|Volume 7, Issue 3 · Friday, January 23, 2009|
Texas could receive $3.1 billion in infrastructure funding
House stimulus bill estimates possible states' share of revenues
Although only the first step in a multi-phase process, the federal economic stimulus bill currently making its way through the U.S. House would send nearly $3.1 billion in federal funds to Texas to invest in the state's infrastructure. Texas ranks third among the states in the amount of funding designated in the bill for highways, bridges, roads, wastewater treatment projects, public transit and other infrastructure projects.
California would be allocated the lion's share of the funding, according to estimates determined through existing funding formulas used by staff of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The total estimate of funding for California is nearly $4.5 billion, or 10 percent of the more than $43 billion spending proposed. New York ranked second in front of Texas in funding estimates at just under $3.4 billion. To view the complete list of estimates of revenue per state, click here.
The Texas estimated funding includes more than $2.4 billion for highways and bridges, nearly $336 million for transit capital grants, $30.5 million for fixed guideway modernization (generally heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, monorail, trolleybus, aerial tramway, inclined plane, cable car, automated guideway transit, ferryboats, portions of motor bus service operated on exclusive or controlled rights-of-way and high-occupancy-vehicle lanes) and $265.3 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund that provides funding and low-interest loans for water quality protection projects for wastewater treatment, nonpoint source pollution control and watershed and estuary management projects.[more]
Former DHS official takes position at Texas A&M
Eric Bost to fill new vice president for global initiatives post
Eric M. Bost (pictured), former commissioner and chief executive officer of the Texas Department of Human Services, has been named vice president for global initiatives at Texas A&M University's College Station campus. Bost returns to Texas after having served as former President George W. Bush's United States Ambassador to South Africa.
The new position Bost assumes at A&M will aim at boosting the university's standing internationally. "We're elevating the importance of globalization," said TAMU President Dr. Elsa Murano of the Bost hire. In his new role, Bost will be in charge of TAMU's international programs and its research agreements with more than 125 other institutions in nearly four-dozen countries around the globe. He will also supervise the university's study abroad program and centers in Mexico, Italy and Costa Rica.
In addition to his former service to the State of Texas, Bost also previously was undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bost holds a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master's from the University of South Florida.
Dr. Jesse Rogers, president, Midwestern State University
Career highlights and education: Completing my Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Texas Christian University at the age of 25. Serving as the 10th president of Midwestern State University, an 86-year-old institution. Being named Midwestern State University's 1972 Hardin Professor. Receiving research grants from 1968-1988 from the Robert A. Welch Foundation for Basic Chemistry Research. Being named to the Executive Committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Being chosen as chairperson of the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors of Texas.
What I like best about my job is: Meeting bright, motivated, hard-working young women and men and being reassured that there is hope for tomorrow. Speaking with distinguished alumni about what they have done since leaving MSU and the role of the university in shaping their lives. The opportunity to meet a variety of persons who support MSU with their financial resources and good will and whom I genuinely regard as friends. Attending athletic competitions and getting to know student athletes and the coaching staff.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: First, read The Five-Minute Manager and, second, exercise your power only as a last resort.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Become one of us; show a willingness to do what needs to be done, and do it well. Remember that what matters is getting the job done, not who got the job done. REALLY IMPORTANT: If ever you should have occasion to touch my coffee cup, be careful. It's a priceless heirloom from a 1970s grocery store give-away, and having it around makes me feel secure.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: With my binoculars looking for birds, reading, sipping a cup of hot tea or driving to Dallas to see my four-year-old granddaughter, Alia.
People would be surprised to know that I: wanted to be a football coach until I discovered science and mathematics.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: a. Oppenheimer by Richard Rhodes; John James Audubon: The Making of An American by Richard Rhodes; and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Rhodes's book on Oppenheimer influenced my thinking about ethics and science and deepened my awareness of the way that science can be perverted for political ends. The book on Audubon recounts the annihilation of much of the fauna in the eastern United States by 1830 and stands as a reminder of the destructive effects of a society given to waste and the drive to consume. Hosseini's book is a beautifully written piece of fiction that shows the tragic consequences that occur when we do not acquire knowledge and understanding and tolerance of traditions outside our own.
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at email@example.com.
Group names Game Warden Wallace Officer of Year
Vance Wallace has been recognized as Officer of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SAFWA). Wallace, a Texas Game Warden, has served in Tarrant and Callahan counties and is currently stationed in Boerne. Wallace became one of the first enforcers of the Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) laws in Tarrant County and in 2002 was named Texas Officer of the Year for the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officers during his tenure at Callahan County. He has patrolled local lakes and rivers in Kendall County since 2003.
In the accompanying TPWD photo by Chase Fountain, TPW Commission Chairman Peter Holt (left) and TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith (right) congratulate Wallace.
During the 2007-2008 deer hunting season, Wallace was instrumental in uncovering a number of hunters who were hunting on private property without landowner consent, resulting in five felony charges, 38 Class A misdemeanor charges and one Class C misdemeanor charge.
