Volume 21, Issue 4 - January 27, 2023

Protecting America’s water infrastructure - now a national priority with an abundance of funding
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rang in 2023 with a new program designed to provide funding for critical water infrastructure projects. Now, the EPA is providing loans to state financing authorities which are also known as state revolving fund programs. This new program was named after the law Congress passed to create it. It is called the State Infrastructure Financing Authority Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (SWIFIA).

This first-ever SWIFIA loan of $500 million was issued on Jan. 5 to the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank. The funding will be used to support various water projects throughout the state. The projects will all be designed to modernize, improve and/or expand water systems that serve a cumulative population of 10 million New Jersey citizens. Many of the projects include replacement of old water pipes. 

The SWIFIA program is a recent extension of EPA funding for water-related projects. At the start of 2023, the agency had already issued $17 billion in credit assistance for a combined $36 billion in water projects. That total is increasing daily. The EPA is currently accepting letters of interest for another $6.5 billion available for water projects under the WIFIA program. That annual funding revenue is available to be leveraged to support $13 billion in water infrastructure improvements across the country. 

On Jan. 18, the governor of New York announced a combined $143 million in financial support for seven state water projects. The funding came from the EPA program and was allocated to the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation. In 2023 it will be used to broaden an already expansive pipeline of water projects in various stages of development. 

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       $326M Montgomery ISD bond          package projects in works

The Montgomery Independent School District is moving forward with projects in its $326 million bond package approved last year. First priorities include the new $43.3 million Creekside Elementary School, for which the design plans have been unveiled, and the $27.8 million expansion of Lake Creek High School, which is still in the design phase. 

Other approved projects include campus upgrades for Montgomery Junior High, Montgomery Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, Lake Creek High School, Montgomery High School Madeley Ranch Elementary School, Lone Star Elementary School and Stewart Creek High School. Upgrades include technology infrastructure, and construction is expected to begin in June 2023. 

A new $61.6 million career and technical education center and $21.3 million science center are both projected for completion in 2025. Land has been purchased for both and design is underway. The district will also see $5.3 million in security upgrades and $6.4 million in athletic upgrades. 

Corpus Christi considers convention center hotel/expansion of ABC

A consulting firm presented the findings of a feasibility study on Jan. 24 to the Corpus Christi City Council regarding a convention center hotel and renovation and expansion of the American Bank Center (ABC). The study examined the need for a mixed-use entertainment district on city-owned land surrounding the ABC to make Corpus Christi a competitive destination for conventions and events. 

The study calls for a 300-room hotel to be built across the street from the ABC facility. Then, the center would undergo renovation and expansion to accommodate a connected 600-room hotel. 

The report showed meeting and event planners support the renovation and expansion of the ABC, including the addition of a 40,000-square-foot grand ballroom for an estimated investment of $193 million and the development of a connected convention center hotel. In addition, the study recommends the development of a mixed-use district immediately adjacent to the ABC, with restaurants, shops, public event space, residential units and office space. 

The study found that ABC is not easily walkable to hotels, restaurants or shops, which contributes to losing business for conventions. The plan includes an urban trail connecting the ABC area and a popular fast-food restaurant to downtown. 

The next step is for the consultant to continue working with the city, Visit Corpus Christi, and other stakeholders to move into the financing and development process. A presentation to the council will occur around May to include possible public financing options. 

(Photo: Courtesy of americanbankcenter.com.)

Potential Denton County fairground could bring $33M to local economy

The Denton County Commissioners reviewed a feasibility study for a potential multi-use exhibition center aimed at stimulating the local economy and increasing tourism. The study showed that a mixed-use facility could have a projected annual economic impact of $33.4 million and predicted that 174 events would be held creating 419 employment opportunities.


The target site, already owned by the city, is 232 acres of contiguous lots sitting adjacent to 100 acres owned by the North Texas State Fairs Association. Recommended development of the site would occur in three phases. The first would see a multi-purpose facility be built with the second adding an equestrian and athletic field. The third would add a colosseum.


The facility could host events, entertainment and sports. Estimated construction costs could range from $34 million to $41 million. Added equestrian, livestock and agricultural development would cost $75 million, and adding 12 synthetic turf or turf tournament-style football fields would cost an additional $35 million and require 55 acres for construction. 

