Volume 20, Issue 13 - Friday, April 1, 2022
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
Here is something no one expected! Public officials throughout the country are struggling with the task of managing large amounts of federal funding currently flowing to them. The revenue is conditioned on rules, compliance, and often a requirement to submit an application to obtain the dollars. Most cities and counties have no systems in place or the resources available to oversee, comply with rules, and disburse such large volumes of funding quickly.

Excess of federal funding, rather than the traditional scarcity of revenue, is now the challenge. Public officials are also in a race against the clock because there is a deadline to use the new funding. This is a phenomenon that would have sounded implausible five years ago.

These non-traditional challenges are driving significant change. One noticeable change is that the new funding encourages innovation, collaboration, justification through data analysis, and visionary thinking in diverse ways.

City leaders in Milwaukee are drawing on community input and data collection to identify areas of infrastructural inequity. An allocation of $26 million will fund a project to remove old piping that is contaminating water supplies in parts of the city where health care has traditionally been lacking. An additional $7 million has been secured for building out sustainable, clean energy resources that will result in long term citizen benefits.

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, will build a new hyperscale data center in Temple. The company’s new facility will eventually offer 900,000 square feet of space and will cost an estimated $800 million to build.

The data center is scoped for a 393-acre site off Temple’s Industrial Boulevard, where it will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Construction work is slated to begin this spring and, at its peak, will support 1,250 local construction jobs. Once completed, the data center will offer 100 new operational jobs for the area.

The Meta company worked with community partners from the city of Temple and Bell County to bring the new project to Texas, where the company has already invested in more than 700 megawatts of renewable wind and solar energy.
VIA Metropolitan Transit’s proposed Advanced Rapid Transit North/South Corridor (ART) line is recommended for $158 million in first-time funding in President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget released March 28.

The public transportation agency is planning an 11.7-mile expansion of ART service from the San Antonio International Airport through downtown San Antonio, to Steves Avenue in the south connecting to San Antonio International Airport, San Antonio College, VIA Metro Center, Downtown San Antonio and dense commercial and residential areas.

It marks the first time San Antonio and VIA have been able to access this type of funding, which requires transit service that operates in a dedicated lane. VIA began its series of public meetings this week to discuss the project and collect community feedback on the proposed plans for a North/South corridor.

The project is one of seven new BRT and rail projects and eight existing projects the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is recommending for $4.5 billion in grant funding through programs aligned with the proposed budget.

These projects, which require a local match, competed for funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program and Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) Pilot Program.
The city of Corpus Christi is exploring the feasibility of adding a conference center hotel adjacent to the American Bank Center arena as it launches a study into future uses of the existing venue.

Through this study, the city will receive an independent assessment of the current facility and obtain future possibilities, including enhancing the user experience and accommodating larger groups.

The 10,000-seat indoor arena in the Coastal Bend was renovated in 2002, and the addition of the arena was completed in 2004. Since then, the 528,000-square-foot facility has not had significant improvements. Corpus Christi officials said the city-owned venue needs strategic and technology enhancements to remain relevant in the meetings and convention market.

A recent tourist economic impact study revealed that the size of the conference space and the lack of a conference center hotel had been a reason why groups did not hold their events in Corpus Christi. As a result, the city has lost potential convention bids and hotel room nights.

Based on the outcome of this study, the city will identify the next steps and may bring future agenda items for approval by the mayor and City Council.
The Austin City Council recently authorized the first construction contract to deliver projects funded by the 2020 Mobility Bond, marking the beginning of the six-year implementation timeline set for the bond as committed to voters.

Totaling $460 million, the 2020 Mobility Bond is divided into three discrete programs: Large Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), Substandard Streets, and Local Mobility.

Funding from the 2020 bond for major capital improvements includes:
  • Longhorn Dam Bridge multimodal improvements. 
  • Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative. 
  • Creation of a preliminary engineering report for Barton Springs Road from Barton Boulevard to Lou Neff Road, in coordination with the Zilker Park Vision Plan process. 
  • South Pleasant Valley Corridor Improvements.

Bond funding of $53 million is available for improvements to publicly owned roadways that do not meet current city street standards for safety, mobility, and drainage. Substandard street improvements would include improvements to Johnny Morris and Ross roads.

