|Volume 7, Issue 40 · Friday, October 16, 2009|
Early voting for Nov. 3 election starts Monday
Local issues, bonds, 11 proposed amendments at stake statewide
Early voting for the upcoming Nov. 3 statewide election begins Monday and runs through Friday, Oct. 30, with Texas voters set to decide a number of state and local issues.
Although no state offices will be filled during this election, many areas of the state will decide city council, school board and special district elections. The fate of 11 proposed constitutional amendments is also at stake statewide as are a variety of public school and local government bond issues and numerous other local government issues.
In Friendswood, voters will decide whether businesses in the city's downtown district should be allowed to sell alcohol. Voters in the City of Santa Fe will decide three separate bond propositions totaling $8.9 million. If passed, the bond funds would be used to build a new police station and public service building and to expand the city library.
Huntsville voters will vote yes or no on a $3.5 million project that would expand and renovate their city library. In Fort Worth, voters will decide if they want to renew the city's half-cent sales tax that is dedicated to local police use and crime prevention.[more]
Partnership could result in more doctors locally
UT Southwestern, Seton hope to expand medical education, research
A partnership has been formed between The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and the Seton Family of Hospitals, with a goal of expanding graduate medical education and medical research and increasing access to health care in Central Texas. The partnership is expected to increase the number of doctors who will practice in Seton facilities while also increasing medical research projects and collaborative research between UT Southwestern and The University of Texas at Austin.
UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. (top left) said the research arm of the partnership will "allow discoveries to transition more quickly from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside." All academic, clinical research and administrative activities included in the partnership will be funded by Seton.
Part of the initiative includes the development of the Seton Family of Hospitals/UT Southwestern Clinical Research Institute. "This collaboration will enhance and augment the existing clinical investigation and teaching being done by our faculty, adding further reach, depth, experience and prestige to our institution," said UT Southwestern President Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D. (right). Podolsky also predicted benefits in the Dallas area with new partnerships and increased collaboration among our medical communities."
Noting what he called a "significant" doctor shortage in Central Texas, Charles Barnett (bottom left), president and CEO of the Seton Family of Hospitals, said the increase in the number of residents training at Seton facilities means "a significant number of the doctors who train here will locate their practices here."
Alvin Miller, chief operating officer, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Career highlights and education: East Texas public schools, Stephen F. Austin State University. Started with the Comptroller's Office in Dallas as a Fortune 500 company auditor - that somehow led to executive management roles in four different state agencies in areas ranging from human resources to financial management to information technology. These career moves led me to pursue advanced certifications as a CPA, CGFM and PMP. For five years, I have been Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).
What I like best about my job is: The mission I support. DARS is the designated authority in Texas on the vocational rehabilitation of Texans with disabilities, and works with Texans with disabilities to get a job or keep a job, and to live independently. A big plus - the job encompasses a diversity of disciplines and initiatives that present new and competency-building challenges every day.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Eliminate the word "fair" from your vocabulary.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: I tell them (someone else said it first), "If you are not fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm." Love what you do and you'll never have to work another day in your life.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: doing fun things with the family (wife, four daughters and grandkids); playing a little guitar (my own ears have adapted), motorcycling or reading.
People would be surprised to know that I: lead a motorcycle group and organize rides to places ranging from Colorado to the Smoky Mountains.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: DARS Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors helped almost 13,000 Texans with disabilities achieve employment last year - they're difference-makers in the lives of Texans.
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.
Levine chosen interim director of Sunset Commission
Ken Levine (pictured), who has served the Sunset Advisory Commission for nearly three decades, has been appointed interim director of the commission by Sunset Chair Sen. Glenn Hegar. Levine joined the Sunset Commission 28 years ago. He has served the agency as deputy director for the last 14 years. Levine fills the spot left vacant by the retirement of longtime Sunset Director Joey Longley.
Levine began his work with the Sunset Commission in 1981 as a policy analyst. He advanced in the agency to project manager, senior analyst, assistant deputy director and then deputy director.
Levine's appointment took immediate effect and he will direct the Sunset Commission as it begins work on the 2011 sunset review cycle.
ARRA: 1,100 Texas jobs created; 230 contracts issued
Reports filed this week by recipients of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding relating to jobs created or saved and contracts awarded are only a drop in the bucket compared to the $787 billion total funds available from the act. Figures released yesterday are based only on about $16 billion in contracts. Figures relating to grants and loans will be revealed at the end of the month.
