|Volume 7, Issue 4 · Friday, January 30, 2009|
House OKs stimulus bill; Senate debate begins Monday
Thousands of contracting opportunities to be available in Texas
Legislation aimed at pumping up the nation's flailing economy through job creation, tax breaks and billions of dollars in subsidies to state and local governments cleared its first hurdle Wednesday. If the bill passes and is signed by the president, thousands of government contracting opportunities in Texas will open up for contractors throughout the state.
The $819 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the cornerstone of the early days of President Barack Obama's newly installed administration, passed out of the House by a 244-188 vote along party lines. Attention now turns to the other chamber of Congress, where the U.S. Senate is expected to begin debate on the bill next week. Political watchers expect the price tag could go as high as $900 billion on the Senate side of the rotunda. Lawmakers are hopeful to have a bill that both the House and Senate can agree on by early February.
Strategic Partnerships Inc.'s Information Services division is tracking the stimulus bill. Today, the Texas Government Insider features an SPI-produced Web page with a detailed breakdown by category - education, infrastructure, energy, science facilities/research, health and human services and other spending - as outlined in the bill. The document shows where the money will flow in the proposed bill and will be a guideline for where government conracting opportunities will open up. SPI researchers will continue to update the documents on the Web page as the stimulus bill moves through the legislative process.
Last week, SPI sent press releases to hundreds of newspapers throughout the state outlining the funding estimates that school districts in the respective counties those newspapers serve would likely receive if the original version of the House bill passed. Again, a large portion of those funds will result in contracting opportunities for vendors in virtually every area of the state.[more]
Another private sector transportation proposal awarded
NTE Mobility Partners offers billion-dollar plan in Tarrant County
A private sector team's proposal to plan, finance, design, construct, operate and maintain 13 miles of NE Loop I-820 and a portion of SH 121/183 (Airport Freeway) in Tarrant County has been conditionally awarded by the Texas Transportation Commission. Not only was NTE Mobility Partners' (a team lead by Spanish road construction firm Cintra) proposal accepted, but the group also will provide financial and development plans to improve the remainder of the corridor.
The initial $2 billion investment will nearly double the number of existing lanes as well as provide long-term maintenance. Construction on the 13-mile section could begin in 2010. The award is conditional until the team's successful financial close, which is expected by the end of 2009. In 2010, right of way acquisition and construction will begin.
"Today's announcement is an important signal that local leaders, the private sector and TxDOT can find opportunities to work together to meet our state's transportation challenges," said Texas Transportation Commissioner Bill Meadows (pictured). TxDOT will retain ownership of these state roadways and will conduct regular reviews/audits to ensure a quality project and operations."
Pedro Reyes, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and Assessment, The University of Texas System, Ashbel Smith Chair in Education Policy
Career highlights and education: I received my bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in American history and education. My first job was teaching at a high school in the state of Wisconsin. Soon after, I went back to the university to get my Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies focused on education policy. Since then, I have been teaching at the university level for almost 25 years; 17 of those years have been at The University of Texas at Austin as professor of education policy. In my current job, I wear two hats - one as a professor, and the other as an administrator. As a professor, I have continued to teach graduate students and maintain a small research program. Over the years, I have brought in over $20 million in funding for research or training purposes. As an administrator, I am an Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and Assessment at The University of Texas System. I work with all academic campuses on assessing the quality of existing and proposed academic programs. I review and work on academic policy issues the Board of Regents must approve; I also administer funding programs that help improve the research capacity of academic institutions within the UT System.
What I like best about my job is: The teamwork and efficiency of the officers and staff members to accomplish the goals and objectives of our System. Also, I like our focus on quality and innovation, always asking ourselves how our work adds value or can be done differently to serve our main customers - who are regents, students, faculty, presidents, provosts and other university stakeholders.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Be prepared for a creative environment. Be prepared to add value for our customers. Our mission is to honor public trust in our handling of taxpayer-dedicated dollars to support higher education, to be transparent, to be accountable and to be responsive to parents, students, public officials and other stakeholders.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Be ready for non-stop activity, take initiative, be willing to modify your "modus operandi" of the past and be willing to grow as a professional. Those are essential abilities needed to succeed in this vibrant system.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: reading at the Perry-Castaneda Library at The University of Texas at Austin. This is an incredible resource we have in the State of Texas. The second place where I could be found is the Blanton Museum - another treasure we have at the university.
