|Volume 7, Issue 44 · Friday, November 13, 2009|
State studies move to electronic payment cards
CCG says scrapping paper warrants could save millions annually
With a goal of saving the state between $1 million and $1.5 million annually, the state's Council on Competitive Government (CCG) is studying the possibility of a common state electronic payment card (EPC) program.
The goals of such a program, according to CCG research, would be to consolidate existing EPC programs and save millions of dollars by replacing the majority of the paper warrants issued each year by state government. "The state is analyzing how to best deploy reloadable cards as a payment alternative to paper checks, at no cost to the state and no cost to the recipient," said Dustin Lanier (pictured), director of the CCG.
The CCG is the state program responsible for examining how state services are delivered, with an eye toward both improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the programs that provide services to the people of Texas and reducing state expenditures.
"This is done today in other states," said Lanier of the electronic payment card program, "and for some programs in Texas, and we're looking at the best way to make them available more broadly."[more]
Clayton Wolf to head TPWD Wildlife Department
Brings 20 years experience as wildlife biologist to new position
Clayton Wolf (pictured), Big Game Program director for the last six years with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has been named to head up the Wildlife Division of the agency, effective Monday, Nov. 16. Wolf brings 20 years of experience as a wildlife biologist to his new appointment.
"Clayton has demonstrated strong leadership skills and an inherent ability to develop consensus among diverse groups for the greater good of Texas wildlife," said TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. He called Wolf a "consummate conservation professional."
Wolf began his career with TPWD in 1993 as a district biologist for the Pineywoods area. In 2001, he became TPWD's white-tailed deer program leader where he coordinated statewide activities related to management, regulations and research efforts. As TPWD's Big Game Program director since 2003, Wolf has overseen management of Texas' internationally-acclaimed white-tailed deer herd.
Wolf earned his bachelor's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and his master's from Texas A&M University He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist with The Wildlife Society.
Don Green, senior advisor to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst
Career highlights and education: I have been fortunate to spend 30 years in Texas state government. The first 15 years of my career were as a budget analyst with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and followed by four years as the chief financial officer for the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (MHMR) and four years as the chief financial officer of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). After that, I spent six years as the director of budget and policy for the then-Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick, and have spent the last year as a senior advisor to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. I work mostly on economic development and appropriations issues these days and serve as the Lt. Governor's representative on the Bond Review Board and the Council on Competitive Government. I have also been extremely honored to serve for the last eight years as an elected board trustee for the Employee's Retirement System (ERS). I have a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and accounting as well as a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) and Master's in Public Affairs (MPA) from The University of Texas at Austin.
What I like best about my job is: being involved in major policy decisions that impact all Texans but, more importantly, I feel lucky to have worked with so many talented and good people.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: the 180 or so members of the Texas Legislature and their staffs are like one big family. Sure there are family squabbles every now and then, but by and large everyone gets along and works together.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: to make sure that you think of every question that you might be asked about whatever topic you are working on because it will prepare you when you undoubtedly get asked the one question you never thought about.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: at the Broken Spoke. I like both kinds of music, country and western - as long as it's music from about 1935 to 1975.
People would be surprised to know that: before graduating from college I had diverse jobs working as a ranch hand, at a moving company, in a paint factory, as a roadie for a band and finally as a bartender. I did all of those jobs better than any of the jobs I have had since. But at least all of my recent jobs have been in the air conditioning. The best job in the whole world is "daddy" to my daughter Jacqueline Alexis Green, who just started kindergarten.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: My favorite book of all time is How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff, for two reasons. One, because it's a real short book and two, because it taught me the valuable lesson that there are no real numbers. If you don't like that number, I have another one for you that you might like better.
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.
DPS hosts special first-ever 10-week recruit school
A special first-ever 10-week recruit school for current Texas law enforcement officers who would like to become Texas Department of Public Safety troopers is scheduled for March 28 of next year, with a Jan. 8, 2010, deadline for applications. The recruit schools for DPS generally last 28 weeks.