TWPC allocates nearly $3M in statewide grants
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPWC) has approved $2,922,255 to fund boat ramp repairs and renovation projects through the State Boating Access Program. The program provides funding for the improvement of public recreational boating access to public waters. The commission received nearly $5 million in matching-fund grant requests. The grant recipients are listed below.
The City of Aransas Pass received $334,500 in a 75 percent matching share grant to improve and expand a two-lane boat ramp, a courtesy dock expansion, parking lot improvements, a new pavilion and new lighting and signage. The City of Corpus Christi received $500,000 in a 75 percent matching share grant for improvements to a two-lane boat ramp, parking area, utilities, courtesy dock, bulkhead and signs. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Division received $78,750 for improvements to two one-lane boat ramps, new courtesy docks, signs and dredging in a 75 percent matching share grant.
The commission granted $82,500 to the Brazos River Authority in a 75 percent matching share grant for renovation of two boat ramps and bulkheads, new courtesy docks, signs and lighting. The Somervell County Water District received a 75 percent matching grant totaling $363,750 for the construction of a new two-lane boat ramp, courtesy docks, restroom, fish-cleaning station, parking area, access drive, bulkheads and dredging. The commission allocated $99,000 in a 75 percent matching share grant to the City of Austin for renovation of a four-lane boat ramp, restroom and parking lot, and the construction of a walkway compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The City of Abilene requested a 75 percent matching share grant totaling $499, 875 and received $331,884 for the renovation of boat ramps, a new restroom, a wave attenuator, a fish-cleaning station, picnic tables, utilities, signs and to resurface a parking lot. Brazoria County received a grant totaling $54,600 for the construction of a new restroom, marina repairs and revamped boat ramp and courtesy dock. The commission granted $142,170 in a 75 percent matching share grant to the City of Cottonwood Shores for a new boat ramp, parking area, access road, restroom, courtesy docks, landscaping, lighting and signage.
The Muenster Water District requested $472,717 and received $443,880 in a 75 percent share matching grant for construction of a new two-lane boat ramp, parking lot, access road, restroom, courtesy dock and signs. The City of Lake Dallas received $258,772 in a 75 percent matching share grant for construction of a new boat ramp, parking lot, access road, a restroom, walkways, lighting and signs. The commission allocated $271,299 to the City of Grapevine in a 75 percent matching share grant for construction of a new two-lane boat ramp, courtesy dock, access drive, restroom and walkways.
DARS residential facility celebrating life of Louis Braille
The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services' (DARS) Criss Cole Rehab Center (CCRC) is celebrating the 200th birthday of Louis Braille, creator of the code used by people who are blind.
DARS CCRC will throw a birthday party for Louis Braille at The University of Texas Student Union Quadrangle from 1-5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 29. The Annual Braille Bee, a competition that challenges participants' knowledge of Braille, is set to take place Friday, Feb. 20, from 1-5 p.m. at the same location.
DARS CCRC is a residential facility in Austin offering intensive vocational and independent living training to persons who are blind.
Cardenas resigns presidency at UTPA
Blandina Cardenas (left) has announced her plans to retire as president of The University of Texas-Pan American, citing health reasons. The resignation will take effect at the end of the month. She successfully underwent major heart surgery in 2007.
In 2004, Cardenas became the first woman to head UTPA with an appointment enthusiastically embraced by Rio Grande Valley legislators. Last year allegations surfaced that Cardenas plagiarized her doctoral dissertation, prompting an investigation still under way by the UT System. The investigation ended upon her resignation.
Cardenas began her career in education as a teacher of migrant pre-school children in 1968. Within nine years, she had designed an array of learning programs on which many national programs based their models. She began a 13-year tenure with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1980. Cardenas holds a doctorate from The University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
"She has been an inspirational leader throughout her career in education and public service, and her commitment to higher education has been a tremendous asset to the local community and region," said Scott Caven, chairman of the UT System board of regents.
Paul Sale (right), the university's provost and vice president for academic affairs, will assume the duties of the presidency until the UT System appoints an interim president.
DPS looks for leads in governor's mansion arson case
Despite a $50,000 award, no arrests have been made in the Texas Governor's Mansion arson case, prompting the Texas Department of Public Safety to urge the public to come forward with any useful leads or tips.
DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said it takes "just one good piece of information" to turn the seven-month-old case around. "The question is when we're going to get that," she said.
Citing the ongoing criminal investigation, DPS officials have denied requests from the press to release surveillance video of a male suspect wearing a Texas Longhorns baseball cap who was outside the mansion the night of the blaze. The fire appears to have started where the suspect threw a small bomb at the front porch.
Land Office to gird and replenish Galveston Seawall
The venerable Galveston Seawall has protected the island for more than a century, but damages sustained during Hurricane Ike have threatened the 17-foot-high concrete structure, prompting the Texas General Land Office's multimillion-dollar effort to gird the wall and replenish surrounding beach areas. Ike pounded the Seawall for 12 hours last September, exposing wood pilings that support older sections of the wall and leaving little sand to shield its base, according to state officials.
Harrison Sutcliffe, chief of the engineering branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Galveston office, said the repairs will cost at least $10 million. The beach restoration is estimated to cost an additional $10 million.
