Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 15, Issue 36 - Friday, September 15, 2017
Editor's Note: This is a two-part story on our follow-up with cities that presented innovative transportation pilot projects at the Texas Mobility Summit 2.0 in 2016. This week we will cover the city of Bryan, city of College Station and the city of Arlington. Next week we will cover the city of Dallas-Fort Worth, city of Corpus Christi and the city of San Antonio. 

In October 2016, the Texas Innovation Alliance invited cities from around Texas to attend the Texas Mobility Summit 2.0 in Houston. This alliance formed in 2016 and is comprised of an action network of local, regional and state agencies and research institutions that are committed to addressing community mobility challenges by creating a platform for innovation. The October summit brought together nine teams representing 10 cities and three research institutions. Each team introduced pilot programs, challenges and goals, and outcomes for their city. 

One of the teams represents Bryan-College Station and serving on that team is Daniel Rudge, executive director of the Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). According to Rudge, the team implemented three pilot projects last year. 

The first project was to work with a software package that allows human service agencies throughout Brazos County to share transport efforts, eliminate duplicated trips and cut down on mileage, gas and manpower. "If an agency like the American Heart Association is traveling to an area to pick up individuals for an appointment or shopping trip, the agency enters their trip information into the software package and it provides them with the quickest pick-up and drop-off route for the passengers," said Rudge. The main draw of the software is that it also allows one agency to not only pick up its passengers, but it also shows clients located in the same area, that are with other agencies, that need to be picked-up too. "We ran into one snag," said Rudge. "We were led to believe that once the trip information was inserted by an agency, the software would automatically match clients from other agencies that needed to be picked up in that location too. We discovered that an actual person has to manually do the route matching so we are going to need a master scheduler to go through and actually do all of the trip matching for us." 

The people who are transported are low-income or they are mentally or physically disabled and have no consistent transportation. The agencies take their clients to regularly scheduled medical appointments, jobs or on casual trips that are called in 24-hours ahead of time. "The idea is to only use the program in Bexar County, but once we are well-educated on this software, we will then expand to all of the counties that are served by our council of governments," said Rudge.
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City and county leaders consider property tax increases to pay for hurricane recovery
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has proposed an increase in property tax rates to pay for recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. Several other mayors and county officials along the Texas coast have also considered asking for tax increases to help pay the massive cost of removing debris and rebuilding infrastructure.  

Cities and counties that have proposed tax increases or retaining rather than cutting their tax rates to pay for recovery efforts include Pearland, which must repair or replace two wastewater treatment plants, as well as city officials in Missouri City, Sugar Land, Galveston, Pasadena and Fort Bend County. Cities and counties that have not yet proposed property tax increases include Dickinson, La Porte, Galveston County and Montgomery County. Both Friendswood and League city proposed lowering their property tax rates. 

Houston city officials have proposed a temporary increase of 8.9 percent to allow the city to raise an additional $113 million over the course of a year to fund recovery efforts. Scheduled public hearings will provide information and gather public opinion on the proposal at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24 and Oct. 2 and at 9 a.m. on Oct. 11 at city hall. To determine the cost to city government, Turner said staff will continue to determine how much insurance policies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the city to determine how much the city will need to spend. Harris County officials, however, are considering a proposal to ask voters to approve up to $1 billion in bonds to fund a new flood control strategy, a new reservoir, widen more bayous and begin to buyout properties that repeatedly flood.
Brownsville airport receives $12.7M federal grant for terminal
A terminal construction grant application request submitted by the Brownsville City Commission and airport advisory board was recently approved and distributed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport officials received notice of a $12.7 million grant from the FAA to help pay for a new terminal building to replace the old one.  

The new, 85,000-square-foot terminal is expected to cost more than $30 million. According to Airport Director Byrant Walker, last year the FAA also committed $5 million towards the project. The city commissioners approved the terminal design but still need to formally accept the FAA grant before the project can move forward with the engineering phase.
Sugar Land, Missouri City may change capital improvement projects due to hurricane
Officials of Missouri City adopted their $48.1 million five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) in July and Sugar Land officials were set to adopt their five-year, $130.5 million CIP prior to Oct. 1. Both cities may reevaluate decisions and make changes to some of the projects based on the huge destruction caused by flooding during Hurricane Harvey. 

