|Volume 7, Issue 38 · Friday, October 2, 2009|
TxDOT must return $742 million to federal government
Rescission of unobligated federal funds nationwide totals $8.7 billion
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has had its pocket picked...again...this time to the tune of $742 million.
TxDOT officials this week warned that thanks to inaction by Congress, the agency's ability to award contracts is about to be further reduced. And it comes at a time when those contracts are needed most, both to prop up the nation's ailing economy and to support the state's aging and crumbling transportation infrastructure. Just when things were looking up for transportation spending nationwide thanks to billions allocated to the states from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - including $2.25 billion to Texas - TxDOT announced Thursday that it is having to return more than $742 million in transportation funds awarded by the federal government.
The federal government is pulling the plug on $8.7 billion in existing contract authority - unobligated federal dollars - from state transportation budgets because there is no money in the Highway Trust Fund.
In the past, rescissions have been flexible and allowed states to decide which spending categories to reduce to make up the money to be returned. This allowed TxDOT to limit the rescissions' impact on the state's planned funding levels. TxDOT Chief Financial Officer James Bass (pictured) said the limited flexibility that was part of federal legislation in 2007 no longer allows states to decide which spending categories to reduce when there are rescissions. They must reduce each spending category by a specific amount. That includes the equity bonus category, the goal of which is to make each state's share of highway funding more in proportion to the gas tax dollars each state pays into the system.[more]
Rawson resigns as executive director of DIR
Governor's Office tech expert Robinson named interim director
Brian Rawson (left), executive director of the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) and the state's Chief Technology Officer, has resigned his position at DIR to return to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as Director of Statewide Data Initiatives. Named by the DIR board chair as interim executive is Karen Robinson (right), who comes to DIR after serving as Director of Administration and Technology for the Office of the Governor. Her appointment is effective immediately, although Rawson will be at DIR for the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition.
Charles Bacarisse, incoming chair of the DIR board, praised Rawson's work at the agency saying he "has diligently worked to manage the many services the agency provides, including TexasOnline." He did note, however that "the data consolidation is a long way from completion," but thanked Rawson for his tireless efforts.
DIR came under fire recently regarding the State Data Center Consolidation project in an August State Auditor's Report that recommended that DIR needed to improve its oversight of the processes that a private sector contractor was using to transfer agency systems and data into state data centers. The data center contractor was required to consolidate technology services for 27 agencies within two state data centers by April 1 of this year. The report noted that based on documentation obtained from the contractor as of June 2009, most of the 27 agencies had moved some equipment and data, but none of the agencies had completely consolidated systems and data within the two state data centers.[more]
Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow, Austin Community College District president and chief executive officer
Career highlights and education: First job: packing pickles for Morton Foods, which convinced me to be the first in my family to go to college. BA from UT Arlington, MLA from SMU, and Ph.D. from UT Austin. I've had a 36-year career in community colleges, 32 of them at Austin Community College District (ACC), and am grateful to have "found my bliss." I've had my share of recognition and awards, but nothing beats the satisfaction community college faculty and staff experience daily in helping to transform lives and communities for the better.
What I like best about my job is: The variety of initiatives, both internal and external, and the surprises - some good, some not - that keep me engaged and focused.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: It's not about power, it's about influence.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: It's a privilege to serve others - focus on them more than yourself.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: In the nearest bar?? Kidding...but this really is a tough job! Actually, I'd likely be found nose-deep in a good book, at a movie theatre or shopping.
People would be surprised to know that I: am a total dog nut...ask Tank and Lola, my fur children, for the details.
One thing I wish more people knew about ACC: We are the institution that has the most impact on building a larger, stronger middle class in Central Texas - that's important for economic development issues, more equitable distribution of taxing responsibilities and in protecting our democracy.
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.
Bottoms retires from Texas Department of Agriculture
Diane Bottoms (pictured), deputy assistant commissioner for Texas Department of Agriculture's (TDA) Food and Nutrition Division, recently retired from the agency. Bottoms came to TDA from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in October 2008 and after also having served as the state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Special Nutrition Programs. In that capacity, she was responsible for the administration of eight Child Nutrition and Commodity Distribution Programs that transferred to TDA with her.
Bottoms began her career with the Texas Department of Human Services as an East Texas rural-based caseworker in the Food Stamp Program, and relocated to the state office in Austin to become a quality assurance reviewer for the Income Assistance Programs. In 1988, she transferred to Special Nutrition Programs as Division Administrator for Policy and nutrition education. In June of 2002 she was selected as the state director.