People would be surprised to know that I: have a deep appreciation for the arts, and have a passion for public education and the incredible impact it has on people and democracy.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: The history and impact the UT System has on the State of Texas. The UT System was created by the 17th Legislature in 1881. It is comprised of nine academic and six health institutions, including UT-Austin, UT-El Paso, UT-Southwestern Medical Center and UT-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, among others. Enrollment at the 15 campuses exceeded 194,000 students in fall 2007, more than a third of the state's students in public four-year colleges. The UT System institutions award 35 percent of the state's public university degrees and educate 75 percent of Texas' healthcare professionals. Moreover, these institutions bring in more than $2 billion every year in research funds. These investments in turn produce a significant economic impact for the State of Texas, producing new technologies, commercializing products and creating jobs. Few university systems around the country and within the state match the impact of The University of Texas System.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mace to take helm of program area at TWDB
Dr. Robert E. Mace (pictured) will take on the role of Deputy Executive Administrator for Water Science and Conservation, a program area of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). He will replace William F. Mullican III, who is retiring after 26 years of state service.
Mace joined TWDB in 1999 as head of the Groundwater Availability Modeling Program before rising through the ranks to become division director of Groundwater Resources. Prior to joining TWDB, he worked as a research scientist in hydrology at the Bureau of Economic Geology.
Mace holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and a doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin.
TDA awards $10M in home-delivered meal grants
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples (pictured) has announced that the Texas Department of Agriculture is awarding approximately $10 million to nearly 200 agencies throughout the state through its legislature-funded Texans Feeding Texans: Home Delivered Meal Grant Program.
Staples said Texas ranks third in the nation for food insecurity, meaning one in five adults and one in four children are hungry. "That is simply unacceptable," he said.
The grants, used to supplement and expand existing services related to the delivery of meals, allowed volunteers to serve 320,651 additional meals in 2008, in addition to saving $30,000 in tax dollars for each senior who depends on state-supported services.
TPWD seeking applicants for game warden cadet class
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is soliciting for qualified applicants to enroll in a game warden cadet class, set to begin Nov. 1. Applications will be accepted from Feb. 2 through April 30. Applicants must be 21 years of age and have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university before Sept. 1.
Eligible applicants must successfully complete a regional interview, physical readiness test and an extensive background investigation. After graduating, game wardens will be assigned to vacant stations throughout the state and charged with the responsibility of protecting natural resources and enforcing the Water Safety Act, among other peace officer duties.
For information about applying, click here.
Port of Houston Authority executive director retiring
Port of Houston Authority (PHA) Executive Director H. Thomas Kornegay (pictured) has announced he will step down from his post on Feb. 1 after 37 years of service.
Kornegay joined the PHA in 1972 in the engineering department before serving as a managing director and finally as executive director starting in 1991. He was instrumental in the $700 million Houston Ship Channel deepening and widening project.
The HPA commission will meet on Jan. 30 to decide which steps to take in securing a new executive director.
Youth Commission's first inspector general resigning
Bruce Toney, the Texas Youth Commission's (TYC) first inspector general, has announced he is resigning. He plans to depart from the agency where he was instrumental in establishing an independent investigative arm during an investigation in February involving allegations of sexual abuse in February.
Toney plans to return to Huntsville to work for the inspector general's office at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. As a prison system investigator, Toney was brought to TYC in 2007 to investigate abuse claims, and was hired as inspector general.
Texas AgriLife Research appoints interim director
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has named Dr. William (Bill) A. Dugas (pictured) interim director of Texas AgriLife Research, the state's leading research authority in the agricultural, environmental and life sciences.
A veteran administrator with some 30 years experience in the agency, Dugas will not be considered for the permanent director's post, for which a search committee will be appointed shortly. He was recently promoted to two other key administrative positions within the agency as associate vice chancellor and associate dean for the College of Agriculture. In 2005, he was named associate director for operations. Before joining the Texas Agrilife faculty in College Station, he served as lead administrator of a satellite branch in Temple.