Restoration efforts could grind to a halt, however, if a controversial ruling by State District Judge Susan Criss (pictured) remains unchallenged. Criss has ruled that most of Galveston's beaches are privately owned and therefore not under the state's jurisdiction. The judgment could endanger the Seawall restoration project since the Land Office could not legally refurbish the privately owned beaches east of 57th Street.
TPW Commission OKs $4.3M in local grants
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved grants totaling $4.3 million for community parks, nature trails and recreation centers, and $2.9 million in outdoor recreation grants. The commission approved 15 projects out of 63 applications for the following initiatives:
U of H professor named dean of interdisciplinary college
William Monroe (pictured), professor of English and executive associate dean of The Honors College at the University of Houston, has been appointed dean of the interdisciplinary college, succeeding interim Stuart Long.
A noted author, Monroe published "Power to Hurt: The Virtues of Alienation" in 1998. The book was selected as an outstanding academic book of the year by a national magazine and nominated for the Phi Beta Kappa/Christian Gauss Award. His current work, "The Vocation of Affliction," focuses on Georgia writer Flannery O'Connor. Monroe also directs The Common Ground Teachers Institute in addition to his research and teaching at UH.
Monroe holds a bachelor's and master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin. He earned his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago.
Marlin VA med center to be converted to prison hospital
The Thomas T. Connally Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Marlin has been transferred to the state of Texas' Department of Criminal Justice.
Transfer of the facility, which closed in 2005, will give the state ownership of the complex, which will be renovated and used as a state-of-the-art hospital for prisoners. The state is currently working on a development plan for the property, which consists of a six-story hospital and 10 support buildings, including a residence and a doctors' dormitory.
The medical center has been appraised to be worth less than $500,000, and with a two- to three-year disposal process, the VA could be faced with annual fees of up to $265,000 to maintain and secure the vacant buildings.
Former mayor joins UT-Arlington adjunct faculty
Richard Greene (pictured), regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency in North Texas and mayor of Arlington from 1987 through 1997, is set to begin his new charge as adjunct professor at The University of Texas at Arlington School of Urban and Public Affairs (SUPA) beginning Jan. 20.
Greene will help develop a focus on environmentally sound infrastructure and the role local communities play in environmental issues, according to Dr. Barbara Becker, dean of the School of Urban and Public Affairs.
During his tenure as mayor of Arlington, Greene developed a plan to build a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers baseball team, which voters endorsed in the largest voter turnout for a local election. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He is also a graduate of the School of Mortgage Banking at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Chief curator to serve as director of U of H art museum
Claudia Schmuckli has been chosen to serve as chief curator of the University of Houston's Blaffer Gallery art museum after a nine-month search. Schmuckli, who previously served as the museum's chief curator, was tapped to serve by a panel led by advisory board Emeritus Shirley Rose.
Schmuckli joined Blaffer Gallery in 2004 when she served as director of public relations and membership. She was appointed curator in 2006. Prior to her tenure at the Blaffer Gallery, she served as assistant curator at the Museum of Modern Art from 1999 until 2003 and as curatorial assistant at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from 1997 through 1999.
Schmuckli - commended for her "strong leadership in the absence of a director over the past nine months" by College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Dean John Antel - holds a master's degree from the Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany.
UNT honored with Texas Higher Education Star Award
For the second year in a row, the University of North Texas' Enrollment Management program has been honored for its efforts to increase enrollment with a Texas Higher Education Star Award. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Closing the Gaps program recognized UNT as first in the state for the increased number of degrees awarded and second in the state for increased enrollment.
Since Closing the Gaps began in 2000, UNT has increased enrollment by some 26 percent - more than 7,000 students - and increased the number of degrees awarded by 39 percent. Dr. Troy Johnson, UNT's associate vice president for enrollment management, said the award is a compliment "to the work of many individuals and departments."
In the accompanying photo, Johnson (left) accepts the Texas Higher Education Star Award from Dr. Raymund Paredes, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education.
Students return to A&M Galveston campus
Students at Texas A&M University at Galveston returned to class this week, marking a homecoming of sorts, according to Student Development Specialist Neil Golemo. Golemo said he was thankful for the classes students were able to attend at the university's flagship campus in College Station after Hurricane Ike pummeled the area in September, but called the Galveston campus "home."
Thanks to an $80,000 lease the university signed with an apartment complex, students have been able to move back into the area without overcrowding residence halls. About 150 more students will live in university apartments or dormitories in the spring than before the hurricane hit.
The university has retained about 91 percent of the students enrolled before Ike hit, a figure TAMUG spokeswoman Karen Bigley describes as "mind-boggling." She said the enrollment numbers have far exceeded faculty members' expectations.
University of Dallas picks new College of Business dean
Dr. Geralyn McClure Franklin (pictured), dean of the College of Business at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, will take the helm of the same post at the University of Dallas beginning in June.
"We are very excited to have Dr. Franklin...as our new dean of the College of Business," Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. J. William Berry said, citing Franklin's national recognition for her work as a board member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, an accrediting agency for business schools worldwide.
