|Volume 7, Issue 42 · Friday, October 30, 2009|
Voters to decide $1.35 billion in bonds on Nov. 3
For street improvements, school technology, construction
Texas voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of $1.35 billion in bond funding for 44 cities, school districts and special districts across the state. Although the number of entities holding bond elections is down from the May 2009 level when 61 elections were held, the total amount of requested funding is identical. In May, voters approved 73 percent or $1.37 billion of the total on the ballots.
The approved November bond funds will finance local capital improvement projects such as new public safety and fire station facilities, new schools, renovations and additions, park improvements and infrastructure over the next few years. It will also allow for the purchase of laptops, security equipment, buses, telecommunications equipment and other technology-related equipment.
Some of the largest bond proposals include the following:
Renewable energy: Texas schools in top spots
EPA cites schools, governments for 'green energy' usage
Texas claimed both the number one and number two spots as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week announced its first-ever list of the 20 primary and secondary schools nationwide using the most power from renewable energy sources. Three Texas cities also were ranked in the top 20 among local governments nationwide for use of green power.
The Austin ISD ranked first on the list among schools, followed by Round Rock ISD. The Pflugerville ISD was in the top 20 as well, ranked number 12.
The top Green Power Partner schools, according to the EPA, are buying nearly 113 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power each year. That is equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions that would be produced from the electric power use of 11,000 homes in the United States for one year.[more]
Randy Wallace, associate vice chancellor, controller and chief budget officer, The University of Texas System Administration
Career highlights and education: I received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas State University, or Southwest Texas State University as it was known, in 1978. After graduating from college, my part-time job at UT Austin turned into a full-time job, initially managing a student store on campus and later ending up as an assistant manager of a large service department within the university responsible for mail service, office supplies, duplicating and receiving. During my years at UT Austin, I was fascinated by the budget and financial reports and fortunate to have a mentor, Mary Guyon (who at the time was the UT Austin Vice President for Budget), teach me the inner workings of higher education finance. In 1984, she was instrumental in my getting hired at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to fill a vacancy left by a person who later became a friend, Bill Nance, who you read about in this very same publication a month or so back. During my 10 years at the Coordinating Board, I, like Bill Nance, got to know every chancellor, president and chief financial officer in the state. While at the Coordinating Board, I was promoted several times and ultimately became the Director of Financial Planning responsible for the funding formulas used by the legislature to allocate appropriations to public universities, health institutions and community colleges. In October 1994, I was hired as Assistant Budget Director at The University of Texas System Administration, where one of my most memorable jobs was working with the then-chair of Senate Finance, Sen. Bill Ratliff, in redesigning the formulas used to allocate funding for public universities. I became budget director in August 1998 and was promoted to my current position in June 2000. I have been very fortunate to have now worked for five different UT System chancellors and to have made many friends in higher education.
What I like best about my job is: It is never boring - there is always a new challenge or issue to resolve working for the Board of Regents, chancellor and the executive leadership at System Administration.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: It was given to me by my dad when I began my career at UT Austin and is still applicable today in my current job, "Treat everyone like they were your boss because tomorrow they may be." Being civil, cordial and respectful of everyone within the organization has served me well.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: If you see something that needs to be done, don't wait for someone to tell you what to do. Show initiative, take on the responsibility and make yourself indispensable.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: playing golf or going to the lake with my family.
People would be surprised to know that I: have 34 years of cumulative state service, I wish I was still in TRS. Those of you who opted out at one time and are in ORP will know what I mean.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Typically most people confuse the UT System and its premier campus, The University of Texas at Austin, but either forget or are not aware that the UT System is three-quarters health-related institutions in terms of revenue and expenditures, with six health institutions and nine universities spread across Texas.
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.
Some Texas cities rewriting procurement policies
To comply with new state law limiting local contract amounts
New Braunfels Mayor Pro-Tem Kathleen Krueger called it the Texas Legislature's attempt at "trying to kill a mosquito with a shotgun."
She was talking about a bill from the 81st Legislature that is causing some Texas cities to have to adjust their procurement policies. HB 2082, which affects only cities with populations of 250,000 or fewer, changes the Local Government Code as it relates to local preference law regarding the purchase of real property, personal property not affixed to real property or services.
