Volume 18, Issue 22 - Friday, May 29, 2020
Texas reopens water parks, sports, more
Texas expanded services and activities that may reopen under the second phase of Open Texas, the state's plan to reopen the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Water parks, recreational sport programs for adults, driver education programs, and food court dining areas within shopping malls may begin operations with limited occupancy or regulations to protect the health and safety of Texans.

Gov. Greg Abbott's proclamation allows water parks to reopen beginning May 29 albeit at 25 percent of normal operating limits.

Starting May 31, recreational sports programs for adults may resume, but games and similar competitions may not begin until June 15. The state allowed driver education programs to resume operations immediately.

The proclamation also allowed food-court dining areas within shopping malls to resume operations immediately.

Malls were encouraged to designate staff to ensure health and safety practices are followed at the dining areas. These measures include limiting tables to six individuals, maintaining a 6-foot distance between individuals sitting at different tables, cleaning and disinfecting tables between uses, and ensuring no condiments or other items are left on tables between customer uses. 

Minimum standard health protocols outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) are recommended on the Open Texas webpage.
TEA to take CARES applications in June
Houston ISD headquarters
The state's education commissioner told school officials on a conference call that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will open applications in June for $1.29 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grants.

States will receive the CARES funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF). Congress appropriated about $13.2 billion for ESSERF out of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act.

The Department of Education will award these CARES grants ­to state educational agencies such as the TEA to provide local educational agencies, including charter schools, with emergency relief funds to address their COVID-19 impact.

TEA will disperse 90 percent of the CARES funds to districts using a formula based on student poverty rates. Houston ISD is eligible to receive the highest grant of $81.7 million.

The governor's office also will distribute federal funds to school districts to offset their pandemic expenses by reimbursing up to 75 percent of their costs. 
San Antonio electric utility to issue RFP for 'bundle' of solar, natural gas capacity 
CPS Energy, San Antonio's public power utility, is planning to issue a request for proposals (RFP) as early as this summer to replace 1,700 megawatts (MW) of capacity from gas steam units that are nearing the end of their useful lives.

CPS plans to advertise globally to companies that can fulfill the needs of its "FlexPower Bundle" - 900 MW of solar capacity, 50 MW of battery storage, and 300 MW to 500 MW of natural gas capacity or alternate technology.

The utility had been planning to advertise the solicitation earlier this year, but it encountered delays because of the pandemic.

CPS recently ranked fifth in solar energy capacity among major U.S. cities, according to an annual report by a research and policy center. San Antonio also maintained its first-place spot in Texas for solar power capacity within city limits and first in the South Central region. The report also found that CPS Energy ranked second nationally among municipally owned utilities for total solar power.
Fort Worth ISD plans stadium site sale
Rendering of Farrington Field development
To generate funds to build a new administration building and two potential football fields, Fort Worth ISD (FWISD) trustees approved the sale of eight inefficient and underused properties at their May 12 and May 26 meetings.

The district will collect $21.74 million from the sale of the properties, which include:
  • Fort Worth ISD Professional Development Center valued at $9 million;
  • Central Administration Building valued at $5.21 million;
  • Metro Opportunity School valued at $3.57 million;
  • Former Adult Education Center and Original Young Women's Leadership Academy valued at $2.73 million;
  • 3 acres at Interstate 20 and Wichita Street valued at $1.76 million; and,
  • 840 Cooks Lane valued at $750,000.
They also sold the Thomas Place Community Center to the city of Fort Worth to realize an additional $1.4 million from the transaction.

In 2019, district officials said they planned to sell surplus properties, including Farrington Field, to help pay for the new facilities.

The district expects to solicit bids for the Farrington Field property later in 2020. A Texas-based architecture firm recently developed a mixed-use concept master plan for Farrington Field that includes office, retail, and multi-family residential space with an enhanced stadium.

In its press releases announcing the recent property sales, the district said it is still considering details of the sale of additional properties.

El Paso police center enters design phase 
El Paso Regional Command Center
El Paso City Council authorized the award of a design contract for the police department's $38.6 million Eastside Regional Command Center on May 26.