Use of any remaining funding, after funding those two roadways, would go toward improvements on Cooper Lane, Circle S Road, or other substandard streets identified through the 2016 Mobility Bond, as well as creating preliminary engineering reports for Nuckols Crossing Road and Bradshaw Road.

The Local Mobility Program will fund $40 million for bikeways, $50 million for new sidewalks and $30 million for rehabilitation of existing sidewalks, $20 million for Safe Routes to School, $19 million for transit enhancement, $65 million for Vision Zero, and $80 million for urban trails.

Local mobility projects are reviewed and prioritized annually as part of the city’s Mobility Annual Plan (MAP) process. The 2022 MAP was recently released for public comment, and the final 2022 MAP will be published in May. The MAP will continue to guide the work of these programs year to year.
Ed Serna
Executive Director
Texas Workforce Commission
Public career highlights and education: I graduated from the University of North Texas (then North Texas State University) with a BAA in finance and accounting. After the summer off, I started my career with the state of Texas collecting taxes in Houston. Since then, I’ve been afforded the opportunity of serving in various positions of increasing responsibility at six different state agencies, two as executive director. In my 36-plus years of public service, I’ve learned that while each agency has had a different mission, and often customer base, they all have one thing in common … dedicated, hard-working employees who have service to the customers as their primary focus. I’ve also had the opportunity to leave state service to join the private sector in an effort to aid me to keep “private-sector thinking” in mind as I advanced my career.

What I like best about my public service is: In my opinion there are three things I really like about public service. First, is the opportunity to work along-side many dedicated hard-working individuals. The second, is that our focus is service to our customers, both external and internal. Finally, probably because of limited funding or staffing (or both) public service offers individuals the opportunity to work on projects outside their educational or previous work experience. For example, though I have a business degree and my initial work involved tax collection and taxpayer service I was given the opportunity to create and lead the development of major IT systems, manage HR, finance, facilities, and IT departments and serve as an agency’s interim executive director.

The best advice I’ve received is: When I first started in state government, a senior employee told me to “… not worry about the big things, but to take care of the details because it’s the little things that will bite you in the end.” (He used a different descriptor.) Later in my career, a tenured manager shared with me that the best way for a manager to succeed was to “empower and take care of your employees.” She said if you did that they would be free to be creative and motivated about their work. So far, both pieces of advice have served me well.

My favorite ways to de-stress are: To take a road trip, either alone or with my family. If I’m alone it allows me uninterrupted “quiet” time to think and de-stress. If I’m with my family it gives me the opportunity to have conversations with them that are uninterrupted by cell phones, emails, or text messages. (I try very hard to not use electronic devices while driving though sometimes I can’t escape a hands-free cell call.)

People might be surprised to know that I: Never intended to make a career in state government. I started working for the state to save up money for a second degree, but the assignments, raises, and opportunities grew to interest me more than another degree. So, after a few years, I spent the savings on a car and week-long road trip and just kept working.

One thing I wish more people knew about the Texas Workforce Commission is: That we are much more than just the employment or unemployment benefits office. We’re “Workforce” for a reason: to serve the state of Texas and develop a workforce that maximizes Texans’ skills and promotes greater economic opportunity for all. We offer a wide variety of services to assist all Texans including owners of small or large businesses, individuals facing various challenges in life (unemployment, foster youth, previously incarcerated, academically challenged, etc.) and families.
The 2022 Argyle Independent School District (AISD) bond proposal will ask voters on May 7 to authorize AISD to issue bonds to fund new school improvement projects. Projects will be presented to voters in three separate propositions on the ballot including new schools, addressing projects at existing schools, a stadium, and an Indoor Activity Center for Argyle High School in Canyon Falls.

AISD trustees approved the community-led Bond & Growth Planning Committee's (BGPC) recommendation of a $267.88 million bond proposal. The BGCP's proposal focused on the district's projected student enrollment, including significant elementary and middle school growth. The bond package will fund two new elementary schools and a new middle school.

A long-term plan was not included for the High School in the 2022 bond election. However, voters will be able to vote on the addition of a stadium and an indoor activity center for the High School. This bond election will also include an increase of 1.5 cents to the district's interest and sinking tax rate.

The BGPC held seven meetings in late 2021 and evaluated the district's growth, finances, facilities, and bonding capacity. They also studied feedback from a survey that included more than 2,700 responses from the community.
The Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project (CIP) could receive $157.3 million in federal funding to make the ship channel deeper and wider in the next fiscal year. The project was included in President Biden's proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget released on March 28.

