Volume 20, Issue 28 - July 15, 2022
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
In spite of all the new federal funding and dozens of new grant programs, city and county officials are still scrambling to launch projects designed to generate revenue.

There are many reasons for this. The primary reason is that the new federal funding has a short lifecycle, and there is no indication that this level of funding will ever occur again.

The short timelines and spending rules restrict the use of federal funding for projects that will require ongoing costs. Another hurdle to overcome for public officials is that the current federal funding requires an application process, specific spending rules, and compliance oversight. Many cities and counties are short staffed and don’t have the necessary resources to pursue the capital and then oversee the compliance.

So, while public officials definitely appreciate and will certainly use the current federal funding, they are seeking ways to ensure other sources of revenue. That objective calls for innovation, creativity, and perseverance. Community leaders throughout the U.S., however, are being supported in this effort by private sector partners, investors, universities, and non-profit organizations.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has released a plan that would spend $85 billion over the next decade to improve its transportation infrastructure. The Unified Transportation Plan proposes freeway expansions in Texas’ major cities, as well as fixing both little and big streets across rural and urban areas.

The plan directs federal and state funding to highway, bridge, transit, airport, ferry, bike, and pedestrian projects. The plan, updated annually, divides the money TxDOT expects to have in coming years among maintenance, aviation, rural connectivity, and major projects in urban areas.

The commission will consider the proposal after it goes through the month-long public comment period, which closes August 8 at 4 p.m. A virtual public hearing is scheduled July 26. Approval is set for August 30.

Of the $12.5 billion destined for the Houston region in the plan, nearly half of it, $6.13 billion, is dedicated to the rebuild of Interstate 45 from downtown Houston north to Beltway 8 near Greenspoint.

In Starr County, TxDOT is looking at widening the road from Placido Road to north of Loma Blanca Road and is also looking at the Rio Grande City/Roma Relief Route. The cost of the two projects is more than $72 million.

The San Antonio region will receive $2.5 billion. In Bexar County six express lanes will be added to Interstate 35 between Loop 410 South and North at a cost of $940 million. Other projects include Loop 1604 from Texas 16 to U.S. 281, Loop 410 interchange at U.S. 281, and an upgrade to U.S. 90.

Twelve projects are listed for Cameron County at a cost of more than $264 million. Some of those projects include new frontage roads in San Benito from IH-69E and FM 732 intersection to Sherer Road and Business 77 intersection and widening of FM 732. 5 miles west of FM 1577.

Twenty-four projects are listed for Hidalgo County at a cost of more than $1 billion. Some of those projects include an upgrade to the freeway north of SH 186, intersection improvements in Edinburg from Business 281 West to IH-69 C, and widening of the road from 10th Street to McColl Road.
On July 14, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar released a new Certified Revenue Estimate for the 2022-23 biennial state budget.

Tax revenues over the last 15 months will give Texas lawmakers an extra $27 billion to spend in the 2023 legislative session. This amount is significantly more money for the state to spend and invest than previously forecast by Hegar. In total, lawmakers will have $149.07 billion in general funds. Going into the last regular legislative session in 2021, lawmakers had $112.5 billion at their disposal.

The extra $27 billion could continue to grow. Sales taxes are the primary source of state revenues, so Texas coffers benefited from elevated prices of goods over the last year. The other main revenue stream for Texas is oil and gas production taxes. According to Hegar, lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session will have $13.6 billion in their Economic Stabilization Fund, known as the “rainy day fund.”

When asked how lawmakers should spend the money, Hegar recommended funding water infrastructure, road infrastructure, and broadband internet connectivity.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar submitted Texas’ Letter of Intent (LOI) to participate in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Along with the LOI, the Comptroller’s Broadband Development Office (BDO) also submitted to NTIA its application for the Digital Equity Act planning grants program.

Established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the BEAD program will allocate a minimum of $100 million to each participating state, with Texas expecting to receive between $1 billion and $4 billion in funds. By participating in the BEAD Program, the BDO will craft a five-year plan for broadband deployment across Texas.

According to Hegar, Texas faces a huge challenge: Connecting over 1 million households to high-speed broadband, improving connectivity for over 5.6 million households, improving affordability of broadband for 3.6 million households, and assisting 3.8 million Texans with digital literacy challenges.

In June, Hegar sent a letter to the Texas Congressional Delegation expressing concerns about the NTIA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity for the BEAD program, which appears to indicate that states need to prioritize end-to-end fiber connectivity. Hegar’s main concern with this stipulation is that, in many rural areas of Texas, fiber technology is not financially feasible.
Officials in El Paso County are considering a $78.4 million proposal to upgrade the 80-year-old El Paso County Coliseum and possibly add an Ascarate Park amphitheater suggested in a $90,000 study.