Boosted by road and bridge and other transportation infrastructure projects, the construction industry was the big winner regarding contracts. Environmental jobs, too, were boosted by Recovery Act funding relating to energy efficiency and a push toward renewable energy creation and use.
The federal government estimated that more than 30,000 jobs were created or saved nationwide. In Texas, the job count was approximately 1,100, based on more than 230 contracts.
Allen to serve as interim GM of Capital Metro
Former executive vice president and chief development officer of Capital Metro, Doug Allen (pictured), has been named interim general manager while the agency conducts a national search for a permanent manager to replace Fred Gilliam, who has retired. Allen becomes acting president and chief executive officer/general manager.
Allen has worked with Cap Metro since April 2008, coming to Austin after 24 years with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), where he was executive vice president for program development. He previously worked for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. While at DART, he was instrumental in developing plans for the DART light rail system and high occupancy vehicle network.
Because new Cap Metro board appointments are expected by the end of the year, officials say they will wait until after the first of the year to begin their search for Gilliam's replacement.
TERP clean air grants made available through TCEQ
Clean air grants totaling $26 million are being made available to eligible individuals, businesses or local governments through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) program. The grants, aimed at reducing emissions from polluting vehicles and equipment, are available for projects in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, the Tyler-Longview area, the Austin area and the San Antonio area.
The TERP program has previously awarded contracts totaling more than $775 million that will reduce more than 160,000 tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides in Texas.
The funding must be used to replace or repower heavy-duty on-road diesel vehicles and non-road diesel equipment. The eligible reimbursement amounts are predetermined based on default usage rates (miles or hours). A portion of the funding allocated to the Rebate Grant program will be set aside for entities that qualify as a small business. Applications will be received and reviewed on a first-come basis until March 31, 2010, or until all funding is distributed. For TERP program information, eligibility requirements and copies of the application forms, please visit www.terpgrants.org or call (800) 919-TERP (8377).
TWDB approves financial assistance for projects
Financial assistance of more than $104 million was approved this week by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The assistance includes:
TWDB also approved more than $141.7 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds as follows:
Nelsen selected president finalist of UT-Pan American
Regents for The University of Texas recently selected Dr. Robert S. Nelsen (pictured) as the sole finalist for president of The University of Texas-Pan American. Nelsen currently serves as associate vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Nelsen will succeed Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas, who retired in January. Nelsen holds a bachelor's and master's degree from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at The University of Chicago. He also served as a vice provost at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Comptroller figures show sales tax revenue declines
Comptroller Susan Combs has announced state sales tax revenues for the month of September. Texas collected $1.47 billion in sales tax compared to last year's monthly rate, a decrease of 12.5 percent.
Local governments collected $418.5 million in monthly sales tax allocations, down 7.6 percent from September 2008. Texas cities collected $282.8 million, a decrease of 7.3 percent, and counties pulled in $25.5 million, down 10.7 percent from a year ago. Special-purpose taxing districts netted $16.7 million in allocations and 10 Texas transit systems received $93.3 million. Those figures are down 1.4 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively.
UTMB names vice president of ambulatory care
Bonnie Benkula (pictured) has been named associate vice president of ambulatory care at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston's new Victory Lakes clinic.
The facility will provide imaging, ambulatory surgery, weight management and orthopedic care services, among others. The 110,000-square-foot facility is set to become UTMB's 25th Bay Area clinic.
Benkula holds a bachelor's degree from UTMB and is completing a master's degree from the University of Colorado.
Atchley to lead Tarleton institutional research
Wayne Atchley, former data research administrator at Tarleton State University, has been named director of the Office of Institutional Research. In his new role, he will supervise the former Office of Planning, Evaluation and Institutional Research.
Atchley will be responsible for project oversight and planning, providing leadership in supplying data and information to external and internal university constituents and managing technology associated with office operations.
Atchley holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas Christian University and is currently working toward a doctorate through a joint program with Texas A&M and Texas Tech Universities.
Texas A&M welcomes professor, equine coordinator
Dr. Jim Heird (pictured) has joined the Texas A&M University faculty as executive professor and coordinator of the Equine Sciences Initiative, a cooperative of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Heird, an internationally renowned equine scholar, most recently served as director of teaching and outreach for the equine sciences program at Colorado State University.