Design of the regional command center, which will house a municipal court and fire station, is estimated at 18 months for completion. The center will serve a fast-growing area of the city from its location at Pebble Hills Boulevard and Tim Foster Street.

Construction contracts will not be awarded until funding is available.

Voters approved the command center project as part of the city's $413.12 million public safety bond in 2019. City officials said El Paso is considering issuing debt in 2022 to finance the construction.
Harris County OKs updates to flood mitigation projects from 2018 bond
Halls Bayou
Harris County commissioners approved the county flood control district's update of its 2018 bond program on May 19 that added four new projects and consolidated several others.

A total of 474 active engineering and planning projects with more than $373 million in spending authorizations remain from the $2.5 billion bond.

To achieve its goal of completing all projects in the Halls Bayou watershed in less than 10 years, the district instituted a bond implementation manager project.

The new strategy will allow the district to finance a reallocation of about $48 million in local funds, including some from bond funding allocated to the Halls Bayou Federal project which was not approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The manager will oversee the right of way acquisition, design, and construction in the watershed to reduce the risk of flooding for more than 2,800 structures.

Other bond updates include a $9.2 million bond implementation manager project for the Cedar Bayou watershed, a $10 million community engagement initiative as promised in the bond ballot language, and a $500,000 investigation of general drainage improvements along Carpenters Bayou.

The majority of the changes relate to the Addicks Reservoir where the district will combine 20 individual watershed storm repair projects into one project and 16 watershed subdivision drainage projects into another project. Seventeen individual watershed projects to buy and clear flood-prone properties are being similarly combined for project management efficiency.
Mayors make case for CARES funding 
Travis County Administration Building
Several Travis County mayors wrote to interim County Judge Sam Biscoe on May 18 requesting a share of the $61 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding the county received.

Mayors from Bee Cave, Briarcliff, Cedar Park, Jonestown, Lago Vista, Lakeway, Leander, Manor, Pflugerville, and other cities signed the letter seeking $26.2 million.

Manor's mayor said the group is attempting to bolster emergency and fiscal resources as they prepare for a second wave of infections. 

Travis County commissioners could potentially allow cities to submit proposals for specific programs to be funded by the county's share of CARES funds.

This struggle is playing out across the state where county judges who are set to receive federal dollars are getting similar requests for funds from the cities within their jurisdictions.

Texas will receive $11.24 billion in CARES relief funds. Out of that, $3.2 billion is going directly to Houston and Harris County, Dallas and Dallas County, Fort Worth and Tarrant County, San Antonio and Bexar County, and Austin and Travis County. Also receiving a portion of the $3.2 billion are the counties of Collin, Denton, Hidalgo, El Paso, Fort Bend, Montgomery, and Williamson.
Laredo airport expansion plans underway
Rendering of proposed Laredo Airport expansion
The city of Laredo plans to use $18.5 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to expedite expansion of the Laredo International Airport.

Previous attempts to secure federal funding to expand the airport met with little success, but the city sees the CARES funding as an opportunity to jumpstart the project.

Expansion plans include enlarging the airport's security checkpoint or relocating it within the terminal. 

Additional amenity upgrades could include a new lounge or conference room, bathroom renovations, and other modern features air travelers have come to expect.

Negotiations to add a new carrier to the airport also are a consideration. Making these improvements now could facilitate the addition of a new gate or gates later.

The airport's director discussed these plans and others with councilmembers at their May 18 meeting at which he also addressed the absence of a sense of place or identity in the terminal. 

Initial work in what is likely to be a two-year project would include the creation of a development plan to detail the process scope. That would be followed by public input on a redesign.
North Texas Innovation Alliance to focus on cybersecurity, procurement standards
The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA) launched on May 26 to create a consortium of several cities, counties, economic development corporations, airports, planning organizations, and chambers of commerce to work on smart city objectives.

Members will use data, technology, and community to improve quality of life, expedite inclusive economic development, and increase resource efficiency, according to a NTXIA press release.

Alliance committees will focus on data standards and privacy, cybersecurity, digital inclusion, financial models, and procurement. 