 Missouri City adopted its five-year capital improvement plan in July with a goal of spending almost two-thirds of its 2017-2018 capital improvement budget. This includes $10.15 million of the proposed $15.7 budgeted for this fiscal year on transportation projects and $2.55 million for drainage projects. Funding for some projects that were specifically approved in a bond election or using revenue bonds such as for toll roads, can't be transferred to other projects. City council members must give final approval of any of the planned capital improvement projects before work can begin. CIPs are used to set goals, but are not considered approval to begin work on projects. 

Sugar Land city officials proposed $23.3 million in capital improvement projects during its fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1, and proposed spending more than $10.1 million on water and wastewater projects, almost $4.1 million on road projects and $2.2 million on drainage projects. The remaining $5 million in proposed CIP funding for the coming fiscal year is allotted for upgrades to city facilities and traffic control. Officials of both cities are still in the process of determining damage done to city infrastructure during the hurricane and subsequent flooding.
Round Rock eyes expansion of two trail sections
As part of the city budget process, Round Rock parks department officials are requesting $12.6 million in bond funds to complete two trail sections to create a west-to-east link using underpasses at Interstate 35. Voters in 2013 approved $56.5 million in bonds to improve trails and parks that included four proposed trail projects expected to cost $18.9 million. 

Underpasses at I-35 will permit those living on both sides of the busy freeway in the city to use the trails to access the downtown area, according to Katie Baker, development manager for the parks department. The $1.5 million Lake Creek Trail is expected to be completed in 2019. The trail is planned to connect the Round Rock West Park to Centennial Plaza in the downtown area using a trail underpass at I-35 and a pedestrian bridge over Lake Creek.  

Other projects included in the budget, expected to be approved on second reading by council members, include a $5.3 million project on the western section of Heritage Trail with pedestrian overlooks, sculptural elements and a pedestrian overpass at Chisholm Trail Road; a $4.4 project to buy land, design and build the eastern section of Heritage Trail from Georgetown Street to Mays Creek; and a $1.3 million project to expand a section of Brushy Creek Trail from Veterans Park at Georgetown Street to Rabb Park that will include a pedestrian overpass for Georgetown Street. These projects are expected to be completed in 2019.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Russell Devorsky, Executive Director, Heart of Texas Council of Governments

Russell Devorsky
Career highlights and education: I have received many awards over the years, from Outstanding Young Man of America to The Masonic Lodge Community Builders Award, but most recently I was humbled to receive the Al Notzen service award from TARC in 2016. I am a former Council Member and Mayor and served in that role for 25 years. In addition, I also worked in the State Capitol for 18 years and I currently serve as a School Trustee. As I have spent my life in public service, the space here limits me from regaling in tales, but if you see me, buy me a Dr Pepper and I'll share. I attended La Vega High School, McLennan Community College and Texas A&M. But, most importantly, I consider life to be a lifelong learning experience as we should learn everyday as the world around us rapidly changes.

What I like best about my job is: Helping others. I have a saying, "if service is below you, leadership is beyond you." With over 35 years of entrepreneurial, business and leadership experience, I am proud to be a community builder and energizer in the Heart of Texas region. I take pride in having been at the heart of efforts to improve the region by focusing my efforts on programs and outreach that promote economic development, strong schools and stable communities. I'm honored to have been one of the original backers of the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) which is the flagship project for the Central Texas Technology and Research Park, an initiative by organizations and higher educational institutions in Central Texas to develop, promote and market science and engineering technologies, university research and advanced technology training and workforce development. The BRIC will redefine employment and development for the future in our region.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: When I was hired, former McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis, who is a man of few words, said to me, "Leave politics at the door and just get the job done."

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Be impeccable with your word, don't take things personally, don't make assumptions and always do your best.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Watching my son play sports, doing yard work or working on one of my old cars.

People would be surprised to know that: I served on the Board of Directors of the Southwest Transplant Alliance, an organization that has saved thousands of lives through organ donations. I served on this board after my sister and niece were killed in an auto accident by a young man, who had his driver's license for one day, and was texting while driving. I would encourage everyone to be an organ donor.
Rebuild Texas website launched to provide hurricane recovery updates
Gov. Greg Abbott announced yesterday that the General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush will head up the state's short- and long-term Hurricane Harvey housing recovery efforts. Abbott also issued a disaster proclamation on Aug. 23 certifying that Hurricane Harvey posed a threat of imminent disaster for several counties. There are 59 counties on this list and yesterday he updated the proclamation and declared a disaster in Milam and San Augustine counties too. 