The project is under the proposed budget's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Coastal Navigation Construction category. The proposed budget for the CIP is the largest single-year budgetary allocation from the federal government compared to previous years.

Once approved by Congress, this proposed funding will complete the Channel Improvement Project, making it the most improved ship channel on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The CIP is a four-phase project. Phase one is complete, and phases two and three are under construction. So far, the CIP has received nearly $250 million of funds from the USACE, and the Port of Corpus Christi has received another $190 million in cost share funds.

The Port of Corpus Christi is the largest gateway for U.S. energy exports. When the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project is completed in 2023, it will significantly increase U.S. exports of energy and agricultural products from Texas and the whole country. Completion of this project will also support the U.S. military, which relies on port infrastructure for increased mobility.
Texas A&M University-San Antonio will receive $10 million in funding from Bexar County for athletic facilities and fields on campus. A multipurpose field with a track, along with a softball field and stadium will be designed and constructed using the funds.

County officials may use federal pandemic relief funds mixed with the county's general fund to support the project over the coming years.

The multipurpose field will cost approximately $7.4 million and serve as a practice and competition facility. The new softball stadium will cost around $2.4 million to construct and provide one of the country's best training and competition venues.

These new facilities will be open to the public when not in use by the university. They will be available for nominal fees for little leagues, sports organizations, and other groups.

New facilities will increase the access to physical activities for the South Bexar County community. Obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are consistently ranked among the top five causes of chronic illness in Bexar County. Those living in South Bexar County have a life expectancy of ten years less than North Bexar County residents. These facilities will provide a space for fitness activities that help prevent chronic illness.

An architect has not yet been hired to design the new facilities.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) issued a request for information (RFI) for a board governance/portal software program to support associated DART departments, executive offices, board support staff, and the board of directors.

DART is seeking to streamline its board meeting process through a secure, easy-to-use platform for creating and distributing board materials, increasing board engagement, and maintaining agency governance.

Some of the high-level items the agency is looking for include information on:
  • Easy management of documents and presentation materials from creation to digitally signed approval for distribution to board members.
  • Support of both sequential and multi-departmental approval processes.
  • Support of multi-user collaboration.
  • Ability to provide real-time updates to materials as required.
  • Reporting tools and dashboard options for specific user groups.
  • Enhanced security for documents and communication.

DART also is seeking a solution that provides ease of use across multiple device types with accessibility from anywhere, integration into DART systems, and data migration and content.

RFI responses are due by 2 p.m. CDT April 20.
The Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) announced on March 31 that it is proceeding with design work on the city’s new Dougherty Arts Center (DAC). Design work will reimagine the longstanding cultural institution according to its new location on Austin’s Butler Shores.

The city council approved plans to move the DAC building from its original naval center location in spring of last year. Since then, the DAC project team has been working on a facility concept that adequately serves Austin’s vibrant arts community. The design will also fulfill PARD’s vision of a new DAC as “Austin’s cultural living room” where people of all descriptions can “gather to create a community through the arts.”

The existing DAC dates to the 1970s, when it was built as a temporary structure designed to be razed shortly thereafter. The DAC was continuously used for several decades beyond its intended lifespan. A conditions assessment from 2010 determined that the existing DAC was already beyond repair.

As work continues on a reimagined DAC, the project team plans to release regular status updates and any Art in Public Places (AIPP) opportunities that emerge from advancing design work.

The project team is planning to issue its next update on the DAC design in a public meeting scheduled for April 25.
Texas State Technical College (TSTC) regents recently approved building renovations on several of the system’s campuses.

At TSTC’s main campus in Waco, the college plans to renovate the Electronics Center and Technical Studies Center buildings for an estimated $6.1 million. The buildings will be reconfigured for high-value programs including instrumentation technology, electric power and controls, biomed equipment technology, occupational safety, and environmental compliance.

Recognizing a shortage of licensed plumbers during the winter storm in February 2021 and the backlog of applicants at TSTC’s Austin location, the college built a plumbing testing center at its Waco campus that opened in January 2022.

TSTC has agreed to construct a 7,000-square-foot testing center on its Harlingen campus to further reduce the Austin site’s backlog. The building to be renovated has not yet been determined.

