|Volume 7, Issue 41 · Friday, October 23, 2009|
Community college enrollments up 11 percent
Institutions facing additional costs related to 65,000 new students
Some 65,000 new students were enrolled in Texas community colleges from fall of last year to this fall, representing an 11 percent increase in enrollment statewide. Officials of the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) called this increase a "positive development" in a letter this week to the state's leadership marking Texas community colleges' response to the increased demand for higher education opportunities throughout the state.
Dr. Richard Rhodes (pictured), TACC chair and president of El Paso Community College, and Dr. Rey Garcia, TACC president and CEO, said in their letter to the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker that community colleges in Texas have grown by more than 40 percent since 2000. The two noted that is like "adding the equivalent of seven Texas Tech universities or four Universities of Texas at Austin to the state's higher education system capacity."
"We are doing our part," they wrote. The question is how much more can they do at current funding levels.
Part of the increase in enrollment at community colleges can be attributed to increased tuition at four-year institutions of higher education. Other reasons for more students turning to these institutions are increased workforce needs among those who have mid-level and technical skills.[more]
TxDOT, TYC, other large agencies up for review
Sunset Advisory Commission cites those to be studied in 2010-2011
Twenty-eight state agencies, several of which have faced scrutiny for internal problems in recent years, will be up for review by the Sunset Advisory Commission as part of its biennial review. The newly appointed chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission, State Sen. Glenn Hegar (pictured), this week released a review schedule and tentative meeting schedule for the sunset cycle.
The 12-member commission is charged with reviewing policies and programs of more than 150 state agencies. Their goal is to determine the need for each agency, find any duplications of other public services or programs and consider changes to improve each agency's operations and activities.
Among the agencies coming up for review are the Texas Youth Commission, which was put under conservatorship after allegations of abuse of some of its residents arose. It has since undergone a restructuring and downsizing, with a new board and new executive director. Another large state agency, the Texas Department of Transportation, has had some of its internal policies and communications processes scrutinized as well.
Other major agencies to be subjected to sunset review include the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, The Texas Department of Information Resources and the Public Utility Commission of Texas. To view the complete list of agencies up for review, click here.
James N. Elkins, FACHE, Superintendent, Texas Center for Infectious Disease
Career highlights and education: I am Texan by birth and then by choice: early life in Corpus Christi, and then to Baylor University, Hankamer School of Business, for undergraduate education (BBA, 1969). My wife and I moved to San Antonio for graduate school at Trinity University, Chapman Graduate School, Department of Health Care Administration (MSHCA, 1971). I am a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. My residency was in Amarillo at Northwest Texas Hospital. Since then, my career has been in health care organizations: naval service at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland; John Peter Smith Hospital, Fort Worth; Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, Waco; and Valley Baptist Medical Center, Harlingen. Since 1994, I have been employed to operate public health hospitals in Texas, first for the Texas Department of Health and, since 1995, at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease (TCID), San Antonio, now one of the 11 Department of State Health Services (DSHS) hospitals. About 60 percent of my career was in private hospital systems, and including the last 15 years of state service, about 40 percent has been in publicly owned organizations. I have been blessed to work with some of the finest of Texas' mentors in leadership in health care organizations, to have relatively long employments in most locations, to glean from both private and public jobs and to serve in some needy areas in organizations that had the capacity and abilities to make a difference.
What I like best about my job is: that the six long-term goals agreed for TCID in the late 1990s are nearly done, so we can see relevance and accomplishments that for so long we could only dream. And, that so many of the people who caught the dreams will be around to see them come to fruition.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Three pieces of advice: 1) "Be prepared to define and defend at any time," whether for services, policies or practices; 2) "Be very thoughtful about what/who you choose to believe and commit to follow, but then have beliefs and convictions which focus your life;" and 3) "It is much better to be with people who put more effort in doing their jobs well than working with people who are fighting to protect their jobs and their rights in them."
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Show us early how you care rather than what you know. Show us how patient care is important to you. We are a small team, so show us how you plan to contribute to this team's success.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: with my wife enjoying something one of our children's families is doing, going for some church function, on some golf course or in my shop.