In 2005, legislation was put into place that allowed municipalities to award contracts to local bidders whose bids were not the low bid, but were within 5 percent of the lowest bid. The new legislation restricts awarding of such bids by cities of 250,000 or fewer to contracts whose value is less than $100,000.
Because there was no cap on the size of the contract, some argued that local governments were awarding large contracts to local bidders that sometimes resulted in huge expenses to taxpayers. For instance, if the low bid on a contract was $500,000 and a local bidder bid 5 percent more, the local bid could be as high as $525,000 and still be accepted. That would cost taxpayers an additional $25,000. With a cap of $100,000 on contracts that can be awarded to local vendors, the most it could cost cities by accepting a local bid over the low bid amount would be $5,000.
Meador chosen Texas State CIO of Year for 2009
George (Dee) Meador (pictured), CIO and IT Division Director for the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), was named Texas State Chief Information Officer of the Year at the recent Annual CIO Academy in Austin. Meador has spent more than 35 years in state information technology systems for two different state agencies and was recognized for his exemplary technology leadership, vision and public service.
Meador has spent the last five years at TWC overseeing more than 70 critical IT supported applications, including the nationally recognized WorkInTexas.com job-matching Web site as well as Internet self-service systems for Texas employers and citizens to interact with the Unemployment Insurance system.
Prior to joining TWC, Meador spent 29 years at the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation where he worked in computer operations, telecommunications, programming, project management and IT leadership. He serves as chair of the Texas Data Center Services Advisory Council for Fiscal Year 2010 and is a member of the GTC Southwest Advisory Board. He holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Other TWC IT managers receiving recognition for outstanding leadership at the Annual CIO Academy included Project Management Office Director Leslie Howes, Applications Development & Maintenance Director Michael Kell and Data Processing Director Robert Von Quintus.
TxDOT approves seven alternatively-financed projects
Seven transportation projects in Texas have been approved for funding through the Texas Department of Transportation's pass-through finance program. The program allows local municipalities or private entities to pay for costs up front for a transportation project and then be reimbursed by the state for a portion of the costs on the back end once the project is completed and operational. Reimbursement is based on the number of vehicles using the projects. The result is quicker completion of projects, as traditional funding puts the projects in line for funding when it is available.
The seven projects, with a combined price tag of approximately $193 million, include:
DPS names MacBride as its new chief financial officer
Cheryl MacBride (pictured) is the new chief financial officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). She comes to DPS after having served for almost 24 years with the Texas General Land Office (GLO) and the Veterans Land Board. While at the GLO, MacBride served in various financial management and administrative capacities, including Deputy Commissioner for Administration. Before entering the public sector, MacBride was assistant controller for a large banking institution.
MacBride was recently appointed by the Employees Retirement System (ERS) trustees to fill a vacancy on the ERS board. She has been an active member of the Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association and has held several offices with the association, including president in 2000.
MacBride earned her bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin. She is also a Certified Financial Government Manager and Certified Fraud Examiner.
New TxDMV agency scheduled to open on Nov. 2
The state's newest agency - the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) will open on Monday, Nov 2, according to officials of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The new agency will include four former TxDOT divisions - Vehicle Titles and Registration (VTR), Motor Carrier (MCD), Motor Vehicle (MVD) and Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA). The new agency was created by the 81st Texas Legislature and transfers vehicle registration, consumer protection and enforcement programs from TxDOT to the new agency.
Hartman to serve on Facilities Commission board
Douglas M. Hartman (pictured) has been appointed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to serve as board member of the Texas Facilities Commission.
Hartman serves as president and chief operating officer of an Austin-based boutique investment banking firm and heads the Hartman Foundation, Inc., a private operating foundation. He previously served as president and COO of Austin-based Hartland Bank, a family-owned bank holding company with eight locations in Central Texas.
Hartman holds a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University and a master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Yarrito picked by TCEQ as Valley watermaster
Erasmo Yarrito, Jr. has been named by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as the Rio Grande watermaster, effective Nov. 1. Yarrito has worked with the International Boundary and Water Commission on a variety of projects and as watermaster deputy in Eagle Pass. He also is a former environmental investigator with TCEQ's Region 15 office in Harlingen.
