Volume 19, Issue 35 - Friday, August 27, 2021
The Port of Houston Authority and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) entered a project partnership agreement for Project 11, the billion-dollar widening and deepening of the Houston Ship Channel.

With the formal agreement in place, the partners may commence dredging the 52-mile federal waterway. Project 11 will widen the channel by 170 feet along its Galveston Bay reach, from 530 feet to 700 feet. It also will deepen upstream segments to 46.5 feet and craft new environmental features.

The expansion will enable the port to accommodate larger vessels, improve air quality by enabling efficient vessel movements resulting in reduced emissions, and make other safety and efficiency improvements.

In 2020, the USACE ranked the Houston Ship Channel as the busiest port in the nation – the channel handles as much vessel traffic as the three largest U.S. ports combined.

Project 11’s first dredge contract is expected to be awarded as early as October.
Five primary Texas airports will receive a portion of $766 million from the latest round of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The funding from the fifth round of FY 2021 AIP grants will pay for projects at 279 airports in 44 states plus Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Easterwood Airport in College Station was awarded $5.7 million to rehabilitate a taxiway, and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will receive $2.66 million for improvements to airport drainage and erosion control.

Fort Worth Alliance Airport will get $6.97 million to rehabilitate taxiway lighting and extend a taxiway.

In the Rio Grande Valley, Harlingen Valley International Airport will receive $2.88 million to acquire an easement for approaches, and McAllen Miller International Airport was awarded $3.3 million for drainage and erosion control upgrades.

The Texas State Block Grant Program will distribute $13.26 million in AIP grants to nonprimary airports located throughout the state.
Tomball ISD trustees called a $567.54 million bond election for November 2 that comprises five ballot propositions. The action came at their board meeting earlier this month.

The election comes following the recommendation from a community-based Facility Study Steering Committee (FFSC) that met in April and May.

Also, during the meeting, the board approved the purchase of all facilities on the 70.45-acre BJ Services complex for $39.5 million. The BJ Services complex, which is referred to as Eastside Complex in the bond proposal, includes a 70-acre site consisting of 11 buildings and more than 20 acres for future development.

Through five ballot propositions (A-E), the bond will provide funds to add facilities to address enrollment growth, fund transportation needs, repair aging facilities, and replace outdated technology.

Proposition A for $466.64 million would fund:
  • Juergen Road – Construction of new elementary school, intermediate school, and high school in addition to site development and a new water treatment plant. 
  • Eastside Complex – Construction of new elementary school, space for career and technical education (CTE), and show barn, as well as relocation of Tomball Star Academy and district transportation center. 
  • Baker Street – Renovation of bus barn. 
  • Relocation of the Early Excellence Academy to Keefer Street. 
  • Upgrade renovation to Tomball High School and Junior High. 
  • Construction of a satellite bus facility at the Beckendorf Complex. 
  • Upgrades to cybersecurity technology. 
  • Acquisition of buses, 
  • Upgrades to district security. 

Proposition B for $27.8 million would finance a retrofit of instructional technology, enhancements to infrastructure/technology, and a refresh of student Chromebooks and staff devices.

Proposition C would provide $8.1 million for athletic upgrades, Proposition D would fund $17.2 million for a natatorium at Juergen Road, and Proposition E would authorize $47.8 million for fine arts/athletics multi-use facilities at each of the district’s three high schools.
Collin College soon could acquire land for possible future campus that could be selected for its proximity to underserved populations.

At their August 24 meeting, trustees authorized staff to negotiate the purchase of 104.6 acres for an estimated $9.11 million for future district instructional and support facilities in Collin County.

The college recently completed a periodic Facilities Master Planning study as required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Findings resulting from the study indicate that an expansion of services to underserved populations within the county may be advisable.
 Robert Puente
President and CEO
San Antonio Water System (SAWS)
Public career highlights and education: Former Texas House of Representative and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which develops water policy for the state. In 1979, I received a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Mary’s University. I received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from The University of Texas School of Law in 1982. Recognition and awards include: Texas Environmental Excellence Award; Top Workplaces Award seven times since 2011; 2015 San Antonio Business Journal C-Suite Award; Leading Utilities of the World designation for SAWS; and 2018 San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.