Franklin has also served as a member of the Audit Committee from 2004-2006 and as chair of the AACSB Constitution and Bylaws Committee in 2006-2007. She holds a doctoral degree from the University of North Texas, and master's and bachelor's degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Lowe chosen director of Bush Presidential Library
Alan C. Lowe has been selected to head the George W. Bush Presidential Library as director, effective April 12. The library is currently housed in Lewisville, but is set to be permanently constructed on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
United States Acting Archivist Adrienne C. Thomas said Lowe's experience, which includes 14 years working with the National Archives Presidential Libraries system, makes him an ideal choice for director.
During his tenure at the National Archives, Lowe helped oversee 12 national presidential libraries. He has also served as interim director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York. Most recently he led the development and building of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy.
Tech to recruit engineering chairs with endowment
The J. F Maddox Foundation has granted Texas Tech University $7.5 million to create the Donovan Maddox Distinguished Engineering Chair. The endowment will be used to recruit two nationally recognized energy researchers.
TTU President Guy Bailey said the university's Whitacre College of Engineering now has an "unprecedented opportunity to attract excellent individuals...to establish strong research capabilities, enhance teaching and to gain exceptional national visibility."
Dean of Engineering Pam Eibeck (pictured) said having two Maddox Chairs available at once "is extraordinary," adding the individuals the university attracts at this time "will enable us to position ourselves as a key player in providing energy solutions."
UNT to host one-day immigration conference
On Tuesday, March 12, the University of North Texas will host "Perspectives on Immigration: Strategies for the 21st Century," a one-day conference that will bring together experts for a vibrant, balanced discussion of immigration challenges and issues facing the nation. The conference will take place at the Silver Eagle Suite of UNT's University Union from 8:15 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Admission is free, but participants must register before March 9.
The conference is part of the inaugural One Book, One Community program, UNT's year-long initiative designed to engage the university community in the discussion and exploration of immigration issues.
In 2007, Texas became the state with the fourth highest percentage of naturalized citizens, according to the Office of Immigration Statistics. The Dallas-Fort Worth area had the highest increase of naturalized persons among the state's largest cities.
U of H-Downtown to move forward with name change
The University of Houston-Downtown will soon have a new moniker, despite opposition from some students, faculty and alumni. University President Max Castillo (pictured) said the benefits of a new name outweigh the dissent of those who do not want it changed.
The Texas Legislature would have to approve the name change. One could be in place by next fall. Last month regents approved the name change but did not opt for Castillo's proposed Houston Metropolitan University.
Castillo believes a name change is necessary for the university to move forward and emerge with its own identity. Many people think the university is a satellite of the University of Houston flagship campus, he said.
Two educators honored with Terrel H. Bell Award
Carlotta Brown, principal of Lora Peck Elementary in the Houston Independent School District, and Diane Parks, principal of Taylor Ray Elementary in the Lamar CISD, recently received the Terrel H. Bell Leadership Award from the Texas Association of School Administrators.
The award is named for Terrel H. Bell, a Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan who worked as a bus driver, teacher, principal and superintendent of schools before being named to the president's cabinet. The award recognizes outstanding educators who overcome difficult circumstances.
Brown followed her mother's footsteps to become a first-grade teacher in Houston and rose to become principal of Peck Elementary, which moved her school from an Academically Acceptable accountability rating to a Recognized rating in less than three years. Parks, who has served as principal at two schools in Lamar CISD, used data to determine which students needed targeted interventions and 100 percent of those students met the standards in math and writing and 99 percent met the standards in reading and science on the 2007 TAKS test.
UTEP launches accreditation program for nurses
Recognizing the demand for qualified vocational nurses in the region, The University of Texas at El Paso is now offering a program to prepare Mexican nurses for accreditation in the United States. The program - a joint effort between the UTEP School of Nursing and the University College - provides two 16-week courses designed to acclimate Mexican nurses to working conditions in the United States and help them gain required skills.
Dr. Dennis Soden (pictured), dean of the University College, said El Paso's severe shortage of qualified nurses is widely recognized, adding school officials are excited to provide "an opportunity for foreign nurses to move into a region with incredible opportunities in their profession."
Courses are slated to begin in late January and will finish in June 2009. The pilot program is open to 16 students, but additional slots are expected to be made available if enrollment interest increases.
Dallas ISD wins $3.77 million Gates Foundation grant
The Dallas Independent School District recently was selected for a $3.77 million grant to help pay for a database to provide school staff with instant access to student information from preschool to graduation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the grant, which will be distributed over a three-year period.
The database, which was kicked off last year with a $5 million donation from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to the Dallas Education Foundation, allows editors to access real time student academic information, watch for learning patterns and access school budget information.
The database, which is contained in an online format called a dashboard because it resembles an automobile dashboard, also contains other related data, such as absences of students and teachers, and will be available to school principals. The dashboards currently are being tested in 20 schools at DISD with a goal of being available to all campuses next year, said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.
UT-Dallas welcomes new associate dean of students
As one of three new associate deans of students, Dr. Cynthia Jenkins (pictured) joins the faculty of The University of Texas at Dallas this month.
Jenkins has taught Rhet 1101, the freshmen experience course, and psychology classes at UT-Dallas since 1998. She also serves as a clinical assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. In 2003 she was named director of undergraduate advising.
