Volume 17, Issue 31 - Friday, August 16, 2019tional Link

Board members of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County unanimously approved the calling of a special election set for November 5 to authorize METRO to issue up to $3.5 billion in bonds.

METRO officials stated that they will be able to finance future capital projects, as needed, with debt and federal grant funds in order to avoid raising taxes.

Bond monies would support the authority's Moving Forward Plan to expand its Regional Express Network of bus routes by 110 miles, extend its METRORail lines by 16 miles, and add 75 miles to its METRORapid lines, a system of rail-like buses that will begin operations in 2020. The plan also calls for 290 miles of optimized bus routes and 21 new or improved transit centers and park and ride locations.

Officials said the projects are needed to serve a growing number of riders expected to jump from 300,000 trips per day currently to 650,000 trips per day by 2040. The plan also aims to lower the number of auto trips per day by 500,000. According to a Houston-Galveston Area Council forecast, the METRO service area will experience a 50 percent increase in population by 2040 with demographers predicting that the city's population will climb from 7 million to more than 10 million in that time.
Dallas deliberates $1.44B general fund budget, plans capital projects 
Dallas City Hall
Dallas' city manager presented his draft FY 2019-2020 general fund budget on August 9 that outlines $1.44 billion in expenditures, 60 percent of which would fund public safety personnel and recruitment among other budget items.

The draft budget commits $86 million for street maintenance and reconstruction of about 710 lane miles. According to the city, most of its roads are in poor condition - earning a C average last year on a rating scale of A to E. Dallas public works staff will schedule these road projects based on the department's five-year infrastructure management program and bond funds previously approved by voters.
 
Budget plans also include $140.8 million for installation and rehabilitation of about 80 miles of the city's 9,000 miles of water and wastewater mains.

The city's draft capital budget of $872.44 million includes $439.67 million for general purpose capital improvements and $432.77 million for enterprise fund capital improvements. Funding for the general purpose capital improvement program will come from 2006, 2012, and 2017 bond programs.
Some of the major facility objectives for the next fiscal year are:
  • Award a construction contract for the Forest Green Branch Library;
  • Award design and construction contracts for renovations to the Dallas Museum of Art;
  • Complete renovations to six police substations and more than 24 fire stations;
  • Implement renovations at Dallas City Hall; and,
  • Continue securing design and construction contract agreements for accessibility improvements at several city facilities.
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) representatives hosted a public hearing August 15 on plans for building two 15-mile long upper decks on Interstate 35 in San Antonio from I-410 South to FM 3009.

The upper decks would feature one high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and two general purpose lanes in each direction. Additional bridges would be constructed to connect the new upper decks of I-35 to I-410 South, I-410 North, Loop 1604 West, and Loop 1604 East. The proposed improvements between FM 3009 and FM 1103 would include widening of the main lanes for the addition of two general purpose lanes.

According to TxDOT's website, the project would not be tolled and could be constructed in phases. The initial phase would construct upper decks between I-410 North and FM 3009, and would include direct connectors with I-410 North and Loop 1604 west. It is anticipated to begin in spring 2021 and be completed by fall 2024. Phase II from I-410 South to I-410 North is currently unfunded, pending Unified Transportation Plan (UTP) approval. Phase III from FM 3009 to FM 1103 and direct connectors with Loop 1604 East is unfunded.

TxDOT officials said they intend to construct the initial phase through a design-build contract. The project would be financed with state and federal funds.
Utility securing easements for $180M Lake Travis water intake system
Partners in the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority (BCRUA) are making progress on acquiring easements to construct an estimated $180 million deep-water intake system that will draw water from the Sandy Creek arm of Lake Travis.

The BCRUA is a partnership of the cities of Round Rock, Leander, and Cedar Park.

The intake will feature lake taps that connect the lake above to a gravity tunnel that is below the lake bottom and that will transfer the raw water 200 to 400 feet under the village of Volente to a new pump station. There, the pump station will push the water to the Cedar Park water treatment plant that connects with an 8-inch diameter raw water pipeline that ties into the BCRUA partners' systems.

Design work began in March and is expected to take two-and-a-half years to complete at a cost of $14 million. Construction is set for a 2021 start and 2026 completion.
Courtesy of Ralf Broskvar
U.S. Rep. John Larson introduced the America Wins Act to the House, a bill that would establish a levy on carbon pollution and invest $1.2 trillion into infrastructure.

