Volume 19, Issue 25 - June 18, 2021
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is drafting an action plan that includes a set aside of $750 million in federal disaster mitigation funding to Harris County and will direct at least $500 million in additional funds to the county through a regional mitigation program.

After Harris County was denied a direct allocation by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Hurricane Harvey, county officials sought a 30-day deadline for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s request to amend the funding.

GLO representatives said that deadline could not be met, but the Land Office announced on June 17 that it would seek approval from HUD to subaward Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funding to Harris County.

This new funding will bring the total infrastructure and mitigation investments in Harris County to more than $1.1 billion, according to the GLO.

HUD gave a direct allocation of $61.88 million to the city of Houston in the CDBG-MIT. If approved by HUD, the $750 million, plus $117.21 million in MIT awards for Harris County projects, plus the $61.88 million direct allocation of CDBG-MIT to Houston, plus $209.22 million in infrastructure funds from CDBG-Disaster Recovery funds, equals more than $1.13 billion in total investment in projects within Harris County.

The GLO will release additional details as it finalizes the action plan amendment in accordance with HUD rules and federal requirements.
Lewisville ISD trustees authorized staff on June 14 to begin work on $64 million in bond projects from the district’s 2017 bond election.

The district will begin the design process and bid package development with architects and solicit construction managers at risk for several projects including:

  • The Colony High School Multi-Purpose Facility - $36.54 million. 
  • Technology, Exploration, and Career Center-East (TECC-E) Addition - $13.49 million. 
  • Bluebonnet Elementary School 20-Year Refresh - $10.52 million. 
  • Marcus High School Fine Arts Renovation - $1.54 million. 
  • Lamar Middle School Electrical Upgrades - $1.42 million. 

Cost estimates were developed prior to the 2017 bond election.
The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) has scheduled several solicitations in the coming months as it continues to improve the Dallas North Tollway (DNT).

In February 2022, NTTA plans to issue a request for bids (RFB) for widening the tollway to four lanes on mainlanes and bridges from the Sam Rayburn Tollway to U.S. Highway 380. Construction is expected to take 36 months, and estimated cost is $75 million to $100 million.

Prior to that work, NTTA is set to seek bids in November for construction management services for the widening project. Project cost is estimated at $5 million to $10 million.

NTTA will release a RFB in July to contract final design professional engineering services for a DNT extension from U.S. 380 to Farm-to-Market Road 428. The timeline for design is 60 months. Projected cost is $5 million to $10 million.
The city of Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department is conducting a needs assessment for building a new recreation center or possibly renovating its Clay Madsen Recreation Center.

Councilmembers directed the department to perform a needs assessment after being informed at a council retreat about the high use of the current facility.

The assessment will include an evaluation of the city’s existing recreation center function and programs, as well as a market study of the surrounding community, and user preferences. The results will be shared with the Round Rock City Council for possible future implementation.

A series of public meetings and open houses is allowing the public to provide input on amenities and programming such as a climbing wall, indoor playground, multi-purpose room, classroom, games-activity space, concession areas, child-care facilities, afterschool programs and summer camps, and party room.

An indoor walking-jogging track, racquetball courts, gyms, indoor and outdoor fitness spaces, esports area, sports simulators, field house with hardwood courts or indoor turf, and swimming pool are other amenities under consideration.
David Hillock
Mayor
Town of Little Elm
Career highlights and education: My entire professional career has been technology focused. This started during my service in the U.S. Navy and continues today. Over the years I have worked in information technology in small and large organizations and eventually moved into sales. Today, I serve as a business development director for a major commercial real estate services firm, focused entirely on data center management and critical operations.

What I like best about my public service is: “Giving back” or something similar is probably the expected answer here but, in my case, that really isn’t an accurate way to look at my service to Little Elm. I believe that each of us has a duty to take an active role in our community. I suppose the thing I like most about it is that the children that my wife and I raised have spent a good portion of their lives as witnesses to our service in the community. Hopefully, that example will compel them to do the same in their own future.

