Volume 21, Issue 9 - March 3, 2023

Government leaders are aggressively launching renewable and sustainable power projects
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.

Many parts of the country have experienced catastrophic winter weather events in recent years. In Texas recent winter weather issues were exacerbated when over-taxed grid networks failed to perform. Grid failures are why some public officials are spending millions on energy resilience projects. The U.S. solar market, which is just one segment of the energy resilience industry, is on track to quadruple by 2030. 

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has numerous programs that provide funding to support energy resilience projects throughout the country.

Later this month, the DOE will announce more funding awards from two grant programs—both of which offer support for energy resilience projects. Funding is available for remote areas, sensitive sites and for projects at all jurisdictional levels of government. Many states and municipalities are also allocating money to support energy resilience projects. 


In Wisconsin, the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District will invest $50.9 million in a project to bolster energy resilience at a wastewater treatment plant. District officials are identifying assets that need to be replaced at the Nine Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant. Outdated equipment and processes will be upgraded, and the plant will be positioned for wider use of biogas which will generate both clean, on-site electricity as well as revenue. The project’s concept design is oriented around three major priorities: reducing energy consumption, increasing energy production, and finding wider, more reliable uses for biogas. 

A public university in Klamath Falls, Oregon is seeking design services for a project to make the entire campus more energy-resilient. The project focuses on renovating the Oregon Institute of Technology’s heat exchange building. Preliminary plans involve replacing the geothermal storage tank in the existing facility with an insulated concrete structure designed for in-ground installation. Additional elements of the project include replacement of supply lines from production wells, and a new membrane roof for the renovated heat exchange building. A project cost of $15 million is projected. 

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$235M La Porte ISD bond package discussed

The La Porte Independent School District held a town hall meeting on March 1 about a $235 million bond package. The package includes propositions to fund technology, facility and security upgrades and a replacement of the district’s stadium. The meeting allowed residents to ask questions about and discuss the May 6 bond election. 

There are three propositions included in the package. Proposition A includes $164 million for an education center/field house, the replacement of school buses and upgrades to facilities, safety and security. This would include upgrades to parking lot lighting and bathrooms, new playgrounds and new furniture, equipment and fixtures. 

Proposition B would provide personal electronic devices for staff, teachers and students in all grades and technology upgrades for a total of $15 million that would be phased in over the next 10 years. Funds would provide docking stations, monitors and wireless access for teachers.


The $56 million included in Proposition C would fund the replacement of Bulldog Stadium, parts of which are 65 years old. Should it be approved, the current stadium would be demolished and a new one built on the same site. Other upgrades would include safety and security enhancements and elements to ensure the facility is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the University Interscholastic League. 

The district does not anticipate that approval of all three propositions would increase property taxes. 

(Photo: Bulldog Stadium. Courtesy of La Porte ISD.)

City of Bryan applies for infrastructure, parking garage grants

The city of Bryan applied for a $45 million grant to revitalize utilities, sidewalks, and roads in the northwest downtown area. Concurrently, the Brazos Transit District applied for a $24.8 million grant to build a parking garage and acquire more city buses.

The city intends to use the grant for street reconstruction, burying overhead utilities underground and fresh landscaping. Storm sewer drainage will be reconstructed and enlarged to support the redevelopment of downtown. Some streets will be updated with pavement markings, concrete repairs and wayfinding signage throughout downtown.

Most of the project will be from West 24th Street to West Martin Luther King, Jr. Street and side streets from North Parker Avenue to North Main Street, blocks that have not yet been reconstructed during previous downtown improvement projects. The parking garage the Brazos Transit District intends to build will be on city-owned land.  

(Photo: Main Street. Courtesy of the city of Bryan.)

Saluting Texas Lone Stars

Jeff Barrington

Associate VP for IT and Chief Information Security Officer

Texas Tech University

Public career highlights and education: The first part of my public career was my time in the Army. I regard this as one of the very high points in my public career. I have been in higher education for the last 12 years and currently serve as Associate Vice President for IT and Chief Information Security Officer.


Bachelor of Science in Information Technology – University of Phoenix

Master of Business Administration – Texas Tech University

What I like best about my public service is: I am helping others, especially students. One of the greatest things about my current role is that I directly impact the next generation of leaders! People from all over the world come here seeking knowledge and education. We educate people who then relocate to all corners of the world and use their education in many different roles, careers, and jobs. We make a difference and positively affect the world around us.


The best advice I’ve received is: A man’s word is his bond; don’t say you will do something unless you intend to do it. Colin Powell is one of the military leaders whom I have learned greatly from. He had 13 rules for leadership that he lived by, and I have leaned on these for a long time. I find there is a rule to fit every occasion, and many are good common sense for everyday life.