Heird's newly created position will oversee a merge of the university's two equine programs to better leverage assets and talents in both colleges.
TAMU promotes liberal arts dean Johnson
Charles A. Johnson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University, is set to join TAMU's Division of Research and Graduate Studies as a senior associate vice president for research. In his new role, he will help implement the university's Academic Master Plan Research Roadmap.
Jeffrey Seemann, vice president for research, said Johnson's experience will provide "a strong foundation for his role in supporting infrastructure development to elevate the research environment and raising the research profile of the humanities, social sciences and related disciplines at Texas A&M."
M.D. Anderson garners $8.3M to study genetic paths
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center recently won a five-year, $8.3 million grant to study how genetic pathways fuel more than 20 types of cancer. The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) awarded the grant.
The M.D. Anderson group is now part of the new Genome Data Analysis Center of the TCGA, a joint enterprise of the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, which are both part of the National Institutes of Health.
Leading the M.D. Anderson group are: Prof. John Weinstein, chairman of the department of bioinformatics and computational biology; Prof. Gordon Mills, chairman of the department of systems biology; and Prof. W.K. Alfred Yung, chairman of the department of neuro-oncology. Grant funds will be used to study multi-gene pathways and combinations of pathways, a systems approach addressing the complexity of cancer growth and survival. This approach will allow physicians to personalize treatment to the patient, said Weinstein. The research effort also should improve cancer risk assessment, early diagnosis, prognosis and assessment of the likelihood of recurrence, he said.
UNT leads efforts to curb carbon emissions
The University of North Texas is leading efforts among four-year colleges toward creating a carbon-neutral campus, according to reports submitted to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. The institution has met five of the seven actions required to attain carbon-neutral status since President Gretchen Bataille (pictured) signed the commitment in April 2008.
Bataille said environmental stewardship has remained a part of the UNT tradition, adding the recent achievement stands as a testament "to the success of the array of sustainability programs under way on our campus."
UNT was the first large public university in Texas to sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment initiative, which commits the university to completing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other charges.
Texas A&M-Kingsville receives $2.7M DOE grant
Texas A&M University-Kingsville has been selected as one of 22 institutions nationwide to receive funding through the U.S. Department of Education Promoting Post-Baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA) Title V grant program. The grant totals $2.7 million to be disbursed over a five-year period.
The PPOHA program aims at expanding graduate education opportunities for Hispanic students by assisting with funds to complete postsecondary degrees. According to Dr. Daniel A. Brown, dean of University College and the principle investigator of the grant, the funds will allow for scholarships for master's and doctoral students as well as upgrade classroom technology and purchase scientific equipment.
Texas cancer research fund sees growth in requests
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has received 881 grant applications for a total of $195 million that will become available for research in 2010. The majority, 767, of the applications sought maximum funding of $1 million a year for four years, which resulted in requests totaling about six times the amount of funds available to researchers.
Grant recipients for cancer research funds will be announced in late January or early February, said Bill Gimson (pictured), executive director of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Voters in 2007 approved $3 billion in bonds to be dedicated to a state cancer research program. The fund has about $195 million available, but some of that funding will be reserved to combine with funding available in 2011 in order to award grants for multi-investigator awards for high-cost, early-stage clinical trials, said Dr. Al Gilman, research review director.
The applications for research range from diagnosis and cell biology to therapeutics, Gilman said. The peer review committees are comprised of people who live outside of Texas to avoid regionalism and institutional competition, he said. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center submitted the largest number of grant applications, 301, followed by the Baylor College of Medicine with 142 applications. Of the total applications, 93 were for research into products with commercial applications, a goal the institute is emphasizing.
UTPA scraps new fine arts complex; to renovate instead
Construction plans for a fine arts facility at the University of Texas-Pan American have been scrapped. Instead, university officials plan to renovate the current fine arts complex since $40 million allocated to the university won't provide enough funds for a new stand-alone facility.
Marianella Franklin, UTPA's director for sustainability programs who has been overseeing the project, said officials are planning a major renovation.
"The building will be completely gutted, and it will have new mechanical systems, new acoustical systems, new lighting and everything will be brand new," Franklin said.