TSTC will host a mandatory pre-bid conference at 11 a.m. April 4 on its Marshall campus for the second phase of a student housing renovation project there.

Project scope includes remodeling up to 32 four-bedroom, one-bath apartments, to two-bedroom, one-bath apartments per the contract documents. TSTC will identify the units to be remodeled after contract award.

TSTC anticipates the contract will exceed $100,000 and will require that vendors participating in the solicitation submit a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Subcontracting Plan.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) released a request for information (RFI) for the best solution for the ApplyTexas System, the state’s common admission application for institutions of higher education.

THECB anticipates possibly seeking a new vendor to develop, host, and/or maintain ApplyTexas. Potential approaches may include, but are not limited to, development of a custom product, implementation of an off-the-shelf product, or hosting and improving the existing system.

This work may include refining the state’s process for electronic sharing of student records. THECB is particularly interested in hearing input from partners with experience developing and hosting application portals, especially if there is an opportunity to leverage common data flows and user experiences to make institution and other stakeholder workflows more efficient and increase equitable student outcomes.

The technology stack of ApplyTexas is hosted and maintained by an outside institution, The University of Texas at Austin, under contract and direction of THECB.

ApplyTexas was created through a collaborative effort between THECB and the colleges and universities represented on the site. The goal of the project is to offer a centralized means for both Texas resident students and non-Texas resident students to apply to many postsecondary institutions available in Texas.

RFI submissions are due by 11:30 p.m. CDT April 18.
The city of Waco will host both an on-site and virtual non-mandatory pre-submittal meeting at 1:30 p.m. April 12 for a project to rehabilitate the Landon Branch Bridge.

A 2018 engineering survey identified cracks and spalls in the concrete on the on Lakeshore Drive bridge’s columns and tie beams.

Project scope will consist of making bridge repairs including installation of Carbon-Fiber-Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) protection on the existing bridge bents and concrete cantilever water line supports, and substructure improvements including the installation of CFRP protection and wrapping of tie beams and lower columns.

The city will accept alternate bids that deduct portions of the base bid and add installation of Grouted-Fiber-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) jackets on the tie-beams and columns below the lake level.
Technology employment in Texas grew twice as fast as it did in California in 2021. With 10,851 new tech jobs in Texas in 2021, the technology sector is expected to grow in 2022, reports CompTIA in their State of the Tech Workforce Report.

Last year, employers in the Dallas-Fort-Worth-Arlington region added more technology workers than any other market in the country, with 5,321 jobs, CompTIA reports. Austin was another city in Texas that saw impressive growth in the technology field. San Antonio was also in the top ten markets, seeing the strongest year-over-year technology employment growth.

The Draper Hero Institute identified Texas as one of the nation's best three states to launch a tech start-up, including Florida and Washington. Multiple tech giants have set up regional offices in Austin, and one major company started moving its entire corporate headquarters to the city in 2020.

Twenty-seven states have a technology sector that generates $10 billion or more in direct economic impact, according to CompTIA's analysis. In Texas, the technology sector has a $143 billion economic impact. The technology sector saw gains in economic impact in every state in 2021.

Technology-related employment is estimated to increase by 2 percent nationally in 2022, with 48 states projected to add technology workers. U.S employers added 383,075 technology jobs in March 2022, up from 295,833 jobs posted last year.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved more than $12.5 million in grants that will help 26 communities throughout the state upgrade outdoor recreation facilities.

These competitive grants are allocated to local government entities on a 50/50 reimbursement match basis, and once funded, the sites must remain parkland in perpetuity, properly maintained and open to the public.

Three communities received Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants reserved for local units of government with populations of more than 500,000. Eleven local governments were awarded Non-Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants that fund park projects in municipalities under 500,000. Twelve communities will get Small Community Recreation Grants which serve towns of less than 20,000.

One of the communities to receive funds is the city of Dallas which secured a $1.5 million urban outdoor grant for its Crawford Memorial Phase One Signature Park project. Proposed developments include pedestrian trails with accessible bridges, accessible picnic sites with shade structures, an exercise complex, restrooms, site furnishings, and signage.

Hidalgo County received a $1.1 million urban outdoor grant for its Lopezville Park project. Proposed developments and renovations include site grading, drainage, lighting, tennis courts, adult and youth soccer fields, restrooms, a pedestrian trail, parking lot, picnic areas, a pavilion, and an all-inclusive playground.