In addition to the consortium addressing both current and evolving challenges of efficiencies, sustainability, economic growth, and quality of life, the NTXIA also will focus on regional standards, policies, and models that will facilitate faster deployment and results.

Through the consortium, NTXIA will work to address and enhance elements serving the region including:
  • Linkages between educational institutions, business and community leaders;
  • Infrastructure and the effective management and stewardship of shared natural and human resources;
  • Resilience in the face of extreme weather and other events, such as COVID-19 and related impacts;
  • Connecting all parts of the region to economic development elements such as power, water, and broadband;
  • Effective and forward-looking land use policies, urban design, and zoning;
  • Strong talent pipelines throughout the lifecycle to prepare the workforce for future career skills and opportunity; and,
  • Accessible and efficient transit solutions and traffic management.
The founding members of the alliance are: Addison, Allen, Arlington, Coppell, Corinth, Dallas, Dallas County, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas Innovation Alliance, Dallas Regional Chamber, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and Frisco.

Additional founding members are Garland, Irving, McKinney, McKinney Economic Development Corporation, North Texas Commission, North Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), Plano, Richardson, and the Texas Research Alliance.
Hillsboro ISD approves design package for new $29.84M elementary school
Rendering of Hillsboro elementary school
Hillsboro ISD is on schedule to let construction contracts for its new elementary school in July after trustees approved the school's design at their May 11 meeting.

The school, which will be on Abbott Avenue near Hillsboro High School, will feature two stories, a secure entry, administration wing, gym, cafeteria, library, and computer lab.

District officials intend to advertise two plans when they open the procurement process in order to evaluate the cost of pre-kindergarten classroom space in the building.

Voters approved the project as part of the district's $29.84 million bond election in November 2019.
Governor seeks SBA disaster declaration for Polk County residents, businesses 
Polk County tornado damage
Gov. Greg Abbott requested a disaster designation for Polk County from the Small Business Administration (SBA) on May 26 to help the county's residents and businesses recover from major tornado damage suffered in April.

An EF3 tornado killed three people, critically injured four more people, destroyed 173 homes, and damaged a total of 306 residences on April 22.

If approved, the county would have access to the SBA's disaster loan program that provides long-term, low-interest loans for economic injury disasters and physical disasters to homes and businesses.

All small businesses or home owners who believe they may be eligible for an SBA disaster loan may apply at the agency's webpage.
Rollingwood mulls police annex building
Rendering of Rollingwood police annex building
Rollingwood councilmembers deliberated the rezoning of land for a potential new police annex building on May 20.

The city is under contract to purchase a residential property on Vale Street that Planning and Zoning Commissioners will consider rezoning for governmental use. Their meeting is set for June 10.

City leaders are collecting public input as they determine the project scope and use of the property. At an April 30 special session, councilmembers indicated their goal is for the site to minimize impact on neighbors and mesh aesthetically with the neighborhood.

If the zoning commission and City Council approve using the site for a police building, they will develop a site plan and conduct a public survey.
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By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

In the current sad and chaotic midst of almost total negative press, some positive things are happening ... and some of it is related to law enforcement.

Throughout the country, law enforcement budgets have been stretched to the limit. First responders at every jurisdiction have worked overtime during the COVID-19 crisis and funding for operations, critical purchases and public safety is vanishing quickly. Budgets need to be replenished, so funding that allows law enforcement agencies to upgrade, make purchases and implement new technology is critical to their ongoing operations.

The good news is that the much-needed funding is now flowing to states, cities, counties, and law enforcement organizations as a result of coronavirus relief bills that have been passed by Congress.

These first funding flows are expected to be only the first step. More funding is anticipated with the next COVID-19 relief bill.

It all started when Congress authorized roughly $3 trillion in relief funding through what is now known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. But, even after Congress passes a statute that allocates funding, it always takes a significant amount of time before the revenue begins to move. That is now happening.

Large sums of money have been allocated for law enforcement agencies. Grant programs also are available for specific types of funding.