These are a couple of the daily updates provided by the Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas on the newly launched website www.RebuildTexas.Today, a real-time information resource for local officials in the communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Visitors to the site will be provided with real-time recovery information, assistance in navigating state and federal resources and access to state agencies.
Bowie sets aside funding for street repairs, other projects
Bowie City Council members are considering final approval of the 2017-2018 city budget that sets aside $210,000 of the proposed $437,726 in capital improvement projects for street projects in addition to funding to buy a new vehicle for the parks department and for repairs to the municipal swimming pool. 

The proposed $565,110 budgeted for the utility fund will be used to pay on the sewer machine and budget truck, a lift station upgrade, automated equipment for the plant and a new vehicle. 

The proposed general fund budget includes a possible debt payment of $250,000 a year to pay for more than $3.5 million in storm drainage repairs in the area of Nelson, Mill, Rock, Lamb and Pillar. During recent years, heavy rains have caused flooding in these areas, as well as destroying collapsed drainage pipes in the area of Lamb, where a portion of the street was closed early in 2016. An engineering study is underway for this area to determine what is needed, along with an aerial study. A grant writer is also pursuing possible avenues of funding. Council members plan to make a final decision on the proposed city budget on Sept. 19.
Tyler to use $13M in grants to improve airport, public transit and safety
Tyler city officials plan to use funding from three federal grants totaling more than $13 million during the coming year to improve a runway at the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. Funding will also be used to assist Tyler Transit In providing more accessibility to public transit for those with disabilities and to improve traffic safety by providing more overtime pay for off-duty officers to enforce laws on DWI, speeding, running red lights and seatbelt violations in an effort reduce traffic accidents.  

The largest of the grants, $10 million from the Federal Aviation Administration, will be used to pay for the fourth phase of the runway rehabilitation project as well as a $180,000 grant to acquire land easement for those projects. City officials agreed to provide 10 percent in matching funding to qualify for the grants. 

Two grants from the Federal Transit Administration include a $1.7 million grant to help pay partial transit costs such as purchasing and maintaining vehicles and providing access to persons with disabilities. Another nearly $100,000 federal grant will be spent on the purchase of an automated annunciation system for 10, fixed-route transit buses. The device will assist elderly and disabled riders by giving audio and visual information electronically rather than requiring the driver to manually provide that information. The city was not required to match the FTA funding.
TFC officials to kick off $580M Capitol complex project
The Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) is set to break ground Sept. 28 on a $580 million project to build two new office buildings, parking garages and add green space to the Capitol complex in downtown Austin. The first phase includes two new office buildings, a three-block "Texas Mall" promenade, underground and above-ground parking spaces and utilities. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.  

The goal is to consolidate state employees in buildings owned by the state to save an estimated $15.1 million during the first phase of the project. According to state officials, this will eventually save $22.6 million the state now pays for 1.1 million square-feet of leased space in privately-owned buildings to house state employees throughout the Austin area. The first phase begins with a groundbreaking for a $170.35 million, 14-story building to serve as the new headquarters for the Texas Lottery Commission to be located on a former parking lot near the Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art at 1801 Congress Ave. This 603,000-square-foot building will also serve as a cultural venue that provides space for performances, displays, a café and a gift shop, according to plans. 

A second, 12-story, 416,000-square-foot building in the 1600 block of Congress Avenue is estimated to cost $879.4 million. A new five-level parking garage will be located beneath both new buildings to provide 3,100 parking spaces. That facility is planned to include state office space, a child care facility, conference rooms and a restaurant. The second phase, which includes two more buildings and completion of the promenade green space, is still unfunded and must be approved by state legislators before work can begin.
Houston-area airports to use $26M in federal grants for taxiways
Bush Intercontinental Airport officials plan to use a $21.3 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to renovate and extend major taxiways at the airport so it can accommodate larger aircraft. 

Officials of the Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport are using a $5 million FAA grant to extend a taxiway. The two grants are from the $318 million in infrastructure grants the FAA awarded this year to 78 airports, according to FAA officials. The grants are part of the Airport Improvement Program and are managed under a state block grant program by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Calendar of Events

Sept. 19
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is hosting a webinar on procurement requirements for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery CDBG-DR programs. The webinar takes place from 1-2:30 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 19. 