Bottoms holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and is credited with 36 years of experience in nutrition and social services programs. She also has represented the USDA-FNS Southwest Region on the Board of the Child and Adult Care Food Program National Professional Association.
TCEQ's Harris to direct Information Resources Division
Brandon Harris has been selected as the new Information Resources Division Director at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, effective Oct. 1. Prior to his new position, Harris served nearly three years as manager of Information Strategic Planning, guiding the agency's enterprise-wide information technology initiatives.
Since joining TCEQ in 1999, Harris has been involved in numerous environmental and media-specific programs such as air quality, water quality and water rights, along with IT project and staff management. He began his career with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, where he worked in coastal restoration and enforcement of environment regulations.
Harris holds a bachelor's degree from Southeastern Louisiana University.
TAHC director Bob Hillman to retire in December
Dr. Bob Hillman (pictured), state veterinarian and executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), has announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31. Hillman has been at the helm of TAHC for nearly seven years, having been named to that position in 2002.
Hillman, who has been a large animal veterinarian for 35 years, previously served with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Texas and had private veterinary practices in Idaho and Texas. He served 13 of his 20 years with the Idaho Department of Agriculture as state veterinarian for that state. He has been recognized as one of the nation's most influential state veterinarians and served as president of the U.S. Animal Health Association in 2001, also serving the organization on numerous committees. He has also been president of the Western States Livestock Health Association, the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials and the Southern Animal Health Association. Hillman received the National Assembly Award in 2007, the highest honor from state regulatory animal health officials.
Hillman and his wife will return to Idaho when he retires so they can be closer to children and grandchildren. A panel of 13 governor-appointed commissioners will establish a search committee to find Hillman's replacement to head the state's livestock and poultry health regulatory agency.
Rice, Baylor College of Medicine progressing on merger
Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine officials recently agreed to continue efforts to merge the two institutions as early as Jan. 31, 2010. Officials from both schools have met for the past year to discuss the merger and signed a memorandum of agreement about six months ago to continue negotiations.
In a letter to staff and faculty of both institutions, Rice President David Leebron (right) and Interim President William Butler (left) of the Baylor College of Medicine reported teams from both institutions agree that a merger could produce many academic and research benefits at both schools, including new undergraduate programs and significant integrated efforts that combine undergraduate programs and graduate education with interdisciplinary research.
The groups exploring the merger also advised leaders to create infrastructure such as an office of coordination to identify and implement initiatives and have agreed on several organizational and government issues, including discussions on which parties should become the primary private adult clinical practice partner for the Baylor College of Medicine. The merger groups also are involved in developing more funding sources.
The Baylor College of Medicine, one of only 10 freestanding medical schools in the United States, has encountered financial difficulties since its board ended an agreement with Methodist Hospital in 2004 and later with St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital and decided to build its own hospital and ran over budget.
Cap Metro president/CEO Fred Gilliam to retire
Fred Gilliam (pictured), president and chief executive officer of Capital Metro in Austin, has announced his retirement, effective Oct. 16. Although Cap Metro has come under fire recently because of union problems and delays in commuter rail proposals, Gilliam insists his departure was not because of any type of pressure, but only so he could take advantage of early retirement. Gilliam, who came to Cap Metro in 2001 as deputy general manager and chief operating officer, was named president and CEO in 2002. In a letter to board members this week, Gilliam noted he had completed nearly eight years with "one of the more successful transit systems of our size in the country."
Gilliam leaves Cap Metro with more than 45 years experience managing and operating public and private transit systems. He is a former executive vice president with a bus and trolley manufacturer in Wichita, Kansas, and served on the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County as executive vice president and COO.
His career in transit began in 1961 as a traffic checker for the Memphis Transit Management Co. In 1972, after rising through the ranks in the industry, he was named operations manager and executive director of the Metropolitan Tulsa Authority. Gilliam has also worked for transit authorities in New Orleans and Denver.
Midland energy company set to receive $2M in ETF funds
Turbo Trac USA Inc. of Midland is set to receive $2 million through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) for the development and commercialization of industrial motor systems. The company's focus will be geared toward reducing energy consumption in industrial markets, where energy commands the single highest operating cost in the manufacturing process.
Turbo Trac is partnering with The University of Texas of the Permian Basin School of Business and the Texas Tech University College of Engineering to develop and commercialize the technology.
The ETF has so far allocated more than $99 million to 81 developmental-stage companies.