The best advice I’ve received is: My father is a wise man, far wiser than his lack of formal education would imply. He is a master of language and idiom. But, perhaps more important, he is a street-smart guy who seems to have a boundless supply of motivational wisdom. One of my favorites: “When someone tells you something is impossible, don’t argue with them. Just prove them wrong.” This concept has served me well professionally and inspired me when I got involved in the development of a community that had few reasons to have high hopes for its future success. Little Elm has certainly proved many wrong.

My favorite ways to de-stress are: Reading is overwhelmingly the leading option when it comes time to relax. I have been an avid reader since I was young, and my reading interests span a wide range. Often, I enjoy biographical or other nonfiction, historical subjects. But, I also find time to read Michael Connelly, Vince Flynn and others. If I had to pick my top author, Stephen King would win, hands down. I also have written a couple of works of fiction. Unfortunately, life doesn’t provide quite enough free time for that pursuit.

People might be surprised to know that I: One third of my life has been spent in public service in Little Elm, Texas. It’s hard to imagine that because time just flew by but it has been 17 years since I first volunteered to serve as a planning commissioner. A year later, I lost my first election, and a year after that, I was sworn in as a member of the Little Elm Town Council. As the result of a change in the Town Charter a few years ago, I am now the longest serving mayor in the town’s history, having recently completed my third and final term.

One thing I wish more people knew about the town of Little Elm is: Until just a few years ago, Little Elm was barely a spot on a map. It has the same history that so many small, Texas towns have. Settlers found water, built a house, planted crops, and eventually others moved into the area and a town eventually formed. But, most of those histories don’t include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filling the majority of the town with water while the few residents who remained watched their friendships, neighborhood ties, and community history wash away. Today, Little Elm provides a new history for future generations, one that they can be proud of and one that won’t disappear.
The Huntsville City Council unanimously agreed on June 15 to move forward with rebuilding City Hall at its current location at 1212 Avenue M.

Councilmembers had been considering several options including use of the existing City Hall property.

Also under consideration were relocating City Hall to a site in north Huntsville near the city’s new police station or to a former hospital property west of the existing City Hall. Cost to purchase the hospital site was about $2 million.

Voters approved $24 million in funding for the new city hall in a 2016 election with the goals of centralizing customer services and accommodating future growth.
Please plan to join the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and CrowdStrike for a webinar on “How K-12 Schools Can Survive a Cyber Attack” at 11 a.m. PDT June 22. We hope you can join us.

CrowdStrike’s threat intelligence team will present a briefing on the evolving cybersecurity threats affecting K-12 schools observed in the past year. Expert panelists will then discuss how to use this information to prepare for and address the most current cybersecurity challenges.

Pasadena ISD will host a virtual pre-proposal conference at 10 a.m. June 24 for the construction of the district’s new $27 million administration building.

The facility had been discussed after the 2011, 2014, and 2017 bonds but the district prioritized other projects.

The current building, which was previously a grocery store and shopping mall, suffers from foundation issues, electrical limitations, antiquated HVAC equipment, aging plumbing, and roof leaks. These structural and maintenance issues prompted the district to start planning a new building.

The three-story 119,320-square-foot facility will be on Mickey Gilley Boulevard north of Fairmont which offers a more centralized location for administrative services.

Pasadena ISD will require both a base bid and alternate bid from general contractors. Responses are due by 2 p.m. CST July 8.
City of Buda leaders are contemplating a $50 million bond election on November 2 to fund mobility projects for the growing community.

A bond advisory committee and councilmembers are considering a tentative list of projects including plans for the design and construction of capital projects such as facilities, transportation, parks and trails, drainage, and more.

Presentation materials from the committee’s meeting last month prioritized several mobility projects that totaled an estimated $45 million. Among the highest-ranked were:
  • Old Black Colony Road Reconstruction - $6.1 million. 
  • West Goforth Road Reconstruction - $5.9 million. 
  • Downtown Streets Reconstruction - $4.1 million. 

Committee members rated park improvements, new land acquisition, and trail development projects for possible inclusion in the bond package.

Estimated at $11 million, the first phase of development for Garison Park would upgrade parking areas, trails, and water access headquarters and restore prairie land. The project’s second phase would involve construction of a nature center and restoration of a historic homestead for about $9 million.