According to the study, the coliseum upgrades would cost an estimated $54.1 million. Upgrades to the 5,250-seat coliseum building are estimated to cost $15.1 million of the total cost. Upgrades would include adding a second ice rink, on-site restaurants, and turning the adjacent Sherman Barn, currently used for storage, into a boutique music venue.

The amphitheater in Ascarate Park is estimated to cost $24.3 million. This budget includes building a parking area. The proposed amphitheater would have 1,260 seats and an attached lawn for about 4,300 people.

According to the study, the coliseum has been losing approximately $1.8 million a year. If the coliseum is not improved soon, it may continue losing opportunities to host events and eventually fall out of use.

El Paso County Coliseum has hosted several musical legends and one county official hopes that any upgrades will embrace the venue's history and has suggested that a music museum should be part of the renovation plans.

County officials will use the completed study to help develop plans for the sites. Which projects will be completed and how they will be funded have not been decided.
Heather Lagrone
Senior Deputy Director
General Land Office
Public career and education highlights: I am a proud Texas Aggie and my son is currently attending Texas A&M University as well. I have been involved in community development for my whole career – first at a local level and then at the state. Since 2005, I have led the various aspects of the Texas disaster recovery programs through 4 state agencies spanning hurricanes, wildfires, more hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, and now ice. I have testified at hearings before the state legislature and Congress and spoken nationally many times on ways to improve disaster recovery.

What I like best about my public service is: As obvious as it sounds, I genuinely enjoy helping people and communities achieve the recovery they need and work with the very limited grant resources we receive. I also thrive on the challenge presented by the endless regulations applied to federally-funded disaster recovery grants. Nothing makes me happier than finding a way to work around a restriction to help a community improve their quality of life as they see fit. The federally-funded and regulated disaster recovery and mitigation programs I get to work on every day can be very bureaucratic, but I like to think it is better and more efficient for my expertise and involvement in it.

The best advice I’ve received is: I have worked with so many great and not so great leaders and colleagues in my career. Some have shown me who I want to be while others have shown me who I didn’t want to be as an executive leader in state government. I try to always be kind, as it is a very small world we live in and sometimes just saying something nice solidifies a relationship, releases bureaucratic tensions, or just makes someone’s day better. Both my parents instilled an amazing work ethic and sense of fairness in me. I just can’t help myself; I work diligently so long as something is needing to be done and ensure everyone gets the same support.

My favorite way to de-stress is: My job requires very long and sometimes strange hours so when I can, I love to spend time with my very patient family. Whether we are just hanging out barbequing in the backyard, traveling across the country, participating in our kids hobbies, or binge watching something on tv, I get the most relaxation with them.

People might be surprised to know that I: I am person whose hobby is looking for a hobby. I have tried so many things and nothing seems to stick. I get excited about the idea of a hobby, gather all the supplies, do it once maybe, and then decide it’s not for me. In the past couple years I have tried beading (I like other peoples’ better than mine), yoga (absolutely no coordination), origami (I just can’t), gardening (it all dies), metal detecting (I didn’t find anything), and various crafts. Maybe someday I will have a booth at a craft fair. I have a tent and tables.

One thing I wished more people knew about the General Land Office is: I get to work with the most caring, brilliant, hardworking people in state government. The members of our team bend over backwards to help our communities and applicants. Disaster recovery is difficult, and it takes more time and paperwork than a normal person would think is reasonable. The regulations are not designed to be fast or logical. It is a marathon to say the least, but my team and I are dedicated professionals who care about our mission to help our fellow Texans.
Following the approval of the Public Service Board on July 13, El Paso Water will ask the El Paso City Council for $441 million in revenue bonds to cover future construction projects. This request is in addition to the $365 million in revenue bonds the utility received for needed projects after getting approval in March. Revenue bonds do not need voter approval. They are repaid through utility revenue which comes from ratepayers.

If the City Council approves the additional funding, $240 million will be used to pay off El Paso Water’s line of credit, $193 million would be used for additional construction projects, and $7.8 million would be used to pay for the bond. The utility is near its $80 million credit limit with commercial paper and will have to postpone projects if it does not secure the additional funds.

El Paso Water passed its $724 million budget in January. This budget for sewer and water is nearly double what it was last year. Funds will be used mostly in upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, construction, and supply projects. Based off its Master Plan, the utility has $700 million for stormwater infrastructure projects that still need to be completed. The utility is pushing to complete the projects within the next decade rather than over 20 years as planned.
Plans to tear down the current city hall and build a new library and administrative building in downtown Celina are now underway. This new building will make way for an expanded and enhanced downtown square, which currently hosts some of the city’s biggest events.