The city of Houston received a $1.25 million urban outdoor grant for its Charlton Park Improvement project. Proposed developments include site work, a playground, exercise stations, splash pad, chimney swift tower, signage, site furnishings, shade pavilion, walkways, hardscape, and native landscaping.

In North Texas, the cities of Celina, Farmers Branch, Kaufman, and Lewisville each received $750,000 grants for their park projects.
Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall has selected Dr. Kelly Damphousse as sole finalist in the Texas State University (TSU) presidential search. If approved by the system’s regents, Damphousse will succeed Dr. Denise Trauth, who will retire in June.

He currently serves as chancellor and CEO of Arkansas State University. He also served as associate dean, interim dean, and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.
Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk appointed Robert Goode as interim director of Austin Water, effective April 11. He will take over from current Director Greg Meszaros.

Goode has over 37 years of city, county, and private-sector experience, including most recently as vice president and senior program manager for a planning and engineering consulting firm.

He had previously directed transportation and infrastructure planning departments at the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, cities of Austin and Fort Worth, Travis County and the city of Olympia, Washington.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has appointed Keith Bynam as director of the city of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department. Bynam has served as interim director since September 2021.

His career with the city spans three decades, during which he has worked with virtually all aspects of Housing and Community Development. Immediately prior to being named interim director, he served as the department’s deputy director of compliance.
The Overton ISD board of trustees voted on March 31 to name Larry Calhoun as the lone finalist for the district’s superintendent position. If approved, he will succeed Superintendent Stephen DuBose who is retiring at the end of June.

Calhoun is currently the CTE director and department chair for Fine and Applied Arts and has served as dean of students at Mundelein High School in Illinois. Before that, he held coaching and teaching positions at several Texas school districts.
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, through its State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), is seeking public comments on the report “Recommendation for a High-Performance Building Design Evaluation System,” dated September 10, 2021, for new state-funded buildings and institutions of higher education.

Texas Government Code requires that new state buildings or major renovations be designed and constructed so that the building achieves certification under a high-performance design evaluation system approved by SECO.

Comments on the report recommendations for a high-performance building design evaluation system are encouraged from state agencies and higher education institutions and people interested in design standards that encourage comprehensive and environmentally sound approaches to certification of high-performance buildings. This includes commercial and residential builders, architects and engineers, other government authorities, environmental groups, and manufacturers of building materials and products.

For further information on submitting public comments, see the April 1, 2022, edition of the Texas Register or visit the SECO website.
The Collin County Purchasing Department invites vendors to one of two virtual meet and greet events to connect with purchasing professionals and learn about upcoming opportunities. Attendees also will receive training on Collin County’s eBid system. 

Dates and times for the meet and greet events are: 
  • April 12 - 2 to 3:30 p.m. with eBid training starting at 2:45 p.m. 
  • April 21 – 9:30 to 11 a.m. with eBid training starting at 10:15 a.m. 

To register, click here

For information, email purchasing@co.collin.tx.us or call 972-548-4165. 
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from March 24-31:

Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles 
Marsha Moberley - Cedar Park

Governor’s Committee
on People with Disabilities 
Benjamin Willis - Lumberton
Kori Allen - Plano (reappointed)
Evelyn Cano - Pharr (reappointed)
Richard Martinez - San Antonio (reappointed)
Joseph Muñiz - Harlingen (reappointed)
Emma Faye Rudkin - Boerne (reappointed)

Governor’s Commission
for Women 
Lorena Junco Margain - Austin

Continuing Advisory Committee for Special Education 
Aaron Bangor - Austin
Sheryl Kubala - Austin
Diana Nelson - Martindale

Motor Vehicle Crime
Prevention Authority 
Patrick Smith - North Richland Hills
Chronic Kidney
Disease Task Force 
Benedicta Anikputa - Austin
Corey D. Ball - Tyler

Texas Funeral Service Commission 
Eric Opiela - Austin
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Economic Indicators

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Employment Forecast

Federal Bureau of Investigation – 2021 Internet Crime Report
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 Health and Human Services Commission – Program Specialist III

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Program Specialist VII

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Project Manager

  • Texas Water Development Board – Revenue Accountant (Accountant I-III)

  • Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas – Information Security Officer
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