Dugas holds a bachelor's degree from California State University in Chico, a master's degree from the University of Illinois and a doctoral degree from Utah State University.
Inman to serve as interim dean of LBJ School
Admiral Bobby Inman has been appointed to serve as interim dean of The University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, replacing James B. Steinberg, who was recently tapped to serve as President Barack Obama's Deputy Secretary of State. A search committee will soon be assembled to find a permanent dean.
A retired United States Navy admiral who has held several eminent positions in the United States intelligence community, Inman served as director of Naval Intelligence and as vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the 1970s. The following decade, he became director of the National Security Agency and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. President Bill Clinton tapped him to serve as Secretary of Defense in 1993, but Inman withdrew his nomination. He has most recently served as the LBJ Centennial Chair in National Policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Inman graduated from UT-Austin in 1950.
Jersey Village approves $140,000 commuter rail study
The Jersey Village City Council recently approved a $140,000 study to look at the feasibility of a train station at Highway 290 and Jones Road and review demographics to determine if riders will use commuter rail.
The study is needed because Harris County officials are looking at establishing commuter rail service from Hempstead to the Northwest Mall and Jersey City should be included in the planning, said Mayor Russell Hamley. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has assured him that the county is committed to developing commuter rail service to the area within three years, Hamley said.
The propose commuter line would run inbound toward Houston in the morning along existing railroad lines and resume outbound service at the end of the workday. The engineering study is expected to be complete in three to four months, the mayor said.
Midland to issue $9.8 million in bonds for projects
The Midland City Council recently approved its biennial issue of $9.8 million in certificates of obligation to pay for improvements to the municipal courts building, the senior citizens center and several road projects.
The projects to be funded are $1.5 million in improvements to municipal courts, $3 million in improvements to Lamesa Road, $3 million in improvements to Cotton Flat Road and Garfield Street, $250,000 for the senior center, $1.5 million to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center; $300,000 for playground equipment and $250,000 for the Jenna Welch Nature Study Center, said LuAnn Morgan (pictured), mayor pro tempore.
City council members also approved $1.8 million to pay for renovating Centennial Plaza and refurbishing the fountain and amphitheater. The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 1 is providing $800,000 to fund the plaza project and the remaining $250,000 is provided from a community development grant and hotel-motel taxes.
Halff selected acting dean at UTHSC-San Antonio
Dr. Glenn A. Halff (pictured) has been named acting dean of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. His charge begins Feb. 2.
A professor in the Department of Surgery, Halff also holds the Dielmann Chair in Transplant Sciences and serves as director of the University Transplant Center, a joint venture of the University Health System and UT Health Science Center. He helped perform the first split-liver transplant in South Texas as part of a liver transplant program he began in 1992 upon joining the university.
Halff earned his bachelor's degree from Emory University and his medical degree from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Interim director of UT-Tyler Writing Center picked
Dr. Catherine Ross (pictured), associate professor of English, has been tapped to serve as interim director of The University of Texas at Tyler Writing Center, replacing Dr. Brenda Tuberville, who has accepted a position at Rogers State University in Oklahoma.
Ross, who has been with UT-Tyler since 1998, formerly served as assistant director of rhetoric and composition at UT-Austin. She said the position provides "an opportunity to adjust and adapt our program according to ideas, suggestions and concerns of faculty and students."
Ross holds a doctorate from UT-Austin, where she was honored with an Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award in 1999.
Austin proposes largest solar array in the country
Austin city officials recently recommended the city set aside 300 acres in eastern Travis County to build a solar array that would be used exclusively by Austin Energy, the city-owned utility.
The proposed solar facility would be built and owned by a San Francisco-based company and Austin Energy would pay $10 million a year for 25 years for the electricity generated by the large solar array. The facility could be open as early as late 2010 and produce enough energy to power up to 5,000 homes per year, said Michael McCluskey, the chief operating officer of Austin Energy.