The new multi-story building will eventually host the library on all floors, with administration offices on the upper levels. A larger city hall is expected to be built elsewhere in the future.

Current concepts of the new library include a design that would make the outward facing of the facility appear to be made up of multiple historical buildings. Concepts also include potential incubator space for small businesses and a rooftop component that would provide an area for food and seating. Plans also include a four-story parking garage that would house around 300 cars.

This plan continues the work already being done in downtown Celina since the establishment of the Downtown Master Plan in 2019. This work includes the construction of a one-way inner loop project and a patio plaza project. Future projects include adding play areas for children and a special event lawn.

The next steps for the new library will include selecting an architect. City officials expect the planning process to take eight to nine months, followed by design and construction. The building is not expected to be completed before 2026.
A committee of Pearland residents and elected officials has made a preliminary recommendation that 20 drainage/flood mitigation projects expected to total around $90 million be included in a potential May bond referendum.

In June, Pearland City Council members formed a 20-member Citizens Drainage Bond Program Advisory Committee that will recommend a dollar value for flood-control projects ahead of a potential bond referendum in November 2022 or May 2023.

A preliminary recommendation for a future bond referendum is to request $90 million for 20 drainage/flood mitigation projects. The subdivisions of Hickory Creek Place and Garden Acres, and parts of roads including Hatfield, Harkey, and Fite are included in the list of projects. Work would include drainage improvements and acquisition of land for water detention – an area where stormwater is temporarily stored or detained and is eventually allowed to drain slowly when water levels recede.

The projects were identified by the committee based on how well they eliminate, reduce, or minimize structural damage, if they can be completed or started within five years of a bond package receiving voter approval, and cost. The committee has narrowed down a list of 26 projects to 20. Some of the larger projects the committee had to decide from include:

  • Harkey Road drainage (Josephine to Mary’s Creek): $15.7 million. 
  • East and West Circle/ShadyCrest: $10.1 million. 
  • Veterans Drainage Improvements (Walnut to May’s Creek): $9.7 million. 
  • Fite Road (Harkey to McLean): $9.2 million. 
  • Southwest Quadrant of Old Town (Mclean to State Highway 35 south of Broadway): $4.9 million. 

The committee has plans to reconvene in the fall after the city receives updated preliminary engineering reports and associated cost estimates. The committee will review those updated numbers before making a final recommendation to City Council.
El Paso Water (EPWater) wants to further diversify its water supply portfolio by implementing the first direct-to-distribution potable reuse project at the planned Advanced Water Purification Facility (AWPF). The AWPF will treat secondary clarifier effluent from the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant (RBWWTP).

EPWater is looking for a construction manager at risk (CMAR) to assist in the design process and to serve as the general contractor for the construction phase of the project. It is anticipated that preconstruction services will be required of the CMAR contractor beginning in December 2022. Onsite construction activities are anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2024. Planned project completion is expected to be March 2027.

The AWPF will be designed to treat approximately 10.7 million gallons per day (mgd) of effluent, with consideration for a possible future expansion to accommodate an additional 2.6 mgd. The AWPF will need to have operational flexibility; therefore, EPWater wants to be able to run it at a base flow mode of approximately 3.3 mgd during low water demand months.

The work includes, but is not limited to, all piping and valves, grading and paving, sedimentation and erosion control, electrical work, instrumentation and controls, HVAC equipment, and all other work necessary to render the facilities complete and operational. In September 2021, the 90 percent design milestone construction cost for this project was estimated to be $130 million. EPWater is actively pursuing grant funding for the project construction but is capable of self-funding the project.

This request for proposals for a CMAR is due by August 29, 3 p.m. CST.
The Austin Parks Foundation (APF) announced the following funding to Austin parks through the Austin City Limits (ACL) Grant and Design Services awards.

  • $600 Neighborhood Grant to Overton School/Colony Park District Park - for outdoor classroom installation and programming sponsorship for participation with PEAS Outdoor Learning. 

  • $1,000 Neighborhood Grant to West Austin Neighborhood Park - for the restoration of the park's greenscape. 

  • $5,000 Neighborhood Grant to Parque Zaragoza - for the installation of an outdoor community meeting space and classroom. 

  • $9,000 Community Impact award to Gullett School Park - for the renovation of their multi-use court. 

  • Detailed Design Services award, valued at $25,000 for Mary Dawson Pocket Park park - for design work to create a usable space with amenities and improved access. 

  • An Overall Park Planning award, valued at $100,000 for Grand Meadow Neighborhood Park - an undeveloped park in a neighborhood that is actively working to create a community garden and food forest, as well as a nature play area, but needs a vision plan to create a roadmap for a vibrant, active space for recreation and programming.
Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed George B. Peyton V to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).

