Volume 20, Issue 29 - July 22, 2022
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
Changes are occurring rapidly at the local levels of government and the changes will likely be noticed first by citizens and businesses because of fee increases. 

Citizen services are critical components of local government and while public officials work diligently to hold down costs for taxpayers, the cost of citizen services is escalating rapidly. Most taxpayers and citizens already realize that costs will increase because the country’s infrastructure must be upgraded. Water fees will increase because water pipes throughout the country are beyond their anticipated lifespans and must be replaced if citizens are to have clean drinking water. Power grids are becoming unreliable and must be enhanced, school facilities require expansion because of population growth, and public safety costs are escalating at a rapid rate. But few think about waste collection and disposal services which will also result in some fee increases because of new mandates.

The waste collection and disposal services that cities and counties provide for citizens, businesses, government, schools, and hospitals are now impacted by numerous new mandates because of changes that were implemented to protect citizens. While it is important to understand what is happening, it is also noteworthy for businesses of every type to recognize the hundreds of new contracting opportunities that will result immediately from changes that are inevitable. 

Population growth, especially in urban centers, has created new demands. Landfills are full and environmental concerns have become a risk. Traditional waste collection services now include recycling, leading edge technology, more frequent pickup services, and various types of new risk. Public officials are being asked to evaluate all types of new options such as the testing of waste to power options. They must construct additional landfills, follow new federal mandates, and consider outsourcing operations in order to transfer some of the ongoing risk. Collaborative initiatives are in high demand.

Austin’s city manager has presented his proposed $5 billion budget for fiscal year 2023.

The budget includes $72.5 million in planned capital spending to implement a sidewalk plan, including building and rehabilitating the city’s sidewalks. Another $9.9 million will fund construction of the Dove Springs Public Health facility, which will house a neighborhood health center, WIC office, childcare center, and immunization clinic. Around $79.1 million will help meet the city’s affordable housing goals set by the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint.

The Austin History Center will get $9.4 million from the budget for renovation and expansion projects. The Information Security Office will receive $9.9 million, including $580,000 in one-time funding for citywide security services tools to protect key city technology infrastructure.

The budget also highlighted Austin’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan. Some of the projects include:

  • Information technology master plan refresh in 2024 and 2025 at a cost of $1 million.  
  • Geographic information system upgrade, starting in 2024 and totaling $1.53 million. 
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport’s Barbara Jordan Terminal improvements, starting in 2026 at a cost of $12 million.  
  • Mexican American Cultural Center phase 2 improvements, starting in 2023 and totaling $28.2 million. 
  • Dougherty Arts Center facility replacement, starting in 2023 and totaling $25.6 million. 
  • Campus digital signage display end of life replacements, starting in 2025 at a cost of $5 million. 
On July 12, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Commission awarded more than $68 million in federal and state funds to transit providers across the state. Combined with an award granted in June, TxDOT is distributing more than $146 million in funding, a 65 percent increase compared to funds approved in summer 2021. This increase is partly due to additional federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Transit agencies can use this funding to cover maintenance costs, buy new buses, build new facilities, and expand their services to pick up more people. Some of the awarded transit providers include the following:

  • Concho Valley Transit District in San Angelo will build a bus storage and inhouse maintenance facility. 
  • Rural Economic Assistance League (R.E.A.L.), which serves nine counties in Coastal Ben area of South Texas, will build a multimodal transit facility after doubling its service area over the past several years. 
  • Texoma Area Paratransit System, Inc. (TAPS), which serves six counties near the Oklahoma border, is bringing administration and transportation functions from leased space to a new facility. 
  • Brazos Transit District, which serves seven counties in the Brazos Valley, will expand its service and add fuel vehicles on site. 

These state and federal funds support rural and urban transit services in over 90 percent of the state’s land area, serving more than one-third of the state’s population. The services these agencies provide vary but can include both pick up at designated locations and taking customers to and from their homes.
The city of Conroe looks to private funding after preliminary cost estimates to renovate the former Sam Houston Elementary School into a visual and performing arts center came to $190 million. The Conroe City Council will appoint a steering committee to help with recommendations for the center and coordinate fundraising for the project.