People would be surprised to know that I: have learned skills in antique refinishing - hands-on art that can be done by myself - that is forgiving and doesn't necessarily require perfection and that has an end to it.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: DSHS affects Texans very broadly and deeply. One way is to have systems to manage prevention and cure for many communicable diseases. For its target diseases, m. Tuberculosis and Hansen's disease, TCID serves not just Texas but other states to assure treatment to cure in hard-to-treat cases. Because patients stay at TCID from six months to two years for their treatment to be completed, this hospital is different from acute hospitals in that it not only treats the patient's clinical conditions, but also helps patients stay in treatment until these infections are cured. The buildings in which TCID provides patient care are being rebuilt on the San Antonio campus. When finished in July 2010, the new patient building will concentrate 75 negative air isolation patient care rooms in one place, one of only six like it in the U.S. and the first new construction of its kind in over 50 years in this country.
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at email@example.com.
SPI experts host purchaser training workshop
Strategic Partnerships' team of government experts this week hosted a workshop session for government purchasers, contract managers and proposal teams. The one-day seminar allowed SPI experts to share their knowledge of how to attract the best competition on procurements, how to communicate with vendors, how to ensure great partnerships and gain more from vendor partners and how to better understand private sector contractors. In the accompanying photo, SPI Senior Managing Consultant Dave Horton visits with workshop attendees Jane Haney-Rivera (left) of the Texas Workforce Commission and Alice Lee (right) of the Department of State Health Services.
SPI will hold other workshops in the future. For more information on the workshops, who should attend and how to become a part of the session that also qualifies for Certified Purchaser Training Credits, contact Reagan Weil at 512-531-3917.
Olse directs DFPS Center for Consumer, External Affairs
Katie Olse (pictured) has been named director of the Center for Consumer and External Affairs at the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
Olse previously served as the DFPS External Relations lead and has been with the agency since 2005. Prior to joining DFPS, she served as a political consultant and as executive director of a statewide nonprofit organization.
'Trip' Doggett to serve as ERCOT interim CEO
H.B. "Trip" Doggett (pictured), chief operating officer for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has been named interim chief executive officer, effective Nov. 2. Doggett will serve while a search is conducted for a permanent CEO to replace Bob Kahn, who recently announced he will step down.
Doggett has served as senior vice president and COO at ERCOT since June 2008. He boasts nearly three decades of work in the electric power industry, seven years of which were spent providing consulting and project management services related to market participation readiness for a nodal market in Texas.
Before joining ERCOT, Doggett worked for 22 years with Duke Energy. He is a registered professional engineer. Doggett holds a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
RRC announces new Alternative Energy Division
The Texas Railroad Commission this week approved creation of a new Alternative Energy Division by reorganizing existing commission staff. The reorganization combines current alternative energy staff from across the agency into one division.
The division will provide opportunities for cross-training by having inspectors, trainers, marketers and licensors in one division. Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, who spearheaded development of the new division, said it will allow the agency to be more efficient and provide a platform for development of alternative energy forms such as compressed and liquefied natural gas. The new division will focus on existing alternative energy currently under the Commission's jurisdiction and no additional funding will be required to implement the division.
DPS to no longer handle license reinstatement in person
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, as of Oct. 30, motorists needing to reinstate suspended or revoked driver's licenses or who seek copies of their driving records will no longer be able to submit required documentation in person. They will instead either submit their required documentation online or by mail. The change is being implemented to reduce wait times for those applying for or renewing licenses.
Those who need to submit driver's license reinstatement documents or to get driver's records can do so by visiting Texas Online by clicking here.
TFS' Staff Forester Blevins named Arborist of Year
Texas Forest Service Staff Forester Courtney Blevins (pictured with Smokey the Bear) was recently feted during the 2009 Texas Tree Conference held in Round Rock earlier this month. Blevins was honored with the 2009 Texas Arborist of the Year award.
Blevins is a founding member of the Trinity Blacklands and Cross Timbers urban forestry councils and has been with the Texas Forest Service for more than two decades. He teaches arboriculture at Tarrant County College and also works with area community groups. Contest organizers noted that Blevins' greatest asset is his desire to help communities in his region plant, care for, remove and protect trees.