Port of Houston selects Dreyer as executive director
Commissioners for the Port of Houston Authority have selected Alec G. Dreyer (pictured) as executive director to replace H. Thomas Kornegay, who retired earlier this year after serving 37 years in that position.
Dreyer previously served as chief executive officer for a Houston-based wind energy developer and has held positions in the energy generation and financial sectors of the business. The Port Authority of Houston owns and operates all public facilities along the 25-mile long complex of public and private docks along the Houston Ship Channel.
Texas gets $4.5M for unemployment system upgrades
More than $4.5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor is headed to Texas for technology upgrades aimed at improving the operation and security of the state's unemployment insurance system. The funds are part of more than $164 million being sent to 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island for similar upgrades.
The funds can be used for modernizing systems to improve and speed unemployment insurance benefit payments, tax collections and appeals processing; helping consumers avoid debit card fees when collecting benefits; improvements in information technology contingency and security plans; and strategies to improve overall program integrity. The funding comes from supplemental budget requests by nearly all the states and is made available through the fiscal year 2009 budget and appropriations for state administration of the Unemployment Insurance Program.
Small cities, counties qualify for energy saving grants
Projects from energy retrofits to energy efficient street lighting in small cities and counties in Texas may qualify for the approximately $45 million in federal stimulus fund grants to promote energy efficiency and energy conservation.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program funds will be administered through the Comptroller's State Energy Conservation Office. To view a list of the cities and counties eligible and the amounts they can receive, click here.
There are 1,127 cities and 244 counties in Texas that meet the population requirement for the grants. Officials in the entities have previously been mailed packets regarding the application process.
The projects to be funded can include government building energy audits and retrofits; small on-site systems that can provide electricity, heating or cooling to a public building; installing energy efficient traffic signal lights and outdoor lighting; and installing equipment that uses renewable energy such as solar, wind, water or geothermal energy to generate electricity at a government building.
ETF invests $1 million in Azaya Therapeutics
One million dollars from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) will be invested in Azaya Therapeutics Inc. of San Antonio, the Governor's Office announced this week. The company will use the funding for the development of its therapy for treatment of cancerous tumors.
The therapy will be used as a post surgery treatment for several types of tumors and can potentially be used to treat a variety of cancers including prostate, breast, rectal, head and neck. Unlike chemotherapy or radiation, this system focuses drug therapy on a specific cancerous tumor, with a goal of improving the outcome and safety of oncology treatments.
Sul Ross University president selection cited by regents
The Texas State University System Board of Regents has approved Dr. Ricardo Maestas (pictured) as president of Sul Ross State University. He begins his new charge Nov. 9, succeeding the university's 10th president, Dr. R. Vic Morgan, who retired in August after 19 years at the helm.
Maestas has served as vice president for Student and University Relations and as dean of students at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, since 2005. He also serves as associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Education. He began his career in education in 1974 at the University of New Mexico, teaching Spanish. He has also held posts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Michigan.
Maestas earned his bachelor's degree and master's degree from the University of New Mexico and his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan.
TAMU System reports $8.1M savings on construction
The Office of Facilities, Planning and Construction of the Texas A&M University System recently reported that management efficiencies in system-wide construction projects created a savings of $8.1 million for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
Included in the projected savings are $1.9 million at Texas A&M University, $668,000 at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, $354,000 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and $254,000 at Texas A&M-Texarkana. The savings are a result of the reduction from 3.75 percent to 2.65 percent in the fee the A&M System assesses each campus for managing major construction projects, said Vergel Gay, associate vice chancellor for facilities planning and construction. The system has capital projects for fiscal year 2010 that total a record $387 million, Gay said.
Trinity University names Ahlburg next president
Internationally known economist Dr. Dennis A. Ahlburg (pictured) has been named the 18th president of Trinity University in San Antonio. He will assume the presidency on Jan. 1, 2010, and succeed John R. Brazil, who announced his retirement at the first of this year.
Ahlburg currently serves as dean of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a position he has held since August 2005. He is an authority on the impact of population growth on development and the economics of higher education. Prior to serving at the Leeds School, Ahlburg spent 25 years as a professor of economics and academic administrator at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, where he was associate dean and the Fesler-Lampert Chair in Urban and Regional Affairs.
A native of Australia, Ahlburg holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Sydney, a master's from the Australian National University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
UT-Brownsville, Texas Southmost win $5M NASA grant
The Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College recently received a $5 million grant for laser and optic research.