Jenkins earned her doctoral degree at UT-Dallas.
AirCheckTexas program retires 10,000th vehicle
The AirCheck Texas Drive a Clean Machine Program recently replaced its 10,000th polluting vehicle in its effort to encourage residents in nine counties to replace old vehicles that polluted the air with newer vehicles with more pollution controls.
The program, established in 2007, provides qualified residents in the nine-county ozone non-attainment area with $3,000 toward the purchase of a new vehicle and $3,500 toward the purchase of a hybrid vehicle in an effort to improve air quality.
To be eligible, the vehicles must be at least 10 years old and registered in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall and Tarrant counties. Households earning up to twice the poverty level are eligible for the program, which also offers vehicle-repair vouchers for as much as $600 to help repair vehicles that failed the emissions portion of the state inspection.
WTAMU has new agricultural sciences department head
Dr. Dean Hawkins (pictured), a professor of animal and range sciences at New Mexico State University, has been named director of the Department of Agricultural Sciences at West Texas A&M University.
Before joining the faculty of NMSU in 1992, Hawkins served as a National Institute of Health Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Colorado State University. He has received numerous competitive grants for projects related to animal reproduction, his research specialty. He said his goal as Agricultural Sciences head is to continue the department's momentum "with an eye on the future and the needs of the clientele we serve at WTAMU."
Hawkins holds a bachelor's and master's degree from Texas Tech University. In 1990 he completed his doctoral degree at Texas A&M University.
Fort Bend upgrades emergency management position
Fort Bend County commissioners recently approved upgrading the position of Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Braun to an executive manager and increased the salary for that position and six employees in the Office of Emergency Management.
County Judge Bob Hebert said the upgrades are necessary because the emergency management office has experienced a big increase in duties as homeland security issues were added to weather and other emergencies that impact the area. The department has experienced an almost 100 percent turnover in the last year as employees are being offered higher wages by other counties, cities and private employers.
Sugar Land to deny car registration for unpaid fines
The Sugar Land City Council recently approved an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for denial of motor vehicle registration of persons with outstanding red light camera violations.
Sugar Land Police Chief Steve Griffith (pictured) recommended the agreement. About 30 percent, or 5,758 people, have unpaid fines that total about $576,800. Under the agreement, the city will pay 12 cents per transaction with TxDOT and $23 per computer file submission, Griffith said.
The city is required to deposit a minimum of $500 in an escrow account to cover TxDOT's expense for the service and will use funds from the city's red light camera fund to pay those expenses, Griffith said. To have a hold on their auto registration removed, the fine must be paid and proof of that payment shown to the Fort Bend County tax assessor's office.
Beaumont approves $1.6M upgrade to athletic complex
Beaumont City Council members recently approved a $1.6 million renovation for the Beaumont Athletic Complex. The city will replace restroom facilities at two of the four complexes as well as upgrade dugouts, stands and scoreboards, said Public Works Director Tom Warner.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the city's Hotel Occupancy Tax and Capital Programs are providing funding for the improvements as part of hurricane repair and aging of the facilities, Warner said. One of the largest costs of the renovation is that the adult softball season will be shut down this spring and lower revenue to the park.
San Antonio may pay for projects with $30M windfall
San Antonio City Council is faced with the enviable prospect of ready-to-spend extra funds in a windfall of $30 million. Mayor Phil Hardberger (pictured) likened the surplus to an unexpected inheritance. It's like a long-lost cousin leaving you a bunch of money, he said.
The unspent money, left over from more than 1,000 bond projects, has sat in the bank and collected interest for as long as 25 years in some cases. City Manager Sheryl Scully termed the finding "a process of discovery." She said it wasn't as though the city found $30 million in one lump sum.
Hardberger said the money will be allocated for specific projects, including the development of Voelcker Park, the redevelopment of Mission Drive-In, street and sidewalk improvements on the West Side and road work in the Stone Oak area, among other initiatives.
Houston approves Ellington Airport name change
Houston's Ellington Field will now be known as Ellington Airport, thanks to an approval from the Houston City Council. According to the Houston Airport System (HAS), the name switch will help expand the airport as an economic generator.
HAS Director Rick Vacar (pictured) said the change will enhance system efforts to market to commercial developers "who want to operate at an airport with unlimited possibilities."
Ellington Airport comprises three active runways, a 24-hour air traffic control tower and two fixed-base operators. Tenants have the option of continuing to use the facility's previous name.
Midland ISD mulls three-phase facilities plan
Officials of the Midland Independent School District recently reviewed a preliminary, three-phase 10-year facilities plan being developed by the Community Strategic Planning Committee. The committee worked with a consultant for a year to develop the plan with the possibility of scheduling a bond issue in November of this year.
The current recommendations for Phase One for 2008-2009 include a new elementary school to replace Burnet Elementary, renovating Burnet Elementary into a pre-kindergarten, early childhood center, renovating and expanding Bunche Early Childhood Center, expansion of Coleman High School and begin construction on transition of Midland and Lee high schools into comprehensive high schools for grades nine through 12. Phase Two for 2012-2015 includes construction of ninth-grade centers for two high schools, converting Crockett Elementary into a pre-kindergarten, early childhood center, converting Lee and Midland freshman schools into middle schools and converting five elementary schools into kindergarten through fifth grade schools.