What I like best about public service is: There is no greater feeling than working on behalf of the community where you grew up. While representing the San Antonio area in the Texas House of Representatives, I was able to draft legislation that created the Edwards Aquifer Authority to prevent the federal government regulation of pumping from the aquifer. This allowed local control while still protecting endangered species dependent on the aquifer. Now, as President & CEO of SAWS, I’ve been able to have more of a local impact by ensuring my hometown’s water security for generations with new sustainable water sources. And that’s a great feeling and legacy to leave.

The best advice I’ve received is: Just do what is right, and everything else will fall into place.

My favorite way to de-stress is: If there is an issue or problem, I go through the process of thinking it through. If it turns out I can’t deal with it or solve it, I don’t worry about it. What I do have the ability to address or solve, I focus on that and that keeps me from worrying about the things that are not within my control.

People might be surprised to know that I: Love L.A. Dodger baseball. In the mid-1960s in San Antonio that usually meant waiting until Saturday for NBC’s Game of the Week. Plus, with four sisters I would tend to be outvoted when it came to show selection. To catch up on the latest happenings, I would pour over sports magazines at the public library. That's when I saw a picture of Sandy Koufax holding four baseballs with zeroes written on them. Reading that story taught me what a no-hitter was and what a perfect game meant. But it really made me a Koufax and Dodger fan for life.

One thing I wish more people knew about SAWS is: SAWS is not your typical water/wastewater utility. It’s an active environmental steward in the region. At our Steven M. Clouse Recycling Center we recycle all three byproducts of our operation: recycled water, organic biosolids that are turned into compost, and methane gas. We also use Integrated Pest Management at the recycling center to control pests instead of using pesticides. Our natural solutions include purple martins, beneficial bacteria, and ant-sized wasps that target flies. Lastly, SAWS purchases land over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone to ensure pristine water quality by protecting it from over development and contamination.
During a special meeting, Buda City Council approved a general obligation bond package of two propositions totaling $89.66 million for the November 2 election.

Proposition A would fund about $73.57 million for transportation and mobility projects, and Proposition B would finance parks and recreation projects.

The proposed transportation projects involve Old Black Colony Road reconstruction, West Goforth Road reconstruction, Overpass Road / FM 2001 intersection improvements, and RM 967 acceleration and deceleration lanes and right turn onto FM 1626 expansion.

Other proposed transportation projects include Austin Street reconstruction, FM 2770 / Main Street / China Street pedestrian connection, Talley Loop rehabilitation, an IH-35 to Old San Antonio Road connector, Middle Creek Drive rehabilitation, SH-45 / Bailey East-West Corridor, and other future small mobility improvements.

Proposition B would provide $16.09 million for parks and recreation projects such as Garlic Creek Trail Phase II, Eastside Park, Onion Creek Trail, Green Meadows Park / Stoneridge Park, City Park parking, and Garison Park Phase I.

The bond program is designed to be implemented over a span of five years. If projects are approved by voters, city staff will work with the City Council to establish a bond project schedule.

Some projects could begin immediately, while other projects will be staggered throughout the plan. Projects may take multiple years to complete due to design, right-of-way, and utility relocations.
The Edinburg City Council approved the issuance of $23 million in bonds for several downtown improvement and revitalization projects including a future Edinburg Arts, Culture, Events Center.

This 45,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility will serve as a downtown venue to host local conferences, cultural art exhibits, live performances, classes, and community events.

The facility also will serve as a City Hall Annex capable of housing several administrative and department offices.

The intent of this $14 million project is to expand and renovate the site of the 1920s Sam Houston Elementary School building at 315 W. McIntyre St., so it may feature local artists, host family-friendly cultural events, and conventions for residents. Edinburg leaders also intend for it to attract more visitors to the city by creating a downtown entertainment area devoted to the arts.

As part of the downtown improvements, the city is planning a $10 million three-story parking facility with ground-level, mixed-use retail space to provide shopping and 250-plus parking spaces.

An additional $8 million in infrastructure improvements will go toward expanding streets, acquiring rights-of-way, as well as improving sidewalks, lighting, and signage.

At its August 17 meeting, the City Council approved a contract for arts center design services, which are expected to take 10 months. After the preliminary design is approved by the City Council, the architectural firm will proceed with the design basic services and the bidding and contract administration during construction.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) issued a request for information (RFI) to seek vendor feedback on the development of My Texas Future, an online portal designed to promote degree, credential, or certificate completion.