Tom Green to renovate building for state/local offices
Tom Green County commissioners recently authorized the sale of tax notes to purchase and renovate a former retail building to house the Community Supervision and Corrections Department and new offices for a justice of the peace.
County Judge Mike Brown (pictured) said more than half of the building will be used by the supervision and corrections department to house state employees because the county is tasked with providing office space and facilities for the service which helps in the rehabilitation of offenders sentenced to community supervision. Seven counties are members of the Concho Valley Community Supervision and Corrections Department, which currently houses employees in three separate facilities.
Commissioners also a accepted a $50,000 grant from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program to renovate heating and air conditioning systems in county office buildings.
San Antonio looking at new contracting ordinance
The City of San Antonio's Small Business Advocacy Committee is studying an ordinance that would require all companies seeking to do business with the city to register in a centralized system. The proposal takes aim at ensuring that more business opportunities with the city are open to small, minority- and women-owned businesses. Officials say having a central bidding registration allows prime contractors to see which of the small, minority and women-owned businesses are available as subcontractors.
The initiative would affect five categories of contracting - construction, professional services, architectural/engineering, goods-and-supplies and other services. Committees overseeing each of those categories would decide if a contract would be bid by awarding preferential points to certified businesses that are minority- or women-owned, or if they would be bid without regard to race or gender.
Other parts of the ordinance address non-mandatory goals of hiring minority- and women-owned businesses, the ability of the city to monitor payments between primes and subcontractors and a study every four years regarding racial and gender gaps in contracting.
UH puts Peek in charge of UH Health
Dr. Kathryn E. Peek, Ph.D. (pictured), has joined the University of Houston to take the reins of UH Health. She currently serves as assistant vice president of University Health Initiatives. Peek will coordinate UH System Health Initiatives in research and educational and clinical programs.
Peek will be charged with identifying and creating new cross-disciplinary academic and health-related research opportunities for both faculty and students. She hopes to increase the amount of sponsored research expenditures awarded to UH in addition to the number of students graduating in health-related fields.
Peek holds a master's degree from UH-Clear Lake and a Ph.D. from The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. She previously served as associate professor in the department of imaging physics at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and adjunct associate professor in the department of bioengineering at Rice University. She has also held positions at UT Medical School at Houston and the UH College of Optometry. She also founded the Texas Medical Center Women's Health Network, an organization of more than 600 health professionals.
UTPA nets $1.75M grant for graduate school initiative
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Graduate School at The University of Texas-Pan American $1.75 million as part of its Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA) grant program.
The funds will be geared toward implementing the "Transforming Graduate Education at UTPA" initiative at UTPA, a five-year project that will provide resources for graduate students and faculty and scholarships. In the accompanying photo are Dr. Zen Faulkes (left), faculty program advisor, and Sylvia Aldape, co-director, for the program.
Dr. Cynthia Brown, vice provost for Graduate Studies, Academic Centers and Continuing Education, said the UTPA Graduate School is experiencing a tremendous growth rate, adding the semester's increase in graduate enrollment has "resulted in the highest number of graduate credit hours in the history of the university."
UTHSC-San Antonio $3M gets nursing grant
The National Institutes of Nursing Research has awarded The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio a $3 million grant through the Grand Opportunities program, an offshoot of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The grant will help establish the first national research network focusing on frontline hospital care provided by nurses, led by Dr. Kathleen R. Stevens (pictured).
Stevens said network members will be supported through a coordinating center at the UT Health Science Center. An online interactive database will allow personnel to access reliable research answers, she said.
UT-Pan Am awarded $2.7 million in funding
A $2.7 million grant has been awarded to The University of Texas-Pan American to establish a future materials science research center. The funding comes from the National Science Foundation Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM). The five-year grant will provide $1 million for the first two years and marks the first PREM award received by the university and the first science and engineering collaboration of this size for UTPA.
The project partners UTPA with the University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Dr. Karen Lozano, mechanical engineering associate professor and principal investigator for the grant, and colleagues Dr. Arturo Fuentes, mechanical engineering associate professor, and Dr. Yuankun Lin, physics and geology associate professor, will join with six other UTPA and UMN faculty, and envision the PREM program to be a formal venue, a sustainable Center of Excellence, to gather materials science faculty from several departments within the UTPA College of Science and Engineering (COSE) into a coherent materials science center.