Phase Three for 2015 to 2018, includes construction of a new elementary school and converting Emerson Elementary into a pre-kindergarten, early childhood center. The district plans to hold town hall meetings in April to gather public input on the facilities plan.
San Angelo revamps way to pay for city projects
The San Angelo City Council recently approved the sale of $13 million in bonds to pay for renovations to the city hall and to build two new fire stations. Council approved the projects following a recommendation by City Manager Harold Dominguez (pictured), who proposed revamping the method the city pays for capital improvement projects.
Under the new plan, the city will issue about $13 million in bonds in October 2009, which will move the projects forward without increasing taxes, Dominguez said. In the past, the city issued a series of three six-year bond issues that expire every two years. Now the city will pay off those bonds over the next five years without renewing them. That revenue then will be directed into two city funds, a new capital fund to pay annually for road improvements and a second fund to pay for the bond issue for renovating the city hall and build the fire stations. The city's architect advised that doing the city hall renovations all at once rather than in phases could save as much as $1.74 million.
Dallas Love Field Airport to get $519M makeover
Officials of the city of Dallas and Southwest Airlines recently approved $519 in capital improvements to Love Field in Dallas. The improvements include replacing existing terminals with a new 20-gate concourse and expanding baggage facilities. The renovation also will expand food and retail concession space from 23,000 square feet to 57,000 square feet. Work on the renovations is expected to begin in June and the first gates in the new concourse are predicted to open in 2011, said Daniel Weber, director of aviation for Dallas. The entire project is scheduled for completion in late 2014, the date for when the last of passenger restrictions at the airport will end. The plan calls for the existing terminals and its 20 gates to be removed as the new T-shaped building is completed, he said. Passengers will see little impact during much of the project because most of the initial work is not visible from the current terminal.
The upgrades and future new routes could nearly double passenger traffic from 4 million passengers annually to about 8 million passengers a year, Weber said. Southwest Airlines is managing the project for the city and can spend up to $75 million until Dallas sells bonds to finance most of the improvements, he said.
Killeen looks at plans to revitalize downtown
Killeen City Manager Connie Green (pictured) recently outlined plans to use funding from the tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) approved in November 2008 to revitalize downtown Killeen.
The city has made large strides in a plan adopted two years ago to improve the downtown area, but has the potential of receiving up to $292 million in new taxable value with the 30-year TIRZ program, which places the difference from one year's tax to the next and places it in a fund that can be used for public improvements only within the TIRZ district. The TIRZ includes most of the downtown area and can be used to pay for water and sewer lines, street and sidewalk improvements, trails and parks, maintaining historical markers and provided funding to businesses to improve their facades, Green said.
City staff recommended spending about $15 million of the estimated $41.2 million generated in the new fund to be used for a new city hall, $8 million to improve U.S. Highway 190 and $12 million for infrastructure for a new development.
Atascosa, McMullen schools receive $6M federal grant
School districts in Atascosa and McMullen counties will share in a $6 million federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative grant.
The grant's five primary goals are to promote a safe school environment, prevent violation, alcohol and drug prevention, early childhood learning programs, mental health services and behavioral and emotional support for students, said Sherry Sommer, director of the initiative. The grant also will provide help in preventing bullying, for English as a second language programs and a GED program, she said.
The Pleasanton Independent School District is the lead agency for the four-year grant, which can be used as each school district determines, said Jourdanton Police Chief Eric Kaiser. Other area agencies participating in the initiative are the police departments in Pleasanton and Poteet, the McMullen County Sheriff's Office, the Atascosa Juvenile Probation Department and the South Texas Regional Medical Center, Kaiser said. Much of the effort will be to maintain close contact with at-risk children and provide the services and referrals they need to prevent children from being placed in the juvenile justice system, said John Dominguez, a probation officer who is the program's liaison to schools.
Denton ISD to build energy savings into two new schools
Trustees for the Denton Independent School District recently approved plans that add environmentally friendly features to an elementary school scheduled to open in 2010 and a new middle school to open in 2011.
Voters approved a nearly $60 million bond proposal in 2007 for the two new schools and the district plans to spend an additional $1.3 million to include natural lighting and solar water heaters. Board President Charles Stafford (pictured) said the environmental features could save the district as much as $30 million to $40 million in operating costs over the next 20 to 30 years and provide students a valuable lesson on energy conservation at the same time.
Plans for the elementary school feature a more compact facility with additional safety and security features such as straight halls that need fewer faculty to monitor than curved halls. Other environmental features are windows on both the north and south side of the hallway, lighting controls and an energy saving heating and cooling system. The middle school will have natural lighting, geo-thermal heating and cooling devices, thermally insulated windows, solar panel water heating and three classroom wings, said Superintendent Ray Braswell. Landscaping will feature drought-hardy native plants to be watered with collected rain runoff and water condensation.
San Antonio getting second health career high school
A private charter school management company will open City Center Health Careers, a heath careers high school, in San Antonio next fall. The charter school, which will recruit low-income students, beat San Antonio Independent School District to the punch.
