Volume 19, Issue 27 - July 2, 2021
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
The world is changing rapidly, and technology is morphing so quickly that individual lives are being impacted in ways that may have escaped notice. Staying abreast of life-changing trends has never been harder. One more recent trend is worthy of note – a steady shift toward all individuals having digital IDs.

Numerous states have either adopted, or are in the process of considering, digital identification technology for citizens. States that have already implemented digital IDs include Iowa, Alabama, Colorado, and Arizona. Other states such as California, Nevada, and New Jersey have recently adopted legislation authorizing the issuance of digital IDs.

These identification systems offer many benefits, but, despite that, there has been significant controversy and pushback from groups and organizations that dislike the trend because of privacy concerns.

Digital IDs are currently being utilized for fraud protection and for health and safety purposes in response to COVID-19. Louisiana’s digital ID system, the LA Wallet, has expanded to include proof-of-vaccination on its mobile app. The system allows individuals to download COVID-19 vaccination records and keep them available on digital ID apps. Additionally, the states of Alabama and Ohio are using digital ID systems to protect citizens from identity theft and fraud. The state of Nevada is implementing digital identity technology as a deterrent to unemployment fraud.

Thousands of small Texas cities and towns are waiting on millions of dollars in non-entitlement unit (NEU) funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to aid in their pandemic recovery.

In a June 22 letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Municipal League (TML) asked the governor to request those funds of more than $693 million for the first NEU tranche and $1.38 billion in total allocation to the state.

TML identified 1,145 non-entitlement cities in Texas eligible for assistance from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (CLFRF).

These cities may use the funds to:
  • Respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality. 
  • Respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers. 
  • Provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency. 
  • Make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. 

City funding under the CLFRF is divided into direct federal funding to metropolitan cities with populations of 50,000 and above and funding to non-entitlement cities with populations typically below 50,000, which is to be received and disbursed by the state government according to a population-based formula.

In Texas, the largest 75 cities in the state are eligible for direct funding of about $3.4 billion from the federal government. Most of these metropolitan cities have accepted their funding, but the remaining 1,145 cities have yet to receive their allocations, according to the TML.

As of June 28, Texas was one of 12 states that had not requested the NEU funds or a 30-day extension to distribute them, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Governor’s office did not respond to Texas Government Insider’s multiple requests seeking comment.
Texas’ infrastructure needs were highlighted in a series of state-by-state fact sheets released by the White House on July 1 as the Biden Administration pursues a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.

The fact sheet for Texas noted the state’s C- grade on its infrastructure report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers earlier this year and it outlined the framework’s efforts to address infrastructure needs.

Texas roads and bridges would be repaired and rebuilt with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

According to the fact sheet, Texas has 818 bridges and more than 19,400 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 11.4 percent in Texas and on average, each driver pays $709 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair.

Texans who take public transportation spend an extra 80.8 percent of their time commuting, and 12 percent of trains and other transit vehicles in the state have exceeded their useful life.

From 2010 to 2020, Texas has experienced 67 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $200 billion in damages.

Over the next 20 years, Texas’ drinking water infrastructure will require more than $45 billion in additional funding, according to the fact sheet.

More than 12 percent of Texans live in areas where, by one definition, there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds, according to the White House. And 43.3 percent of Texans live in areas where there is only one such internet provider. More than 13.5 percent of Texas households do not have an internet subscription.

In Texas, an average low-income family spends 8 percent to 10 percent of its income on home energy costs, according to the fact sheet. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework would upgrade the nation’s power infrastructure by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy, including through a new Grid Authority.
The city of Cedar Park soon will commission a fiber network feasibility study and needs assessment to determine how the city could use existing fiber resources and invest in new fiber assets.

City officials are seeking information that will help support strategic directives and capital and business development projects. Cedar Park intends to develop a master plan, deployment roadmap, business model, and financial analysis as it assesses its options for improving its fiber network.

The resulting study and assessment will guide the city in:
  • Current industry fiber usage trends and solution sets in the municipal space. 
  • Strategic uses of fiber technologies as well as recommended plans of action. 
  • Overall recommended design for any resulting plans of action. 
  • Construction, implementation and/or maintenance costs and risks. 
  • Regulatory requirements, risks and/or issues. 
  • Funding sources for current and any future fiber assets and related technologies. 
  • Revenue producing strategies. 
  • Unmet and/or underserved needs of local businesses and residents. 

