rules online.

The law, which takes effect September 1, 2023, amends the Texas Government Code to require a state agency that files notice of a proposed rule with the Texas Secretary of State to include a plain-language summary of no more than 100 words as part of the brief explanation of the rule included in the notice.

At the same time it files that notice, the agency must publish on its website or another generally accessible website a brief explanation of the proposed rule that includes the plain-language summary.

The complexities of state agency rulemaking and difficulties in understanding them were compounded by the pandemic when the public and other entities subject to the new rules attempted to comprehend them in real time. Without the ability to decipher the meaning of a proposed rule, the public had a more difficult time holding the government accountable.

HB 1322 seeks to address this issue and ensure that the public, small businesses, and other regulated entities fully understand the rules that affect them.
As more Texas school districts are falling victim to ransomware attacks, others are taking steps to deter cyberattacks in the future.

Judson ISD and Lancaster ISD are some of the latest school districts to have suffered data breaches and system shutdowns.

On June 17, Judson ISD experienced an attack that left it without access to district email and phone systems. As of June 18, the district had determined that personal data stored within the district’s information technology systems had been compromised as the result of a suspected but unconfirmed ransomware attack.

Judson officials said it is unclear at this time what information might have been accessed. The district is cooperating with federal, state, and local law enforcement while working with a team of independent forensic investigators and third-party experts to restore its access to these systems and secure its data.

Lancaster ISD experienced a disruption of its computer system and network on June 8 that forced it go offline initially. District officials said their response team developed workarounds to restore some system operations, but several components are not at full operability. The district is working with cybersecurity firms as various agencies continue to investigate the attack.

As the severity and number of ransomware attacks on school districts continue to rise, the private sector is stepping up its efforts to help education organizations strengthen their cyberdefenses.

Sheldon ISD in Harris County, which recently was awarded a $500,000 cybersecurity grant, is developing incident response plans and basic cybersecurity training, as well as a strategic communication plan to use in response to a cyber incident.

In the last two years, the district has implemented numerous projects and upgrades that include security awareness training, dedicated personnel, enhanced systems, and more in response to a March 2020 attack that rendered its servers unusable for several months.

The Texas Education Code requires public school districts to adopt a cybersecurity policy, and the Texas Department of Information Resources has developed information security standards for higher education.
Kilgore councilmembers glimpsed concepts of the city’s future municipal campus at a City Council workshop earlier this month.

Preliminary designs showcased a $12.5 million to $15 million municipal campus for emergency services, public works, and parks and recreation departments to replace existing facilities next to the City Hall at North Kilgore Street and North Henderson Boulevard.

Consultants recommended a two-story 38,215-square-foot building to house police, dispatch, and detention operations in addition to fire administration. The facility would include a lobby, evidence storage, armory, training room, and emergency operations center.

Public works would share a 10,000-square-foot building with parks and recreation administrative staff.

The final design phase is anticipated to take eight months followed by a 16-month construction timeline.
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) released an Economic Development Strategy and Diversification Study Action Plan on June 15.

Vital economic sectors including workforce, infrastructure, education and housing were assessed for the nine counties of Aransas, Bee, Calhoun, Goliad, Jim Wells, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, and Victoria.

The action plan provides recommended and opportunities to make the region’s economy more robust and able to withstand a variety of shocks and stresses, such as hurricanes and other disasters.

Consultants developed five goals for the study area that concentrated on organization capacity, infrastructure, housing and building stock, economic development and diversification, and quality of life. 

In addition to the five goals, the study identified 18 objectives and 23 strategies that set a vision for the region. The strategies break down the goals into achievable tasks, recommended timeframes, partnerships, cost estimates, and potential funding sources.
Vic Suhm joins the Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) Team as a consultant with unique expertise gained from a successful career in public service and numerous consulting roles related to government.

Vic’s experience includes 18 years of service in municipal management including as executive director of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition, assistant city manager of Dallas, and city manager of suburban communities in Ohio and Michigan.

Additionally, Vic served in leadership roles as vice chairman of Transportation Advocates of Texas, senior consultant for the North Texas Commission, associate at a Boston consulting firm, and partner of a Dallas-based commercial real estate developer.

Vic possesses extensive knowledge of public policy, governmental operations, public works, transportation, land use planning, strategic planning, coalition building, government relations, and commercial real estate development.