The bill's key feature calls for a carbon tax on businesses, which would start at $52 per ton. This rate would increase 6 percent annually above inflation and ultimately raise an estimated $2.3 trillion in revenue.

Of the tax revenue, the bill calls to invest $610 billion into federal highway programs, $71 billion into sewer systems and drinking water, $66 billion into railway infrastructure, and $40 billion into broadband deployment. Another $5 billion would go to fund airports and aviation, and billions more of the $1.2 trillion total would fund other infrastructure projects.

Beyond infrastructure, the bill would invest $44 billion into clean energy and climate research, and $70 billion into climate justice initiatives.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Laurie Hadley
Laurie Hadley, City Manager, City of Round Rock

Career Highlights and EducationMy career highlight was being chosen to serve as city manager in the city of Round Rock. I never aspired to be a city manager anywhere, but circumstances led to me being offered this awesome opportunity and I am glad I took it. Education wise, I have a Master of Public Administration from Northern Arizona University.

What I like best about my public service is: I enjoy being part of a team of over 1,000 outstanding employees that serve nearly 120,000 of our friends, family, and neighbors. I never know what each day will bring, but my goal is to do my part to make a positive impact on the community as much as I can. It is truly an honor to serve here!

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Listen more than you speak. I admit, this is easier said than done. I have observed many people feel when they are working with government that they are yelling at a giant, uncaring machine. I guarantee you I do listen and I do care about the issues and perspectives of our residents, business owners, and visitors.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Have fun! Life is too short to have a "mad at the world" attitude. That said, do what you can to give people the benefit of the doubt. Many people we communicate with are going to be unhappy. Listen to them, do what you can to understand their perspective, then treat them with compassion and respect.

If I had the opportunity to leave work early, I could probably be found: Relaxing by the pool or watching "Survivor" on TV.

People would be surprised to know that I: People would be surprised to know that I am related to Yogi Berra and that I traveled the world working for ClubMed in the 1980s.

One thing I wish more people knew about the City of Round Rock: Round Rock has a long history of sound financial decisions that continues to today. Our staff truly care about people's pocketbooks and the quality we provide to the community. The great services we offer in Round Rock are something we hope the whole community is proud of.
Laredo City Council accepted the donation of 165 acres for a future sports complex earlier this month as the city pursues a venue capable of hosting tournaments that capture sports tourism dollars.

The land donation was a requirement of the city's request for proposals (RFP) that garnered two applications. Councilmembers selected Cuatro Vientos South's proposal that offered existing water and sewer lines on the property or within its proximity, high elevation out of the floodplain, and access to Loop 30 and Cuatro Vientos Road. An additional 25 acres would be available to the city at a cost.

City officials said they are considering baseball, softball, soccer, and flag football fields for the complex and are preparing a request for qualifications for a design. Project costs and timelines are to be determined.
Sugar Land councilmembers on August 14 approved an ordinance calling an election for November 5 to issue $90.76 million in bonds.

The ballot will contain four propositions seeking:
  • $47.6 million for drainage improvements;
  • $26.3 million for construction of public safety facilities, including an emergency operations center/dispatch building and the second phase of its public safety training facility;
  • $10.26 million for construction and rehabilitation of streets; and,
  • $6.6 million for construction of an animal shelter.
According to agenda documents, the city's financial forecast shows capacity to fund a significant capital investment over the next five years with debt capacity coming from declining debt service payments on existing bonds. The city's spokesman said approval of the bond levy would result in a 3 percent property tax rate increase.
Tarleton State planning $70M facility to house child development program
Boosted by $63 million in funding from the Texas A&M System Board of Regents last week, Tarleton State University is moving forward on a $70 million second building at the campus in Stephenville, Texas. Private funding will provide $7 million toward the project.

Construction could begin in 2021, according to a university press release.
 
The facility will house a Child Development Center that serves children 18 months to 5 years old while giving students teaching experience. The center will feature a Child Well-Being Center, Learning Resource Center, and after-school programs in literacy and English as a Second Language as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

Two kinesiology labs - the Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior and the Clinical Exercise Research Facility - and psychological sciences labs also will be included in the second building.