John Giedraitis, president of the Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and urban forestry manager for Texas Forest Service, said awardees at the annual conference exemplify "the best of the best in tree care and community forestry," adding each serves as a model for efforts to plant, care for, protect and plan for trees.
Blevins called the ISA "invaluable" to him during his career. "This network of fellow professionals has taught me more than all the books and publications ever can," he said.
Lottery Commission game to benefit veterans
The Texas Lottery Commission is set to offer its first scratch-off ticket dedicated to a cause other than public education.The Veterans Cash scratch-off is projected to rake in $9 million a year for the Permanent Fund for Veterans' Assistance (FVA). Lottery officials said the commission has printed more than 8.1 million of the $2 scratch-off tickets.
Created by the Texas Legislature in 2007, the FVA has so far received little financial assistance, leaving organizations that aid veterans to look elsewhere for grants and funding. The Veterans Cash Scratch-Off lottery ticket will help provide a secure revenue stream to fund critical veterans' services and programs.
After the usual deduction for prizes and costs, 23 percent of the ticket revenue will be used for transportation to veterans' hospitals and counseling and housing for homeless veterans, among other initiatives.
TSLAC announces governing board reappointments
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has announced the reappointment of Chairman Sandra J. Pickett (pictured), Martha Doty Freeman and Larry G. Holt to its governing board with terms set to expire in 2015.
Pickett was first appointed to the Commission in 1995. She has also served as a Liberty City Council member and as mayor pro tem of Liberty from 1976-1998.
Freeman, a self-employed historian in Austin, was appointed to the Commission in 2004. She has served as a member of the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board. Holt, an attorney in Bryan/College Station, was first appointed to the Commission in April, when he replaced Cruz Hernandez.
EPA awards TAES $15K for education effort
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $15,000 to the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAES) to educate parents and childcare providers on ways to reduce lead exposure in children. The effort will focus on managing indoor asthma triggers, which include everything from mold and pet dander to cockroaches and tobacco smoke.
Amarillo mayor McCartt chosen as TML president
The Texas Municipal League is set to induct Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt (pictured) as its 2010 president in a ceremony today, Friday, during the league's annual conference. She will serve as the third Amarillo city official elected to the post.
McCartt said the League's mission is to "support cities, small and large, in whatever way we can" and has adopted a platform of encouraging cities to work together.
McCartt, the first woman mayor of Amarillo, became involved on the TML as a city commissioner and has served as a board member since 2006. She has served as chairwoman of the league's Task Force on Eminent Domain and Regulation of Development.
Tech assembles search group for TTUHSC president
Texas Tech University officials have assembled a search committee to assist in finding the next president of the TTU Heath Sciences Center.
The committee, chaired by TTU Board of Regents Vice Chair Jerry E. Turner (pictured), will solicit, review and screen candidates before recommending a slate of people to the chancellor, who will then confer with the Board of Regents to make a final decision.
Other committee members include:
MARC facility completed at UTHSC-San Antonio
The "MARC" at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is finally complete. The Medical Arts and Research Center is the new home of UT Medicine San Antonio, the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center.
The newly completed eight-story building (as shown in accompanying lobby photo) features the latest in medical technology and becomes the largest medical practice in Central and South Texas.
"UT Medicine at the MARC will be a valuable partner to community physicians, who are invited to refer their complex cases to our specialists and sub-specialists," said Thomas C. Mayes, M.D. (pictured), president and CEO of the practice. The first clinics opened on Aug. 24. Most clinics are now up and running, with a few more scheduled to move to the MARC later this fall.
The facility will feature primary, specialty and sub-specialty medical care offered by more than 200 faculty members' practices and showcase 60 different specialties. The facility features state-of-the-art medical records, on-site diagnostic and imaging systems and quality customer service.
THECB nominates two TWU programs for Star awards
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has selected Texas Woman's University's Partnering for Teachers program and G-Force student-mentorship program as finalists for the prestigious 2009 Texas Higher Education Star Award.