He holds a master’s degree from the University of Kansas and has done post-graduate work at the MIT Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Vic’s exceptional skills in collaboration, communications, writing, research, problem solving, and conflict resolution will surely benefit SPI clients’ business development.
The Denison City Council selected Greg Smith as the new city manager. He will take over for Interim City Manager Bobby Atteberry who filled the position after Judd Rex accepted a position as assistant city manager for the city of Garland in December. 

Smith most recently served as the city manager of Jacksonville, Texas. Prior to that, he was the city manager or city administrator of the cities of Shenandoah, Angleton, Henderson, and Overton. 

Smith is expected to begin his tenure as Denison’s city manager in August. 
The Banquete ISD board of trustees voted to hire Dr. Stacy Johnson as the district’s new superintendent. She succeeds Dr. Max Thompson who retired this month. 

Johnson most recently served as the executive director of leadership at Ector County ISD. Before that, she served as a curriculum specialist, assistant principal, and principal in Denton and Ector County ISDs. 
Roy Morales joins Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) as an executive who has successfully governed, directed, and managed diverse programs for the U.S. military, municipal governments, public schools, colleges, and in the private sector. His expertise includes launching new initiatives and organizations, developing novel solutions to problems, building coalitions, and managing crises. 

Roy has led programs related to planning, information technology, health care, security, public safety, and emergency response. He has telemedicine expertise and was responsible for installation of a state-of-the-art telemedicine clinic at a Montgomery County college and served as director of information technology at a Houston school district. 

From 2007 to 2013, Roy served as a school trustee at the Harris County Department of Education. He provided leadership as chairman of the audit, budget, technology, and finance committees. In addition, he served on the safe and secure schools and Head Start policy committees. 

After retiring from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) as a lieutenant colonel, Roy was selected as the first chief technology officer of the new Houston Emergency Center.

Roy served as the city of Houston liaison with the FBI to improve network security in the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. He was the city's liaison with the National Football League and worked to ensure protection of the city's radio, voice, and data communications during Super Bowl XXXVIII. 

During his USAF service, he was involved in Space Shuttle operations and honored as Space and Missile Systems Engineer of the Year. 

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Dallas, Roy earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Chapman University and a master’s degree from the School of Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology. Additionally, he graduated from the USAF Air and Command Staff College and the USAF War College. 

Roy’s leadership and technology experience in multiple public-sector organizations will be of immense value to SPI clients seeking to expand their business. 
Houston’s economic potential is among the brightest in North, South, and Central America. The city placed seventh overall in a new ranking of Americas Cities of the Future for 2021-22 by a division of the Financial Times.

The organization rated 210 cities based on economic potential, business friendliness, human capital and lifestyle, cost effectiveness, and connectivity. In addition, local economic development organizations (EDOs) and investment promotion agencies (IPAs) completed surveys about their plans and strategies to form a sixth category of strategy.

Houston was fourth in connectivity and third in business friendliness.

Two Texas cities cracked the Top 10 in the category for small cities with populations between 100,000 and 350,000. Plano came in ninth, and Irving was 10th.
The School of Medicine at the Texas Christian University (TCU) and University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) announced on June 22 that it had earned provisional accreditation. 

In October 2018, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) awarded preliminary accreditation to the school of medicine allowing the school to welcome its first class of 60 medical students in July 2019.  

The school will welcome its third group of 60 medical students on July 12. The next step in the accreditation process is full accreditation, which is expected in late 2023.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from June 18-24:

Gulf Coast Protection District Board of Directors
Sally Bakko - League City
Michel Bechtel - Morgan’s Point
Roger Guenther - Galveston
Bob Mitchell - Pearland
Lori Traweek - Seabrook
Michael VanDerSnick - Houston
Nicole Sunstrum - Austin (Interim Executive Director)

Governor’s Committee to
Support the Military
Fred Milton - New Boston
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Southwest Economy (Q2)

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Employment Forecast

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Economic Indicators
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 – Grant Manager (2 positions)

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Project Development Coordinator (2 positions)

  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Network Specialist

  • Texas Water Development Board – Flood Mapping GIS Specialist II

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Engineering Assistant I or II

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Maintenance Section Supervisor III

  • Texas Department of Information Resources – Director I (Network Operations and Engineering Manager)

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Accountant

  • Texas Department of State Health Services – Manager III (Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section)
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