Lozano and the team hope to increase external funding, refereed reviewed publications, undergraduate students entering graduate school and the work force in materials science related areas, and the number of women faculty members in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). They also are looking to raise awareness of materials science and engineering among local kinder-12th grade students and teachers by involving them in summer research programs and utilizing existing UTPA programs.
Texas Medical Center welcomes UH as newest member
The Texas Medical Center has welcomed the University of Houston to the fold as its newest member institution.
Dr. Richard Wainerdi (pictured), TMC president and CEO, said the partnership reflects UH's commitment to education. "The collaboration with research, resources and training will improve health care that affects us all," he said.
More than $61 million in grants and research awards went to health-related initiatives at UH last year. The university has awarded 1,200 baccalaureate and 480 graduate degrees in health-related areas this year.
A&M regents approve $575M in bonds to pay off debt
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has approved the issuance of up to $575 million in bonds to pay older bonds with higher interest rates. The move is expected to save $12 million over 15 years.
Gregory Anderson (pictured), associate vice chancellor and treasurer for the A&M System, said the board has seen lower interest rates for tax-exempt bonds during the last month. "We wanted to take advantage of that," he said.
ASU welcomes first director of community relations
Rebekah F. "Becky" Brackin has been named Angelo State University's first director of community relations.
Brackin, publisher and president of the San Angelo Standard-Times, previously worked for the San Angelo Independent School District as community relations coordinator for 10 years and later as director of public relations.
As an alum of ASU, Brackin graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's degree from the university.
UT System considers UTSA-UTHSCSA merger
A possible merger between The University of Texas at San Antonio and the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio is on the table for the UT System.
The Board of Regents has named a special advisory group made up of seven academic and health institution experts to conduct a feasibility study for the proposal. The panel will engage with students, faculty and administrators from both institutions as well as community leaders regarding proposed operation changes. Panel members include:
Hutto to purchase wastewater system from LCRA
Hutto City Council members recently approved an agreement to purchase the Hutto Wastewater System from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). Council members agreed to buy the system at a price covering LCRA's outstanding debt of about $7.6 million as well as $249,028 payment due under the current operating contract.
The city's purchase of the wastewater system places decision-making about future wastewater needs in local hands, said Mayor David Begier (pictured). Under an agreement with the LCRA, the Brazos-Colorado Water Alliance and the Brazos River Authority currently operate the wastewater system while the LCRA manages and financed the facility.
The LCRA board of directors in April 2008 directed staff to investigate opportunities for the water authority to divest all or most of its water and wastewater utilities in Williamson County. The LCRA also has negotiated an agreement to sell its Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater System to Cedar Park and Round Rock.
Mansfield officials return auditorium proposal for review
Officials of the Mansfield Independent School District recently sent back a $39 million auditorium proposal to Mansfield city officials for more review. There was a proposal to build a new school auditorium as part of a new planned retail development on Broad Street.
Mansfield city officials said that adding the proposed 5,500-seat arts center to the planned 1.2 million-square-foot retail development would help jump-start the development that has stalled in the current economic climate. The developer offered 23 acres of land to the school district at no cost for the proposed arts center/auditorium within the proposed 105-acre shopping center.
Several Mansfield ISD board members had questions about the site and are concerned about staying within budget, said the board's president. Trustees indicated that the proposal is close enough to continue negotiations to resolve any remaining issues. School board members are expected to decide on a retail development proposal or building the new auditorium next to a career tech academy on Debbie Lane at its meeting on Oct. 27. Issues still being negotiated between the city, the developer and school officials include which part of the proposed retail development will the arts center be built on, parking concerns and how to share the cost of building access roads, water and sewer lines.
El Paso studies upgrades to Southside library, center
El Paso city council members are considering spending about $669,000 to upgrade a library and a recreation center on the city's south side. Improvements to the Armijo branch library include building a 1,600-square-foot addition for a computer lab with 37 workstations that will give residents without access to computers the ability to use technology, noted City Representative Beto O'Rourke (pictured), who represents the city's south side.
Plans call for renovating nearly half of the 2,800-square-foot Chihuahuita community center by demolishing existing restrooms and rebuilding restrooms accessible to the disabled, upgrading the kitchen and office to be more accessible to people with disabilities and installing energy-efficient heating, cooling and lighting. City officials also plan to expand the meeting room and to convert a storage area into an exercise room. The center will be closed for about six months while the renovations are being made, O'Rourke said.
