Volume 20, Issue 43 - October 28, 2022

America’s ports are enhancing resiliency, upgrading access, and ensuring safety
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.

There are more than 300 seaports in America supporting trade and economic development. They contribute approximately 26 percent of the country’s total GDP and create millions of jobs. That’s why a historic amount of new funding is flowing to projects designed to upgrade, expand, and enhance ports. A recent infrastructure study reported that approximately $163 billion will be spent on port projects between 2021 and 2025. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) allocated $17 billion in funding to strengthen port supply chains and bolster climate resilience. Even so, officials say there’s still a $12 billion funding gap for work related to waterside infrastructure and billions more that is needed for landside infrastructure. In many states, that additional funding will come from other sources.

A recent $2.3 billion allocation from the IIJA authorized a combined $684 million for port resilience projects this year and similar funding allocations over the next four years. Federal programs like this one place supreme value on resilience projects – designed to ensure that ports can sustain future shocks and stresses. Another $250 million allocation from the federal Reducing Truck Emissions at Ports Program is also earmarked to specifically support port resilience and address the problems of bogged-down supply chains. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also have funding in its upcoming budget to address critical port needs. Approximately $1.3 billion is anticipated for construction projects and $86 million for projects that target climate resilience.

Click here for more.

City of Austin presents draft of Palm District Plan

The city of Austin has presented its draft version of the Palm District Plan to the Environmental Commission. Based on public input the city has been acquiring since October 13 and ending October 28, most respondents have been gravitating towards the “Live Scenario.” This focuses on additional housing in the future growth of the Palm District. There also would be an increase in supportive, specialty, and retail services, and the implementation of a circulator route along the Red River to improve transit.  

The other two scenarios presented were Work and Play. Now that the comment period is over, staff will present a recommended draft plan to the Planning Commission on November 8 and present it to City Council December 1. If approved, the city will move forward with implementation in 2023. 

Located in the Palm District is the Palm School which is owned by Travis County. The city attempted to purchase the historic property for $10 million, but the county declined. The Palm School property’s value previously was estimated at more than $50 million. COVID-19 put the negotiations and discussions on hold and that was when the city began the draft plan for the district.  

The district plan also compliments other initiatives taking place in Austin – Project Connect, Fifth Street Mexican American Heritage Corridor, convention center expansion, Interstate 35 Cap and Stitch plan, and the Rainey Street District Fund.  

(Photo: Palm School. Courtesy of Travis County)

College Station seeks voter approval for $90.4M bond

The city of College Station has placed a $90.4 million bond on the ballot for the November general election. Proposition A is for fire safety improvements and totals $18 million to build Fire Station No. 7. 

Proposition B is for transportation and totals $16.1 million for the widening of Rock Prairie Road East corridor from Town Lake Drive to William D. Fitch Parkway. This will transform the two-lane asphalt roadway into a four-lane concrete road with separated bike lanes and sidewalks along each side. In addition, the project will include a storm sewer, street lighting, and a traffic signal at Town Lake. 

Proposition C is for sports and tourism and totals $30.4 million for the completion of Phase 2 of Texas Independence Ball Park and improvements to Veterans Park. Phase 2 of Texas Independence Ballpark would cost $24 million to add four additional synthetic diamond fields to complete the complex’s master plan. Improvements to Veterans Park would cost $6.4 million to renovate six fields along Harvey Road at Veterans Park & Athletic Complex. 

Proposition D is for parks improvements and redevelopment and totals $22 million for six individual projects. This includes Bachmann Little League and Senior League/Soccer Buildings ($7 Million), Pickleball/Futsal Courts ($1.7 Million), Bee Creek and Central Park Tennis Court Replacement ($1.7 Million), Mabel Clare Thomas Park Redevelopment ($3 Million), Lincoln Center Area Improvements ($1.2 Million) and Central Park Operations Shop ($7.4 Million).  