Dr. Roberto Jimenez, chairman of the University Health System's Board of Managers and one of the local doctors with whom SAISD has been in discussions, said the district doesn't have "the expertise, and they don't have the ability, the personnel, the kind of skills that are needed to get something like this off the ground," although he contends the city needs a second four-year high school focused on preparing students for four-year health care and medical degrees.
The cash-strapped SAISD is moving forward with plans to open a health career high school of its own, however. Superintendent Robert Duron said the district won't be deterred by competition from the charter school.
Victoria ISD leaders consider auditorium, natatorium
As part of a $159 million bond approved by voters in May 2007, the Victoria Independent School District school board is considering designs for a natatorium and auditorium for Memorial High School.
Final design plans should be ready to go to bid by summer, but the projects cannot be started until the new high school is opened or the portable buildings located behind MHS are moved.
Meanwhile officials are ready to move on the projects. VISD Superintendent Bob Moore (pictured) said the portables could be moved so construction could begin, and board Vice President Bernard Klimist suggested the board meet with the firm designing the buildings to discuss when contracts can go to bid.
Walker County Storm Shelter opens in Huntsville
The Walker County Storm Shelter is up and running in Huntsville. Grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Office of Rural Community Affairs of Texas (ORCA) funded the 14,300-square-foot, $3-million shelter.
The shelter's 9,000-square-foot main room can be divided into four smaller rooms and be leased from the HEARTS Veterans Museum of Texas for large group events, such as meetings or weddings. More importantly "we have a facility in the event that we need to shelter folks," said Butch Davis, emergency management coordinator for Walker County. About 930 people can be sheltered at the facility, according to Davis.
The shelter features showers for men and women, a state-of-the-art kitchen, televisions for evacuees to watch and a generator that can run for 72 hours without being refueled.
Killeen FD wins $12,283 grant for Internet training
The Killeen Fire Department recently received a $12,283 grant to provide Internet-based training to its employees. The grant, which was provided by a firefighters union and an online training company, will allow the staff to complete training in between emergency calls, said Police Chief J.D. Gardner.
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Texas school districts could receive as much as $3.4 billion soon!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
This week in Washington, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the economic stimulus bill, passed out of the House Appropriations Committee and is now headed to the House floor for debate. President Barack Obama has pledged quick action once it reaches his desk.
As the bill is drafted, school districts throughout the country could be the beneficiaries of billions in funding...approximately $41 billion...if the bill is passed as written.
The new funding will be divvied up with funds going to every school district. Certain amounts will be allocated for programs in high poverty areas and for special needs students but the funding can also be used for modernization of schools, repairs to existing facilities, improvements in technology, energy improvements and more. As the bill is currently drafted, more than $3.4 billion could find its way to Texas school districts.[more]
Central Heights ISD proposes bond election
Trustees for the Central Heights Independent School District recently proposed a bond election to pay for a new high school, an addition to the middle school and renovations to the elementary school totaling $13.7 million.
A 24-member citizens study committee conducted a facilities study, recommended the bond election and estimated the costs of the three projects, said Superintendent Jeremy Glenn (pictured). Glenn said he expected to generate at least half of the cost of the improvements from state funding under Existing Debt Allotment funding and the Instructional Facilities Allotment. The school district also has $1 million in reserves to pay for part of the construction, Glenn said.
District officials would like to begin construction of the new high school in November and begin classes in the new building in January 2011, Glenn said. Board members expect to hold a second public hearing in February before making a decision to schedule a bond election.
Nolanville approves Looney as interim city administrator
The Nolanville City Council recently hired Jeff Looney as interim city administrator. The city needs a city administrator to oversee infrastructure work and development plans currently being managed by council members, said Mayor Emma McCullough. Looney served seven years as city manager in Teague and as a city manager in Rangely, Colorado.
Ysleta ISD selects Zolkoski as new superintendent
The Ysleta Independent School District School Board recently selected Dr. Michael Zollkoski as superintendent. Zolkoski will replace Interim Superintendent Roger Parks who led the district since former Superintendent Hector Montenegro resigned in January 2008 to accept employment with Arlington ISD.
Zolkoski previously served as superintendent of Tulsa ISD. He holds a bachelor's and a master's degree from Southwest Texas State University and a Ph.D. from California Coast University and from The University of Texas at Austin.
Urrutia to head department in City of San Antonio
Xavier Urrutia has been chosen as director of the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. City Manager Sheryl Sculley picked Urrutia after he served as interim director for the past six months. He replaces Malcolm Matthews, who resigned.
Urrutia, who has served with the city for 10 years, as assistant director of Solid Waste Management and acting assistant director and fiscal planning manager for the Department of Community Initiatives, holds a bachelor's degree from Trinity University.
Nacogdoches approves Philpot as planning director
Nacogdoches City Commissioners recently appointed Larissa Philpot as the planning director for the city to replace Aron Klhavy, who resigned in August 2008. She formerly had served as interim planning director and spent six years as an assistant city planner for the city. She holds a bachelor's and a master's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Socorro ISD begins search for new superintendent
The Socorro Independent School District recently hired a search firm to aid in finding a new superintendent to replace Dr. Sylvia Atkinson. The community already held community meetings to develop a profile of the desired candidate, said Mark Vechione, director of purchasing.