Last year, Yarrito was chosen as a team leader for the Rio Grande Watermaster Program and later was appointed deputy Rio Grande watermaster. The watermaster manages the allocation of water assigned to the United States, under the watermaster's jurisdiction, in the Rio Grande Basin below the Amistad Reservoir.
Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday; time to fall back
Sunday marks the beginning of November - and the return to standard time from Daylight Saving Time. The time change occurs each year on the first Sunday in November after having set clocks forward one hour on the second Sunday each March, when Daylight Saving Time begins. Hence the saying, "Spring forward, Fall back."
During Daylight Saving Time, clocks are turned forward an hour, moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. When clocks are turned back at 2 a.m. on Sunday, the time reverts to standard time and an hour of daylight in the evenings will be lost.
For years, fire officials have urged residents to mark the end of Daylight Savings Time as a good time to remember to change smoke alarm batteries in their homes.
Expansion of Governor's Mansion recommended
A 2,000-square-foot addition to the Governor's Mansion has been recommended by project managers as the historic property is undergoing renovations and rebuilding after an arsonist's fire gutted the structure in 2008. The recommended addition - with a price tag of more than $1 million - would provide living space, most of which would be used for private quarters for the governor's family.
The proposed addition would include two bedrooms and two baths on the second floor and a stairway, kitchen and storage and office space on the first floor. A basement would be added for mechanical equipment. The addition would be paid for through the fundraising campaign that has been ongoing for more than a year.
Judge Salinas picked as regional head of GSA
The U.S. General Services Administration recently selected Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas (pictured) as the administrator of its regional office in Fort Worth.
The U.S. General Services Administration oversees federally owned properties and provides other services for the federal government. The Fort Worth GSA office has responsibility for federal buildings and facilities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Salinas, who will be responsible for 1,350 government-owned properties in the five-state region, will begin his new position on Nov. 9.
Salinas served three years as the county judge in Hidalgo County. He resigned from that position earlier this week.
ETF allocates $3 million to surgical corporation
The Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) has allotted $3 million to Patton Surgical Corp. for the commercialization of its PassPort double-shielded trocar device to be used in laparoscopic surgeries. The investment is set to advance Texas' status as a leader in biotechnology innovations.
The trocar device is used to insert instruments into the abdominal cavity during laparoscopic surgery, a growing field because of its minimally invasive nature.
The ETF, created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 and reauthorized in 2007, has so far allocated more than $118 million to 94 early-stage companies and $148 million in grant matching to Texas universities for research.
Permanent School Fund rebounds to $22 billion
The Permanent School Funds (PSF) overseen by the State Board of Education (SBE) has rebounded to a value of almost $22 billion, up from $15.9 billion this spring, despite a turbulent economy.
This better-than-anticipated return, according to Gail Lowe (pictured), chair of the SBE, "has proven effective in reducing risk to the PSF during a very volatile period, and that is essential in protecting this endowment fund for future generations of Texas public schoolchildren."
DOL sends $15.7M to Texas for trade adjustment help
The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Texas $15.7 million in trade adjustment assistance. The funds will assist workers who have lost jobs to outsourcing and foreign trade by providing career training, employment options and case management services.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said the funding "underscores the Labor Department's continued commitment to helping workers who are adversely impacted by trade by ensuring they have the help they need to re-enter the workforce and secure family-supporting wages."
The recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expanded funding for the trade adjustment program from $220 million to $575 million.
UTHSCSA welcomes renown faculty to cancer center
Three renown specialists are set to lead the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Dr. Ian Thompson (left) will serve as the CTRC's interim executive director. Trained at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Thompson specializes in the prevention, early detection and treatment for prostate, kidney and bladder cancers. He chairs the Department of Urology and leads the Genitourinary Cancer Clinic at CTRC.
Dr. Thomas Slaga (center) - a pharmacology professor, co-leader of the CTRC's Cancer Progression and Development program and director for research for the Health Science Center's Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg - will serve as interim deputy director.