People might be interested to know that:

I served part of my military career at the Pentagon, where I learned a great deal about how the Federal Government and the military function at the highest levels. I also got to meet people like Steven Spielberg. 😊

One thing I wished more people knew about Texas Tech University is: Texas Tech University is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, which is truly a monumental accomplishment! Not only have we been here for 100 years, but we also continue to flourish. Texas Tech University is a West Texas gem.

Dallas City Council begins talks on billion-dollar bond proposals for May 2024

Dallas City Council members on March 1 began discussing what should be included in a proposed 2024 public improvement bond referendum. The current city inventory has $14 billion in needs. Some of those needs include $857 million for public safety facilities, $308 million for city facilities, $3 billion for streets, $2 billion for transportation, $2 billion for parks and recreation and $2 billion for flood and storm drainage needs.  

Officials suggest only $1 billion should be included in a May 2024 borrowing plan to be funded without raising property taxes.

Some of the proposed projects currently on the bond request include: 

  • Streets and transportation - $485 million. 
  • Housing infrastructure - $125 million. 
  • Parks and recreation - $125 million. 
  • Transportation improvements - $50 million. 
  • Flood protection and storm drainage - $35 million. 
  • City facilities - $25 million. 
  • Public safety facilities - $25 million. 
  • Cultural and performing arts facilities - $15 million.

The next Dallas public improvement bond referendum is planned for May 2024. The Community Bond Task Force (CBTF) will assist the Dallas City Council in reviewing and selecting projects. The CBTF, along with the city manager, will recommend a 2024 Capital Bond Program to the City Council around January or February of 2024. 

(Photo: Dallas City Hall. Courtesy of the city of Dallas.)

Texas A&M–Texarkana planning space for engineering, technology and business

Texas A&M University-Texarkana has requested tuition revenue bond funding to construct a classroom and office building to house programs in its College of Business, Engineering and Technology (CBET). The CBET is a 52,500-square-foot, 3-story building. The project will consolidate the spaces used by CBET into a unified area on campus. The building includes a large lecture hall, loading and delivery area and spaces accessible to the public, specifically the Center for Financial Literacy. The location of the pedestrian vehicular drop-off, deliveries, vertical circulation and entrances will be critical to facilitate access to the building and site. 


Several existing utilities serving other buildings on the campus will need to be relocated including water, sewer, storm and communications. With the project consisting of both new construction and renovation work, the phasing of construction will have to be coordinated to minimize the impact on campus operations and instruction. 

The facility will be situated on the southwest edge of campus directly adjacent to the STEM building. It will occupy a prominent location and occupy a previously undeveloped site.  

Presently, there is no space for computer scientists, engineers and business students to be housed and work together. Office space is limited on a growing campus and there is little appropriate lab space for instruction and no research space for faculty and the undergraduates who work with them. The building will include faculty and staff offices, classrooms and research labs. 

Smith County approves future solicitation for courthouse

The Smith County Commissioners Court approved on Feb. 28 for the city of Tyler to move forward with pursuing a construction-manager-at-risk method for a new Smith County Courthouse in Tyler. There are three phases to the proposed courthouse - a parking lot, demolition and courthouse phases. The projected timeline of the parking lot phase is to start in June or July. The design phase for the entire project is 50% complete. 

Smith County voters in November approved a $179 bond measure to fund a new county courthouse. Dedicated funding from the bond will fund $160 million for the new courthouse and $19 million will go toward an associated parking garage. 

The courthouse will be built on the east side of the downtown square, between the courthouse annex and the jail. There will be three separate corridors that will add a level of security by keeping the public, jury, judges and those in custody apart from each other.  

There will be a total of 12 trial courtrooms on three floors of the structure allowing for growth. Initially, nine of those courtrooms will be used. The additional room at the courthouse is estimated to accommodate the courthouse is estimated to be able to accommodate 75 years of growth, according to officials. The exterior of the new facility will have similarities to the historic 1910 county courthouse. 

The county plans to post a request for qualifications soon.  

(Photo: Smith County, TX courthouse.)

$17 million in financial assistance awarded by TWDB for water projects

The city of Pasadena plans to make improvements to its Golden Acres wastewater treatment plant’s West Plant. The facility received significant flooding during Hurricane Harvey and will need removal of structures from the regulatory floodplain. Additional work includes constructing a detention pond, elevating electrical equipment and rerouting portions of the influent from the floodplain to the Vince Bayou wastewater treatment plant. The project will result in the flood-proofing of the facility above the Hurricane Harvey high-water mark and will increase stormwater capacity in the Armand Bayou floodplain. 

To assist with this flood mitigation, the city is receiving $10.9 million from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), consisting of $10.4 million in financing and $549,860 in grant funding from the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF).  