The city also seeks a detailed map of Cedar Park showing locations where existing fiber assets (whether owned or not) are located and where future fiber optic assets could be located and utilize its fiber resources by connecting its other city assets such as street light poles and traffic signals.
A virtual pre-submittal conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT July 13 for firms interested in bidding on a construction manager at risk (CMAR) contract to build a $150 million Medical Education Building (MEB) at The University of Texas (UT) at Tyler Health Science Center.

The MEB initially will provide 250,000 square feet for medical education which will include interdisciplinary education for graduate medical students, resident training, and nursing, to aid in a medical education program expansion throughout the UT Health East Texas Health System.

Programmatic functions are expected to include flexible classrooms, conference and meeting rooms, auditoriums, faculty and student services offices, study rooms and study spaces, and public pharmacy. Teaching laboratory space will consist of simulation, computer, surgical, cadaver, supportive and active training.

In addition, the MEB will provide outpatient and specialty clinical services with exam rooms, specimen collection/processing, and imaging facilities. MEB supporting spaces include but are not limited to food services, dining, locker rooms and gowning space, breakrooms, lobbies, reception areas, vestibules, storage, loading dock, custodial services, restrooms, passenger/service elevators, mechanical, electrical, and telecom/server rooms.

The design phase is scheduled to begin in June 2022. Construction is set to begin in November 2022 and conclude in November 2024.

Brooke Paup
Chairwoman
Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)
Career highlights and education: I’m a proud Aggie and earned my juris doctor from Texas Tech University School of Law. My entire career has been in public service and includes roles as the deputy division chief of intergovernmental relations and former special assistant for policy and research for the Office of the Attorney General, where I worked on legislative issues, special litigation, and public finance — notably the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas. I then served as the director of legislative affairs for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts before being appointed to the Texas Water Development Board in 2018.

What I like best about my public service is: The call to public service is hard to ignore. The ability to see how all your hard work benefits the citizens of Texas is a very special thing. Public service has also allowed me to work and learn from many extraordinary individuals.

The best advice I’ve received is: I’ve been lucky enough to have exceptional bosses throughout my career. I’ve taken different bits of advice from each of them: hustle, be kind, call people back, and listen.

My favorite way to de-stress is: Go for a run, spend time with my family, cook, and drink good wine.

People might be surprised to know that I: People might be surprised to know I read at least one book a week — I just finished "The Wreckage of My Presence" by Casey Wilson — and I’m a certified sommelier. I also love the Fast and the Furious movie series.

One thing I wished more people knew about TWDB is: How much the TWDB truly cares about our mission, “to lead the state's efforts in ensuring a secure water future for Texas and its citizen,” and how hard we work to make that a reality. I’ve spent 15 years in state service, and I’ve never met a more determined and industrious group of public servants.
The Texas Transportation Commission on June 30 authorized $89.39 million in transit funding to 39 projects, the largest single tranche for transit agencies across the state.

Commissioners appropriated $69.98 million for urban and rural public transportation systems and more than $7 million for public transportation projects that serve seniors and individuals with disabilities. The funding includes over $10 million from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to help transit agencies manage the impacts of COVID-19.

Some of the organizations that will receive funding are:
  • Valley Metro in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. 
  • Spartan Public Transportation in the Levelland area. 
  • South East Texas Regional Planning Commission in the Beaumont area. 

Funds will go to public transportation providers in rural, small urban, and large urban areas. Appropriations may be used to support a combination of service and capital program expenses.
A Lubbock City Council subcommittee is recommending that the city call a $174.58 million bond election in November to fund its Arterial Street Program and improvements to Broadway Street.

Future Needs Committee representatives updated councilmembers at a June 22 work session about their development of a $133.07 million program to address the city’s arterial road infrastructure and a $41.5 million project to rebuild Broadway Street with brick and construct a pedestrian bridge where a creek meets Broadway.

Proposed arterial street improvements for the bond package include:
  • Erskine Street widening. 
  • 34th Street reconstruction. 
  • 82nd Street widening. 
  • 34th Street rebuild (2 sections). 
  • 114th Street widening (2 sections). 
  • Milwaukee Avenue widening. 
  • MLK Boulevard widening. 
  • University Avenue widening. 
  • Upland Avenue widening. 

Rising materials costs prompted the subcommittee to adjust its estimates since previous discussions with councilmembers.
The city of El Paso is preparing design-build documents for an estimated $79.1 million public safety complex featuring police and fire academies.