Other parks and recreation projects that could make the list are:
  • Acquisition of Eastside Park - $7 million. 
  • Buda Sportsplex, Final Phase - $3.2 million. 

The committee reviewed flooding, drainage, and facilities projects at its fifth meeting and was scheduled to get feedback on a preliminary project list and bond package amount from the City Council at its June 15 meeting.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will host a mandatory pre-proposal webinar at 9 a.m. CST June 22 to present information on building renovations needed at North Texas State Hospital in Vernon.

HHSC intends to renovate several buildings at the hospital’s main campus and south campus by contracting for ceiling hardening and patient safety provisions in patient sleeping and common areas to eliminate ligature and injury risks with replacement of sprinkler heads.

Included in the work is installation of tamper resistant light fixtures, diffusers and grilles, and life safety devices, replacement of doors and door hardware, and modifications in food service galleys, toilet rooms, and showers for phased work. Building 710 renovation also includes food service improvements and an emergency generator.

The Vernon campus provides forensic services for the state of Texas and offers both a maximum security program for adults and the adolescent forensic program.

Proposals will be accepted until 10:30 a.m. CST July 15.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated the city of Midland may have to return up to $5.3 million in federal and state grants to the FAA if it were to relocate the Midland Airpark.

In March, the city’s mayor wrote to the FAA seeking guidance on closing the airpark and moving its operations to the Midland International Air and Space Port.

The Texas Airports District Office of the FAA responded with a set of 26 questions to the mayor's letter and noted it was reviewing grants previously issued to the airpark from both the FAA and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

In its response, the FAA sought answers related to civil aviation, land disposition, property condition, tenant relocation, public input, expected revenues, and timeframe.

Relocation would result in Midland forfeiting $150,000 per year in federal non-primary entitlement funds and the FAA removing the airpark from the State Block Grant Program administered by TxDOT.

If the city formally submits a closure plan, the district office would review it and forward the request to FAA Headquarters for a final decision.
The city of El Paso secured $3.1 million in federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for its Montana Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) expansion project.

Once complete, the 16.8-mile bus rapid transit line will operate along the Montana Avenue Corridor to connect the city’s downtown to its far east side.

The new line is scheduled to go into operation in late 2022.

Total project cost is estimated at $49 million with the FTA contributing $28 million total and the Texas Department of Transportation adding $8 million.

El Paso was one of the Small Starts projects in development that will receive funds from the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program that will disburse a total of $250 million to 22 projects under construction or in development in 13 states.

The CIG Program provides funding for major transit infrastructure capital investments nationwide. Projects accepted into the program must go through a multi-year, multi-step process to be eligible for consideration to receive program funds.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will direct $268 million for expanding broadband to underserved communities, primarily through Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).

NTIA will distribute grants to help HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs purchase broadband service or equipment, hire information technology (IT) personnel, operate a minority business enterprise, and facilitate educational instruction.

The administration’s mission is to foster robust broadband access, connectivity, and adoption as these are essential elements to support the nation’s economic growth and social advancement. NTIA officials believe that broadband is a conduit for economic development and social opportunities for U.S. households and a gateway to increased productivity, growth, and market access for businesses of all sizes.

Yet, many American communities, households and critical anchor institutions lack sufficient broadband connectivity and experience significant challenges with digital inclusion, adoption, access and equity, specifically within vulnerable communities, communities of color, and with students at HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these inequities for students, faculty, and staff at these higher education institutions.

NTIA will host Connecting Minority Communities webinars on June 23 and 24 to further inform the public about the program.
Annette Seidel Edmonds, a recognized and experienced political action committee regulatory and compliance professional with over two decades of experience, has joined the Strategic Partnerships Inc. (SPI) consulting team.

Annette’s career has covered work in both the public and private sectors and in state and federal government. Her vast knowledge of how government works and how companies should interact with it at every level adds another dimension to the resources offered to SPI clients.