Funding from the A&M University System is part of a systemwide $2.9 billion capital plan, also approved by regents last week.
Sherman enters contract for police station design, site selection services
Sherman City Council recently approved a contract for pre-design and site evaluation services for a proposed police station.

Police are seeking a centralized headquarters that would avoid space limitations experienced at the current station. Over the summer, councilmembers deliberated multiple options including renovating existing facilities and constructing a new station before settling on the latter option.

A Sherman police sergeant said the department would prefer a 5- to 10-acre site in the western part of the city to keep up with development there.
Calhoun Port Authority acquiring land in advance of dredging project
Calhoun Port Authority board members recently met in closed session to discuss purchasing more land in preparation for the port's dredging project.

Port officials plan to deepen and widen the port's ship channel but have yet to receive U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or Congress approval and funding. USACE is working on two studies - one on the port's dredging plan and the other on addressing issues with jetty design and construction.

The authority has acquired more than 1,000 acres over the last three years for $3.95 million, and board members said 200 acres will be set aside to store sediment from the Matagorda Ship Channel.
TWDB approves $13.77M in funds for Fort Worth-area water supply facility
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved $13.77 million from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to finance an additional water source for the cities of Willow Park and Hudson Oaks.

To counter a reduction in groundwater supply and inability to provide adequate capacity during peak usage, the cities plan to construct an 18-inch pipe to deliver water from Fort Worth's existing transmission line to a shared water supply facility that will include a meter station, ground storage tank, and two pump stations. From the new facility, a 16-inch shared water transmission line and distribution line will be built to tie into to each city's interconnection and distribution system.

The project is estimated for completion in either late 2021 or early 2022. It will double Willow Park's available water supply to 5 million gallons per day, according to the city's website.

Both cities entered into an interlocal agreement for funding, construction, and maintenance of the shared water supply facility with Willow Oaks responsible for 52 percent of the costs and Hudson Oaks accountable for 48 percent. Each city entered into a wholesale water purchase agreement with Fort Worth to supply the treated water necessary to serve the capacity of each city's respective systems.

The cities pledged to repay the note with property tax and surplus net revenues at the 52-48 split.
Midland plans parking project to alleviate overflow at city airport
Midland International Airport
Parking improvements at Midland International Airport are under consideration as the City Council weighs costs and scope of projects to alleviate overflow.

On weekdays, between 300 to 400 vehicles are parked on grass and dirt lots. On weekends, the overflow approaches 700 vehicles.

Councilmembers on August 13 approved a procurement process seeking 800 additional surface parking places. Leaders are avoiding construction of a parking structure due to estimated costs in excess of $25 million.

The airport director said the need for additional parking would be reconsidered after completing the current project which is part of an $11 million parking upgrade.
Funding will come from the $23 million Airport Enterprise Fund that collects oil and gas revenue and parking fees.
Fort Worth to replace community center with new $10.9M facility
Diamond Hill Community Center
The city of Fort Worth is preparing to demolish the existing Diamond Hill Community Center and replace it with a new 25,000-square-foot facility.
 
Built in the 1950s with a boxing ring added in the 1970s, the original facility will be replaced with a new building that includes space for all existing programs and new activities, according to the city's website.

Voters previously approved $9.9 million in bonds for the project, and the city obtained a $1 million grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Officials will host a meeting August 26 at the center to gather public input on what residents would like to see constructed.
River authority to start drawdown of 4 Guadalupe River lakes on Sept. 16
The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) notified lakefront property owners on August 15 that it would begin a drawdown, or lowering, of the Guadalupe Valley Lakes of Gonzales, Meadow, Placid, and McQueeney on September 16.

Officials said the drawdown is necessary to minimize risks associated with the authority's aging dams and spillgates that were built in the 1920s and early 1930s. GBRA's dams at lakes Wood and Dunlap failed in 2016 and 2019, respectively, causing them to drain almost completely.

The drawdown is expected to take three days per lake to lower the water level by 12 feet with the natural channel of the Guadalupe River remaining.

Estimates of $180 million and lengthy timelines to repair all six dams have so far deterred attempts to address the issues. GBRA staff previously said they have been unable to find a funding solution at the state or federal level.