Saluting Texas Lone Stars

Dottie Watkins

Interim Chief Executive Officer

Capital Metro Transportation Authority

Public career highlights and education: I got my bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas and my MBA from St. Edward’s University. I have dedicated my entire career to CapMetro, first as a part-time operator while at UT, before climbing the ranks and becoming the interim president and CEO today. Some of my other roles within the agency have been deputy CEO, director of transportation, VP of bus operations and service, and COO. I have always believed public transit is necessary to building equity in a community and couldn’t imagine serving the public any other way.

What I like best about my public service is: That the work I am doing is making my community a better place. It makes the day-to-day tasks and problem solving that can consume your workday more meaningful knowing that I am doing it to better Central Texas for my family, neighbors, fellow transit riders, and other stakeholders.  

The best advice I’ve received is: To talk less and listen more, and to know that those don’t automatically happen simultaneously. You must actively choose to do both to better understand where people are coming from. At the end of the day, people are just people, no matter their position, so if you can take an active interest in them and the problem they may be trying to solve, it’ll be easier to form relationships and solutions.

People might be interested to know that: I have played the French horn since the 6th grade, and I continue to actively play in a local community band here in Austin today. I joined about 8 years ago, and we play about every week! Music has always been a nice way for me to de-stress and unwind from the day. I even played on the Longhorn Band at UT.

One thing I wished more people knew about the Capital Metro Transportation Authority is: I wish people understood the broad diversity of CapMetro employees and customers that we serve. I think a lot of people have a preconceived notion of who rides the bus, but in reality, there are all different types of people who use our services. I’ve often heard of people who say they don’t think to use transit because it’s never dawned on them that it would be a convenient choice, or even an option. I would challenge everyone to pick a trip, whether it be to work, taking your kids to the library, or going to a medical appointment, and take public transit. I know many would be pleasantly surprised by their experience and those they meet on public transit, our employees and customers alike.  

City of Dallas pursues $10M grant for proposed park

The Dallas City Council approved an application to be submitted for an Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) grant up to $10 million for a new park in the Dallas International District. The grant is provided by the National Park Service.

The proposed area for the park would take up 21 acres within the available five parcels of land on a 450-acre space in the International District, the former location of the Valley View Mall and its parking lots. Since 2016, parts of the mall have closed and been demolished. The goal of the city is to attract housing, office development and retail around this recreational project.  

The city expects to find out in September or October whether it will receive a grant. The proposed park is highlighted in the 2013 Valley View-Galleria Area Plan Study, which envisions a vast urban landscape encircling a lush, large park. Previous recipients of the ORLP grant are the city of Austin for the Montopolis Neighborhood Park Pool and Edward Rendon Sr. Metro Park and Harris County for the Buffalo Bend Hidalgo Park Greenway. 

HHSC approves $148M in salary increases, other state agencies could see proposed 5% increase

Effective March 1, approximately 7,855 full-time positions at state hospitals and 11,794 at state supported living centers will receive salary increases, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). The $148 million in salary increases are in addition to other financial incentives HHSC offered staff to increase recruitment and retention last year. HHSC also offers paid health and dental insurance, vacation and sick leave, a retirement plan, paid training and advancement opportunities. 

More than 700 state hospital beds are offline due to workforce challenges. Increasing starting salaries at state hospitals will help recruit and attract healthcare workers, reduce vacancies and bring more beds back online. 

HHSC is looking to fill approximately 1,805 vacancies in state hospitals and 2,137 in state supported living centers by offering higher starting salaries. Jobs are available in Abilene, Austin, Big Spring, Brenham, Corpus Christi, Denton, El Paso, Kerrville, Lubbock, Lufkin, Mexia, Richmond, Harlingen, Rusk, San Angelo, San Antonio, Terrell, Vernon, Waco and Wichita Falls. 

State supported living centers provide residential services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while state hospitals provide inpatient psychiatric care for adults, children and adolescents. 

Other state agency employees could see a 5% salary increase for each of the next two years. This increase has been proposed in the base budget developed by legislative leaders to debate during the 88th Legislative Session. State employees have not seen a general pay raise since 2014.  

The proposed budget would also add funding to the public pension systems, according to the Texas Public Employees Association. It would eliminate all debt for judicial and law enforcement officer retirement funds with almost $800 million in additional funding and invest $1 billion in the Employees Retirement System.