The Partnering for Teachers program teams TWU with Dallas Independent School District to train more than 6,000 new teachers through the Dallas Alternative Certification Program. G-Force, meanwhile, partners TWU students with high school students for college enrollment workshops at TWU-sponsored Go Centers, spaces where students can find college admission and financial aid information. With 70 members, TWU's G-Force team is the largest in the state.
Star Award winners will be honored during the 2009 Texas Higher Education Leadership Conference Dec. 4 in Dallas.
Group of Tech engineering students redesign vehicle
A group of Texas Tech University engineering students have received a vehicle they are charged with transforming into the next-generation eco-friendly automobile. General Motors donated the car.
The auto company partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to bring the EcoCAR: NeXt Challenge program to students at 17 universities across the nation and Canada. The 17 teams began designing a virtual model of the vehicle using advanced software and computer-modeling tools last fall.
Tim Maxwell (pictured), professor of mechanical engineering and co-head of the advanced vehicle engineering lab at Texas Tech, said students have worked hard "and are excited for the opportunity to integrate their designs into the vehicle."
UT, Rice team wins $1.5 million grant to study flu virus
Biochemists from The University of Texas at Austin and Rice University recently won a $1.5 million award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to study the structure of the virus in the category that includes the H1N1 and bird flu virus.
Awarded by the National Institutes of Health, the goal of the four-year research grant is to increase the effectiveness of antiviral drugs, said Robert Krug of UT. Jane Tao of Rice University will continue her research on the form and function of nucleoprotein, one of 11 proteins encoded by the flu virus. The team will study the role of nucleoprotein in the RNA reproduction package, with each team looking at specific, but different aspects, Tao said.
Robert S. Srauss Center awarded $7.6M grant
The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin recently received a five-year, $7.6 million grant to study the effects of climate change on African nations.
The U.S. Department of Defense awarded the grant, which is the largest single grant dedicated to social science research the university has received, said Francis Gavin (pictured), director of the Strauss Center and principal investigator for the grant. The goal of the research is to identify how climate change could trigger disasters in Africa that would undermine political stability. Then there will be a study of strategies for building African state capacity and assess global aid efforts while developing partnerships with the African policy community in the U.S., Africa and other areas of the world, Gavin said. The program aims to provide guidance to policy makers in the U.S. government, he added.
The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law is a nonpartisan research center dedicated to promoting policy-relevant scholarships on problems and opportunities caused by increased globalization and interconnectivity between nations.
Scholarship funds to help fill workforce needs
Community college and technical school students in Texas will benefit from $2.5 million in scholarships awarded to a number of these institutions in Texas by the State Comptroller's Every Chance Funds. These funds are allocated by formula. Another $35 million in grant awards will be made to nonprofits that help prepare low-income students for careers in high-demand technical occupations.
The Every Chance Fund, created from the "Jobs and Education for Texans" fund created by the 81st Texas Legislature, provides grants and scholarships for career and technical education. The goal is to equip students to get the type of education that will help them meet future workforce challenges. Another $2.5 million will be distributed during Fiscal Year 2011. Some 60 percent of the funds go to certificate programs and 40 percent to associate degrees.
The $3.5 million for nonprofits comes from the $10 million Launchpad Fund, which supports and expands existing nonprofit programs with a proven track record. Recipients include: $500,000 - Project QUEST, Inc., San Antonio (Alamo Workforce Development Board District); $500,000 - Project ARRIBA, El Paso (Upper Rio Grande); $500,000 - Capital IDEA, Austin (Capital Area); $500,000 - H.I.S. BridgeBuilders, Dallas (Dallas); $400,000 - Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, Weslaco (Lower Rio Grande Valley); $300,000 - Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, Weslaco (Cameron County); $300,000 - Liberty County Workforce Academy, Dayton (Gulf Coast); $250,000 - Capital IDEA, Austin (Gulf Coast); and $250,000 - East Texas Literacy Council, Longview (East Texas).
Blinn studies possibility of leasing additional space
An increasing enrollment has led Blinn College to seek more space to expand its nursing program. The college is looking to the Texas A&M Health Science Center campus for additional room for its programs. If the lease is carried out, Blinn's vocational and associate nursing degree programs, emergency medical services and physical therapist assistant program would all move to a new building being built that will be owned by the Health Science Center.