The Group 5 University Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded the grant to support research in lasers and optics as part of NASA's Laser Interferometer Space Antenna project, said Dr. Mario C. Diaz, a physics professor and director of the CGWA. This project will examine astrophysical and cosmic sources of low frequency gravitational waves using three satellites forming a triangle orbiting the sun. CGWA staff and students will test how the lasers are set up in space, Diaz said.
The grant funding will be used to provide more training and outreach to area teachers, create a new doctoral program with The University of Texas at San Antonio, purchase $1 million in new equipment and provide about $1.3 million for undergraduate and graduate student support, Diaz said.
Concordia plans to double San Antonio Center
Renovations and expansions will lead to doubling the original square footage of Concordia University Texas' San Antonio Center to more than 8,000 square feet. "We know that the new space will aid our faculty, staff and students tremendously," said Concordia President Tom Cedel (pictured). The increase in size is a result of the increased enrollment within the Master of Education program and growth in the undergraduate Accelerated Degree Program.
The three-phase renovations will include creating new office space for faculty and staff, adding three larger classrooms, a computer lab and student collaboration areas with tables, chairs and Internet access. The final phase will include updating the existing computer lab and expanding a smaller classroom.
The expansion and renovations are expected to be completed at the end of October.
Spaulding picked for WTAMU grad school dean
Dr. Angela Spaulding (pictured) has been named dean of the Graduate School at West Texas A&M University. Spaulding, formerly associate dean of the College of Education and Social Sciences, began her new duties Aug. 11, pending approval by the Board of Regents. She replaces Dr. Tim Atchison, who was serving as interim dean.
Spaulding joined the WTAMU faculty in 1995 as an assistant professor. She earned promotion to full professor in 2005 and has served as program chair for Educational Leadership and Interim Department Head of Education.
Spaulding holds bachelor's and master's degrees from WTAMU and a doctoral degree from Texas Tech University.
UNT Health Science Center chooses Peska for dean post
Don Peska, D.O. (pictured), has been selected as dean of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Peska is the former associate dean for educational programs for TCOM.
Peska came to TCOM in 1995 as an assistant professor and earned several administrative positions. In 2004, he was named associate dean for educational programs, and in 2008 he was named professor of surgery.
Peska holds a medical degree from the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery in Des Moines, Iowa, and served a rotating internship and general residency at Oakland General Hospital in Michigan. He completed his residency in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at Detroit Osteopathic and BiCounty hospitals. He moved to Fort Worth in 1982, where he maintains a clinical practice in thoracic and vascular surgery.
School of Rural Public Health welcomes Blakely as dean
Dr. Craig H. Blakely (pictured) has been announced as dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health. He has served as interim dean since Aug. 1, when he replaced Dr. Roderick E. McCallum.
Blakely also works as a professor of health policy and management at the school. His research focuses on maternal and child health issues and culminated with the publication of A Pound of Prevention: The Case for Universal Maternity Care in the U.S., a bible for those advocating universal health care for new mothers and their children.
Blakely holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois, a master's degree from Southern Illinois University and a doctorate from Michigan State University.
UT-Austin professor picked for SEC program director
Henry T.C. Hu (pictured), a professor at The University of Texas at Austin's School of Law, has been named director of the recently established Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The division combines the Office of Economic Analysis and the Office of Risk Assessment.
Hu, who holds the Allan Shivers Chair in the Law of Banking and Finance at the UT Law School, holds a bachelor's degree, master's degree and doctorate all from Yale University.
University of Dallas officials announce new trustees
The University of Dallas has announced three new members of the university's Board of Trustees.
The elected members include:
Paris JC moving forward on $8M science, tech center
Regents of Paris Junior College (PJC) recently reviewed preliminary plans for a new $8 million science and technology center, which is a major part of the college's master plan.
Having preliminary renderings of the facility could give more weight to the grant application, said Dr. Pam Anglin (pictured), president of PJC. Preliminary plans call for the new building to house the math, science and nursing programs and a 120-seat lecture hall, which will allow the school to increase its nursing program from 70 to 120 students. Plans also call for the new science and technology center to have 10 classrooms to accommodate 30 students, six classrooms to serve 60 students, five science labs, a nursing lab, four computer labs, conference rooms and 30 faculty offices, Anglin said. The goal is to begin construction on the building in the next two years.
College officials are preparing grant applications and already have a commitment of $250,000 from a local foundation for the project, said Anglin.
TAMUHSC-School of Rural Public Health cites promotions
Officials at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health have announced the promotion of four faculty members.
Dr. Steve Moore (top left) has been promoted to executive associate dean. Moore holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin and a medical degree from Southwestern Medical School.