Officials have seen two reports for the performing arts center. One report identified a full performing arts center that would support touring and performing arts groups with a theater seating around 2,000. This would require over 250,000 square feet of space, whereas the original elementary school is estimated to be 70,000 square feet. The second report presents a reduced version of the performing arts center with a 1,600-seat theater and other downsized areas.

Both reports include a 2,000-seat proscenium with a loft, support spaces, an 8,000-square-foot ballroom, and a restaurant component in the existing cafeteria and gym areas. The first report will cost an estimated $190 million, with the second downsized concept estimated to cost $70 million. Neither concept includes a parking garage.
Marble Falls City Council is moving into the final design phase of a $60 million wastewater treatment plant. This phase includes additional design and engineering services along with equipment preselection and the negotiation of a guaranteed maximum price. Marble Falls will need to act on the permitting process for the plant, which will cost around $5 million and take up to two years by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The current plant, located near Johnson Park, is in a floodplain and this led to major flooding issues in 2018. The floodplain and age of the plant, built in 1954, is what prompted the city to move forward on plans for a new facility.

The new plant will be built on 49 acres of land and will have a capacity of 3 million gallons per day (Mgal/d), double that of the existing plant. It also will have the capability of being upgraded to 4.5 Mgal/d.

The plant will use the same technology to turn effluent water into potable water. This technology, known as direct potable reuse, is new to Texas. Because of that, the plant must undertake a long and costly testing process before it is able to use the technology.
Thomas Bartlett
Aviation Deputy Director
San Antonio International Airport
Public career and education highlights: My aviation career spans 49 years. This time includes learning to fly while in high school, attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University acquiring BS and AS degrees; and various flying and airport management positions, both in the United States and internationally. One particular career highlight was working overseas where I brought my years of experience to lead, mentor, and train professional airport staff.

What I like best about my public service is: Customer service and the occasion to meet and assist many people day in and day out. Every day brings on new challenges and opportunities to make someone’s day better.

The best advice I’ve received is: To treat everyone with dignity and respect.

My favorite way to de-stress is: To travel in my RV either on short trips to the beach or cross-country.

People might be surprised to know that I: Enjoy cooking, in particular BBQ on the weekends.

One thing I wished more people knew about the San Antonio International Airport is: The depth of experience, dedication, and commitment our airport employees have.
The Richardson City Council is preparing to update the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The plan provides guidelines for detailed goals, objectives and policies that will help steer development and redevelopment efforts over the next 10 to 20 years.

The plan covers areas such as urban development, land use, public facilities, infrastructure, transportation, environment and development trends.

City leaders will work with a consultant on the updates. In addition, the city will gather public input and hold public hearings before adopting the plan.

In September 2022, the city will issue a request for qualifications for the consultant, which is expected to be hired by November. The scope of services that will be provided by the chosen consultant include:

  • Develop a resident/stakeholder engagement strategy. 
  • Update the community socio-demographic profile. 
  • Inventory current land use, transportation facilities, and infrastructure. 
  • Evaluate current future land use map and categories. 
  • Outline process and frequency for updating and amending the plan. 
  • Develop an implementation strategy.  
  • Identify economic and development and redevelopment strategies.  

The plan is expected to be completed and adopted during the second half of 2024. Richardson’s Comprehensive Plan was last updated in 2009.
According to documents shared July 20 at the Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) Board meeting, light rail components, initially budgeted at $5.8 billion, have increased to a projected $10.3 billion as of April 2022 under the estimated figures at 15 percent design. ATP anticipates those costs will continue to increase due to inflation and real estate and as the design phase of projects progresses.