City of Pearland mulls over $181.3M bond election

The city of Pearland on Jan. 23 discussed an assortment of projects including drainage improvements totaling $181.3 million that could be included in a May bond election.  

Voters will potentially decide on 14 drainage improvement projects totaling $105.5 million. About half of the drainage projects under consideration represent flood mitigation work in older parts of town and areas at risk for water damage. Some of the projects include drainage improvements to improvements to ditches and culverts in Longwood Park and work on Isla, upgrades to the street and drainage on Harkey Road from Broadway to Mary’s Creek, Cheryl Drive and North Galveston. 

Another proposition would be a $26.1 million package that provides $15.4 million to replace sidewalks and $10.7 million to extend Hughes Ranch Road as a four-lane roadway from Pearland Parkway to the city limits. 

A third package totaling $33.6 million would focus on park improvements at Independence Park at a cost of $16.3 million and providing $17.3 million to build additions to the Hickory Slough Sportsplex. 

A fourth proposition would provide nearly $16 million to build a new fire station. City leaders will finalize language for the propositions by Feb. 13. 

(Photo: Courtesy city of Pearland.)

Waxahachie ISD considers $576M bond election in May

The Waxahachie Independent School District Board of Trustees is contemplating whether to present $576 million in proposed bond propositions to voters in May. Recommendations by the school's Long Range Planning Committee include a second 3,200-student comprehensive high school and two new elementary schools. Also included is a new Wilemon STEAM Academy. Students who attend Global High School would transfer to the Wilemon campus after it is completed. The Finley and Howard junior high schools would be expanded to each hold 1,200 students.  

The school district will continue to weigh options A and B before calling a bond election. Those options include: 

Option A 

  • Prop A - Educational facilities, $247 million. 
  • Prop B - Second comprehensive high school, $322 million. 
  • Prop C - Lumpkins Stadium upgrades, $6.6 million. 

Option B 

  • Prop A - Educational facilities (minus Elementary 11 and facility upgrades), $147 million. 
  • Prop B - Second comprehensive high school, $322 million. 
  • Prop C - Elementary 11, $41.8 million. 
  • Prop D - Facility upgrades, $58 million. 
  • Prop E - Lumpkins Stadium upgrades, $6.6 million.  
TWDB approves $8.4 million for wastewater/flood projects

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved $4.1 million in financial assistance for the city of Sugar Land from the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF). The city will install approximately 2,600 linear feet of storm sewer improvements to increase stormwater conveyance and decrease ponding depth and duration in the Covington West and Imperial Woods neighborhoods. The project includes the replacement of inlets and outfall structures along the installation corridor. 

The approved project is eligible for FIF funding under category 2 of the 2020 Flood Intended Use Plan. This category was designated for planning, acquisition, design and construction activities to implement flood mitigation projects. 

The board also approved $4.3 million for the city of Marble Falls consisting of $2.6 million in financing and $1.6 million in principal forgiveness, from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The city will construct 5.3 miles of additional reclaimed water system lines and a pump station with three 700 gallon-per-minute pumps. 

Children's Hospital Association of Texas requests $300M for mental healthcare

The Children’s Hospital Association of Texas (CHAT) requested $300 million from lawmakers to increase access to mental healthcare for children. The advocacy group representing eight hospitals across the state presented to the Texas Legislature three areas of improvement for pediatric medicine. The group requested the development of a long-term statewide mental health care plan, increased funding and access for mental health services and more Medicaid funding.

The association requested $300 million to fund hospital infrastructure projects to increase treatment capacity, support suicide prevention programs and fund “step-down” programs to help children navigate mental health recovery. CHAT requested Medicaid funding and advised lawmakers against changing rates or adding loopholes as more than 4 million Texas children are enrolled in the program, representing more than half of children in the state.

Midland approves architect firm for training facility

The Midland City Council voted in favor of awarding an architectural firm an agreement to develop a master plan for the Midland Public Safety Training Facility. The firm will now move forward with performing design, construction documents, construction bidding and negotiation and construction administration services for the city. 

Approximately 150 acres will be dedicated to the facility that is meant for both fire and police. It would go in the same area as the current training facility in southeast midland. The current facility sits on 80 acres. 

Phase 1 of the project will include three buildings housing administrative, tactical and training facilities. The first building would be administrative and would include classrooms, a wet lab, auditorium, offices and workstations for fire and police department training, a kitchen and an academy breakroom. 