Dr. Antonio Rene (top right) has been promoted to associate dean for academic affairs. Rene earned his bachelor's degree from Southern University, and both a master's and doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Jean Brender (bottom left) has been promoted to associate dean for research. Brender received her bachelor's degree from Whitworth University, and both her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Washington.
Dr. James Burdine (bottom right) has been promoted to assistant dean for public health practice. Burdine holds a bachelor's degree from San Fernando Valley State College, a master's degree from California State University and a doctoral degree from the University of North Carolina.
Construction on Killeen army medical center escalated
Officials of the U.S. Department of Defense recently announced that construction of the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center near Fort Hood in Killeen is beginning earlier than expected. Construction is now scheduled to begin in 2010 rather than the first phase of construction to begin in 2013 and the second phase to begin in 2016 as originally planned. The new Darnall Army Medical Center should be complete in 2013 rather than 2016 as originally planned, said DOD officials.
The new construction schedule should reduce construction costs, avoid a long period of split activity and help provide upgrade services more quickly for those who use the facility, DOD officials said. The new Army medical center is being funded partially from a $621 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was authorized for originally planned Phase one of the project. An additional $306 million in funding for what was Phase two was authorized in the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Bill passed to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and will allow the project to be completed sooner.
NIH grants UTEP research center $12.4M
The National Institutes of Health has awarded The University of Texas at El Paso a $12.4 million grant for its UTEP Border Biomedical Research Center (BBRC). The initiative was funded through the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) program, administered by the National Center for Research Resources at the NIH.
The BBRC addresses health issues prevalent in the bicultural population of the Paso Del Norte region. Research there focuses on infectious diseases, neurological and metabolic disorders and toxicology.
The grant "represents a resounding recognition of the current bioscience research and education provided by our faculty for our students," said Anny Morrobel-Sosa, Ph.D. (pictured), dean of the College of Science. "It is a strong investment in future research...for diseases that predominantly affect our region's population."
Guinn founding dean of Ranger nursing program
Marnita Guinn (pictured) has been named founding dean of the new associate's degree in nursing program at Ranger College. She comes to Ranger College after having served as assistant clinical professor in the Nursing Department at Angelo State University.
Guinn holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Angelo State and is currently working toward her doctorate at Texas Woman's University. Ranger College President Bill Campion said the target date for the first nursing classes to open is now January 2011, six months before the goal set by Ranger College.
Game Warden Green tops in boating law enforcement
Game Warden Chris Green of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (in accompanying TPWD photo by Chase Fountain), is the first Texan to have been named winner of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators' national Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
Green began his TPWD career in 1993 as a game warden cadet. He is currently stationed in Smith County and patrols areas that include lakes Tyler and Palestine and the Neches and Sabine rivers. Green also serves as his district's media representative and provides information through print and broadcast news media.
Green was one of 41 officers nominated nationwide for the national award.
Port San Antonio seeking funds for industrial parks
Port San Antonio officials recently applied for an $80.5 million grant to fund nine projects, three projects in each of the major development areas of the port of entry. The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to announce recipients of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic recovery Grant program by mid-February.
The three principal development areas for Port San Antonio are the Kelly Industrial Airport, the East Kelly Railport and Kelly Town Center. Improvements include surface transportation, drainage, rail classification tracks and an internal shuttle network.
DSHS gets $58K to recruit health care clinicians
The Texas Department of State Health Services has been awarded $58,365 in Recovery Act funding as part of a program to help states recruit new health care clinicians and alleviate their debt burden. The Texas agency award was one of 63 totaling $7.6 million that will be administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These funds are part of $500 million appropriated to HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) by the Recovery Act. The funds are aimed at addressing workforce shortages and encouraging diversity in the health professions.
Texas' grant was one of 45 to state primary care offices. These grants, totaling $1.8 million, are part of the State Primary Care Office program to help recruit new National Health Service Corps (NHSC) clinicians. The grants provide scholarships and loan repayment for primary care providers who serve in health professional shortage areas. Qualifying student loans will be paid off if the student practices a minimum of two years in the NHSC sites that treat underserved and uninsured persons.
In addition, 18 grants totaling $5.8 million were allocated under the State Loan Repayment Program, which provides money for states to fund loan repayment programs whose goal is to increase the availability of primary health service provides in health professional shortage areas in the state. Those who accept the loans incur a minimum two-year service obligation in one of those shortage areas. If they stay in the shortage area for the agreed-to time, the state repays their qualifying loans. States must provide a dollar-for-dollar match.