With a Fortune 200 company, Annette’s management responsibilities covered political involvement programs, education, communication, and compliance oversight. Additionally, she successfully collaborated with the legal and investor relations departments. Her expertise will be invaluable as SPI expands its service offerings into multiple states.

As a consultant, Annette has provided political engagement services to corporate clients large and small. Her assistance is not only limited to designing and implementing programs but also includes providing assessments, identifying opportunities for process improvement, overseeing the application of industry recognized best practices, and reviewing regulatory filings.

Annette has been a featured speaker at national conferences and has taught the Ethics and Compliance module at Leadership Latino seminars. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Houston and she has completed a three-year program from The Public Affairs Council.
Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Lori Cobos to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas.

Cobos of Austin has served as the chief executive and public counsel for the Office of Public Utility Counsel (OPUC) since April 2019. Before that, she served in several senior-level positions at the PUC, including as an adviser for two PUC commissioners, assistant counsel to the PUC executive director, and senior policy analyst in the PUC’s policy development division. She also served as in-house counsel at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) selected Brandye Hendrickson as its new deputy executive director, effective July 19. She will take over from Marc Williams who became TxDOT’s executive director on June 1.

Hendrickson is currently the deputy director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Previously, Hendrickson served as acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Before that, she served with the Indiana Department of Transportation as commissioner in a chief executive officer capacity.
The Round Rock ISD board of trustees named Dr. Hafedh Azaiez as the district’s next superintendent, effective July 5. He will succeed Dr. Steve Flores who announced his resignation in December.

Azaiez previously served as superintendent of Donna ISD in the Rio Grande Valley. Before that, he held administrative roles, including assistant principal, principal, and lead principal in Houston ISD and assistant superintendent of middle schools in Spring ISD.
The city of Corpus Christi appointed Mike Murphy as the new chief operating officer for the city’s water utilities.

Murphy most recently served 16 years as the director of public works for the city of Greenville, South Carolina. Prior to that, he was director of public works and city engineer for the town of Addison and chief engineer for the city of Lubbock.
The city of Hutto appointed Robert Farley as executive director of economic development and Mike Arismendez as chairman of the Hutto Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
Farley previously led major corporate relocations and worked for a multinational professional services network, where he managed real estate for the southeastern United States. In addition, he helped create the first international development efforts for a private company by leading projects in Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, and Finland.
Arismendez works as the deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Before that, he served as mayor of the city of Shallowater, city manager for the city of Littlefield, and legislative director for a former state representative.
The city of Beverly Hills, Texas named Kory Martin as police chief. He will take over from Interim Police Chief Lydia Alvarado.

Martin previously served as assistant chief, support services lieutenant, and public information officer for Bellmead Police Department and patrol officer for the Lacy Lakeview and McGregor police departments.
The University of Texas System (UT) earned recognition as one of the world’s top institutions for innovation. 

According to the Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents for 2020 report released June 15, the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association ranked the UT System No. 4 in world. 

Last year, researchers from UT institutions collectively were granted 207 utility patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

UT institutions have earned one of the top five spots in this ranking for three consecutive years.
Water industry experts, visionaries, and innovators from around the state and country will convene for panels, networking, and conversations at the Texas Water Development Board’s Water for Texas 2021 conference, “Clear Vision for the Future.” The conference will be September 27-29 in Austin.

Session topics include drought and flood, water science and technology, innovative solutions to water challenges, water communication strategies, and more.

A clear vision for the future starts with innovative thinking and strategic planning. It requires an understanding of where Texas has come from and a shared line of sight to where the state needs to be.

Register now to secure your spot and join these important conversations.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from June 10-17:

Texas Racing Commission 
Robert Pate - Corpus Christi
(named chair)

355th Judicial District Court Judge 
Bryan Bufkin - Granbury

American Public Transportation Association and American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials – Assessing the Business Case ROI for Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor Investments 
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Click here to view all job openings and guidelines for job submissions to SPI. New jobs added this week:

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Deputy Director of Financial Services (Manager V)

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Audit Project Manager

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Settlement Specialist

  • Texas State Securities Board – Attorney II

  • Texas Department of Information Resources – Network Specialist V-VI
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