Graduates will be required to serve a two-year commitment in the border area where they are assigned. Candidates will earn $2,982.25 per month while in recruit training and $3,258.08 per month when they graduate. Their salary will increase to $3,935.08 per month after one year with DPS. Troopers who speak Spanish are eligible for an additional payment.
To qualify, candidates must have an active state peace officer license with intermediate certification and must meet all other eligibility requirements, including being a U.S. citizen and being at least 20 years of age. Candidates must also pass a background investigation and submit to a polygraph examination, psychological examination and physical readiness test. For more information, click here.
$250K Emerging Technology Fund grant awarded
The state is set to invest $250,000 in ActaCell Inc. through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) for the development and commercialization of a new generation of high power, rechargeable lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles.
ActaCell Inc. is partnering with The University of Texas at Austin's Mechanical Engineering Department for the technology's development.
The ETF, created in 2005, was reauthorized this legislative session with $203.5 million for the 2010-2011 biennium.
Texas state sales tax revenue down 12.8 percent
State sales tax revenue is down 12.8 percent for October compared to a year ago, according to State Comptroller Susan Combs. Texas collected $1.52 billion in sales tax revenue last month. Combs noted declines in retail trade, oil and natural gas and construction.
Combs distributed a total of $500.7 million in November sales tax rebates to cities ($342.6 million), counties ($28.2 million), transit systems ($110.4 million) and special purpose taxing districts ($19.4 million), each representing declines in their respective allocations. Local sales tax allocations are down 8.7 percent compared to a year ago.
Battleship Texas Foundation donates $2M to TPWD
The Battleship Texas Foundation has donated $2 million to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to construct a dry berth for the landmark vessel (pictured) moored at the San Jacinto battleground in LaPorte. The project involves minor structural repairs, construction of the dry berth and returning the dreadnought to where it was first berthed in 1948.
The donation comes as part of a foundation pledge of $4 million in private funds to match $25 million in Proposition 4 bonds approved by voters in 2007 to dry berth the Battleship Texas.
The foundation has agreed to donate another $2 million to TPWD next year.
New lottery scratch-off game benefits vet programs
Proceeds from a new scratch-off game being introduced by the Texas Lottery Commission will benefit the Fund for Veterans' Assistance. The patriotic symbols and red, white and blue colors on the tickets (pictured) ensure that purchasers know the instant ticket game revenues will support veterans' programs throughout the state.
The new Veterans Cash scratch-off game was created as a result of legislation from the 81st Legislature and was launched this week. The Fund for Veterans' Assistance was created in 2005 and is administered by the Texas Veterans Commission, which also distributed money from the fund to veterans' programs that include job-placement assistance, nursing care, scholarship programs, counseling services and more.
Public safety facility named DPS Tactical Training Center
Commissioners with the Texas Public Safety Commission recently named the agency's training facility in Williamson County the DPS Tactical Training Center.
The 1,009-acre campus includes a 70-acre firearms training facility built in 2002 that features a tactical firing range, a 60-point, 50-yard pistol range, a 30-point, 50-yard multipurpose range with moving targets, a tactical shoot house and three firearms training simulators.
Once completed, the new $49 million, 150-acre emergency vehicle operations course will include a 4.1-mile road course, an 11-acre large skills pad, a 5.5 acre small skills pad, a concrete skid pad with a water cannon to simulate wet-weather conditions and a 14-block urban area complete with a school zone, traffic lights and signs to replicate urban driving conditions. The new vehicle course is scheduled to open in 2010. It was authorized in a 2007 statewide bond election.
Tech names advisory committee to find HSC president
Kent Hance, chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, has named a 24-person advisory committee to assist in selecting a new president for the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). Members represent a broad spectrum of university regents, administrators and members of the community.