The 145,000-square-foot facility could be split by the Health Science Center, Blinn College and the Texas Brain and Spine Institute.
Dr. Nancy Dickey (pictured), president of the Health Science Center, said the arrangement with Blinn could result in shared faculty and facilities that would save taxpayers money. The Blinn Board of Trustees this week postponed any decision on the possible lease until a later meeting.
Three ETF recipients each receive $250,000
A total of $750,000 in Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) investments have been announced by Gov. Rick Perry. The awards include:
EPA awards more than $2.9 Million to TCEQ
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $2.911 million to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to assist in investigations, emergency responses, cleanup, risk management, alternative water supplies and relocation of residents where leaks from underground storage tanks have occurred and the responsible party is unknown, is unwilling or unable to respond.
Michelle Fleek tapped for UNT-Dallas position
The University of North Texas at Dallas has named Michelle Fleek (pictured) as the school's first director of financial aid.
Fleek came to UNT Dallas from the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation where she was a senior account executive. She previously worked as assistant director of loan programs at Texas Christian University and was a financial aid counselor from the University of Dallas and Business Computer Training Institute. She holds a bachelor's degree from TCU and a master's from St. Mary's University in San Antonio.
Austin area educators earn $25,000 awards
Two Austin area educators - Del Valle High School Freshman Academy Principal Adelaida Olivares and Maricruz Aguayo-Tabor of the Austin Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy High School, have been named winners of the 2009 Milken Educator Award. They are two of only 50 educators throughout the nation to win the award this year, and each will receive a cash prize of $25,000 which they can use for whatever purpose they like.
The Milken Family Foundation of California awards the annual prizes. This is the 23rd year for the awards. The award is intended to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and encourage talented young people to enter the teaching profession.
Olivares joined Del Valle as a bilingual kindergarten teacher when she graduated from college. right out of college as a bilingual kindergarten teacher. She was later named principal of Ojeda Junior High School and then principal of the Freshman Academy. Aguayo-Tabor teaches world history and European history classes and directs the social studies department at her school.
Bryan-College Station MPO releases plan
Nearly 75 transportation projects to help alleviate traffic congestion in the Bryan-College Station area have been identified by the Bryan-College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization, but funding for the projects is questionable. These projects, also aimed at decreasing pollution and encouraging alternative transportation options, are part of the MPO's 2010-2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
The first of two public meetings on the plan was held Thursday and a second is slated for Nov. 9.
Listed as a priority in the plan is a $6 million six-lane bridge with turn-arounds and pedestrian facilities at Texas 6 and Rock Prairie Road. Numerous other roadways are targeted for widening or medians.
Hearn takes over interim post at TAMU-Galveston
William C. Hearn (pictured) will make his third return trip to Texas A&M University-Galveston, this time as acting vice president and chief executive officer. He will replace Dr. Rodney P. McClendon, who accepted the senior associate vice president for administration post at the University of North Texas. The announcement was made by R. Bowen Loftin, interim president of Texas A&M University, and is effective Nov. 1.
Hearn originally retired from TAMU last January. At the time, he was responsible for oversight of student life, auxiliary operations, educational outreach and many of the campus administrative functions. When Hurricane Ike struck and caused extensive damage at TAMU-Galveston, Hearn came out of retirement to assist with the Texas Maritime Academy as then-Superintendent Allen Worley left for a position with the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. He retired from that position in February of this year.
Hearn began his career at TAMU in 1974 and served 33 years. Some of his past work has included being senior life officer, responsible for the maritime cadet corps, ship operations, new student recruiting and enrollment services. He has served as Senior University Representative aboard the USTS Texas Clipper during training cruises and as interim CEO of the Galveston campus on two occasions. Hearn holds a bachelor's degree from TAMU and master's degrees from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and Sam Houston State University.
The Colony approves community development plan
The Colony City Council recently approved the Master Plan the city will use as a guide for what it should provide to increase community pride and quality of life and developing and maintaining parks and recreation facilities.
The recently adopted master plan calls for capital projects in 2009-10 that include $85,000 for redevelopment of Wilcox Park, $50,000 for the redevelopment of Kid's Colony and $135,000 for improvements to Stewart Creek Park.