This webinar is designed for all CDBG and CDBG-DR grantees, especially staff charged with purchasing goods and services. Participants will learn the roadmap of the procurement process, procurement methods for different types of goods and services, best practices to ensure compliance with the Uniform Guidance requirements and common pitfalls in procuring goods and services by grantees. Register for the webinar here.
Sept. 17-20
The Institute of Internal Auditors Southern Region Conference will take place from Sept. 17-20 at the Hilton Austin Hotel, located at 500 E 4th Street in Austin. The conference program offers attendees in the technology, state and local government, and medical industries cutting-edge, relevant information on core competencies and general audit, with new information on audit activities and industry hot topics. 

Attendees will master the newest technical audit skills and enhance interpersonal soft skills, vital to the growth and success of both the audit department and the organization. Register early, before July 17, and save $100.  
Oct. 3-6
The 2017 Texas Municipal League Annual Conference and Exhibition takes place Oct. 3-6 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The conference will feature six concurrent session tracks that will allow attendees to customize their learning experience. They include: City Showcase- We Can Do That!, Community and Employee Engagement- Inspire Participation, Finance- Spark Revenue and Growth, Infrastructure- Plan for the Future, Planning- Build Cities that Enrich Lives, and Safety and Wellness-Foster Livable Cities.  

Register for the conference here and receive a link to the hotel reservation system. View the agenda of the 4-day conference here.   
Oct. 19
The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) present the Federal and State Resources Workshop on Oct. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. This event is designed for economic development professionals, community leaders and elected officials. Presenters will provide an overview of resources as well as interactive discussions on potential projects. View the agenda here.

There is no cost to attend, but pre-registration is requested by going here. For more information about this workshop, please contact Gloria Vasquez at 210.362.5212 or gvasquez@aacog.com.
Nov. 13-15
The 14th Annual Texas Energy Summit-Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency Conference (CATEE) will be held November 13-15 at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center, 7121 Bishop Road. This premiere educational conference and business exhibition provides a venue to learn about state-of-the-art energy innovations with a focus on energy in Texas, and by reaching out to energy partners throughout the state. 

The Texas Energy Summit will provide you the opportunity to engage with industry experts, state and local policy makers, community and business leaders, researchers, facility and energy managers, design and development professionals, utility and energy service experts, and more in a lively conversation about cleaner air, a better built environment, and a new energy economy! Register here.

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

For several days after floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey inundated the city of Beaumont, the city's 120,000 residents lost water service when several main water intake pumps fell victim to the flood. Beaumont and other cities in the path of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, from Texas to Florida to the Carolinas, are experiencing similar fates with sewage treatment plants, flood control systems and other water-related facilities. When the water recedes and damages are assessed, water facilities that were already strained (many more than 50 years old) will require replacement or extensive repairs.  

This will result in an intense focus on the urgent need for new construction as well as maintenance of water and wastewater systems nationwide. It will also result in a multitude of public-sector contracting opportunities. 

Prior to the most recent storms, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) proclaimed that over the next 20 years, Texas wastewater critical needs will exceed $11.83 billion and its drinking water needs are estimated at $33.9 billion. Nationwide, the ASCE gave U.S. water infrastructure systems - including drinking water and wastewater - an average grade of "D." There is no way to be proud of that grade.

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Corpus Christi port to begin $32M in upgrades to ship channel
Commissioners of the Port of Corpus Christi approved an agreement that will allow work to begin in early 2018 on a $32 million project to widen and deepen the ship channel from 47 feet to 54 feet to handle larger ships such as supertankers. 

The total project, which includes upgrades to all 36 miles of the ship channel and the replacement of the Harbor Bridge, is expected to cost about $330 million, said John LaRue, executive director of the port authority. The improvements are expected to allow the port to handle more ship traffic, larger ships and add more than $7 billion annually in exports for the port.

DSHS increases mosquito control efforts to reduce disease threat
Officials of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) are increasing efforts to control mosquitoes along the Texas coast to reduce the threat of diseases. 

The U.S. Air Force Reserve and private contractors hired by DSHS have already sprayed more than 2 million acres in Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, DeWitt, Jackson, Jefferson, Lavaca, Nueces, Orange, Refugio and San Patricio counties. Mosquito control also began this week in Harris County and will expand to Austin, Brazoria, Liberty, Hardin, Montgomery, Waller and Wharton counties. 