But, this funding is likely just the beginning because there appears to be almost universal agreement that another large relief bill is necessary. It will send billions more to state and local governments, and law enforcement will participate in some of that as well.

This has all happened in the last two months, and the bills passed by Congress are packed with intricate details related to funding programs. Deciphering the information that explains what the funding can be used for and where is it being routed is a daunting task ... but it can be done.

In this column over the next few weeks, I'll explain where the funding is going, what it can be used for and the timelines that are involved. That is news that citizens, taxpayers, and government contractors have a right to know, so we'll publish it here.


Political strategist joins SPI Team
Missy Mandell
Missy Mandell is a seasoned policy and business consultant and political strategist for SPI who has more than 40 years of experience in both the public and private sectors.

Missy has accrued expertise in governmental relations, public policy development, strategic business consulting, organizational management, and business development and displayed savvy in community networking and issues management.

She worked for over 20 years in senior executive positions at the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). In 2008, she founded a strategic consulting firm based in Austin that works with electric and water utilities and with clients in energy, water, and environmental industries.

Missy also serves as executive director of the Large Public Power Council (LPPC), whose members include 27 of the nation's largest public power utilities. In that role, she works with the chief executive officers and senior executives of these utilities and directs the organization's involvement in priority issues and challenges facing public power, both operationally and from a policy perspective.

As a board member of a nonprofit foundation dedicated to harnessing the power of markets and technological innovation, Missy strives to build a future of clean, flowing water for all Texans.

Waco names Ford as city manager
Bradley Ford
Waco City Council unanimously approved the hiring of Bradley Ford as the city's next city manager on May 23. He will succeed Wiley Stem who is retiring.

Ford most recently served as deputy city manager and an assistant city manager. Before joining Waco, he held various positions with the city of Fort Worth and also with the city of Burleson, where he rose to deputy city manager.
Cox named Eastern District attorney
Stephen Cox
Attorney General William Barr appointed Stephen Cox as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas on May 27. He will succeed Joseph Brown who resigned.

Cox most recently served as deputy associate attorney general and chief of staff within the Office of the Associate Attorney General. He also was a senior adviser to the director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Amarillo appoints 3 executive positions
The city of Amarillo recently announced the appointment of Kevin Starbuck as deputy city manager, Laura Storrs as assistant city manager, and Martin Birkenfeld as chief of police.

Kevin Starbuck
Starbuck has served in multiple roles with the city including as deputy city manager, assistant city manager, and emergency management coordinator.

Laura Storrs
Storrs most recently served as Amarillo's finance director. In her new role as assistant city manager, she will serve as chief financial officer.

Martin Birkenfeld
Birkenfeld previously served as assistant chief of the operations bureau at Amarillo Police Department. Prior to that, he held several command positions in patrol, records, criminal investigation, and administration.

Manor ISD names Spencer as finalist for superintendent 
Andre Spencer
Manor ISD named Dr. Andre Spencer the lone finalist to be the district's next superintendent on May 22. If approved, he will succeed Superintendent Royce Avery who announced his resignation in the summer of 2019.

Spencer currently serves as executive superintendent in the New York City Department of Education, where he oversees three school districts in Queens South.
Watkins to direct Fort Worth Now
Jarratt Watkins
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price announced on May 28 that Jarratt Watkins has been named director of Fort Worth Now, a new economic recovery and growth task force.

Watkins most recently served as an attorney with a Fort Worth law firm.
The public-private partnership headed by Elaine Agather and John Goff is helping businesses in the city recover from COVID-19.
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced these appointments/reappointments from May 22-28:
  • Chad Craycraft - Dallas, Texas Ethics Commission (reappointed)
  • Katie Kennedy - Houston, Texas Ethics Commission (reappointed)
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - State Revenue and Expenditure Tool

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas - Texas Employment Forecast

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas - Texas Economic Indicators

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas - Eleventh District Beige Book
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:
  • City of Laredo - Planner III
  • Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company - Settlement Services Specialist
  • Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company - Investment Accountant
  • Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company - Senior Portfolio Manager
  • Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company - Business Analyst
  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission - Attorney III
  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission - Attorney IV
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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