The facility also would raise the monthly electricity bill of the average Austin homeowner who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours by an estimated 60 cents, McCluskey said. But, he added, the proposed facility would help the city toward its goal of generating 30 percent of its power from renewable power sources by 2020. Despite the higher cost of solar generation of energy, the facility could give Austin a hedge against spikes in fossil-fuel costs and could become a bargain in the future if fossil-fuel costs spike again, he said. He also advised that city council members have much more discussion on the proposal before a vote is taken.
A&M regents approve national emergency center
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents have approved the establishment of the National Center for Emergency Medical Preparedness and Response (NCEMPR). The center is designed to address existing gaps in mobilization, coordination, management and training in the instance of bioterrorism, pandemic influenza and other national security risks.
NCEMPR combines the expertise of three A&M System units - including the Health Science Center, the Texas Engineering Extension Service and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station - solidifying the center as the state's preeminent institution devoted to medical and public health preparedness. The center will offer training and local communities in addition to assisting the federal government in dispensing Disaster Medical Assistance Teams in the event of a public health-related emergency.
Dr. G. Kemble Bennett (pictured), vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering, said the A&M System is equipped "to address the most critically important gap in national security: disasters involving public health, adding the NCEMPR will build upon that reputation by "adding health and medical expertise for unique contributions to public health and safety."
Stephenville puts library, multipurpose center on hold
The Stephenville City Council recently agreed to put on hold a proposed library and new multipurpose center, both of which had been in the planning stages for the past four years. City Administrator Mark Kaiser recommended delaying the two projects because the current economic uncertainly made approval of bonds questionable.
Council members, however, agreed that both projects will remain in the forefront of the city's project list for consideration when the economy improves.
SFA regents approve plans for residence hall, garage
Stephen F. Austin State University regents have approved proposal requests to proceed with plans for a new freshman residence hall and multi-level parking garage. Finalists will make presentations to the board in April, when proposals will be reviewed by university staff.
The residence hall occupancy rate at SFA exceeded 100 percent last fall semester. In addition to preparing for future growth, a new facility would address the pressing need for on-campus housing, said Steve Westbrook (pictured), vice president for university affairs.
SFA maintenance projects totaling $10 million have been approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The university is issuing tuition revenue bonds to complete the projects, which include: a $700,000 renovation to the SFA Theatre; a $2.5 million upgrade at the Nursing and Math Building; $700,000 in upgraded fire alarms; a new roof and other upgrades for the Science Research Center totaling $150,000 and a $6 million chemistry building renovation, deferred until the Texas Legislature makes a decision regarding the university's request for a new molecular science building.
Dallas delays construction of Woodall Rodger Park
Delays in design recently prompted Dallas city officials to delay construction of Woodall Rodger Park for up to four months. Federal standards that require new construction designs to protect against fire and vehicle fumes caused the slowdown, said Ed Fjordbak of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation.
The five-acre deck park will cover the Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Akard and Pearl streets and link the uptown with the Arts District.
Construction on the park is now expected to begin in August, said Paul Dyer, director of parks and recreation for Dallas. Utility work, including rerouting electrical systems and storm water and sewer facilities should begin within a few weeks, Dyer said. Completion of the park is scheduled for mid-2011.
Lubbock puts brakes on 34th Street project
In a 3-4 vote, Lubbock City Council members recently hit the brakes on a proposed May bond election to pay for a $40-million project to upgrade the 34th Street corridor recently recommended by a citizen's group.
Mayor Tom Martin (pictured) said while he and council members agree that the street needs to be repaired, it is too risky to ask taxpayers to increase taxes to pay for the 34th Street improvements during the uncertain economy.
The mayor, however, said he would like to appoint a citizens advisory committee to study the possibility of a November bond election to pay for street repairs and improvements to some recreation centers.
San Benito to launch $1.4M museum project
A six-member committee was recently authorized to hire a consulting firm to manage a $1.4 million project to expand the city's three museums. The committee is reviewing three firms with experience in museums, tourism and museum construction for the $200,000 contract, said Tootie Madden, president of the San Benito Historical Society and a committee member.
The contract calls for the firm to determine how to expand the San Benito History Museum, the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Freddy Fender Museum and to decide whether the museums will be located in an existing building or in a new building constructed by the city. The three museums are now located in the city's community building.