THECB’s initial goals for the portal are to focus on supporting high school seniors, high school students in grades 9 through 11, advisers across high school and higher education, potential transfer students, and adult learners, with an emphasis on stop-outs, dropouts, veteran/military, and workers displaced by the pandemic, seeking to obtain a degree or credential of value in the labor market.

This portion of the project must launch by April 2022. The portal will ultimately expand to provide access to resources and tools aimed at supporting success for all Texas students, parents, and advisers exploring post-secondary education.

The design and implementation of the new portal must conform to the agency’s enterprise architecture design principles, including the data model, and comply with all the applicable security, accessibility, and compliance requirements.

RFI responses are due by 11:30 p.m. CDT September 8. According to THECB’s tentative outline for procurement and development, the agency anticipates posting a statement of work or request for offers solicitation for combined strategy, design, and engineering in September and awarding a contract in October.
The Baytown Municipal Development District sold sales tax revenue bonds on August 25 to finance the construction of the Baytown Hotel and Convention Center.

The city will finance, construct, own, and operate a convention center hotel and enter a facilities lease for the operation of a convention center.

In April 2020, the Baytown Hospitality Public Facilities Corporation approved a $63.6 million budget for the public-private partnership (P3) project on Bayland Island.

The conceptual development budget sets design-build hard costs at $27.63 million to construct a 208-key hotel and $14.3 million to build a 34,000-square-foot convention center.

City leaders said Baytown will contribute $21.1 million to the P3 to finance construction of the convention center and private developers will put in $42.5 million for the hotel portion.

Baytown officials said they anticipate closing on the bond sale on September 9. Construction is estimated to take 18 months.
Collin County is developing designs for the second and third phases of the Adult Detention Center expansion project.

The current Collin County Adult Detention Center and minimum-security facility have a capacity of 1,298 beds. The county intends to redesign or expand the existing Detention Center to fulfill its medical and mental health operational needs through expansion of Central Plant capacity, addition of medical/mental health beds, and the remodel of existing service areas to accommodate the increased inmate capacity.

The project’s focus will be to utilize an existing analysis to design additional chiller capacity at the existing Central Plant, a new modular Central Plant on a site behind the Courthouse, and a Medical Mental Health addition of approximately 423 beds and 150,000 square feet.

If time and funds allow, the county will design three remodeling projects to demolish an area and build a new kitchen, expand a laundry/warehouse area, and remodel the existing 24-bed infirmary to a new skilled nursing area.

The county will issue a solicitation for a construction manager at risk (CMAR) to oversee the two Central Plant projects and the medical/mental health project.
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) released the first amendment to the Mitigation State Action Plan for $4.3 billion in federal disaster mitigation funding. The GLO administrates Community Development Block Grants for Mitigation on behalf of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

To further local prioritization of the limited mitigation funds, the Regional Mitigation Program is being increased from $500 million to more than $1.1 billion. Additionally, the amendment creates the Harris County Mitigation Method of Distribution (MOD) with a program total of $750 million.

It also details how an additional $4.65 million in federal funding for the 2018 South Texas Floods will be allocated. Of that amount, a minimum of $2.32 million must be spent on disaster mitigation efforts in Hidalgo County due to HUD identifying the county as a “most impacted and distressed” area.

Per federal requirements, the GLO will respond to public comments before the amendment is sent to HUD for final approval.
The city of El Paso has begun planning for a 13-mile stretch of Alameda Avenue, from Texas Avenue to the city’s boundary, as well as 1.5 miles along Texas Avenue from Alameda Avenue to Campbell Street. 

“Onward Alameda” is the city’s comprehensive corridor study and master plan that will establish a long-term vision for the future of the Alameda Corridor and how it should evolve in the coming years. 

The Alameda Corridor has historically been one of the integral corridors for the mobility and expansion of the El Paso community. Alameda Avenue connects downtown El Paso to the Mission Valley and continues beyond the city to communities further along the Rio Grande River. This corridor is the location of one of Sun Metro’s Brio Rapid Transit System routes. 

El Paso will use the plan and its guidelines as a tool to evaluate new development proposals, direct capital improvements, and guide public policy. 
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) signed agreements on August 26 with the U.S. Space Force to provide advanced research and workforce development for the newest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson joined UTEP President Heather Wilson, UT Austin President Jay Hartzell, and Archie Holmes Jr., UT System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, at the signing.