Proposition E is for Mabel Clare Thomas Park Pool and totals $3.9 million to construct a swimming pool in Thomas Park with a shallow splash pad, zero-grade entry, and restrooms. Early voting runs from October 24 through November 4. The general election is November 8. 

(Photo: Courtesy City of College Station)

Saluting Texas' Lone Stars

Craig Morgan

Round Rock Mayor

City of Round Rock

Public career and education highlights: 

Served on the Round Rock City Council 2011-2016, Mayor 2017-present, BA-Political Science from Texas Tech University, MBA from Southwest Texas State University, JD from University of Tulsa. Currently an attorney for a local law firm.

What I like best about my public service is: I love meeting people and visiting with our citizens.

The best advice I’ve received is: You control your attitude and do not let anyone else dictate that.

My favorite way to de-stress is: Working out in the morning and reading.

People might be surprised to know that I: I was adopted and born in Freiberg, Germany.

One thing I wished more people knew about the City of Round Rock is: How great our people are.

City of Beaumont releases downtown development strategy

The city of Beaumont has shared a Downtown Dashboard of its $25 million development strategy for the Downtown Plan, Riverfront Park, 555 Main, and 125 Magnolia.  

A new design has been approved for Riverfront Park and the city plans to begin construction by February 2023. The Riverfront Park was damaged during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The city has secured a $28 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to rebuild the park and received approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. The plan is to have landscaping, grass, a walking trail, a hiking trail, lighting, and a dock. 

A building located at 555 Main Street is up for sale with proposals due by February 2, 2023. The facility is a 2.701-acre riverfront lot and the city is interested in receiving proposals for uses such as a hotel, residential, and/or restaurant, and retail to generate foot traffic, economic development, and connection to the river.  

The building at 125 Magnolia Street is vacant, and the city will issue a request for proposals this month to lease the facility.   

For the Downtown Plan, over the next six months, city council members and some special committees will discuss their vision for the downtown area. Ideas will be accepted from the public until February 2023. 

(Photo: Courtesy City of Beaumont)

VMware hosting workshop November 9

VMware will be conducting a workshop titled, Enabling the Permanently Hybrid, Productive, and Secure Workforce. Subject-matter experts will discuss VMware solutions and how they can help you achieve digital transformation without disruption by enabling a digital foundation that delivers any app, on any cloud, to any device.

Some of the workshop topics will include Autonomous Computing - Enabling Human-Centered End-User Computing from Anywhere on Any Device and

Applying Zero Trust Principles to Achieve Pervasive Security. Register here.

G-PISD has three propositions on ballot for November

A $242.5 million school bond is on the ballot for residents within the Gregory-Portland Independent School District (G-PISD). Proposition A would rebuild the T.M Clark Elementary School at a cost of $45.4 million. It also would include a Family Resource Center, Maintenance, and Transportation facility at a cost of $24.9 million. Another project under Prop. A includes new baseball and softball turf fields for $20.3 million.  

Proposition B would bring a new multi-purpose center and field house at a cost of just over $43 million. The building would include a multipurpose space for training or competitions. The project was included in the bond due to higher construction costs.  

Proposition C comes in at a cost of over $53 million and includes a visual and performing arts center that includes enlarged band halls. 

TxDOT requesting funding from IIJA for rail service

On October 5, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration requesting consideration for federal funding options for conventional intercity passenger rail expansion across multiple corridors in the state.  

The letter was in response to a call for expressions of interest for federal rail grants from the Corridor Identification and Development Program. This funding is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and will be distributed by the Federal Railroad Administration.  