Nancy Neal (pictured), a member of the Texas Tech Board of Regents, will chair the committee, which also includes: J. Robert Brown, owner of Brownco Capital, LLC and former chairman of the Texas Tech Board of Regents; Paul P. Brooke, Jr., dean of the TTUHSC School of Allied Health Sciences; Jim Brunjes, vice chancellor and CFO of the Texas Tech University System; Jose Manuel de la Rosa, dean, TTUHSC Paul L. Foster School of Medicine; and Dennis B. Dove, regional chairman of the TTUSHC School of Medicine Department of Surgery, Amarillo.
Denton hopes to have rail service by summer 2011
Denton County Transportation Authority officials say passenger rail service to the city - known as the A-train project - should be up and running by summer 2011.
Dee Leggett (pictured), vice president of communications and planning for the DCTA, said officials are "confident we'll have the full line, all five stations, by mid-2011."
Problems including DCTA's reluctance to enter into agreements with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) have plagued the venture from the outset. Leggett said officials are confident they're close to resolving issues, however.
Robert Nelsen confirmed as next president of UTPA
Dr. Robert S. Nelsen (pictured) has been confirmed as the next president of The University of Texas-Pan American. He will begin his new job on Jan. 1, 2010. Nelsen currently serves as associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Nelsen succeeds Dr. Blandina Cardenas, who retired in January of this year. Charles Sorber has been serving as the interim president since February. Nelsen was named the sole finalist for the UTPA presidency on Oct. 12. He will administer a campus with an enrollment of 18,000 students.
Nelsen holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at The University of Chicago. Before joining TAMUCC in 2008, he worked for 18 years at The University of Texas at Dallas, last serving as vice provost.
Baronio joins UNT development as vice president
Lisa Birley Baronio (pictured) is the new vice president for advancement at the University of North Texas and director of development of the UNT Foundation. She will join the executive cabinet as leader of the university's fundraising efforts in January, 2010. Baronio comes to UNT from the University of Connecticut Foundation, where she was vice president for development, a position she held for four years.
At UNT, Baronio's job will be to expand the institution's private support so the university can continue to grow as a national research university. She will oversee the university's division of advancement and work closely with the UNT Foundation and UNT Alumni Association.
Baronio brings more than 16 years of experience in higher education fundraising to her new position. Before joining UConn, she was associate vice president for development at Wichita State University in Kansas. She has also served with the University of Nebraska Foundation as director of corporate relations and foundation relations. She holds bachelor's degrees from the University of Iowa and a master's from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Buja to serve as director of medical library
L. Maximilian Buja, M.D. (left), executive vice president for academic affairs at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, has been named executive director of the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center (HAM-TMC) Library, effective Dec.1.
Peter Davies, M.D., Ph.D.(right), executive vice president for research at the UT Health Science Center, will serve as interim executive vice president for academic affairs. Once Buja joins the library's Board of Directors as executive director, Davies will also assume responsibility for the Office of Academic Affairs at the UT Health Science Center and will oversee academic program development, faculty affairs, institutional accreditation and student services for the UT Health Science Center's six schools.
Buja, who has been on the university's faculty since 1989, will remain a tenured professor at the UT Health Science Center while devoting time to furthering the library's mission. The university is one of eight governing institutions of the HAM-TMC Library. He joined the UTHSC faculty in 1989 as professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School in Houston. In 1996, he began a seven-year stint as dean of the UT Medical School. He has served in his current position since 2003.
Distance learning, telemedicine projects funded
Five Texas projects are among 111 in 35 states that will share $34.9 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program. The funding, designed to increase educational opportunities and access to health care services in rural areas, totals nearly $1.5 million in Texas. The grant program provides access to education, training and health care resources in rural areas.
Texas recipients include:
Howe named president emeritus at UTHSC-San Antonio
Dr. John P. Howe, III, M.D. (pictured), who served as president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC-SA) from 1985 to 2000, has been named by the UT Board of Regents to receive the honorary designation of president emeritus, a title bestowed based on exemplary service.
A board-certified physician in internal medicine and cardiology, Howe earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Boston University School of Medicine in 1969. Following a two-year stint in the Army Medical Corps, he completed the Health Systems Management Program at the Harvard Business School. Before joining UTHSC-SA, he was vice chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School at Worcester.