The primary goals of the University Partnership Program agreement are:
  • Establish opportunities for world-class research, advanced academic degrees, and workforce and leadership development for USSF Guardians.  
  • Identify and pursue research areas of mutual interest with member universities, individually and collectively.  
  • Establish scholarship, internship, and mentorship opportunities for university students and ROTC cadets.  
  • Recruit and develop diverse officer, enlisted, and civilian Guardians with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

UTEP and UT Austin are two of 11 universities selected to join the Space Force University Partnership Program in fiscal year 2021.
Lubbock councilmembers reviewed preliminary designs for a proposed downtown civic park at their regular meeting August 24.

The proposed park would be located on the site of the former Lubbock Power and Light building, 1301 Broadway. Demolition is anticipated in early 2022 on the city-owned property.

Extensive public input efforts gathered feedback from the community that indicated a strong desire for amenities suited for young children, including water play features.

The preferred concept called “Wind+Water” is inspired by the unique geology of the Lubbock region.

The western edge of the park is designed to draw visitors for family-friendly events such as farmer’s markets or to experience the ‘Playa Play’ interactive water feature, inspired by Lubbock’s playa lakes.

A focal point of the southern side of the flexible event lawn is a covered stage designed for small concerts or movies, which is integrated into an organic shade structure.

Estimated cost of the base scope of the park project is $7.89 million. Additional improvements and upgrades, including streetscaping, a $1.33 million shade armature, and $750,000 for full audio/visual capability, could increase the overall cost to $10.8 million.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced on August 25 that it appointed Stephen Pahl, Scott Schalchlin, and Libby Camp Elliott to its leadership team.
Pahl started on August 16 as deputy executive commissioner of the Regulatory Services Division. He most recently served as associate commissioner for the Consumer Protection Division at the Department of State Health Services. Prior to this, he was the assistant deputy for the Inspections and Investigations Division for the Texas HHS Office of Inspector General.
Schalchlin began his role as deputy executive commissioner of the Health and Specialty Care System on August 25. He has served as associate commissioner for the state supported living centers, both at the legacy Department of Aging and Disability Services and at HHSC.
Effective September 7, Camp Elliott will begin her tenure as deputy executive commissioner of Office of Policy and Rules. She has served as associate commissioner for Agency Affairs and Government Relations director at the Texas Department of Insurance. Previously, she was a senior policy adviser to Gov. Greg Abbott.
The city of Amarillo named Andrew Freeman as assistant city manager on August 24. 

Freeman most recently served as the city’s managing director of planning and special projects. In addition, he has been economic development manager and assistant to the city manager. He also has served as assistant city manager in Plainview and city manager in Tulia. 
The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees named Dr. Christie Whitbeck as lone finalist for the position of superintendent on August 26. 

Whitbeck currently serves as superintendent of Bryan ISD. Before that, she was the deputy superintendent of Fort Bend ISD and assistant superintendent of academics in Alvin ISD. 
Both the Texas and Arkansas city managers appointed Gary Smith as interim executive director of Texarkana Water Utilities (TWU). He will succeed Executive Director J.D. Phillips who is set to retire on August 30. 

Smith currently serves as TWU’s assistant director and director of operations and maintenance. 
The city of Kemah selected Holland Jones as its new police chief. 

Jones most recently served as toll road operations commander and training coordinator for the Harris County Constables Office, Precinct 7. He also is an adjunct professor at Texas Southern University. 
In the August 20, 2021, edition of Texas Government Insider, the article “GLO amendment attempts to address Harvey relief funding in Harris County” contained incorrect information about disaster recovery funding administered by the Texas General Land Office (GLO).

The GLO was directed to give Houston and Harris County more than a billion dollars each in allocations of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

After the GLO began assisting Houston and Harris County with the expending of those funds, a new arrangement was approved by HUD with amendment 8. The most recent CDBG-DR amendment (9) reallocates some of the funding to different programs and documents some minor program changes for the city of Houston.

Please see the article in today’s edition for information about the GLO’s first amendment to the Community Development Block Grant for Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) State Action Plan.

Texas Government Insider apologizes for the error.
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 Housing and Community Affairs – Director, Texas Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF)

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Deputy Chief Information Security Officer

  • Texas Secretary of State – Editor I

  • Texas Department of Information Resources – Accountant III

  • Texas Water Development Board – Purchaser III/IV

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Business Analyst I
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