Burnet County mulling regional water treatment plant
Burnet County officials are moving forward with exploring whether the city should build a regional water treatment plant to serve several communities in the southern area of the county such as Ridge Harbor and Spicewood Beach, which are experiencing water shortages.
County Judge Donna Klaeger (left) and Commissioner Joe Don Dockery plan to meet this week with a grant writer to determine the possibilities of obtaining a loan from the Texas Water Development Board to build a water treatment facility. County officials also plan to meet with officials of the Lower Colorado River Authority who had received approval in 2005 for a TWDB grant to build a water treatment plant, but did not proceed with construction in order to avoid debt.
Amarillo to issue $76M in debt for two water projects
Amarillo city commissioners recently agreed to issue $76 million in low-interest certificates of obligation to pay for completing the city's well field in Potter County and to construct a pump station. Officials are hopeful the Texas Water Development Board will approve the low-interest financing for the two projects.
City officials plan to set aside $50 million for the water well field in Potter County. The city also expects approval next month of an additional $26 million in federal stimulus funds for a second pump station at the Osage Water Treatment Plant, said City Manager Alan Taylor. TWD board members previously approved $39 million for the Potter County field, which has augmented Amarillo's water resources as the water level at Lake Meredith has dropped.
El Paso narrows candidates for Public Service Board
The selection committee for El Paso's Public Service Board recently announced a short list of 11 nominees for four seats on the board that oversees four water utilities and100,000 acres in El Paso County and elsewhere in West Texas. The names of the 11 finalists will be forwarded to the El Paso City Council, which will select the four new board members.
The current PSB board is being expanded from five to seven members and now has four vacancies following the resignation of former Chairman Ruben Guerra and the expiration of the term of Vice Chairman Fermin Acosta at the end of the year. The selection committee rated nominees in four areas of expertise, including financial management, the environment or health, public administration and citizen advocacy.
Harris Co. groups, TxDOT work on flooding plan
Following recent flooding near Buffalo Bayou in Harris County, several local government groups and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have begun developing a $40 million to $50 million plan to improve drainage and reduce flooding in the Memorial City Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ-17. The 980-acres in TIRZ-17 include areas south of Interstate 10 to Buffalo Bayou, Memorial Villages and the Memorial City District.
The Harris County Flood Control District, the cities of Bunker Hill, Hedwig Village, Memorial City and Houston, TIRZ-17 and TxDOT are collaborating on the plan to reduce flooding.
The preliminary plan targets three areas of improvement, including building a $27 million detention basin, making $11.5 million in improvements to storm sewers and making $3.5 million available for channel improvements, said Steve Fitzgerald, chief engineer for the flood control district. The Memorial City Management District has earmarked about $34 million in its current five-year capital improvement plan for drainage improvements throughout TIRZ-17, said Pat Walters, the executive director of Memorial City Management District.
Palestine moving forward on purchase of $3.5M mall
Palestine City Council members recently authorized the city manager to begin negotiations for the purchase of a mall at a price of $3.5 million to house several facilities including a public library, a branch of Texas State Technical College and an early college high school program.
Mayor Bob Herrington (pictured) said the final purchase of the 30-year-old mall is contingent on final approval from the Texas Attorney General's Office. The city plans to buy the entire mall and lease space back to current retail tenants acting in partnership with the Palestine Economic Development Corp. as well as provide space for the library and the technical college.
The Palestine and Westwood Independent school districts also are working with Trinity Valley Community College to apply for a $450,000 grant from the Texas Education Agency to pay for an Early High School College Initiative program that could use the proposed mall facility for classes in which high school students simultaneously earn a high school diploma and receive up to two years of credit toward a bachelor's degree, Herrington said. The public library, which has been without a home since a roof collapse on Sept. 13, will be located in a 30,000-square-foot space at the mall once the purchase is finalized, he said.
Hickory Creek mulling opening its own library
Hickory Creek Town Council members recently appointed a task force charged with determining the feasibility of the town opening its own library. Hickory Creek currently is one of four member cities that participate in the Lake Cities Library Board, which recently requested more funding to pay for an expansion of the library.