The study is funded by a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and $50,000 from the city. The museum project is designed to enhance tourism to the city, said Martha McClain, the community affairs director for San Benito.
UT-Permian Basin president makes shift to UT-Pan Am
Charles A. Sorber (pictured), former president of The University of Texas-Permian Basin, has been named interim president of UT-Pan American, effective Feb. 23. A national search for a successor to former President Blandina Cardenas is under way.
Sorber previously served as professor emeritus in the department of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at UT-Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering. His academic career includes posts as dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, director of UT-San Antonio's Center for Applied Research and Technology, associate dean of UT-Austin's College of Engineering, vice chancellor for special engineering programs in the UT System and interim director of student financial services at UT-Austin.
Sorber holds a bachelor's and master's degree from the Pennsylvania State University and a doctoral degree from UT-Austin.
Citizens group urges Rosebud-Lott ISD repairs
A facility review committee for the Rosebud-Lott Independent School District recently advised trustees to proceed with replacing the roof of the high school in Travis as well as repair the remaining plumbing and sewer problems.
James Sell, who chaired the citizens group also said he doubted that a bond issue would pass as committee members were almost equally split with a 19-18 vote to recommend a bond issue to pay for a new elementary school and convert the existing primary school in Rosebud and Lott Elementary into non-instructional facilities.
The district should use surplus money in the general fund rather than wait for settlement of a pending lawsuit to make necessary repairs rather than depend on a bond election, Sell said.
Red, Charlene McCombs awarded Lamar medal
Red and Charline McCombs (pictured) have been awarded the Mirabeau B. Lamar Medal by the Council for Public University Presidents and Chancellors, The Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, and the Texas Association of Community Colleges. The award, honoring the McCombs' far-reaching efforts in statewide education support, was presented during a luncheon in downtown Austin on Wednesday.
The McCombs' gifts to education in Texas exceed $100 million in support of efforts ranging from cancer research initiatives at The University of Texas - M.D. Anderson to funding minority scholarships, residential facilities and campus center renovations at Southwestern University.
The Lamar Medal is named for President Maribeau B. Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas, who is also known as the Father of Texas Education. The Lamar Medal has been presented yearly since 1977 to individuals, foundations and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to higher education across the state.
Hill County ESD upgrading emergency radio system
Commissioners of the Hill County Emergency Services District #1 recently approved an agreement to improve its emergency radio capabilities.
The agreement covers guidelines for first responders regarding proper procedures to be followed on the radio, new radios, re-programming of all channels, updating consoles to touch screens and replacing the board on radio towers. The state's Department of Homeland Security will provide $1.5 million for the upgrades, said Sheriff Jeffrey Lyon. The Hill County ESD #1 currently has contracts with 17 fire departments in the area.
Eastfield College president Carol Brown resigning
Dr. Carol Brown (pictured) has announced she will step down immediately as president of Eastfield College, part of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), ending her nearly two-year tenure. Dr. Jean Conway, Richland College vice president, will replace Brown as interim president, pending board approval.
DCCCD Chancellor Dr. Wright Lassiter made the announcement of Brown's departure, calling the change in leadership a circumstantial personnel change. He added he and Brown "are in constant communication on the affairs of Eastfield College."
Conway will begin the transition process with Brown soon, and details will be worked out among the two of them and Lassiter.
League City to replace emergency notification system
Council members in League City recently agreed to replace the city's current countywide emergency notification phone system with one that sends through an updated, $65,307 system capable of sending five messages per League City household.
The new system, which will cost the city about $2.24 per address per year, is needed because the countywide emergency notification system now used by the city quit operating even before Hurricane Ike blew ashore, said Jamie Galloway, director of emergency services.
Even after switching to a backup system and then to the statewide reverse 911 system, city officials were unable to send more than 20,000 calls to warn residents in low-lying areas to evacuate, Galloway said. Texas City and Kemah, which used the new system during the hurricane, were able to send about 600,000 messages.