Some homeowners have formed an association with plans to call for an election November 5 to create a water control and improvement district that would have taxing authority to help generate funds to rebuild the dams.
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Calendar of Events
Sign up for the DIR conference
October 3, 2019 / Austin, Texas
Mark your calendar to attend the DIR Technology Forum 2019 on October 3 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Commons Learning Center, J.J. Pickle Research Campus, 10100 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78758.

Journey to the Cloud: How to Get There is the theme of this year's forum, a free one-day, two-track conference for public sector IT leaders. Plan to attend educational sessions on strategic issues, technology updates, and DIR solutions and services.

More than 200 attendees from a wide variety of Texas state agencies and universities are expected to attend. The free event is only open to current Texas government or public sector staff members. Pre-registration is required and opened in early July. The cancellation deadline is September 27; a $50 fee will be charged for any no shows and late cancellations.

Complimentary morning and afternoon refreshments and a luncheon will be served. DIR invites vendors to participate by exhibiting and/or providing a speaker.

For information, email Joy Hall Bryant.

One small change 

By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

Here's hoping our loyal readers will understand as we announce that my column (the one usually placed here each week) will appear 'every other week' in the future.

I'm juggling a few too many balls right now as the SPI Team expands and begins providing more services. Lately, I've found myself more often than not finishing up the columns late at night and long past our newsletter content deadline.

See you back here next week for another column!


UT renames activity center in Powers' honor
Bill Powers
The Student Activity Center at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) will be renamed the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center, after the late 28th president of UT Austin. The renaming was unanimously approved by the UT System Board of Regents.

Powers, who passed away in March, was president of the university from 2006 to 2015. He was a member of the School of Law faculty for over 40 years, including six as dean. A beloved teacher and nationally recognized legal scholar, Powers fiercely defended the university's mission as a public research university throughout his career.

As the second-longest-serving president in UT's history, Powers argued for the merits of diversity in higher education at the U.S. Supreme Court. Under his leadership, the university established two of its 18 colleges and added 13 new buildings to campus, including the 149,000-square-foot Student Activity Center in 2010.

During Powers' first year as president in 2006, plans were approved when the student body voted to increase student fees to help fund the new activity center.

Since its opening, the Student Activity Center has served as a central hub for students on campus, with space to meet, collaborate and connect as well as the student government legislative assembly room.

After stepping down as president in 2015, Powers returned to the law school to teach. A year later, the Texas Exes alumni group honored him with a Distinguished Service Award.

A formal dedication ceremony will be held on campus this fall. More information will be made public when available.
Orange appoints Kunst as its new city manager
Mike Kunst
The city of Orange selected Mike Kunst as its new city manager on August 13.

He takes over for Shawn Oubre who was city manager for 13 years.
Kunst currently serves as Vidor's city manager, a position he has held for 6-1/2 years. Prior to joining the city, he was a funeral director and a member of the Army National Guard where he was deployed twice to Iraq.

According to the city of Orange's website, a report date for Kunst will be confirmed soon.


Raimer named interim  president of UTMB
Dr. Ben Raimer
Dr. Ben Raimer, a physician-leader whose service to the Galveston community and the state of Texas has spanned five decades, has been appointed interim president of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB).

He will succeed Dr. David Callender who announced last month that he would be stepping down as UTMB president to become president and CEO of the Memorial Hermann Health System.

Raimer will serve as interim president while the Board of Regents launches a national search for a permanent president for UTMB. He is currently senior vice president for the Office of Health Policy and Legislative Affairs at UTMB and a tenured professor in the departments of pediatrics, family medicine, and preventive medicine and community health. He has held numerous academic and administrative positions at UTMB over the past 40-plus years.

Throughout his career, Raimer has held numerous leadership positions with statewide, community and health-related organizations. He is a former president of the Texas Pediatric Society, was previously appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as chair of the advisory council of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and is a past-chair of the Galveston Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, among others.
Austin hires Harris as homeless strategy officer
Lori Pampilo Harris
The city of Austin named Lori Pampilo Harris as its new homeless strategy officer, effective September 9.

Harris, who has been an advisor and consultant to the public and private sectors, most recently served as senior advisor on homelessness and social services to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Prior to that role, she was embedded in the city as a senior program manager for the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). Before joining Orlando, she was a director of a community legal aid organization and served in various leadership roles with Habitat for Humanity.