The second building would feature a Simunition (not-lethal training ammunition) shoot house, storage, an armorer, offices and a laundry area. The third would have a defensive tactics training room, locker room and showers.

Odessa sports complex feasibility project pitched

The Odessa City Council heard pitches from parks and recreation staff calling for spending $15,000 on a sports complex feasibility study. A sports complex was identified last year as a priority in the city’s master plan. 

A company conducting the study would identify the needs and priorities of the community as well as look for opportunities for sports tourism, potential locations and potential costs. Nothing has been budgeted yet, but the parks and recreation department is confident that they can find the funds.

A conceptual public-private partnership funding strategy was introduced. It showed $15 million coming from the city and $25 million from private contributions. 

The council is expected to further discuss this at its next meeting. 

Buda welcomes new staff hires

Daniel Signorino is the new information technology manager for the city of Buda.

He recently served as the director of information technology at a healthcare center in California. 

Anthony “Tony” Host was hired as director of parks and recreation. He started the position on Jan. 17.

Host has years of municipal experience at the cities of Austin, Hutto and Fort Worth. 

Brian Dyer is the new development project manager of Buda. He will begin his new position on Jan. 30.

Dyer has years of experience in private sector project management.

Roanoke appoints new city manager 

Cody Petree was appointed Jan. 24 as the next city manager of Roanoke. Petree took over as interim city manager after former City Manager Scott Campbell resigned on Sept. 27. Campbell left after more than nine years working for Roanoke to become city manager of Corinth.

Petree has worked for the city in different capacities since 2004. He also served as Roanoke’s assistant city manager since June 2018, overseeing parks and recreation, the library, planning and development, public works and economic development before serving as interim city manager. 

Tucker first economic development director for Farmersville

The city of Farmersville has chosen Larry Tucker as its first economic development director. Tucker’s first day was Jan. 17.

Tucker was employed as the director of economic development in Bullitt County, Ky., from 2020-2021. He also served as the director of economic development for Lincoln County, Mo., for six years until 2019.  

TxDOT to start $16M downtown San Antonio project in fall

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has plans for improvements to Broadway Street, also known as SL 368, that runs from downtown San Antonio into Alamo Heights. TxDOT plans to solicit for construction services this fall on the first segment of road. The first segment covers Broadway from Interstate 35 to Burr Road. The $16 million project will focus on safety, maintenance and operational enhancements. The project will also add ADA accessibility to intersections and improve sidewalks and curbs. 

The next segment will focus on Alamo Heights from Burr Road to Austin Highway. 

State, federal and local funding will be utilized for the project and TxDOT will continue to coordinate with both cities to identify funding sources for additional enhancements. 

$1.7B available to modernize bus fleets

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $1.7 billion in funding available across two programs to support state and local transit agencies in replacing outdated buses with low- or no-emission buses, modernizing bus facilities and developing local transit workforces.

There is $5.5 billion over five years available through the Low or No Emission Program. The program supports transit agencies in buying or leasing U.S.-built zero- or low-emission buses, charging equipment and transit facilities. Approximately $1.2 billion is available for FY 2023 grants.

The Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Programs will provide $2 billion over five years to support transit agencies in buying and rehabilitating buses, vans, equipment and constructing bus facilities. Approximately $469 million is available in grants for FY 2023.

March 3 deadline for water funding submissions

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) invites entities to submit information on projects to be included in the upcoming fiscal year’s State Revolving Fund programs’ “General Activities” Intended Use Plans.

To be included in the initial Project Priority List for 2024, entities must submit a completed project information form through an online application or email. The forms must be received by midnight on March 3. 

The Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds financial assistance programs help communities save money by providing cost-effective funding for wastewater and water infrastructure projects. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) appropriated additional funds for the State Revolving Fund programs, including appropriations that will be available for all eligible activities in the 2024 Intended Use Plan.  

Principal forgiveness may be available for entities that qualify as disadvantaged communities or small/rural disadvantaged systems, for projects with green components, for urgent need situations, for emergency preparedness or for very small systems.  


Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from Jan. 20 through Jan. 26:

Veterans' Land Board

Judson Scott- Bee Cave (reappointed)

State Independent Living Council

Dana McGrath - Austin

Patrick Sturdivant - San Antonio

Tiffany Walker - San Antonio

Judicial Districts Board

Thomas R. Phillips - West Lake Hills (reappointed)

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