Barbers Hill seeks delaying Robin Hood payment
Damages sustained by Barbers Hill school district from Hurricane Ike in addition to the Robin Hood school-funding law that requires districts share part of their property tax revenue has spurred some funding issues for the district.
To cover approximately $4 million in storm-related repairs not covered by insurance, Superintendent Greg Poole has asked for a one-time suspension of Barbers Hill's Robin Hood payment. Although the district has enough funds in place for now, a $4 million hit could cause cash-flow problems later. Poole said that district is not asking for money, only for a one-year reprieve from the $12 million it normally sends to the state from its property tax collections.
Paris Junior College receives $60,900 grant
Paris Junior College recently received a $60,900 grant from the Greater Texas Foundation to assist in its initiative, Achieving the Dream: Making Community Colleges Count.
The campus-wide initiative is an effort to identify problems in the system that can cause students to fail and drop out of college, said Dr. Pam Anglin, president of Paris Junior College. The initiative includes all students, but is primarily targeting low-income and minority students, she said.
Temple fire department receives $433K grant
Temple Fire and Rescue is set to receive a federal grant for $433,520, allowing the department to hire as many as four new firefighters. The funds come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's SAFER Grant program, designed to increase the number of trained firefighters in communities.
Temple City Manager David Blackburn (pictured) said the grant will put more "trained, front-line firefighters in the stations and on the streets in Temple, which is exactly what both the federal program and our local strategic plan call for."
Where are they now?
Where do folks go when they leave state government? Some go to work in the private sector or for nonprofits. Some transition to executive-level positions in higher education while others may seek elected local government positions. And some just retire and spend a lot of time with their grandkids at the fishin' hole. This column focuses on where former state government officials and employees are now.
Phil Wilson was named Secretary of State by Gov. Rick Perry in 2007 after having served as the governor's Director of Communications from 2002-2003. He also later served as the governor's Deputy Chief of Staff and was chair of the Governor's Competitiveness Council and a member of the Border Security Council. Wilson spent more than 10 years as an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm as his East Texas director and then state director in Dallas. He also is a former communications director for former Texas Railroad Commissioner Charles Matthews. Wilson resigned his position as Secretary of State in 2008 to become senior vice president of public affairs for a competitive power generation business where he has oversight of community relations, communications, regulatory and governmental affairs for the company.
Bob Armstrong was elected to the Texas House in 1962 and served from 1963 to 1970. He then served as Texas Land Commissioner from 1970 to 1982. He was a member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and served as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals of the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1993 to 1999. He was appointed to several leadership positions including energy and environmental advisor in Gov. Ann Richards' administration. He is a longtime proponent of conservation.
Denison approves repairs
2009 Texas Homeland Security Conference set in March
The 2009 Texas Homeland Security Conference will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio March 23-26. It will combine all of the workshops, presentations, training classes and resources normally associated with the Texas Hurricane Conference and the Texas Homeland Security Conference. Workshops and presentations from a wide variety of experts will focus on the full spectrum of homeland security goals: Prevention, Protection, Response and Recovery. The conference is sponsored by the Governor's Division of Emergency Management and brings together representatives of law enforcement, border security and port security, transportation and cyber security, as well as firefighters, emergency medical personnel, Texas Military Forces, voluntary organizations and private sector representatives. Attendees also will include officials from higher education, public education, health and medical care and public officials from local, state and national governments. Representatives of more than 30 state agencies on the Governor's Emergency Management Council and federal officials also will attend. For more information on conference registration, general session speakers, workshops and training opportunities, click here.
TxDOT to host small business briefings
The Texas Department of Transportation will conduct a series of briefings throughout the state to educate small and minority-owned business owners on how to do business with TxDOT, particularly relating to how TxDOT procures services and purchases products. General Industry Sessions will include an Overview of TxDOT Toll Projects and Contracting Opportunities on Toll Way Projects, Professional Services Consulting Contracts and State Contracting for Information Technology Products and Services. Other breakout sessions will target small and minority businesses on Small and Minority Business Certifications, Resources for Small Business Development and Marketing Your Business to the State. TxDOT contracts include, but are not limited to, engineering, real estate professionals, IT services, computers, printing, construction, maintenance, goods and services and more. The briefings will be held Feb. 18 and 19 in Laredo; March 26 and 27 in Houston; and April 15 and 16 in Odessa. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.
DIR plans e-Learning forum for agencies, universities
A free one-day e-Learning Forum for Texas state agencies and universities only will be held Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Commons Center of the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in Austin. Sponsored by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), the conference's goal is to share information on what is happening in the industry and specifically in Texas government. Potential topics include tools and trends in e-learning, case studies of successful government e-learning projects with speakers profiling different implementation styles such as simplistic modules requiring little specialized expertise, successfully deploying a subscription-based learning course library, extensive custom development, Web 2.0 and e-learning, collaboration of the IT and training departments and lessons learned and best practices. To register, click here.