The letter highlights the following needs: 

  • Additional train sets on the Heartland Flyer between Oklahoma City Amtrak Station to Fort Worth Central Station. At present the joint Oklahoma-Texas DOT partnered service only has one round-trip a day that includes a stop in Gainesville. 
  • Additional train sets on existing Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited routes between Houston Amtrak Station, Amtrak Station San Antonio, and Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station in Dallas. 
  • Renewed intercity service between Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station in Dallas and Houston Amtrak Station. According to Texas Rail Advocates, this popular Amtrak service ended in the late 90's during budget cuts and is eligible for restoration in the IIJA restoration grant phase.   
  • New and enhanced conventional intercity service options studied in the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study that would include connecting Amtrak Station San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley. According to Texas Rail Advocates, the corridor is only served by the once-a-day long distance Texas Eagle between Fort Worth to San Antonio. 
  • New service east of Marshall, connecting the Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station in Dallas to the Meridian, Mississippi Union Station. According to Texas Rail Advocates, the connection would allow North and East Texans to reach northern Louisiana cities, Atlanta and onward to the east coast on the Amtrak Crescent service, which originates in New Orleans. 
City of Georgetown plans feasibility study for recreation center

The Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department plans to perform a feasibility study for expansion of the current recreation center and potential construction of a new facility. The city will release a request for proposals in November and begin the feasibility study in February 2023.  

Public input indicates a new recreation center is needed on the west side of town. Components identified through public input include a gymnasium, fitness areas (weights and cardio), and group exercise rooms. Other recommendations include a walking track, classrooms, child watch, indoor playground, and an events hall. The city is proposing a new multi-generational recreation center to balance system needs and allow for year-round services to seniors. 

The future feasibility study would determine facility program elements, size of spaces needed, include relocation of the Tennis Center (tennis & pickleball), identify an appropriate location for a new facility, and explore operational partnerships.  

According to the city, partnering allows for construction efficiency, building everything at one time, and a larger facility for a growing community. The city is considering partnering with the YMCA as the operator.  

Waco considers redevelopment of former park

A consultant hired by the city of Waco will be gathering input from residents on the future redevelopment of Cotton Palace Park. A portion of the 17 acres of land that has been proposed for the recreational venue is home to a 50-year-old subsidized development center. This former private and public park dates to the 1800s and the Master Plan remains purely conceptual. Some of the planning concepts for the park include: 

  • New fountain near the entrance, at the site of a fountain original to a former exhibition hall. 
  • Outdoor stage with shaded picnic table. 
  • Covered pavilion that would double as a basketball court and gathering space. 
  • Pair of baseball diamonds and related facilities next to Cesar Chavez Middle School’s stadium. 
  • Parking near Dutton Avenue. 

The estimated cost of this redevelopment is $8.2 million. Proposals will be presented to the Waco City Council after public input has been achieved. 

NCTCOG seeking applications for pod technology

The Texas Government newsletter has delivered news on Hyperloops, highs speed trains, and autonomous vehicles in Texas, now technology startup companies are wanting to pilot transportation pods. This year the Regional Transportation Council approved a new policy called the Transportation Infrastructure Certification Program. The idea is to have experts with the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) do an initial review of any emerging technologies that could help mitigate traffic congestion. Programs that get certified would then be eligible to solicit interest from local governments that could someday make those technologies a reality. 

In September, the Regional Transportation Council voted to certify two technology providers, TransPods and JPods, that use pods to transport people.  

NCTCOG is accepting applications for possible projects using the JPods or TransPod technology. The deadline to apply is November 18. The city of Plano has submitted an application to find out more information about JPods. The pods are flipped upside down and move on a suspended grade-separated guideway, like a modern gondola. The pods are solar-powered, and the company is advancing this concept in several states with private funding.  

The TransPod is like a hyperloop ultra high-speed pod for longer-range travel of people and goods. It is fully electric and can incorporate solar panels on top of the pods. View NCTCOG’s September presentation starting on slide 35.

(Photo: Example of JPods. Courtesy of NCTCOG) 

Bexar County to conduct study on San Antonio State Hospital

Bexar County Commissioners are negotiating on a contract for a feasibility study on the San Antonio State Hospital. The plan is to find out if the campus could be turned into a place for mental health for people who are homeless, transient, or repeatedly cycling through the jail system.