The appointment of the task force is not a move against the current library, said Council Member Eric Wiser, but is a step in responding to residents' needs for a larger library with more books and other resources available to them. Hickory Creek was the only one of the four member cities that responded to the request for more funding by the Lake Cities Library Board, noted another council member. Council members also discussed the possibility of operating the Lake Cities Library under an interlocal agreement signed by all member cities.
Council members urged the task force to act quickly on the recommendation on whether to seek a bond package to pay for library improvements as the deadline for setting a May 2010 bond election is only a few months away.
San Angelo ISD eyes agent for $117M in bond projects
Trustees for the San Angelo Independent School district are considering a recommendation to hire a building commissioning agent to oversee quality in the district's $117 million bond projects. The projects include renovation and construction at 11 schools.
Steve Van Hoozer, director of bond planning and construction for the district, told trustees that using a building commissioner in large-scale projects is becoming more common and noted that the Texas Tech University System uses that process for its construction projects, including those planned soon at Angelo State University. The National Institute of Building Sciences describes building commissioning as a process that assists in the delivery of a project while focusing on a safe and healthful facility.
The board authorized Van Hoozer to begin negotiations with an Irving-based firm, which will include the scope of the commissioning agent's role that can range from project manager to focusing solely on systems such as heating and air conditioning, he said.
Killeen, TxDOT reach agreement on $20M road project
Killeen City Council members recently agreed to a three-phase, $20 million plan to ease traffic congestion at the intersection of US190 and Rosewood Drive. The plan was developed in negotiations with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
TxDOT officials agreed to reimburse the city for 100 percent of construction costs for the two construction phases over a 15-year period if predicted traffic volumes are correct, said Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper (pictured). City officials had originally believed TxDOT would pay for up to only 90 percent of the cost of the project, which will widen FM 2410 and construct an overpass at the intersection.
City officials now plan to begin working on environmental assessments, completing schematics and finalizing a design for the project, which they hope will begin in about 18 months, Cosper said. The project would have taken from 10 to 20 years to complete using only city funding, he added.
Galveston Housing Authority to build 340 new units
Officials of the Galveston Houston Authority recently proposed building 340 new apartments, town houses and patios costing about $59 million, or about $173,957 per unit, on four sites. They will replace 569 public housing units torn down because of damage from Hurricane Ike.
Executive Director Harish Krishnarao also proposed replacing the remaining 229 public housing units destroyed by the storm by scattering those units throughout the city's urban core at a cost of about $29 million, or $128,314 per unit. The cost of both projects is an estimated $88.5 million, which he expects to pay for using $12.4 million in federal funds, $11 million in tax credits and $51 million from the city's federal disaster recovery funds.
Housing officials originally had planned to rebuild all of the new housing units on the four vacant sites, but many citizens opposed placing so many families back in the same small area, Krishnarao said. This new lower density plan also addresses mixing income levels in neighborhoods, which is critical to success in integrating public housing in neighborhoods, he said. The public has 45 days to comment on the plan, after which Krishnarao will make a final recommendation to the board in December.
Tyler ISD to save about $20 million on 2008 bonds
Lack of inflationary growth helped the Tyler Independent School District save at least $20 million of the district's $124.9 million bond referendum, said Superintendent Randy Reid in a recent report to school board members. Voters approved the bonds last November to build four new elementary school campuses and a combination elementary and school for exceptional programs.
Ron Vickery (pictured), board president, said the projected $20 million in savings resulting from lower construction costs must be spent on capital improvements. Vickery said he plans to bring a plan for spending the $20 million in savings in November.
The district may realize more savings once the Griffin project, scheduled to open in December 2010, and four other school projects, scheduled to open in August 2010, are completed, Reid said. The district's master plan includes upgrades to Birdwell, Dixie, Owens and Rice elementary schools. School officials will consider costs, scope of work and logistics for each school to determine the two projects that will be recommended to move forward, Reid said. The district may be able to seek bids as soon as late spring with construction beginning by summer 2010, Reid said.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD delays construction of 10 schools
Officials of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District recently cited budget challenges as the reason delaying construction dates of 10 schools recommended by the 2007 steering committee for the bond election funding the projects. The cost to open new schools ranges from about $1.5 million for a new elementary school to up to about $5 million to open a new high school, which is causing budget concerns, said Pam Wells, associate superintendent of facilities, planning and community relations.