Dr. Susan Mooberry (right), a co-leader of the CTRC's Experimental Therapeutics Program and a leading researcher in cancer drug discovery, will head the CTRC's Institute for Drug Development (IDD) as interim director.
Six vie for Teacher of Year honors today
Six of the state's top elementary and secondary teachers will vie for Texas 2010 Elementary and Secondary Teacher of the Year honors today, Friday, in a luncheon and ceremony in Austin. Six Texas educators were selected as finalists for Teacher of the Year in August and will join 33 regional Teachers of the Year to hear the name of the winners called.
The elementary school finalists are: Maricela Alarcón of Northside ISD in San Antonio, Donna Patrick of Wichita Falls ISD and Virginia Solis-Cera of San Elizario ISD. The secondary education finalists are: David Bolster of North East ISD in San Antonio; Keeley Lowery of Carroll ISD and Yushica T. Walker of El Paso ISD.
The top two teachers will receive a $5,000 cash prize, a technology package valued at more than $16,500, a laptop computer, trophy and other mementos. Each of the regional winners will receive a $500 check and a trophy. One of the top winners selected today will compete for National Teacher of the Year honors.
Johns to lead office for City of Austin
Palm Beach County, Florida, Director of Economic Development Kevin Johns (pictured) has been hired by the City of Austin to head its Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services office. He will be responsible for implementing economic programs that foster jobs while supporting Austin industries. His appointment is effective Jan. 11, 2010.
Johns brings more than three decades of urban planning and economic development experience to his new post in Austin. The Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office has a staff of approximately 45 and a budget of more than $16 million. Johns will direct and provide assistance to the city manager and city council on the development and implementation of the city's economic development policies and programs including the CreateAustin cultural plan.
Johns holds a bachelor's degree from Case Western Reserve University and a master's degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. One of the other finalists for the job was Rodney Gonzales, who has been acting director of the office for the last 16 months. Gonzales will return to his previous position as deputy director.
A&M gets more than 30 applicants for president position
With the recent soft deadline for applications for the presidency of Texas A&M University, the institution has amassed more than 30 qualified candidates for the position. The candidates come from worlds as diverse as academia, business and high levels of government. Names of the applicants will be kept confidential throughout the hiring process, according to Richard Box, chair of the 16-member presidential search committee.
The secrecy allows applicants to be considered as serious candidates without putting their current positions in jeopardy, Box said.
The search for the university's 24th president began in July, following the resignation of Elsa Murano.
UT-Brownsville/TSC welcomes its new provost
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College has welcomed Dr. Alan F.J. Artibise (pictured) as the institution's new provost. He succeeds Dr. Jose G. Martin, who retired in February.
Beginning in 2004, Artibise served as executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and as executive director of the Institute for Social Science Research at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.
Artibise holds degrees from the University of Manitoba and the University of British Columbia.
ASU receives more than 50 applications for provost
As of mid-October, Angelo State University has received more than 50 applications for the position of provost and vice president of academic affairs. The search committee expected a minimum of 65 applications by the time reviews began on Oct. 21.
The committee hopes to invite as many as 10 candidates to campus for preliminary interviews beginning next month, said committee Chair Toni Sauncy.
A&M-Kingsville names dean of engineering college
Dr. Stephan J. Nix (pictured) has been named the dean of the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He is scheduled to begin his new charge Feb. 8, pending approval by the A&M Board of Regents.
Starting in 2004, Nix served as director of the School of Engineering for the University of North Florida. Prior to that office, he served as founding chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Florida Atlantic University from 2001-2004. From 1997-2001, he chaired the department of civil and environmental engineering for Northern Arizona University.
Nix holds a bachelor's degree, master's degree and doctorate all from the University of Florida.
UT-El Paso nursing school wins grant to focus on elderly
The School of Nursing at the University of Texas El Paso recently received a $337,000 grant to teach health care providers how to improve treatment to the increasing older population in West Texas.
The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the grant, which will be used to establish the Border Institute for Excellence in Gerontologic Care. The three-year grant will provide funding to teach students and advanced practice nurses ways to improve the care of elderly residents, with a focus on those who live in rural areas.