Additional campus facilities would include a logistics center and fire department headquarters.

At their June 22 regular meeting, El Paso councilmembers unanimously approved a contract for an architectural and engineering services firm to support the development of a master plan and bridging documents as well as assist with the selection of the design-build contractor.

Proposed amenities for the academy complex at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Officer Andrew Barcena Drive include:
  • Fire training props. 
  • Indoor shooting range. 
  • Swift water rescue pool. 
  • Fitness gym. 
  • Classrooms/auditorium. 
  • Simulation room. 
  • Police tactical training facility. 
  • Mock courtroom. 
  • Emergency vehicle training area. 

The academy will be co-located with a $29.6 million fire department headquarters and a fire vehicle maintenance and logistics center. The projected cost for the police academy is $19.9 million, and the estimated combined cost for the fire academy and logistics center is $29.6 million.

El Paso’s preliminary project schedule set programming from May through December, design-build selection from December through June 2022, and design and construction from July 2022 to January 2024.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was awarded a $50 million federal grant for improvements to the 7.42-mile Texoma Segment of Interstate 35 across Texas, Oklahoma, and the Chickasaw Nation.

TxDOT applied for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to help finance the widening of I-35 with two new 12-foot travel lanes and 10-foot shoulders for a six-lane cross section. Plans for the Texoma Segment call for an eight-lane cross section.

Additional upgrades will replace both the I-35 northbound and southbound bridges over the Red River with higher and wider spans and convert an interchange to have I-35 go over FM 1202.

In addition, TxDOT plans to modernize the corridor design to flatten curves, convert two-way frontage roads to one-way frontage roads near Gainesville and the Red River Bridge, and install intelligent transportation system improvements, including dynamic message signs.

I-35 within the project limits was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, and the interstate, frontage roads, and bridges over the Red River do not meet current federal and state design standards.

Total project cost is $287.02 million. TxDOT expects to let the construction contract in April 2023 with project completion scheduled for December 2025.
The town of Flower Mound recently acquired land and two buildings previously owned by Lewisville ISD for the possible construction of a cultural arts center with a performance theater.

Formerly a natatorium and communications building, Flower Mound is demolishing the buildings to incorporate the space into the adjoining Leonard and Helen Johns Community Park as it considers future uses.

At a June 2020 cultural arts meeting, Flower Mound’s consultants concluded that a cultural arts center is feasible considering the amount of music, dance, theater, and arts organizations in the town.

The consultants recommended the center focus on music and performance but also have gallery and classroom space available. Other improvements to the site could include trails, landscaping, overlooks of the pond, additional parking, and site lighting.
More Texas airports will benefit from the latest round of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants announced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on July 1.

More than $34.77 million in AIP grants was designated for nonprimary airports through the State Block Grant Program.

El Paso International Airport is set to receive $6.08 million to reconstruct a taxiway, and Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport will get $2.94 million to conduct a study, improve its snow removal equipment building, and reconstruct a taxiway. Fort Worth Alliance Airport will collect $2.22 million to initiate noise mitigation measures for nearby residences.

The awards are part of more than $845 million in grants for projects that will mitigate environmental impacts, increase accessibility, and expand capacity at airports across the U.S. The funding from the fourth round of FY 2021 AIP grants will pay for projects at 388 airports in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia.
The Austin Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) extended its deadline for a request for proposals (RFP) to develop a 7.96-acre property in East Austin with income-restricted housing.

AHFC is seeking a qualified developer or development team to design and develop a residential or mixed-use development at 3811 Tannehill Lane that includes income-restricted housing that will be leased or sold to low-income renters or homebuyers.

AHFC will give priority to proposals that:
  • Maximize the number of affordable units.  
  • Maximize the number of affordable multi-bedroom units for families. 
  • Provide deeply affordable units for Austin’s lowest-income households. 
  • Provide affordable ownership units to help low-income households build wealth. 
  • Prioritize affordable housing for low-income households previously displaced or at-risk of being displaced from the area. 
  • Minimize city of Austin subsidy per affordable unit. 

In 2018, AHFC purchased the property from Austin ISD and committed to the school district that any future development would include at least 25 percent of all units to be reserved for households earning at or below 120 percent of the area median family income. In addition, the property was used as a ropes course.

The housing corporation extended the RFP deadline to 5 p.m. CDT August 5. It anticipates board selection of a developer on November 2 and execution of a development agreement on February 1, 2022.
The Harris County Commissioners Court named David Berry to the newly created position of county administrator on June 29.