City officials plan to pay for most of the project using federal community development grants and with about $70,000 from a 2006 certificate of obligation.
Fort Worth to use $4.7M for green jobs, pollution cuts
Fort Worth city officials plan to use a $6.7 million federal stimulus grant to create green jobs, lower energy use and reduce carbon pollution. The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the grant provided by federal stimulus legislation.
Fort Worth officials plan to use the funding to create or save about 75 local green jobs, build shelters, bike racks and pathways for bicyclists and create a revolving loan fund to help business owners with loans for energy efficiency updates in the building and transportation sectors, said Brian Boerner, the environmental management director for Fort Worth. The city has 18 months to approve contracts for all of the projects and another 18 months to complete the projects funded by the grants, Boerner said.
Copperas Cove ISD mulling new elementary school
With a goal of eliminating portable buildings, trustees for the Copperas Cove Independent School District recently began discussion on building a new elementary school to accommodate 600 students.
Superintendent Rose Cameron (pictured) told trustees that the proposed new elementary would also give the district room for some growth. The superintendent also noted that construction costs are generally lower and if bids came in low enough the district may be able to build the new school without draining its fund balance or asking voters to approve bonds to pay for the new facility.
Board members are considering a proposal to authorize $805,000 for architecture and pre-construction costs for the new elementary. Trustees could begin construction on the new school in early 2010 and have the new facility ready for classes in the fall of 2011.
Marshall Housing Authority wins $222,000 housing grant
The Marshall Housing Authority recently received a $222,000 grant to replace or upgrade heating and air conditioning units for housing for low-income residents and a $93,724 grant to upgrade insulation, handicap accessibility and light fixtures in housing for low-income residents. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the grants using funds provided by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Lufkin nets $4M federal grant for economic development
Lufkin city officials recently received $4 million from the Economic Development Association of the U.S. Department of Commerce to complete a large industrial development site expected to create more jobs in East Texas.
The funds are the first of $58 million in disaster recovery funding for Texas cities that suffered damages in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and were administered by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), said Walter Diggles (pictured), executive director of DETCOG. Of the $8 million allotted to DETCOG, the remaining $4 million was awarded to Livingston to develop a new college site, Diggles said.
Because the new 160-acre industrial park in Lufkin may offer new raw water reserves sought by many industries, the new industrial park is expected to attract many different types of industries that could provide hundreds of new jobs to Lufkin and Angelina County, said the director of the Lufkin Economic Development Corp.
Austin Energy selected for $2 million for solar research
Austin Energy recently received a federal stimulus award of approximately $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct solar research that calls for a new 30-acre solar energy research facility. The grant also will pay for solar education and research to determine the feasibility of the city-owned utility leasing rooftop space from large businesses for solar arrays, said Ed Clark, a spokesman for Austin Energy.
Some details of the grant, such as the exact amount of the grant and what portion of the grant will go to which projects are still being finalized. The city will be required to spend at least $2 million in local funds on the solar energy research, Clark added.
A portion of the grant will be used to create a 30-acre solar testing facility in or near Austin that will be available for technology manufacturers and government research labs to use to test products. Austin Energy officials have identified 100 buildings with at least 200,000 square feet of rooftop space able to accommodate solar panels. Combined, the rooftop solar panels could allow the utility to generate about 100 megawatts of electricity during the time when demand is highest, Clark said.
Nueces appraisal district seeking new $7.3M building
Officials of the Nueces County Appraisal District recently requested support from city, school district and county officials to move from their downtown location into a new building.
The cost of the land and the new building is approximately $7.3 million according to a preliminary estimate that does not include a specific building design, said Chief Appraiser Ollie Grant Jr. (pictured).
Appraisal district officials considered renovating their current building on Chaparral Street at a cost of about $5.9 million, but the renovations would not address the lack of parking in that location, Grant said. The current building, which has a listed price of $1.75 million, is under contract to an undisclosed buyer, he said. Using revenue from selling the current building and another $2.8 million in a building fund would reduce the amount to be financed to about $2.75 million, Grant said. Corpus Christi city officials, county officials and school district officials have not acted on the request, although some city officials noted that moving the appraisal district offices from the downtown area would be another blow in the city's efforts to revitalize downtown Corpus Christi.