Kerrville moves forward with plans to relocate city hall
The Kerrville City Council recently agreed to issue nearly $10 million in tax and revenue certificates of obligation for several capital projects, including a new city hall. The council in December agreed to buy a $1.6 million, 15,000-square-foot downtown building to convert to a city hall.
Approximately $2 million of the bond money is earmarked for administrative facilities, said Josh Selleck (pictured), the director of finance for the city. Remaining bond funds will be used for street reconstruction, drainage improvement, water/sewer projects and park improvements.
Council members also amended the city budget to set aside more than $3 million for the relocation of city hall and approved a $43,500 feasibility study with an engineering firm that will include environmental, structural, mechanical and electrical assessments of the building in addition to a facility design layout plan. Once those assessments are made, the city can determine the cost to renovate the proposed city hall site, said Interim City Manager Don Davis.
TWDB to give award to City of Eagle Pass
Officials of the City of Eagle Pass will be honored by the Texas Water Development Board in a ceremony Feb. 13 as winners of the 2008 PISCES Award. The ceremony will be held at the city's new water treatment facility. The PISCES (Performance and Innovation in the SRF Creating Environmental Success) recognizes projects that are innovative and advance the Environmental Protection Agency's water quality protection goals through the State Revolving Fund Programs.
The Eagle Pass project was nominated for its innovation in financing, its creative use of partnerships and its efficient use of water resources. The city used both state and federal resources to create regional utility system improvements that meet water quality and health standards. The city also created a new water treatment plant, constructed new water transmission lines and elevated storage tanks. These improvements and purchase of a water supply corporation allowed the city to meet regional water needs and improve water quality to residents of colonias.
Trinity University president retiring next year
Trinity University President John Brazil (pictured) has announced he will retire in January 2010 after more than a decade leading the prestigious liberal arts institution. Brazil said he plans to stay connected to Trinity in some way, according to spokeswoman Sharon Jones Schweitzer.
During his tenure, beginning in 1999, Brazil helped Trinity amass a $1 billion endowment, hired many new faculty members, redesigned the common curriculum and instituted an academic honor code, among other initiatives. Before leading Trinity, he served as president of Bradley University in Illinois and as president/chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. He began his academic career teaching American Studies at Yale University in 1968.
Brazil earned his bachelor's degree at Stanford University and both his master's degree and doctorate at Yale University.
Windcrest halts plan to issue tax notes for new city hall
The Windcrest City Council recently rescinded an ordinance authorizing the city to issue tax notes to pay for a new city hall and other capital projects. The vote followed a court ruling last month that required the city council to call a citywide election called for in a petition with more than 1,000 signatures or cancel the planned project.
Council members, however, agreed to create a capital improvement projects advisory work group to review the projects, costs and proposed location while staging town meetings and preparing educational materials. The city still needs a new city hall, expanded firefighter dormitories and to renovate the old city hall into a criminal justice center, said Mayor Jack Leonhardt.
UNT's CyberCemetery to preserve Bush Web sites
The University of North Texas is planning to preserve access to some of the George W. Bush administration's Web sites through CyberCemetery, an archive of inactive government Web sites maintained by the UNT Libraries' Digital Projects Unit.
An affiliated archive of the National Archives and Records Administration, the UNT Libraries have partnered with the Library of Congress and other agencies to preserve federal government agencies' Web sites that were created under the Bush administration. The CyberCemetery, formed in 1997, is comprised of 50 Web sites from the United States' executive and legislative branches and independent commissions. Suzanne Sears, director of the Government Document Department, said the UNT Libraries will mostly maintain sites that are relevant to UNT's academic programs and have the most impact on the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"There will be offices and agencies that disappear with the new presidential administration," Sears said, adding the department wants to make certain government sites are archived "so that when someone looks back at the Bush administration 100 years from now, he or she will be able to read primary source materials from the Web sites."
Lamar Institute of Technology names new chair
Lyn Brown (pictured) will serve as the new chair of the Department of General Education and Developmental Studies at the Lamar Institute of Technology, replacing Joe Juarez, who recently retired.
Brown took part in LIT's Learning Community program last semester, wherein students worked on cross-disciplinary projects to improve their academic engagement and ultimately their success. Brown plans on expanding the Learning Community model to other developmental classes and courses at LIT in addition to a Summer Bridge program for students who must complete developmental courses before beginning work on their degrees.