The city of Leonard has been awarded $5,696,000 from the TWDB to either install two new lift stations or rehabilitate the existing lift stations and replace approximately six miles of clay pipe with new PVC pipe. The TWDB has also awarded $300,000 to Tri-Try Water Supply Corporation for the construction of a new pump station that includes two 100-gallon-per-minute booster pumps, one 1,500-gallon pressure tank and one 15,000-gallon ground storage tank.

UH Downtown seeking funds for future land development

Due to space constraints, expansion possibilities are low at the University of Houston (UH) Downtown. However, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project could increase those expansion needs. University leaders have requested $13 million from the Texas Legislature to fund land acquisitions. Interstate 10 currently bisects the campus, but the project would relocate the interstate north through a different part of the campus. This could free up space for future development. 

UH Downtown serves more than 15,000 students. Enrollment has nearly doubled over the past 25 years. The increase in enrollment has caused spatial difficulties for the university to provide additional housing and other amenities. 

If additional land becomes available, university officials see the potential to add facilities that are currently being written into a master plan, with approval pending before it is posted. Some of the proposed projects include student housing, a convocation center, a student union, more academic buildings and another parking garage.  

UH Downtown recently opened a 75,000-square-foot, multilevel Wellness & Success Center that also has three gyms and a raised track. The first floor contains locker rooms, laundry facilities, a bouldering wall and strength equipment. The second floor houses equipment for cardio and the third floor contains studio rooms for workout classes.

Austin ISD 2022 bond projects to be completed in next 6 years

The Austin Independent School District plans to use the historic $2.4 billion bond program, approved in November, to modernize more than two dozen campuses over the next six years. Some campuses will be partially renovated, while others will be completely rebuilt. Many of the projects focus on Title 1 schools which have a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Austin ISD’s $2.44 billion bond package was made up of three separate propositions.

  • Proposition A: $2.3 billion in general purpose funds. 
  • Proposition B: $75.5 million for technology. 
  • Proposition C: $47.4 million for stadiums.

Some project highlights of the 2022 bond include: 

  • Modernization — Renovate 26 aging facilities through full or phased modernizations, including eight high schools, five middle schools and 13 elementary schools.
  • Athletic improvements — Upgrade turf, lighting and seating at the athletic facilities at every comprehensive Austin ISD high school and fully renovate Nelson Field. 
  • Expand career and technical education spaces — Build permanent facilities for CTE classes to replace smaller portable buildings at Akins and Navarro early college high schools.

Estimated to cost $56 million, one of the schools getting a full modernization will be Linder Elementary. That project is set to begin this year and will be completed in 2025. Among the other schools included are Pecan Springs Elementary, Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy and Travis Early College High School. 

Another 2022 bond project includes prioritizing safety by installing security vestibules at all campuses. School officials intend to make it easier to control who enters the buildings. Overall, the district expects all bond projects to be finished by 2028. 

Frisco approves 4th Street Plaza final design contract

The Frisco City Council is moving forward with its 4th Street pedestrian plaza by approving a contract to begin designing the final plans for redevelopment. The project is part of a larger plan to fully redevelop the Rail District in downtown Frisco. 

Placed between buildings on 4th and Oak Street, the plaza will be a pedestrian-friendly destination with seating areas, shade elements, restrooms, water features and updated landscaping. There will also be an overhead structure and gateway elements. 

The major focus of downtown redevelopment is to make it more people-centric. This includes widening the sidewalks around the plaza to make room for outdoor seating for restaurants and for pedestrians to walk. A nearby parking garage was also recommended. 

No official start date for the project has been announced. 

Greenville approves design contract for new recreation center

Greenville City Council authorized a $5 million contract to design a new 100,000-square-foot recreational center at the SportsPark and a 26,000-square-foot expansion of the Reecy Davis Center. 

The new SportsPark recreational center will boast four basketball and volleyball courts, a walking track, a 25-meter pool, a splash pad, locker rooms, a turf soccer field, a softball field, batting cages, two pickleball courts, a golf simulator, a gym, 5,000-square-foot sports medicine and physical therapy area, administrative offices, restrooms, concessions and a party area. The Reecy Davis Center will be expanded to include a new gymnasium, classrooms and support spaces. 

The entire project is estimated to cost $65 million. According to the city attorney, the city will use certificate of obligation bonds to fund construction costs. 

Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2024 and be completed in September 2025, according to the Greenville director of parks and recreation.

Travis County leaders consider new mental health diversion center

Travis County leaders are considering opening a mental health diversion center to provide treatment to those accused of low-level crime instead of booking them in jail. 

According to a Travis County judge, there isn’t enough room or staff to properly evaluate arrestees and maintain their privacy. It is estimated that 40% of inmates are dealing with mental health issues, and the overcrowding of inmates and understaffing of correctional officers prevents them from receiving proper treatment. 