VA seeks bids to construct veterans housing complex
As part of a five-year venture, the Department of Veterans Affairs is seeking bids to construct and possibly operate a housing complex for veterans. The facility would be located on the grounds of the department's Kerrville medical center, one of 40 such nationwide developments planned by the VA to house roughly 2,000 veterans. The move has some city officials asking questions.
Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley (pictured) said those in local government "need to know the particulars of the program so we know the expectation and need for local services."
The VA is offering a 75-year lease on five acres, according to the request for proposals issued Oct. 7. Bidders must outline how they will help residents attain self-sufficiency as they vie for the contract. Local VA Administrator Robin Gutierrez said she doesn't expect the housing project to impact services at the Kerrville facility. The unit serves an estimated 16,000 veterans with 154 nursing home beds, 20 medical beds, a small intensive care unit and several outpatient clinics.
Tech receives $42.5M software gift for engineering
The Finance and Administration Committee of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents has accepted a $42.5 million software gift. The package includes 100 modules, licenses and maintenance of state-of-the-art geoscience and reservoir engineering software.
Texas Tech University System Chancellor Kent Hance said the gift will benefit Tech's Bob L. Herd Petroleum Department of Engineering, allowing students entering the workforce industry-level software experience.
Baylor, TSTC partner to form Waco research center
Baylor University and Texas State Technical College (TSTC) are leading an initiative to transform a 300,000-square-foot former tire plant into a $30 million technology research center in Waco. Baylor will contribute $10 million to the project, matching a state grant awarded to TSTC. The venture also includes contributions from McLennan Community College, the cities of Waco and Bellmead, McLennan County and several local businesses.
Scientists at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), as the facility will be known, will collaborate on projects related to aviation, alternative fuels and advanced material manufacturing. The center is expected to provide some 300 "relatively good-paying, high-tech, faculty-type jobs," according to Truell Hyde (pictured), Baylor's vice president for research.
The facility is projected to generate $1.5 billion to $4.2 billion in economic revenue in its first 15 years. The plant is slated to be opened in 2012.
Fort Worth wins $22M for recycled wastewater pipeline
Fort Worth officials plan to begin construction in February on a pipeline to ship recycled wastewater to golf courses and other facilities with a recently awarded $22 million federal stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The pipeline project, which will run about nine miles from the Village Creek Wastewater plant in east Fort Worth to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, had been on hold several years as the city had not funded it. The project should be in operation by the end of 2010, said Water Director Frank Crumb.
The recycled water is sewage treated to be safe for some uses, such as irrigation or cooling air conditioning systems, Crumb said. It is less expensive to treat water for irrigation and cooling than to treat it to drinkable standards, he added. Cities in North Texas lag behind other cities and states such as Florida, which recycles 44 percent of its wastewater, and El Paso and San Antonio, which have many miles of pipeline to recycle treated wastewaters to big users. The new pipeline is projected to pump 429,000 gallons during its first year of operation and the flow could increase to about 1 million gallons a year within 10 years, Crumb said.
Texas Tech to borrow $13 million for stadium expansion
The Board of Regents of Texas Tech University recently authorized borrowing $13 million to help pay for a $32.6 million expansion of the east side of the college's football stadium.
Regents had originally authorized $25 million for the project, but unexpected additional costs increased the estimated cost by almost $7 million, said Regent Rick Francis (pictured).
Sales of 26 suites and 544 club seats at the stadium will cover the cost of the $13.8 million loan, said Jim Brunjes, chief financial officer for the university. Private donations will provide $19 million toward the cost of the stadium, he said.
UNT to be first public university to offer special degree
The University of North Texas is set to become the first public college or university in the state to offer a bachelor of science in aviation logistics. The program, offered by the UNT College of Business, has been approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board earlier this month and will be implemented next year.
Dr. Terrance Pohlen (pictured), director of the UNT's Center for Logistics Education and Research, said the program will offer a much broader perspective than other aviation programs. "Literally thousands of dedicated people help put it (the plane) in the air -from those who manage the airports and run the air traffic control system, to those who schedule flights and many others who do the jobs that need to be done," Pohlen said.
The UNT program will afford students an opportunity to pursue career options in all facets of the aviation industry with one academic track geared toward commercial piloting and another for students interested in careers related to passenger and freight movement.