Next spring, project leaders will present updated information on the light rail system’s sequencing and scope elements, following public feedback and revisited costs. Some of the steps identified by ATP for possible scope changes include the following:

  • Collecting data on demographic and socioeconomic information, possible displacement impacts, current and projected ridership, and environmental impacts. 
  • Focus on key light rail scope areas such as lake crossing(s), tunnel lengths, stations and station-area locations, and corridor mobility improvements. 
  • Working with the Federal Transit Administration on the federal grant process and identifying possible private and nonprofit program partners. 
  • Finalize a Plan of Finance that maximizes loan/grant opportunities and minimizes market risk. 
  • Work with community members on possible program tradeoffs and priorities and engage advisory and mobility committees along with other community groups.  
The University of Houston (UH) will be hosting a P3 Market Outreach event on August 2, 2022, at the College of Technology to present information and gather feedback from developers, industry partners, and interested parties in anticipation of a forthcoming procurement process for the development of the 40-acre Industry Partnership Zone at the UH campus in Sugar Land.

UH is looking for key partners whose work overlaps with the program offerings at UH at Sugar Land to leverage the intellectual capital available in the form of faculty and students. UH at Sugar Land is most focused on advanced manufacturing, logistics and supply chain, and biotechnology, but are open to adjacent sector partners as well. These partnerships would collaborate to offer internships, research collaborations, and intellectual property leading to patent development.

Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from the following guest speakers:

  • Jay Neal - Associate vice president and chief operating officer for University of Houston at Sugar Land and University of Houston at Katy. 
  • Elizabeth Huff - Director of economic development at city of Sugar Land Economic Development Council (EDC).  
  • Rachelle Kanak - Executive vice president marketing & operations at Fort Bend County EDC. 

The University of North Texas (UNT) made the list last fall to join the American Athletic Conference. UNT joined Tulsa and Tulane and has added Rice and The University of Texas San Antonio. UNT is currently part of Conference USA (C-USA). UNT is finalizing a strategic plan school officials will soon unveil that will guide it through its move to the conference which announced this summer that it will welcome its new schools on July 1, 2023.

UNT has prioritized its plan to renovate the North Texas Athletic Center. UNT opened the center in 2005 and renovated it in 2016. The renovation was mostly cosmetic. UNT has a new plan and wants to expand the venue this time around as part of a multimillion-dollar renovation.

Proposed projects include expanding key areas of the athletic center such as the strength and conditioning area and sports medicine. UNT’s coaches’ offices and the football locker room would also increase in size.

Also included is moving its academic center from a separate building across Bonnie Brae Street to the athletic center. Because the school is leaving C-USA, officials estimate it will lose between $2 million and $3 million due to forfeiting two years of revenue distribution from C-USA, a condition of leaving the league.

The challenge now for the school is finding a way to make up for the loss of revenue while growing at the same time.
In order to complete Phase 2 of the new Oscar Johnson Jr. Community Center, the Conroe Department of Parks and Recreation will apply for a grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. If the grant is approved, the city will match up to 15 percent. The grant is competitive, meaning the amount awarded will remain unknown until announced.

According to city officials, the community center will be completed in phases to account for funding issues. Once all phases of the project are complete, amenities will include playground equipment, concrete paths, landscaping, irrigation, and workout stations.

The community center project is expected to break ground in mid-2022 after $35 million was approved in funding. This approved funding will pay for the facility and parking in the project's first phase. The new center is expected to span 87,000 square feet expanding the existing 10,000 square feet center.

A solicitation on Phase 1 of construction is set to go out in August 2022.
Bexar County Hospital District plans to build two new hospital campuses with an estimated budget of $950 million. Cash reserves will fund $450 million. The additional $500 million will come from tax-exempt municipal bonds that Bexar County Commissioners recently approved.

One new hospital will be built on a 42-acre site in Selma, which according to officials, is medically underserved. The other proposed hospital will be built on a 68-acre site next to the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus on the city’s south side. This site is part of a 600-acre master-planned community expected to include 4,000 residential units when complete. University Health recently secured funding from the county to build a $30 million health facility on a portion of the land.

The new hospital campuses will each have four floors and 140 beds. The building will be constructed with room to expand both outward and upward. General medicine, obstetrics, general surgery, cardiac, and orthopedic services will be available when the campuses are complete.