"Dr. Howe laid the platform for the transformation of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio into a great place to teach, to learn and to do nationally and internationally recognized research," said UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. "He is most deserving of this honor and we are very grateful for his service with the UT System and his continuing service to the greater good." Howe is currently president and chief executive officer of Project HOPE, an organization that provides health educational opportunities worldwide in an effort to solve health problems.
UT System regents appoint Gary to UTIMCO
Printice L. Gary (pictured), a member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents, has been appointed to the board of directors of The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO). He succeeds Regent Colleen McHugh, who served on the board for four years.
Gary joins Regents Vice Chair Paul Foster and Regent Janiece Longoria as appointees of the UT System Board of Regents. Gary has been a regent since November 2007. He received a bachelor's degree from Carleton College and holds an MBA from Harvard University.
UTIMCO is a 501(c)(3) investment management corporation that manages investment assets under the fiduciary care of the Board of Regents. It invests endowment and operating funds currently valued at approximately $20.89 billion.
UT Arlington events center design approved
The design for the new $78 million special events center (pictured) at The University of Texas at Arlington was approved this week by the UT System Board of Regents. Groundbreaking is slated for the spring of 2010, with an opening date of early 2012 expected. The center will seat up to 6,500 and serve as the home court for UT Arlington Mavericks basketball and volleyball teams, for commencement exercises and other community events.
The 218,000-square-foot center is designed with numerous "green" features. It includes low-emittance glazed windows, a reflective roof that will reduce the solar load on the building and a low-use water system. The building also will feature regional materials and native landscaping.
The center will open onto a new pedestrian mall on what is now Second Street between Center and Pecan streets. A four-story, mixed-use residence hall and parking garage will be built immediately north of the events center. UT Arlington is partnering with the City of Arlington to develop a pedestrian parkway along Center Street and a green space on the building's south side.
Capital Metro board gains three new members
The board of directors of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization recently approved the appointment of three new members to the new board. New members are Frank Fernandez (left), a manager of a nonprofit group working for affordable housing, John Langmore (middle), an attorney who is a transportation and land use consultant and Mike Martinez (right), an Austin city council member.
The CAMPO board last month appointed Leander Mayor John Cowman to represent small cities in Capital Metro's service area. The Austin City Council is expected to appoint two more members by Dec. 10 or Dec. 17. Both Travis and Williamson County commissioners are expected to announce their selections for Capital Metro board members by mid-December.
Northside ISD to sell $85.4 million in bonds
Trustees for the Northside Independent School District recently authorized the sale of $85.4 million in bonds to pay for school construction projects, refinance debt and pay for the cost of issuing the bonds.
District officials plan to sell $14.6 million in unlimited tax school building bonds, $28.3 million in unlimited tax school building bonds, $15.4 million in unlimited tax refunding bonds and $28 million in unlimited tax qualified school construction bonds. Voters in May 2007 approved a $693 million bond issue. The current bond sale is the sixth installment of that bond referendum.
Pflugerville may scale back $18 million detention pond
After freezing unessential spending in October, Pflugerville City Council members recently began looking at less expensive alternatives to a proposed $18 million regional detention pond that was originally estimated to cost $2.6 million.
Mayor Jeff Coleman (pictured) said a scaled-back alternative plan costing from $2.3 million to $7.6 million would still place the project over budget, but would permit the city to begin normal spending again. Council members instructed city staff to hire an outside group to review the cost projections to determine if they are accurate and reasonable.
If the costs projections are correct, council could vote in two weeks to move forward with one of the alternative plans, said Coleman, who said he prefers a third alternate, a $2.6 million plan that would meet the need for storm water runoff or a fifth alternate costing $6.9 million that includes some road construction. The city has already spent $1.2 million on engineering work for the project, he said. If the project costs are close to the low end of the estimate, the city can pay for the detention pond from savings, but will need to issue bonds in 2011 to pay for the project if the project costs are on the higher end of the estimate, Coleman said.