Sul Ross-Rio Grande College VP Vela resigns
Dr. Joel Vela (pictured), vice president of Sul Ross State Universitiy-Rio Grande College, has resigned, effective Dec. 31. Vela said he is leaving his administrative post to return to classroom teaching. He has requested a teaching assignment at the Alpine campus.
Before being named vice president, Vela served as president of Mount Hood Community College in Oregon and Palo Alto College in San Antonio. He also held various positions at North Lake College in the Dallas County Community College District.
Sul Ross President Ricardo Maestas said he will honor Vela's request to teach at the Alpine campus and added that the position of vice president will not be filled right away.
TAMU to go ahead with $46M humanities building
Officials at Texas A&M University this week announced plans for a four-story, 107,000-square-foot, $46 million humanities building have been approved and groundbreaking for the facility is expected as early as the beginning of next year.
Approximately $20 million of the cost will come from the Permanent University Fund with the remainder from university funds and philanthropic sources, according to TAMU Interim President Dr. R. Bowen Loftin. Officials say the new building will show the university's commitment to the humanities in addition to its longstanding commitment to agriculture, engineering, etc.
NanoMedicine department established at UT Med School
A new Department of NanoMedicine and Biomedical Engineering has been established at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Mauro Ferrari (pictured) will chair the new department. Officials say the new department is the first of its kind in a medical school in the United States. Ferrari has received approximately $50 million in funding since moving his laboratory to the UT Health Science Center at Houston three years ago.
Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology to medicine, according to Ferrari, and can contribute to early diagnosis of illness and personalized treatment. The new department will be housed in the Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research, slated to open next year.
UTHSC-Houston leads consortium awarded $2.4M
A new Center for Transport Oncophysics will be created from $2.4 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). An initiative to conduct innovative cancer research will be established by a consortium led by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. In addition to the $2.4 million in funds, the center could be the recipient of more - totaling $11.6 million over five years.
The center will be one of the first 12 Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers (PS-OCs) being created by the NCI to bring new theoretical physicists, mathematicians, chemists and engineers to cancer study and research. Also part of the consortium are The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital.
The network of PS-OCs is expected to generate new information to identify and define critical aspects of physics, chemistry and engineering that operate at all levels in cancer processes.
Hidalgo County appoints Ramirez interim county judge
Hidalgo County Commissioners Court has appointed Rene Ramirez as interim county judge. He replaces J.D. Salinas, who recently resigned to take a post at the General Services Administration.
Ramirez, chief of staff to state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, will serve as head of county government in his new role, where he said she wants to continue "the good work of Judge Salinas."
Brazos County set to issue bonds for center expansion
Brazos County commissioners have voted to issue $12 million in bonds to pay for an expansion of the county's expo complex.
The project will expand the facility, allowing it to host larger, national events and will include a second covered arena, a stall barn, covered walkways, additional offices, a covered warm-up area for horse shows and other events and extra parking.
Construction is set to begin in the coming week and should take about 300 days to complete, according to Tom Quarles, director of Brazos County special event facilities.
San Antonio ISD on track to close 13 schools
San Antonio Independent School District trustees have set in motion a plan to close 13 schools during the next decade during a massive restructuring plan. Board President James Howard (pictured) cautioned plans could change. A final vote on the matter is expected next semester.
Schools slated for closure include: Ball, Brewer, Green, Huppertz, Neal, Nelson, Smith, Steele, Stewart, Washington and W.W. White elementary schools, and Austin and Storm academies.
The restructuring could save as much as $30 million annually for the district.
Calhoun County approves environmental study
Calhoun County commissioners recently authorized a $6,600 environmental review assessment on raising Ocean Drive to avoid flooding. The Texas Department of Rural Affairs requires that the environmental review be completed before the county can continue using grant funds to repair the road, said County Judge Mike Pfeifer (pictured).
TDRA is paying for the environmental review, he said. The city has a $166,000 Disaster Recovery Grant from TDRA to repair and raise a portion of Ocean Drive above the floodplain following damages from Hurricane Ike. The study must be completed in 90 days to meet TDRA requirements, Pfeifer said.