She replaces Veronica Briseno who served as interim homeless strategy officer since March while transitioning into her new role as the city's director of economic development.


Abbott appoints Flores, Huberty to Education Commission of States
Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed state Sen. Pete Flores and state Rep. Dan Huberty to the Education Commission of the States.

The Education Commission of the States was established more than 50 years ago to gather and analyze data concerning education needs and resources as well as encourage research in all aspects of education.

Sen. Pete Flores
State Sen. Flores spent most of his career as a Texas Game Warden, serving the state for 27 years and achieving the rank of colonel. He was elected in a special election in September 2018. He served on five Senate Committees and passed various bills to help all areas of Senate District 19.

Rep. Dan Huberty
State Rep. Huberty was sworn in to serve District 127 in the Texas House of Representatives in 2011. He has been re-elected to this seat three times and has served in four legislative sessions.
Huberty serves as president of a real estate investment trust.
Austin names McNeeley as lone finalist to helm parks and recreation 
Kimberly McNeeley
The city of Austin selected Kimberly McNeeley as the lone finalist to be the next director of its parks and recreation department. McNeeley is set to begin her duties September 1.
 
McNeeley began her career in municipal recreation as a teen and progressed from a part-time swim instructor/ lifeguard to a full-time recreational programmer, and then worked various management positions, eventually becoming the assistant director for the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) in 2010. While serving as assistant director, she also served as acting PARD director and interim chief animal services officer.

Before joining the city of Austin, McNeeley worked in the parks and recreation department at Palm Beach County in Florida.


Stephenville promotes King to deputy city administrator post
Jason King
Stephenville City Administrator Alan Barnes announced on August 12 his selection of the city's Police Chief Jason King to be the city's new deputy city administrator.

King was appointed Stephenville's police chief in 2015 after a 22-year career in law enforcement.

He plans to work in a dual role until the city hires a new police chief.
New bills clarify transparency laws
New legislation passed to clarify and strengthen transparency in the state already is taking effect with several more bills to become law, effective September 1.

A Texas Open Meeting Act law on what constitutes a walking quorum took effect in June immediately after Gov. Greg Abbott signed it.

Two bills that support the Texas Public Information Act also will take effect soon. SB 944 removes the "custodian loophole" that would often stymie information requesters from receiving government records stored in the private electronic accounts of public officials. SB 943 restores public access to financial records associated with public funds spent with private companies.

HB 2840 enables citizens to address governing bodies during open meetings on a specific agenda item before or during consideration of the item.
  
GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced these appointments/reappointments from August 9-15:

Robert "Robie" Vaughn - Dallas, Texas Transportation Commission

Gloria Canseco - San Antonio, Texas Behavorial Health Executive Council

Erik Saenz - Houston, Texas Lottery Commission

Jane Bell - Corpus Christi, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors

Jason Peeler - Floresville, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors

Anita Shackelford - Leakey, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors

Dane Bruun - Corpus Christi, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors (reappointed)

Dina Ramirez - Karnes City, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors (reappointed)

David Purser - Karnes City, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors (reappointed)

Jonathan Scepanski - McAllen, Texas Funeral Service Commission

Kevin Combest - Lubbock, Texas Funeral Service Commission

Melanie Grammar - Whitewright, Texas Funeral Service Commission

Michael "Mike" Lewis - Newton, Sabine River Compact Administration Commissioner (reappointed)

Valerie Covey - Georgetown, Texas Indigent Defense Commission
RECENT REPORTS and DATA
Texas State Auditor's Office - An Audit Report on Contracting at the Juvenile Justice Department

Texas State Auditor's Office - An Audit Report on the Real Estate Commission

U.S. Energy Information Administration - State-level average annual gasoline expenditures per capita

Environmental Protection Agency - Status Report: Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System
JOB BOARD
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:
  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - System Administrator
  • Ector County District Attorney's Office - Legal Secretary 
  • Ector County Library - Managing Librarian (AV/Young Adult)
  • Ector County Law Enforcement Center - Booking Clerk


View our Texas Government Insider and Government Contracting Pipeline newsletter archives

Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Devin Monk 
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 by former government executives and public sector experts, the SPI Team has developed a national reputation for partnering public and private sector entities.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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