Hunt County to seek $100,000 federal grant
Hunt County commissioners recently agreed to accept a $100,000 grant authorized by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Funding from the grant may be used to develop and implement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions in the county, said Judge John L. Horn. Commissioners recently discussed replacing old boiler systems in the courthouse, but are still in the process of selecting projects for the grant funds, Horn said.
Kunkle retiring in April as police chief in Dallas
Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle (pictured) recently announced plans to retire from that position in April 2010. Kunkle assumed the position of chief of police in 2004.
Kunkle also served as police chief in Grand Prairie and Arlington and served as deputy city manager in Arlington prior to accepting the position of police chief in Dallas in June 2004.
City Manager Mary Suhm said she has begun a nationwide search for a new chief and believes internal candidates also will apply for the job. Suhm praised Kunkle for promoting and preparing talented officers for leadership in the department and for an increase of 700 police officers in the department since he became chief.
El Paso to seek $1.6 million state homeless grant
El Paso city officials recently agreed to apply for a $1.6 million state grant to help the homeless. Texas legislators approved a $20 million grant program designed for eight cities, including Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, said Bill Lilly, director of the city's Community and Human Development Department.
The grant, if approved, will be used to reimburse nonprofit homeless shelters and other agencies that provide assistance to homeless people, Lilly said. The grant funding can be used to pay for rent, purchase equipment and supplies and to provide counseling, drug and alcohol programs, transportation and job training, said Connie Jimenez, a grant planner for the city. About 39 percent of the homeless in El Paso are families, she noted, an increase from 31 percent two years ago.
Beaumont Housing Authority wins $1.26 million grant
The Beaumont Housing Authority recently won a $1.26 million Public Housing Capital Fund grant authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development awarded the grant.
Proceeds from the grant will be used to upgrade and renovate a 94-unit public housing property designated for the elderly and disabled, said Robert Reyna (pictured), executive director of the housing authority. Renovations will increase energy efficiency as well as improve the appearance and habitability of the housing complex. The upgrades to the facility for the elderly and disabled also include a new roof and interior and exterior paint. Work on the project should be completed by January 2010.
Elgin seeking $1.5M grant for downtown green space
Elgin city officials recently agreed to apply for a $1.5 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation Enhancement Program to purchase and improve property to create a downtown green space.
The proposed expanded downtown green space includes Elgin Veterans' Memorial Park and adjacent areas bordered by Depot Street and Central Avenue, which are the property of Union Pacific Railroad. The city has used much of the property, including two city streets, for years. If approved, the grant will be used to add public restrooms, landscaping, lighting, parking and a trailhead for a planned hike and bike trail. The grant will require a 20 percent contribution from the city, the city manager said.
Houston districts win $5M grant for pedestrian projects
The Houston-Galveston Area Council recently awarded the Upper Kirby District and Uptown Houston $5 million each in federal stimulus funds to help fund the two Livable Centers projects designed to improve infrastructure for pedestrians.
The federal stimulus funding will be added to local funds to pay for streetscape and lighting improvements, pedestrian safety and handicapped access to transportation and other features that promote walking rather than taking short automobile trips in both of the districts in Houston, said a spokesman for HGAC.
The grant can be used for shelters, benches, signage, lighting, waste receptacles and pavement for transit stops, benches, bike racks and waste receptacles to improve streetscapes, and such projects as sidewalk repair, building new sidewalks, adding accessible ramps at intersections, landscaping and restoration of historical monuments.
Comal Co. residents split on proposed new justice center
Following a public hearing on a proposed $37.8 million justice center in Comal County, opponents of a decision by commissioners to issue certificates of obligation are facing a Nov. 17 deadline for obtaining enough signatures on a petition to require a May 2010 public vote on the project. Opponents must collect signatures from 5 percent of the county's registered voters, or between 2,000 to 3,000 signatures.
Commissioner Jay Millikin (pictured) defended the decision to issue certificates of obligation to pay for the justice center, an adjacent parking lot and the cost of acquiring land. Millikin said that providing security for judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and others who use the justice center is the first priority for commissioners, but that beginning construction sooner will take advantage of lower construction and finance costs.