Peyton of Austin, originally from Canadian, Texas, is the president of an investment holding company. He is the founder and former managing director of an investment company.

Peyton received a Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurial Management from Texas Christian University and a Master of Business Administration from Stanford University.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has two employees who will be transitioning out of the agency into new positions. Jerry Haddican, TxDOT’s director of governmental affairs, will be leaving to join a private sector firm as a market sector leader.

Haddican, who has held his current position for the last seven years with TxDOT, is a familiar face at the Texas Capitol. He has worked at five state agencies over the past 25 years.
Bob Kaufman, who has served as TxDOT’s chief communications officer for more than 10 years, will be leaving the agency to join the Lower Colorado River Authority as the senior vice president of communications.

Kaufman, who led communications and travel information functions at TxDOT, also served as director of public information at the Texas Railroad Commission.
The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is looking for a vendor to assist with the design of its future Honors Residential College. This project will include at least 600 bed residence hall and academic home hall for students and staff of the college. In addition to dorm rooms, physical amenities include multipurpose learning spaces, recreational spaces, a counseling center, and the home of the Honors College’s dean and administrative staff.

The anticipated total project cost (TPC) for this facility will be $87 million. The tentative project location is 1604 Campus, South of Ximenes Avenue Lot, partially in Ford Avenue. The request for qualifications for architect/engineer professional services is due by August 12, 2022.

The UTSA Honors College is a non-traditional, Hispanic-serving, liberal arts and sciences college that recruits and develops elite students. The college currently has no dedicated building, classrooms, or event space. Public universities leverage their honors colleges to attract top students and provide an experience that reinforces academic quality and institutional excellence.
Rick Belliotti has joined the executive leadership team at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) as deputy chief of information technology. He will lead the airport’s efforts in technology innovation and the teams that support them.

Belliotti has worked in the aviation industry since 2001, as a consultant and as a solution provider at airports all over the world. He is formerly the director, innovation and customer experience design at San Diego International Airport (SAN), where he spent more than nine years, responsible for creation of the customer experience design.
The city of Midland is in the design phase of two new Citizen’s Collection Stations that will replace the one that takes in nearly 1,000 tons of recycling waste annually.

The city’s growth will require additional recycling locations on the southwest side and northeast side of town. The new city stations will replace the north central Midland location, which is located just north of Claydesta.

One design is complete, the plan is to request proposals for construction. This should take place within the next 2-3 months. Construction should take about a year to complete.
Mary Scott Nabers will be a Keynote Speaker at the North Texas Commission’s second annual North Texas Infrastructure Summit on Thursday, July 28, at the Hurst Conference Center.

This full-day summit will feature speakers and panelists discussing critical infrastructure and how it impacts business in North Texas.

Topics will include broadband expansion, electric reliability, regional water supply, sustainability, the use of public-private partnerships, and more.

Mary will give the afternoon keynote addressing economic development and Public Private Partnerships (P3s) at 2:30 pm.

Register for the event here.
Following a two-year search, the city of Bellaire has selected Sharon Citino as its city manager. Citino previously worked for the city of Houston, operating as the water planning director in the public works department in 2018.

Citino's start date is set for August 15.
Former City Manager Paul Hofmann stepped down from the role in August 2020, and since then the city of Bellaire has had two interim city managers.
Former Assistant City Manager Brant Gary filled the role of interim city manager between July 2020-December 2021. Acting interim city manager, Fire Chief Deacon Tittle, will remain in the role until September 16 to ease the transition as the city plans its fiscal year 2022-23 budget.
The Sweeny City Council has chosen Lindsay Koskiniemi as its city manager. Koskiniemi has been serving as assistant director of development services for Angleton.

Koskiniemi has eight years of experience in local governments in Texas, Virginia, and Arizona, and previously served two years in active duty with the Coast Guard.

Koskiniemi has had experience in different departments of city government like finance and capital projects.

Outgoing City Manager Reese Cook is staying through the end of the month to assist with the transition period for Koskiniemi, who begins her first day on July 18.
The city of Coppell is beginning preliminary discussions to adopt autonomous vehicles (AV) for public transport. The city’s Smart City Board wants to adopt an automated mode of public transit and recently met with a company that is developing fully autonomous shuttles. The AV company focuses on taking riders to fixed locations, geofenced routes, and controlled speeds.

The plan is to reduce traffic congestion, reduce the city’s carbon footprint and help connect residents with local retail and restaurants, community centers, and schools.

AVs have evolved over the years from experimental platforms to automotive-grade vehicles, reaching speeds of 35 miles-per-hour with a 10-passenger capacity.

In November, Coppell’s Smart City Board will present their findings to the City Council and will introduce other smart city initiatives.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from July 8-14:

Sabine River Compact Administration Commission 
Connie Gipson - Longview
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