County commissioners approved up to $200,000 in federal funds of the American Rescue Plan Act to examine creating a county facility and develop a utilization plan for the current 300-bed state hospital complex on the South Side.

The study also will look at the possibility for future “step-down” housing for individuals who have completed rehabilitative programs but still need some supportive services. The study may not be complete until June 2023. 

A new state hospital, funded with $357 million allocated by the Legislature and now under construction, is set for completion in 2024. 

Bexar County leaders want to study how the land and existing buildings on the 30-acre state hospital grounds can be repurposed. The county is in discussions with the state on finding different ways to utilize that campus to help people with behavioral health problems. The campus dates to 1892.  

Austin to rebuild Brackenridge substation

The city of Austin plans to award a contract to a firm to rebuild the Brackenridge gas insulated switchgear substation. The rebuild is for complete operation of the substation at 138 kilovolts (kV). High density developments and limited property availability in the area will require that this substation be rebuilt as a gas-insulated substation to accommodate the three new 138/35 kV, 70 megavolt-amperes (MVA) network transformers planned at this site. 

The design-build budget for this project is $33.9 million. Contract time is of the essence and design must begin 60 days after project execution and all work shall be substantially completed no later than December 2026.  

There is a two-step process to hiring a firm starting with a request for qualifications, that is due by December 1, 2022, at 2 p.m. CST.

The second step involves the city sending the shortlisted proposers the requirements for a presentation to be presented to the evaluation panel. 

Jones selected for city administrator

Missouri City has selected Angel Jones as its new city manager. Jones was the former city manager of Portsmouth, Virginia.

The city manager position in Missouri City has been vacant since May. The former city manager was Charles “Tink” Jackson. 

Guerrero-Guajardo to lead public health division

Bexar County has hired Andrea Guerrero-Guajardo to lead its new public health division. The Preventative Health and Environmental Services Department was formed this year.

The new department, a collaboration with the University Health System, is funded by $60 million in federal pandemic relief grants. The department will complement, not duplicate, the work done by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. 

Guerrero-Guajardo previously served as chief information officer for Workforce Solutions Alamo. She’ll start her work with the county on November 10. 

Williamson County EDP hires executive director

The Williamson County Economic Development Partnership (EDP) announced October 27 the hiring of Dave Porter as the executive director.

Porter from 2004 to 2014 was senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and helped launch its economic development wing, Opportunity Austin. 

He recently had been consulting with Williamson County EDP to develop a strategic plan and had worked as senior vice president for business development for the Orlando Economic Partnership. 

Trahan joins city of Palestine

The Palestine City Council has selected Christophe Trahan for the director position with the Palestine Economic Development Corporation.

Trahan is currently the executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. He went to Wood County from Linden where he was the executive director of the Linden Economic Development Corporation.

City of Irving to study recreation and aquatics services

The city of Irving will undergo a feasibility study for future development of the city’s recreation and aquatics services. The city of Irving Parks and Recreation Department and the Capital Improvements Program Department invite qualified professional planning firms to submit qualification proposals to perform this study.  

In August 2019, the Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan was adopted. Based off Chapter 5 and Chapter 7 of the Master Plan, the city intends to hire a consulting firm to provide a community driven needs assessment of the recreation and aquatic divisions. This top priority recommendation will help identify the unique challenges of these divisions and determine the best strategies for moving forward. 

Currently, the Parks Department oversees 92 parks and beatification areas, with almost 2,000 acres of parkland. The inventory includes six recreation centers, seven aquatic facilities, one senior center, one teen center, 33 miles of trails, numerous athletic complexes, one skate park, and several rental facilities. 

The chosen consultant will lead a citizen input process; review current facility operation, programming, staffing, and budget; determine the most efficient model for operation to provide services and programs to the highest number of customers; develop strategies with the existing Bond Program to support the direction moving forward; and more.

Submissions for this request for qualifications are due by November 11, 2022, at 2 p.m. CST.


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