Commissioners also voted to accept a $75,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grant requires that the city stipulate that the funds will be used to stimulate the economy, create or retain jobs and to develop and implement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and emissions in the community, Pfeifer said.
Nueces Appraisal District gets support for new office
Corpus Christi ISD has become the eighth entity within the boundaries of the Nueces County Appraisal District to support the district's quest for a new office.
Lacking parking space and in need of improvements, a bid for renovation of the existing building came in at $5.9 million. On the other hand, buying land and building a new office was estimated to cost $7.4 million.
While Nueces County commissioners have not supported the plan, the CCISD is joined in its support for new offices for the appraisal district by the Robstown City Council, the Robstown ISD, the Port Aransas City Council, the Port Aransas ISD, the Tuloso-Midway ISD, the Aransas Pass City Council and the Agua Dulce City Council. The district has asked each taxing entity in the district to support its plan to sell the current building and build a new one.
Mansfield eyeing projects for 2010 bond election
The Mansfield City Council recently began reviewing a list of potential bond projects to include in a bond election that may be called in 2010.
The initial list of projects include relocating the Mansfield Activities Center at a cost of about $28 million, expanding or relocating the library at a cost of about $19 million, building a police and fire training academy at a cost of between $24 million to $32 million, improvements to Heritage Parkway for about $29 million and creating quiet zones at railroad crossings costing about $1.2 million, said Assistant City Manager Chris Burkett (pictured.) The list of 15 projects under consideration also includes a civic center with no cost estimate available yet.
Burkett said he expects the proposed bond election to be held in November although council members could decide to call an election as early as May 2010.
North East ISD OKs five improvement projects
The North East Independent School District in San Antonio recently authorized five construction and renovation projects. A $498 million bond approved in 2007 will fund the improvement projects.
The approved projects include installing new roofs on two buildings at Lee High School at a cost of about $425,967, renovating a building for the district's police department for about $1.37 million and building a $1.12 million addition to the fine arts facility at Churchill High School, said Larry Pearce (pictured), director for construction management for the district. The roofing renovations, which now cost 55 percent less than the original cost estimates in 2006, are slated to begin in June 2010 and be completed by August 2010.
The surplus bond funding will be placed in a fund created to cover costs for bond projects that exceed price projections, Pearce said. Renovations to the police facility, which include expanding bathroom space and replacing the heating ventilation and air conditioning system for the 9,609-square-foot space are an example of a project that is costing more than the original estimate of $1.07 million, Pearce said.
San Antonio postpones vote on nuclear reactor funding
City of San Antonio officials have postponed their decision on financing of two nuclear reactors proposed by CPS Energy, after they learned the cost has gone up as much as $4 billion. The decision is now expected to be made early next year.
Utility officials only learned in the last week or so that the main contractor had advised the project costs would be significantly higher than the original $13 billion estimate. The council had intended to approve $400 million in bond financing this week until it learned of the increase. CPS has spent approximately $280 million on the project already for engineering and planning.
Midland ISD takes second look at facility needs, election
After deciding two months ago not to call a bond election to meet facility needs identified by a planning committee, trustees for the Midland Independent School District are taking another look at facility needs, early childhood education, community education and a possible bond election.
The Community Strategic Planning Committee devised the 10-year master facilities plan working with a consultant. The committee recommended expanding early childhood offerings, building new schools to accommodate growth, reducing the use of portable buildings and reconfiguring grades and athletic needs. Trustees began discussions on asking voters in November to approve $62.3 million in bonds to pay for the projects, but decided against calling the bond election because of the troubled economy and a timeframe too short to educate the public about the need.
One example of what is needed to improve the academic standing of the district is to upgrade technology, noted one board member. The district currently has about 2,500 computers available for 21,000 students while the recommendation is that the district have a computer for every four to five students, noted Superintendent Sylvester Perez (pictured).
Terrell using tax increment financing for new hospital
The Terrell Economic Development Corporation recently approved tax increment financing for five developer-partners to help the proposed Baylor Medical Center at Terrell become a reality.