Montgomery Co. plans $31.8M forensic mental hospital
Montgomery County officials recently agreed to negotiate with a construction company to design and build a 113-bed, $31.8 million forensic mental health facility adjacent to the Joe Corley Detention Center. The county applied in a rider to the 2010 state budget for $15 million in state funds earmarked for a facility to house inmates committed through the court, those incompetent to stand trail and those guilty by reason of insanity. That budget rider requires the facility to be open by March 2011 and serve an eight-county region.
County officials are still negotiating with the state for the contract and with the operator of the county-owned detention center, said Ed Chance, Precinct 3 Commissioner. The proposed forensic mental hospital will be operated with state funds, Chance said. He said the county plans to finance the new mental health facility using a similar method used when the county built the detention center.
County officials expect to create a separate entity which will be able to secure tax-exempt bonds that are expected to save the county about $5 million over the life of the bond or a variation that guarantees payment not only through revenue bonds, but also backs up the bonds with property taxes.
Plans to relieve congestion on US 281 win approval
A plan by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority to improve US 281 with a $7.3 million Super Street project recently won approval from the Federal Highway Administration. The project is designed to provide interim relief to traffic congestion along US 281 in San Antonio north of Loop 1604. The plan calls for a series of dedicated U-turn lanes to be added to help drivers turn onto and off US 281 without disrupting traffic flows on the major lanes.
The regional mobility authority is developing a longer-term strategy to add new toll lanes along the US 281 corridor, but the FHA requires that no new highway capacity can be added without an environmental impact statement, which will not be completed until 2012. FHA granted a categorical exclusion to allow traffic and safety improvements under the Super Street project while remaining within the requirements of law, said William Thornton (pictured), chairman of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.
Plans call for a construction contract for the Super Street project to be awarded in January 2010 and the project to be completed by summer of 2010. The project is using $5.7 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $1.6 million from the Advanced Transportation District and $480,000 from the city's District 9 budget, Thornton said.
San Antonio selected for federal cyber security training
San Antonio recently received notice it is one of two cities in Texas selected in a partnership with The University of Texas at San Antonio for a cyber security training program with a goal of improving defenses against a terrorist attack.
The Department of Homeland Security selected the partnership between San Antonio and the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS) at UTSA because the city has become a leader in developing national modals for cities and towns to respond to a cyber attack by terrorists, said Dan Ryan, an information security project lead for CIAS.
San Antonio officials are planning a roundtable exercise in December or January where they expect entities from across the San Antonio community to gather to learn how to work together in the event of a cyber attack, Ryan said. The selection of San Antonio and CIAS to participate will allow the program to greatly expand and improve the exercises, especially to smaller agencies in the area, Ryan said.
Dallas to replace Emmons on City Plan Commission
A Dallas City Council member recently nominated Julian "Bill" Peterson (left) as the new District 14 Commissioner on the Dallas City Plan Commission, to replace Neil Emmons (right), who is term-limited in that position.
Emmons, as a member of the Plan Commission, is known for his support of restrictions on growth and change in established neighborhoods in the city. He is the longest-serving member of the commission, having been appointed in September 2001.
Peterson has served as a member of Dallas' Senior Affairs Commission and is a professor of biochemistry at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Pasadena approves $1M for municipal services building
The Pasadena City Council recently approved a resolution supporting $1 million to pay for renovating the old police station into a municipal services building. The renovation will permit the city to consolidate several offices that have been working in rented space since Hurricane Ike heavily damaged a city building on Curtis. Plans call for the repairing the roof, replacing flooring, restoring an elevator and renovating office space at the old police station, said Sarah Benavides, the planning director.
Conroe moves tourism office from chamber office
Conroe City Council members recently moved operation of the convention and visitor's bureau from the Greater Conroe Area Chamber of Commerce to become a new division in city government. Council members, however, are expected to approve an agreement for the chamber to continue to operate the city's economic development functions. Funds from the city's hotel/motel tax will pay for the city's new tourism division.
City officials hired Harold Hutcheson, a former Main Street Program manager for Huntsville, as director of the tourism division where he will be responsible for promoting tourism in Conroe. Hutcheson previously served as an executive for a New York advertising agency and a marketing manager for a Texas-based computer manufacturer.
Mansfield weighing $39M performing arts center
Meeting in an executive session recently, Mansfield City Council members continued discussion on a proposal to convince the Mansfield school district to build a $39 million performing arts center at a proposed mixed-use retail center on Broad Street. Council members, however, took no action on the proposed agreement with the Mansfield ISD.