Berry most recently served as the county’s executive director of budget management. Before that, he was president and owner of a financial advisory firm and chief financial officer for two private energy firms.
University of North Texas (UNT) System Chancellor Lesa Roe on June 28 announced her plans to retire, effective March 31, 2022.

Roe’s career spanned more than four years at the UNT System and 33 years as an electrical engineer and executive at NASA.

Since Roe arrived at UNT in 2017, the system achieved record combined enrollment of more than 47,000 students for the 2020-2021 academic year between its three member institutions – the University of North Texas in Denton, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, and UNT Dallas. In addition, the UNT System set new records for degrees awarded, philanthropic fundraising, endowments for scholarships, and research expenditures under Roe.

Prior to joining UNT, Roe served as NASA’s second-in-command and as chief operating officer.
The city of Midland named Robert Patrick as its new city manager. He succeeded the late Courtney Sharp who retired for health reasons.

Patrick previously served as Midland’s assistant city manager, general services director, and assistant to the city manager. Prior to joining Midland, he served the Texas cities of Lucas, Denton, Henrietta, and Spearman.
The city of Houston appointed Laura Patiño as interim chief resilience officer on June 30. She takes over from Marissa Aho.

Patiño most recently served as recovery and resilience chief of staff. Before that, she was an editor for a university journal in Canada and an environmental engineer for an international oil and gas company.
The city of Lago Vista appointed Tracie Hlavinka as its new city manager, effective July 14. She will succeed Joshua Ray who accepted a position with the city of Shelbyville, Tennessee, in January.

Hlavinka most recently served as town manager of Clarksdale, Arizona. Before that, she was deputy city manager and community initiatives manager for the city of DeSoto.
The Brazos ISD board of trustees voted to hire Scott Rogers as the district’s new superintendent. He took over from Interim Superintendent David Plymale.

Rogers most recently served as the executive director of curriculum and instruction at Red Oak ISD. Before that, he was Red Oak ISD’s executive director of secondary learning and a high school principal at Aransas County ISD.
The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA) will collaborate with Arizona-based consortia The Connective and the Southern Arizona Smart Region to explore new financial models that support smart city initiatives.

Designing new revenue models, monetization strategies, and sustainable financial models is a core pillar for each consortium. A challenge for many of the member cities and towns is adequately funding smart city solutions while ensuring limited resources are allocated toward meeting traditional service delivery obligations.

The NTXIA, Connective, and Regional Partnering Center (RPC) intend to come together to explore and evaluate submissions that result from a Call for Revenue Generating Solutions for Municipalities and Regions. The resulting analyses seek to provide insight on the diverse landscape of opportunities that provide new revenue and financial models that can accelerate priority projects.

Additional activities undertaken by the collective consortiums will include member communications and education, virtual events and workshops, and ultimately dual-region projects and joint research opportunities.

As a regional consortium, NTXIA comprises nearly 30 municipalities, agencies, corporations, and academic institutions across North Texas. The Connective is a Greater-Phoenix research and implementation partnership between public sector, academia, industry, and civic institutions. The Southern Arizona Smart Region is led by the RPC, a group of nearly 30 public-private partners and academic institutions.

These organizations were initially formed to develop public and private sector support and funding to build their region’s economic competitiveness and quality of life for residents through the design and adoption of innovative approaches, including smart city solutions. Each organization seeks to create the most connected, smart, and resilient region in their respective areas of the country.

More information on the partnership and outcomes will be announced later this summer.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from June 25-July 1:

Office of Community-Based
Care Transition 
Theresa Thomas - Pflugerville (director)
Texas Water Development Board – 2022 Interactive State Water Plan 

Texas Sunset Advisory Commission – Final Results of Sunset Reviews 2020-2021

Governor’s Office of Economic Development – 2021-2022 Texas Economic Development Guide
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 Housing and Community Affairs – Senior Purchaser

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Accounts Examiner III

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Writer/Editor

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Business Analyst III

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Human Resources Generalist II or III

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Human Resources Generalist I

  • Texas Water Development Board – Water Use and Planning Data Manager V

  • Texas Water Development Board – Regional Flood Planner II

  • Texas Water Development Board – Hydrographic Survey Analyst (Hydrologist I/II)

  • Texas Water Development Board – Customer Service Liaison and Special Projects

  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Management Analyst II

  • Texas State Securities Board – Attorney I

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) Compliance Analyst IV

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Extradition Coordinator
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