Navasota gets high Standard and Poor's rating
To fund construction of a new municipal building, the City of Navasota has issued certificates of obligation and requested a Standard and Poor's rating. The organization rated the city an "A" several years ago, reflecting the city's stabilized assessed value growth.
The city's proximity to Houston and College Station help secure its economic growth. Values have grown approximately 50 percent over the past six years. The city ended the last fiscal year with an unreserved general fund balance of $971,000, equaling 17.3 percent of expenditures.
For our public sector
TxDOT to hold three Small Business Briefings
The first of three Small Business Briefings hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the Camino Real Hotel, 101 S. El Paso Street in El Paso. The briefings are hosted by TxDOT's Business Outreach and Program Services branch and are designed to help small businesses learn how to do business with TxDOT and the state. The day-long briefings will allow vendors to market their products and services as well as offering information about the bidding and procurement processes. These briefings are geared to small, women- and minority-owned businesses. Information will be provided on financial resources, business marketing, technical assistance and small business certifications. For online registration, click here. Questions concerning the Small Business Briefings conferences should be directed to Alta Moten at 512.374.5386. Other briefings will be in Dallas in April and in Texarkana in June.
PeopleFund conference addresses development
PeopleFund's 7th Annual Conference on Economic Opportunity, formerly the East Austin Economic Summit, is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Austin Community College Eastview Campus at 3401 Webberville Road, Building Eight. The conference brings together elected officials, policy makers, business owners and community leaders for dialogue regarding the region's economy. The program will feature interactive panel discussion regarding critical community issues, with a public forum for feedback on sustainable economic development. Among the conference topics are small business, workforce development, housing and development, transportation, arts and culture and urban agriculture. For more information, click here or contact Ayleen Perez at 512-472-8087 or email@example.com.
Port Arthur Small Business Summit slated Oct. 28
The Port Arthur Small Business Summit 2009 is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the Robert A. "Bob" Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur. More than 500 small businesses, entrepreneurs, city and state departments and regional workforce officials are expected for the one-day event. Among the subjects for the event are public and private open contract schedules, financial assistance, stimulus funding allocations, export and import opportunities, small business growth and development opportunities, business certification and workforce development and training. Those attending will learn from high-level guest speakers, government officials, top financiers and small business advocates regarding how to engage in growing and expanding business capacity, how to become a supplier of goods and services, how to use information to determine business strategy and more. For more information, click here. To register, click here.
6th Annual InnoTech Austin slated Oct. 29
The St. Edwards University Professional Education Center and the Austin Technology Council will host the 6th Annual InnoTech Austin event on Thursday, Oct. 29, at the Austin Convention Center. Robin Johnson, CIO of Dell, Inc., will be among the featured guests. Topics for discussion during the event will include: social computing topics including Facebook, Twitter and others; cloud computing and Cloud Security Alliance; Windows 7 launch; and virtualization, desktop virtualization, VoIP and mobility solutions. The day's activities include exhibits, educational topics, hands-on demonstrations and networking opportunities. For more information, click here. To register, click here.
6th Annual Tee IT Up Texas IT golf tourney slated
All teams have been registered for this year's Tee IT Up! Texas Customer Appreciation Golf Tournament. Anyone still interested in playing in this event can e-mail Scott Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request a spot on the waiting list. If a team cancels, or there are some individual slots that need filled, those on the "waiting list" will be added on a first-come, first-served basis. There is only one Ace Sponsor and one Eagle Sponsor left. All Birdies have Sold Out! Interested sponsors can visit http://teeituptexas.dojiggy.com and sign up.
TML getting ready for October annual conference
The Texas Municipal League will host its 97th Annual Conference and Exhibition Tuesday through Friday, Oct. 20-23, at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Each day of the conference will feature concurrent sessions and keynote speakers. The TML Board of Directors meeting will be Friday, Oct. 23. Among the many topics for the concurrent sessions are: State-of-the-Art Technology for Small Cities, Successful Economic Development in a Difficult Economy and Protecting City Accounts from Identity Theft. There will be an interactive session on dealing with difficult personalities. Other topics will be federal issues of importance to cities, community policing, preparing critical IT structure systems for disaster, maximizing retail opportunities, strategic planning and more. Among the keynote speakers will be Craig Karges, who combines magic with psychology and intuition to explore the potential of the human mind. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.