Mayor David Cook (pictured) said he expects council members will decide on the framework of an agreement with the school district when council meets again on Oct. 5. The developer of the proposed 1.2-million-square-foot retail center offered Mansfield ISD 23 acres for a 5,500-seat performing arts center. Mansfield city officials have expressed hope that including a performing arts center will help the proposed retail center move ahead with construction and create more revenue for the city.
Funds will help create jobs, spur individual recovery
Four entities in Texas will participate in a new program, the Strengthening Communities Fund, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These grants provide nonprofits the ability to promote economic recovery for persons with low incomes.
Grant funding for the State, Local, and Tribal Government Capacity Building Program in Texas includes $250,000 to the OneStar Foundation in Austin and $250,000 to the City of El Paso. Grant funding for the Nonprofit Capacity Building Program in Texas includes $764,780 to the Process of Collaboration-A Circle of Ten, Inc. in Jacksonville and $982,117 to The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.
The State, Local, and Tribal Government Capacity Building Program provides funds for government entities, which then in turn work with community-based organizations. The Nonprofit Capacity Building Program funds intermediary agencies, which also work with community organizations to enhance their economic recovery activities. To view the complete list of grant recipients, click here and look under "Recent Reports."
Olmos Park to break ground on $1.485M fire station
Once Olmos Park city employees move into the newly completed city hall, city officials plan to demolish the old city hall to make room for a new $1.485 million fire station. The total cost of the new two-building municipal complex is expected to be just under $3 million. City officials expect the new fire station to be completed within nine months after the groundbreaking.
Longview ISD to hold on to leftover $5 million in funds
Trustees for the Longview Independent School District recently agreed to find other sources of funding for renovations to Longview High School and upgrades to other facilities rather than using $5 million in leftover bond funds to pay for any additional projects.
Superintendent James Wilcox (pictured) said while it is legal for the school district to spend the bond money for other facility projects, he said that staff and trustees agreed that if any bond projects came in under budget, the funds would be returned to taxpayers. Now that the district has decided to pay for additional renovations with fund balance money rather than remaining bond funds, trustees have the option of applying the additional money on the principal and pay off the bonds sooner than scheduled, thus saving money, Wilcox said.
Frisco schools, city partner for new response system
Officials of the city of Frisco and the Frisco Independent School District are working together to create a new state-of-the-art emergency response system that will allow police and fire officials much more access to information throughout the city.
The new Situational Awareness for Emergency Response system (SAFER) will integrate multiple databases, software programs and computer platforms. Frisco school district officials authorized $440,000 for the project and the city is performing research and development. The new system will link security cameras at schools with the police and allow still photos and floor plans of city and school sites to be displayed so firefighters and other emergency responders can respond better if interiors are smoke-filled or security cameras are not able to operate, said Fire Chief Mack Borchardt.
The new system also displays utility lines, shutoff valves, sprinkler connections and storm sewers and a three-dimensional view of the city to measure heights and distances. City and school officials are considering adding other features such as data on commercial structures, links to traffic cameras, emergency-vehicle dashboard cameras, security gate codes and alarm permits to the system.
Midland hospital approves $8.6M for projects
Directors of Midland Memorial Hospital recently approved $8.6 million to begin construction on a new five-level parking garage and an additional parking lot on Michigan Avenue.
The cost is $2 million more than estimated for a three-level garage which was initially planned for the building, but hospital officials decided to add an additional two floors because of the cost and convenience of adding the floors during initial construction rather than adding the two floors later. The new 240-space parking lot will help alleviate parking problems while the new parking garage is being built, he said. Work on the parking lot is expected to begin in November.
The project is being paid for with a $175 million bond approved by voters in May for a new patient tower and facility improvements for the hospital. The additional $2 million for the parking garage will come from the project's $17 million contingency fund, hospital officials said.
San Antonio mayor creates Green Jobs Council
The mayor of San Antonio recently created a Green Jobs Leadership Council charged with drawing up a plan to connect public policy to the creation of green jobs as part of his 11-point Mission Verde plan to make the city a leader in sustainable energy.
The council will focus on developing a program that provides the skills and training needed for green jobs now and in the future in addition to creating new markets for those jobs. Larry Sinn, who worked with a former mayor, will head the new green jobs council which includes leaders in education, business, local government and nonprofit organizations. Members of the council include David Zachry of Zachry Construction; Alex Briseno, chairman of the San Antonio Water System; Anita Ledbetter of Build San Antonio Green; Mike Burke, founder of Clean Tech Forum; Deputy City Manager A.J. Rodriguez; and Dr. Richardo Romo, president of The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Among tasks the committee is expected to tackle include coordinating green job training at the city's colleges and universities, creating a regional market for clean technology, creating incentives and raising venture capital to spur technology or attract manufacturing to the area, said Burke.