Brown holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and a master's degree from the University of North Texas. Prior to joining the LIT faculty in 2005, she taught in the Arlington and Beaumont school districts.
Tubbs withdraws as new city manager in Buda
Jennifer Tubbs, who was unanimously selected by Buda city officials in July as the new city manager, recently notified city officials that she can no longer accept the position. Tubbs was selected over four other finalists to replace former City Manager Robert Camareno, resigned last February to accept a position with the city of New Braunfels.
Tubbs, a township manager in Michigan, notified Buda city officials that she could not move her family to Buda despite the city's offer to increase her salary. She said realtors had advised her that her Michigan home would not sell within six months.
Interim City Manager Sarah Mangham advised council that they have the choice of going back to one of the four finalists in the previous search or beginning a new search. Other finalists for the position from which Tubbs withdrew were Belinda Espinosa, Pinole, Ca; Dennis McDuffie, McGregor, TX.; Michael Miller, Farmington, N.M.; and Dion Miller, Mineola, TX.
Hitchcock school district delays plans for new facility
Another casualty of Hurricane Ike, the Hitchcock public school district has halted plans to build an $11 million high school, one of several measures voters approved last May since it appears the tax base is no longer able to provide funds for construction, according to Superintendent Mike Bergman. Plans for the high school had been drawn and approved.
Bergman cited the recent economic downturn and an expected loss of 20 percent - or $7.46 million - in tax revenue because of Ike-related damages as reasons for the indefinite delay. Trustees are expected to consider layoffs in February. Bergman said stagflation is one thing - but it's something else entirely when dealing with a recession "bordering on a depression."
Meanwhile, construction on the district's new $1.3 million synthetic turf and $300,000 track rehabilitation is set to begin this week.
UTHSC-San Antonio picks Fox for scholar award
Dr. Peter T. Fox (pictured) has been named the 2009 Presidential Distinguished Scholar at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Soon-to-be Interim President of the Health Science Center William L. Henrich will present an award medal and plaque to Fox along with $5,000 on Feb. 2.
Fox, a preeminent imaging researcher, served as founding director of the Research Imaging Center (RIC) in 1991. Before joining the Health Science Center with appointments in radiology, neurology, psychiatry and physiology, he served as a senior staff scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Mind/Brain Institute. Fox holds a medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine. He interned at Duke University School of Medicine and completed his residency and fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.
Bill would mandate disclosure of superintendent finalists
A bill filed in the Texas Senate would mandate public school districts disclose the names of all superintendent candidates interviewed in the final round of interviews.
A similar bill filed in 2007 passed the Senate but died in the House of Representatives. As the law stands, districts are required to release only the name of the lone finalist 21 days before the person is hired.
Some lawmakers believe districts should provide more transparency in the superintendent-hiring process - allowing for more public input - much like city government posts, such as city manager or police chief, are administered.
USDA has $45.8M in loans, grants for rural economies
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that is has $45.8 million in loans and grants to help rural communities spur economic development through its Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program.
The program is designed to stimulate business expansion and promote entrepreneurship by helping local businesses gain access to capital, technical assistance and new markets for their products and services by providing zero-interest loans and grants to electric and telephone cooperatives, according to Douglas Faulkner, an acting undersecretary for rural development in the USDA. The utility cooperative can then establish a revolving loan fund that can be used for lending to public or private organizations to finance community facilities and infrastructure, he said.
Applications for the loans and grants must be received by March 31 for funding during the third quarter and by June 30 for fourth quarter funding. More information on the grant is available at www.grants.gov.
Grapevine sends airport shuttle plan for revisions
After reviewing operating plans for a shuttle system to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Grapevine city officials recently sent the plan back to the consultant to develop another plan with a shorter commute time.