District staff previously delayed the opening of an elementary and middle school from the recommended opening in 2010 until 2011, but now have decided to postpone the opening of six remaining elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools authorized by the 2007 bond election.
Schools that were scheduled to open in 2010-11 are delayed until 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15, Wells said. And three elementary schools planned for west of Barker Cypress scheduled to open in 2011-12 are now slated to break ground in 2014-15, 2016-17 and 2016-17. Construction will not begin on two middle schools until 2013-2014 and 2014-15, while the two high school projects are now slated to begin in 2014-15 and 2017-18.
Comal Co. to issue debt for $36M justice center project
Comal County commissioners recently authorized the publication of a notice of intent to issue certificates of obligation to pay for a $36 million downtown justice center project.
Residents will have 30 days from the date of publication of the notice to gather signatures supporting a bond election in lieu of issuing the certificates of obligation. If opponents of the commissioners' decision to issue certificates of obligation fail to gather and verify the 3,668 signatures necessary to force a bond election, commissioners plan to issue the certificates in January 2010 to pay for a four-story, 127,000-square-foot building to house district and county courts and the office of the district attorney.
Commissioners should continue to hold town hall meetings during the construction project to keep the public informed about the new justice center, said Jan Kennady (pictured), Precinct 4 commissioner. The lack of security at the existing courthouse facilities and aging infrastructure make the courthouse project necessary, she said.
Cleburne groups launch local business stimulus program
The Cleburne Economic Development Office and the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce recently launched a stimulus program to encourage more local business activity. The four major components of the program, which will be available on a new Web site, www.CleburneLife.com, are:
El Paso delays November 2010 bond election for parks
El Paso city officials recently agreed to postpone a bond election planned for November 2010, possibly until May 2011 when the proposed bond election to pay for several recreational projects will coincide with a city council election.
City leaders would be acting imprudently to ask voters who are concerned about the economy to approve a bond election in November 2010, said Mayor John Cook (pictured). Projects under consideration for the delayed bond election include an electric trolley connecting downtown with the El Paso Zoo, a new Olympic-size swimming pool, a cultural arts center and a large centralized park.
No estimate is available on the costs of the projects that may be included in the next bond election, said City Manager Joyce Wilson, who also said she will speak with each council members to learn what project or projects they support to be included in the next bond referendum.
Washington Co. seeks $75K award for energy projects
Washington County commissioners recently approved a letter of intent for a $75,000 award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funding will be used to make the Washington County Courthouse more energy efficient in an effort to reduce utility bills, said County Judge Dorothy Morgan.
Education, training in Texas - changing to meet needs
Executive Women in Texas Government plan conference
The Executive Women in Texas Government 23rd Annual Professional Development Conference will be Monday, Nov. 23, at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Lost Pines, Texas. Hailed as a meeting of "ideas, solutions and connections," this year's event will feature keynote speakers and workshops relating to development of executive-level management skills, expanding leadership capabilities and networking and mentoring. The event will begin with a 7:30 a.m. registration. The first keynote speaker, Dr. Wanda Thompson, will be heard during the opening general session at 8:30 a.m. followed by the EWTG Woman of the Year presentation and one morning workshop. The second keynote speaker, author Sara Laschever, will speak during lunch followed by two afternoon workshops. For more information on the conference and registration, click here.
TPPA plans Fall Conference 2009 for Nov. 4-6
The Texas Public Purchasing Association will host its Fall Conference 2009 Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 4-6, at The Hilton in College Station. Among the topics to be discussed in the general sessions are electronic records retention, a post-legislative update, a discussion featuring panelists who collectively have more than 200 years of public purchasing experience, technical writing tips, basic accounting for purchasing professionals, developing an RFP scoring matrix and more. Dr. Tom Garney of Texas A&M University will present "Futurework: Making a Living in the 21st Century." David Reisman, executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission will offer insight into ethics issues. For more information, click here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 (email@example.com) 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.