Projects abundant, federal funding plentiful for 'green projects' across Texas
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
In spite of the long summer drought, things are turning "green" in Texas.
Government entities from public school districts to state agencies have joined the increasing number of public sector entities turning to renewable "green" energy and energy-efficiency projects. Not only is there funding for this type of work, it also saves money, promotes environmental responsibility and helps lessen the nation's dependence on foreign energy.
Texas Southern University recently became the first higher education institution in Texas to adopt a green computing power management program. A single computer server will allow TSU to monitor the power consumption of its 3,800 computers. This program works on computers individually or campus-wide and monitors can turn off systems evenings and weekends. Savings of $35-$45 per computer are expected.
The City of Austin recently approved a $586,000 solar rooftop at an Austin Energy service center. The 1,000 solar panels installed are expected to annually save enough kilowatt-hours to power 17 Austin homes for a year. The city has installed solar panels at the convention center, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and at City Hall. Additionally, more than 20 local schools participate in Austin Energy's Solar for Schools program that also allows for installation of solar panels.[more]
Lubbock wins $2.1 million federal grant for library
Lubbock city officials recently received a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to replace the heating and air conditioning unit at the Mahon Library and the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.
The most recent grant will allow council members to spend another $1.8 million authorized in 2004 by voters for other library projects, such as repairing the roof, said City Manager Lee Ann Dumbald (pictured). City officials must still complete design work and seek bids for the projects before work can begin on the heating and air conditioning upgrades, Dumbald said.
Monday is last day
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.
International Trade, Commerce Symposium set Oct. 15
The Honorable Wilfred Elrington, attorney general, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the Government of Belize, will be the lunch keynote speaker for the International Trade and Commerce Symposium on Thursday, Oct. 15. The event, sponsored by the Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce, will be from 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Houston-Crowne Plaza Hotel Reliant Park, 8686 Kirby Drive in Houston. The symposium is conducted as outreach to minority-micro and small-business enterprises that are seeking participation in global markets. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. along with a continental breakfast and ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the symposium's honorary chair, Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade. U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk will deliver the opening address. The inauguration of the Tri-County International Chamber of Commerce will be held during the symposium luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information and to register, click here.
NFBPA plans "Outlook 2009" conference in October
The National Forum for Black Public Administrators will present "Outlook 2009: Preparing Leadership for Green Initiatives, New Technology and the Future Workforce" Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 8-10, at the Austin Convention Center. The conference will feature leading voices in green energy, workshops and panel discussions. Among the speakers will be Lee Jones, president and executive editor of InSpire Magazine. City managers from throughout the country will participate in a panel discussion regarding surviving the flailing economy. There will also be excellence awards for public administrators, networking opportunities and exhibits. Sponsorships are available. For more information and 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.
2009 CATEE conference set for Oct. 14-16
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, State Rep. Rafael Anchia and Houston Mayor Bill White will address the upcoming 2009 CATEE (Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency) Conference set for Wednesday through Friday, Oct 14-16 in Houston. Keynote speaker for the conference, "Impacts and Opportunities in Today's Economy," will be George Bandy, Jr., vice president of InterfaceFLOR and former InerfaceFLOR manager of sustainable energy. Among the session topics will be the American Reinvestment and Recovery Fund - increased opportunities for cleaner air and energy efficiency in Texas, The Future of Federal Climate Legislation, review of the 81st Texas Legislative Session: air quality, energy efficiency, renewable energy and Smart Grid in Texas. For more information and to register, click here. For information on sponsorships and exhibit space, click here.
6th Annual Tee IT Up Texas IT golf tourney slated
Registration is now open for the 6th Annual Tee IT Up Texas! Government IT Customer Appreciation Golf Tournament scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30. IT vendors calling on public sector accounts are invited to visit the Web site to register teams and purchase sponsorships. Registration will be open until Oct. 15, however, early registration is encouraged as player participation is limited to the first 120 golfers. Sponsorships are also awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Player fees are $45 per person. Teams should have at least two government IT customers per team. Players are welcome from all public sector accounts - local as well as state government, ISDs, hospital districts, etc. For tournament info, click here. For sponsorship information, click here.
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.