The spraying occurs most often from dusk to dawn using insecticide sprayed from small nozzles to reduce the threat to humans and other wildlife, according to DSHS officials.
Huntsville expects completed design for wastewater plant in January
The final design plan for a new wastewater treatment plant in Huntsville should be completed by mid-January. Design plans for a new water treatment plant are progressing on schedule along with final designs for three other projects included in a bond proposition that should be completed between February and July of 2018, according to the project manager. 

A site owned by the city has been selected to install a new elevated storage tank, plans for a ground storage tank and pump station for the new water treatment facility are completed and a route for the waterline is finished. 

City officials may be able to seek bids for construction on the new wastewater treatment plant as soon as April 2018.
San Antonio receives $10.5M loan to upgrade water system
San Antonio Water System (SAWS) officials plan to use a $10.5 million low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board to upgrade the system that supplies water to residents of San Antonio and Bexar County.  

The low-interest loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to the city will be used to replace electrical systems, piping valves and other improvements at the Zarzamora Pump Station. The lower interest is expected to save the city about $1.8 million over the life of the loan, according to SAWS officials.
Blanco receives $6.3M loan for water and wastewater systems
Blanco city officials agreed to use two low interest loans totaling $6.3 million from the Texas Water Development Board to begin planning and construction on improvements to its water and wastewater systems.  

A $3.15 million loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will be used to upgrade water treatment plant facilities and a $3.15 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund will pay for planning and construction of a new 225,000-gallons-per-day wastewater treatment plant. Blanco city officials noted the two lower interest loans are expected to save the city about $1.4 million.

Whoolery chosen as director of security for Texas Bullion Depositor
Bryan Whoolery
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar selected Sgt. Bryan Whoolery, a former SWAT team leader for the Travis County Sheriff's Office, as the first director of security for the newly-created, first state-owned depository for precious metals. Tom Smelker, director of Treasury Operations at the comptroller's office, will provide oversight of the newly-created bullion depository.  

In his new job, Whoolery will lead efforts in creating and enforcing security policies and implementing programs and processes such as access control. He will also provide asset protection, fire safety, accident prevention and emergency management. Construction will begin this year on a new, 60,000-square-foot depository that will house precious metals in Texas.  

Whoolery earned a Master's Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) as well as serving as a firearms instructor, a researcher and a former editor for Command magazine.
Fitzgerald appointed to White House Council of Economic Advisers
Timothy Fitzgerald
Timothy Fitzgerald, a faculty member from the Texas Tech University Rawls College of Business, has been appointed to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. In this position Fitzgerald, an associate professor of business economics, will offer the President of the United States advice on domestic and international economic policies. The appointment is for one year with an option for renewal. 

A senior economist, Fitzgerald's areas of expertise include energy and the environment, and he will assist the council on issues with the country's trade portfolio as well. Fitzgerald will maintain his position with Texas Tech while on temporary assignment to the council.

Odessa terminates services of city manager 
In a 3-2 vote, Odessa City Council members agreed to terminate the contract of City Manager Richard Morton, who held that post for more than 15 years. Council members previously discussed terminating Morton twice in closed meetings, but Morton called for a public meeting of council to discuss the firing, citing a state law providing him that right. 

The council has not appointed an interim city manager to assume the duties of Morton, but the mayor said he expects Assistant City Manager Michael Marrero will serve as the interim city manager until a new city manager is selected.
Alexander resigns as city manager in Palestine
Mike Alexander resigned as city manager in Palestine, but agreed to remain as a consultant until his contract expires on Oct. 1, 2018. 

Alexander joined the city as the interim police chief, but was named interim city manager and then promoted to city manager in November 2016, Council members appointed Assistant City Manager Mike Hornes as the acting city manager.

Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments from September 8-September 14:
  • Kristin Guiney- Houston, Judge of the 232nd Judicial District Court in Harris County
  • Kenneth S. Cannata- Richmond, Judge of the 458th Judicial District Court
  • Debra Ibarra Mayfield- Houston, Judge of the 190th Judicial District Court in Harris County
  • Jennifer Caughey- Houston, First Court of Appeals
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week: 
Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

Check out these story headlines of the week on our website

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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: Kristin Gordon
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