According to officials, designs for the buildings will take about a year. The campus in Selma could be completed by 2026, and the campus next to Texas A&M in 2027.
The Austin Independent School District has released two draft proposals for a possible bond vote in November 2022.

One package totals more than $1.55 billion and does not raise the tax rate, while the other proposal is for roughly $2.18 billion and would require a 1-cent tax rate increase. AISD is collecting public input on both plans. The board of trustees will decide in August if one of them will end up on the ballot in November.

The $1.55 billion proposal would be used to fix critical facility deficiencies, which include things like fire alarms, security systems, and much-needed HVAC improvements. Also included are 14 campus modernizations, security vestibules at every campus, technology upgrades, bus replacements, competition fields at all high schools, and a rebuild of Nelson Field and damaged bus terminals.

The larger proposal includes everything contained in the first proposal with the addition of seven additional campus modernizations, an increased technology investment, additional improvements to athletic and visual and performing arts spaces, and an allocation for teacher housing (possibly 250 to 400 housing units) to help address the teachers' cost of living.

Last week, the school district hosted four meetings with community members about the bond planning process.
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.
The city of New Braunfels is entering into an interlocal agreement with New Braunfels Independent School District (NBISD) that will help the city acquire a five-acre site that could become a new public library to support the city's rapidly growing population.

The agreement sets requirements for the city to purchase the property, including survey requirements, determination of fair market value for the property, platting requirements, feasibility period of about nine months, and a timeline to close. It is also stipulated that the city pay no less than the property's fair market value.

Funding for the purchase of the property will come from selling the former Police Department building. Surplus general fund reserves will be utilized if needed. Construction of the library branch is among items under consideration for inclusion on a 2023 bond program ballot.
The Richardson Independent School District selected Tabitha Branum as the lone finalist for the superintendent position. She will now wait 21 days before formally taking the position. The district said the school board, per district protocols, will meet on August 9 to finalize the decision. Branum replaces Dr. Jeannie Stone, who submitted her resignation on Dec. 13, 2021.

Branum joined Richardson ISD as an assistant superintendent of secondary instruction and operations in 2014. She then became deputy superintendent and was named interim superintendent in December 2021 after Stone's resignation.
A total of $36.5 million of the $55 million for Hogan Park’s transformation has been raised. The project is a collaboration between the city of Midland, Quality of Place Conservancy, and local businesses.

The project is expected to break ground sometime between January and March 2023 and if all goes well, the park will take 18 to 24 months to renovate.

Work on the park includes renovations and new facilities for baseball and softball; multipurpose fields for football, soccer, and other uses; sand volleyball courts; a splash pad; additional playgrounds; and a Pioneer Pavilion.

Hogan Park is currently 120 acres, and the renovations will not require it to expand.
The city of Fort Worth has selected William Johnson and Jesica McEachern as assistant city managers.

Since September 2019, Johnson has been director of the Transportation & Public Works Department for the city of Fort Worth. In this role, he has been responsible for engineering, traffic, transportation, stormwater management, and capital development. He leads a team of 470. He oversees an annual capital program projected at about $150 million as well as the $365 million capital bond program that was approved by voters in May.
McEachern has been the assistant city manager for development services and public works in Lubbock for the past four years. She has been responsible for the oversight of 10 departments with a combined annual operating budget of $238 million, capital programs of $65.1 million, and 530 employees.

Johnson begins his new role and McEachern joins the city of Fort Worth on August 8.
Construction is expected to begin in June 2023 on the Bolin Hall expansion and renovation at Midwestern State University, part of the Texas Tech University System. This design-build project has a budget of $38.6 million. Bolin Hall was built in 1966 and has had minor renovations over the life of the building.

A significant part of this project’s scope is to upgrade, replace, and retro-commission the existing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing building systems. In addition to potential renovation of approximately 55,000 square feet of the existing facility, around 21,000 square feet of new space is to be added to meet the needs of the sciences and math departments.

There are several areas of the existing building that have underutilized space. These spaces are to be evaluated and reprogrammed to maximize space utilization with the facility.

The request for qualifications for the design-build services is due August 16, at 2 p.m. CST.
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