One potential solution is to build a mental health diversion center across the street from the Travis County jail where a multi-level garage is currently. The proximity to the jail will provide an alternative for those in a mental health crisis. The result is arrestees in crisis will be connected to much-needed resources rather than being incarcerated and possibly worsening symptoms. 

Dallas, Tarrant, Harris and Bexar Counties already have mental health diversion centers. Travis County is among several including Hays, Bell, Comal, McLennan, Smith and Lubbock Counties looking to open a diversion center. 

Travis County commissioners will take up the issue at the March 7 commissioners court meeting. 

LCU picks Herrick as chief financial officer

Lubbock Christian University (LCU) announced that Lori Herrick will serve as the new chief financial officer for the university. Herrick comes to LCU from Abilene where she most recently served as associate vice president of finance at Abilene Christian University.

She will assist with the active financial management of the institution. Some of her responsibilities include the investment of operating and endowment funds and financial oversight of capital projects. 

Staff changes announced with the city of Austin

The city of Austin announced leadership changes on March 1 starting with the retirement of Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano.

Jacqueline Yaft, the executive director of the Austin Bergstrom International Airport also announced that she would be leaving her position. Austin Airport’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Smith will serve as the airport’s interim executive director. 

On Feb. 15, the Austin mayor appointed Jesús Garza as interim city manager after the departure of City Manager Spencer Cronk. Garza was the former Austin city manager from 1994 until 2002. In his interim role, Garza announced his recruitment of the following individuals to serve on his leadership team: 

  • Joe Canales, former deputy city manager for the city of Austin, will serve as special assistant to the interim city manager. 
  • Bruce Mills, former assistant chief of the Austin Police Department, will serve as interim assistant city manager of public safety.
  • Laura Huffman, former assistant city manager for Austin, will serve as a consultant on change management. 
Pratt selected to lead McKinney ISD

The McKinney Independent School District Board of Trustees has selected Shawn Pratt as their new superintendent. Pratt is currently the district's assistant superintendent for student activities, health and safety.

The board's search began in December 2022 when Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel announced his retirement. Per state law, there is now a 21-day waiting period before Pratt can officially be approved as the district's next superintendent.    

Weems selected as public works director

The Plainview City Council has promoted Neil Weems to public works director. Weems managed environmental compliance for water and wastewater services for the city of Lubbock for more than 18 years before becoming the assistant public works director for the city of Plainview in September 2021.

Weems takes over the position from Tim Crosswhite who had held the position since 2016. Crosswhite is now the Capital Improvement Program manager.

Grapeland ISD approves new superintendent

The Grapeland Independent School District (GISD) has named Dr. David Maass as the lone finalist for the position of superintendent. Maass has been the superintendent of Oglesby School District near Waco since 2017 while his work in education goes back to 2003.

Current GISD Superintendent Don Jackson is set to leave the district sometime in March.

Corpus Christi to finance expansion of American Bank Center

Corpus Christi City Council approved a resolution to support state financing for the expansion and renovation of the American Bank Convention Center. 

Financing will be supplied through the creation of a Project Finance Zone (PFZ). Within a three-mile radius of the project, state hotel occupancy, sales and mixed beverages taxes will be redirected to the city. The program can only be used for qualified projects such as a convention center and the program can stay in place for up to 30 years. It’s estimated the PFZ could generate up to $131 million over three decades.

There are currently 20 hotels within the three-mile radius of the convention center and the city plans to add three more hotels within that radius. 

The city is now waiting for state legislature approval to take part in the PFZ program. This summer, city staff will present a plan to city council to finance the project including funding sources, project schedule and recommendations.

(Photo: American Bank Center. Courtesy of visitcorpuschristi.com.)

Fort Worth rethinks aquatic facilities plan

The city of Fort Worth is developing a new plan to update the city’s aquatic resources. This comes after a public campaign to increase funding for a pool project, Forest Park Pool, saw a renewed interest in the community in access to public pools. 

The master plan process is scheduled to begin in 2024 and be officially adopted in 2026. The plan will include an inventory of pools, a demographic analysis of use, comparisons with other similarly sized cities, input from an advisory committee and recommendations for new facilities and where they may be located. The final plan will provide recommendations for future bond programs.


In conjunction, city officials are already working on demolishing and rebuilding the Forest Park Pool which is expected to open in 2024. They are also planning to build a new aquatic facility in east Fort Worth’s Stop Six community as part of a new $25.7 million community center. 


Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from Feb. 24 through March 2:

State Employee Charitable Campaign Policy Committee

Brent Connet - Austin (reappointed)

Vanessa Cortez Tanner - Austin (reappointed)

Daniel Bivens - Austin

State Board for Educator Certification

(all reappointed)

Bob Brescia, Ed.D. - Odessa

Courtney Boswell MacDonald - Kerrville

Scott Muri, Ed.D. - Odessa

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