The five partners - the Baylor Health Care System, Terrell Market Center, Oakmont Capital Group, Fulton Anderson and Terrell Wally - applied for $1 billion of tax increment financing to develop more than 4.7 million square feet of retail and commercial development, including a 100-bed hospital, said Terrell city officials. The projects are approved and it is a matter of when they start to develop, said Danny Booth, president of the Terrell Economic Development Corporation.
The proposed hospital would be the largest regional medical facility serving Kaufman County and the East Texas region west of Tyler. The hospital, which could be expanded to 400 beds if needed, will anchor additional medical office, retail, hotel and other commercial development. Developers have purchased land and are bringing utilities to the site with a goal of beginning construction of the retail development to begin in 2010.
Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD approves upgrades
Trustees for the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District recently authorized repairs and upgrades to several facilities using savings from the district's $207 million bond referendum approved in 2006.
The repairs and renovations include replacing broken sewer lines at Wilder Intermediate School, upgrading athletic facilities at Dobie Junior High and Clemens High School, responding to fine arts needs throughout the district and paying for the design of two other projects, said Superintendent Belinda Pustka (pictured).
While no cost estimates were available for the sewer line repairs at Wilder Intermediate, the athletic and fine arts upgrades are estimated to cost about $625,000. Renovations to the Dobie kitchen will add about 1,000 square feet of cooler and freezer storage space and provide upgrades to the restrooms to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Doby renovations are expected to cost about $226,500.
Mission ISD begins superintendent search via survey
The board of trustees for the Mission Independent School District recently began its search for a new superintendent by launching an online survey asking for input on qualities residents want in a new superintendent.
Trustees hired a consultant to help conduct the search for a new superintendent after Superintendent Oscar Rodriguez announced that he would like to leave the district as soon as possible to move to Dallas, where his wife has accepted employment. His contract does not expire until June.
Board members set a Nov. 2 deadline for receiving resumes and hope to name a lone finalist by Dec. 16.
Huntsville ISD moving ahead with $7.8 million bond sale
Trustees for the Huntsville Independent School District recently scheduled a meeting to discuss details on the sale and issue of $7.8 million in bonds to pay for improvements to the high school.
The district received approval of the Qualified School Construction Bond funds in early October, said Superintendent Richard Montgomery (pictured.) Funding from the bonds will pay for construction of facilities for the high school's career and technology education, athletics and band departments and for renovations to the special education department, computer labs, science labs and security upgrades, Montgomery said.
The district is hiring an architect and plans to make a recommendation on that position to the board in November, Montgomery said.
Waco ISD OKs design plan for new elementary
Trustees for Waco Independent School District recently approved the design plan for the new $13.3 million Dean Highland Elementary School. Voters in 2008 approved bonds to pay for the new building to replace the current school built in 1917.
The new red brick building will feature classroom sections, or pods, arranged according to grade, a playground for pre-kindergarten students and a play area on adjoining property. Demolition of the old facility will begin this summer, with construction of the new building following shortly, said officials in the Waco ISD. The new building should be open for students for the 2011-12 academic year.
Trustees also authorized $1 million for renovation and expansion of the cafeteria and the addition of a bus pick-up and drop-off area at Mountainview Elementary School.
Here's something not available anywhere else in Texas!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
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Texas Contractors Opportunity Conference noted
A half-day Texas Contractors Opportunity Conference, hosted by The University of Texas at San Antonio's SBDC Contracting Resource Center, is slated from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at the Radisson Hotel, 502 W Durango Blvd. in San Antonio. Robert Melvin, Small Business Development Director for the Governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism, will be the guest speaker and will address opportunities for economic development in Texas. The conference will address opportunities for small businesses in working with Texas state agencies. Those attending can meet with HUB procurement specialists and lenders specializing in government contracting. A Texas Procurement Panel will feature Ron Pigott, director of the Texas Procurement and Support Services and panelists Irene Maldonado, HUB Program Manager at UTSA, Arthur McDonald, HUB Coordinator at UT Austin and Berdell Collins, Business Opportunity Program Specialist, Texas Department of Transportation. Cindy Solano, SBA senior lender relations specialist, will lead an "Access to Capital" panel with officials of local banking institutions. Jack Evins of the Texas Department of Insurance will address "Disaster Readiness and Recovery" along with a local insurance representative. The event is free. To register, click here.
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.