Mayor William Tate (pictured) said the recently submitted plan that would take a 25-passenger bus about two hours for a round-trip between Grapevine and the airport would be rejected by passengers because it took too much time. Stops on the plan included Grapevine Mills mall, two hotels and shops in the city's historic district on Main Street. The rejected plan called for an annual budget of about $600,000 to operate three buses that would leave D/FW Airport every 45 minutes. The city would need to hire six full-time drivers and two part-time drivers and charge $5 for an adult day pass and $11 for a family day pass. The consultant estimated the shuttle would serve about 57,000 passengers annually.
Council members instructed the consultant to return with a compromise plan and agreed that to provide better service would require more money for the project.
Katy ISD delaying bond election amid economic slide
Katy Independent School District's Board of Trustees will likely wait until next year before calling another bond election to construct new campuses. Until then the district has more than $23 million in past bond savings to buy portable buildings and make improvements.
A bond election was originally slated for November, but officials pushed the date back because of the current economic downturn. Board members are looking for an upswing in the financial markets before holding another election.
Meanwhile, remaining bond money will be used for projects including: $800,000 in portable classrooms, $7 million earmarked for a new financial system and $4.2 for a transportation center, among other initiatives. If all the projects are approved, approximately $1 million undesignated bond funds will be left for the district's use.
Victoria puts temporary hold on $10M courtroom project
Victoria County commissioners recently voted to delay the first phase of a $10 million project to increase courtroom space, office space and parking.
The county will reconsider the start date of the project this summer when county officials have more information on loss of tax base and revenue, said County Judge Don Pozzi. The county will move forward with the project, although it could be delayed as much as one year, Pozzi said.
Phase one of the project, expected to cost about $5 million, includes a new building for the tax office, elections office and possibly a justice of the peace office. Phase two of the project, also expected to cost $5 million, includes a new building to provide a meeting place for commissioners court and additional space in the courthouse for the courts and district clerk. County officials plan to pay for the improvements using certificates of obligation.
Kerr County proposes $25M in stimulus projects
Kerr County commissioners recently agreed on $25 million in capital improvement projects to be considered if a federal economic stimulus package wins approval.
Included in the projects to be considered in funding are a $13 million plan to install sewer pipes in Center Point and connecting to a sewage treatment plant in Comfort or Kerrville, $6 million to expand and upgrade the Hill Country Youth Exhibit Center, $5 million to replace bridges, $600,000 to repair dams at Ingram and Flatrock lakes and $600,000 to install high-pressure water pipes to the city-county airport to improve firefighter readiness.
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Partnerships are emerging in new environments...
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Times are changing! Many local governmental entities are laying aside their past differences and forging surprisingly successful partnerships.
Cities and counties that may have once been rivals are now realizing that there is strength in joining forces. Partnerships are cropping up throughout the state in unlikely places...and there is hope that others will emerge as well.
Just last week, the city of Wichita Falls and Wichita County began discussions regarding the possibility of sharing a new facilities complex. The city needs new administrative offices, police headquarters and a new municipal court building. The county, too, is outgrowing its current space and may soon have to explore additional offices and court space. Talks are in the preliminary stages right now, but both city and county officials realize that shared space - and even shared technology - could be a boon for both entities.[more]
Lyon selected lone finalist for Hays ISD superintendent
Hays Independent School District officials recently selected Jeremy Lyon (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent to replace Superintendent Kirk London, who announced his retirement effective at the end of this school year.
Lyon has served as superintendent of Hillsboro School District in Oregon since 2004 and as an assistant superintendent and superintendent of Coos Bay Public Schools in Oregon. He previously held positions as a teacher, coach and principal with Eanes, Gilmer, La Joya and Leander school districts. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, a master's from The University of Texas-Pan American and a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin.
Maydelle VFD wins federal grant to buy new fire truck
The Maydelle Volunteer Fire Department recently was selected to receive a $180,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters program.
The grant will be used to purchase a Class A pumper truck to replace a pumper truck purchased in 1989, said Fire Chief Jody Gray. The grant requires the department to provide $9,500 toward the purchase of the new truck.
City of Italy selects interim public works director
According to City Secretary Teri Murdock, Brad Chambers will serve as interim public works director for the City of Italy.
Chambers holds a Class D water license and will be required to fulfill a few hours' worth of training in order to receive the required certification for the position. Chambers has worked for the city for two years.
Ingram ISD selects
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.