If the petition drive fails, construction could begin as early as February 2010 and continue for 12 to 18 months, Millikin said. The proposed justice center is planned to include six courtrooms, an office for the district attorney and staff, the district clerk's office and a secure area in the lower level of the building to hold prisoners.
Mesquite approves design for renovation of school
Trustees for the Mesquite Independent School District recently approved the design plan to renovate an elementary school to double its size and add a new gymnasium, computer lab, another multipurpose room, a second music room and a new main entrance to the facility.
Once completed, the elementary school will feature 41 classrooms and will grow another 42,500 square feet of space from its current 43,000 square feet. District officials plan to open bids for construction of the new school in spring 2010. Voters approved funding for the project in a 2007 bond election.
The renovation will be done in three phases over a two-year period, district staff said. Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2010 and be completed in August 2010. The first phase will be construction of the new building addition while phase two will be the new library. Phase three will renovate the remaining building, including an addition for a new kitchen.
University of North Texas System relocating to Dallas
Regents for the University of North Texas System recently agreed to move the governing board and other divisions of the system from Denton to downtown Dallas.
UNT Chancellor Lee Jackson (pictured) said moving all system personnel to downtown Dallas will centralize the system office and provide a more neutral location for representatives of all of the campuses in the system. The new location also will be more convenient and business-like, Jackson said. The UNT System consists of UNT-Denton, the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth, the University Center in Dallas and the UNT Dallas campus. Some system employees, including administrators and employees of the Board of Regents, chancellor's office, general counsel's office and some planning offices moved to Dallas in August.
While Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm, a UNT alumna, praised the UNT System's decision to move to Dallas, Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs said the move most likely will have a negative effect on Denton and UNT, saying the move indicates an intent to shift the main campus of the university from Denton to Dallas.
El Paso names new members to Public Service Board
El Paso City Council members recently selected four new members to the Public Service Board, which oversees four water utilities using a $253 million budget and 800 employees.
Council members appointed Edward Escudero, chief executive officer of a finance company and chief finance officer of a distributing company, Richard Schoephoerster, dean of the College of Engineering at The University of Texas-El Paso, Ruth Katherine Brennand, a former business owner and community volunteer and Rick Bonart, CEO of a software company and owner of an animal clinic.
The appointments become effective on Jan. 1, 2010. Two of the new board members will serve two-year terms and two will serve four-year terms. Board members will draw straws to determine which term each will service.
Willis ISD approves $956,200 for three projects
Trustees for the Willis Independent School District recently approved $956,200, including some remaining bond funds, to pay for three projects to improve athletic facilities, increase accessibility and improve drainage.
The newly approved projects include $770,000 to renovate the softball field, including a dugout, grandstands, press box, fencing, bullpen, batting cages, ticket booth, scoreboard, flagpole, sidewalks, handicap parking and accessibility improvements at the high school, said Superintendent Brian Zemlicka (pictured). The board also approved $56,200 to install a ramp at the stadium to conform to requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and $130,000 for underground drainage and slope work, he said.
Board members also authorized seeking a bid for a parking lot project estimated to cost about $157,000. Trustees plan to use $1.006 million in the fund balance to pay for the approved projects. About $256,834 of that fund balance comes from savings from a $39.98 million bond election voters approved in 2006.
Lake Jackson gathers input on proposed $7M bond
Lake Jackson City Council members recently held a public meeting to gather information on a possible $7 million bond proposal to pay for street and drainage projects.
The proposed plan presented by the Citizens Bond Task Force recommends that $3 million in bonds be sold in 2010 and $4 million in 2013, said City Manager Bill Yenne. City officials hope to spend $2 million on drainage projects in the central part of the city, Yenne said. The drainage project is necessary for the Texas Department of Transportation to complete the expansion of SH 288 because the state requires that the highway be capable of handling a 100-year storm.
Another $1 million of the proposed bond funds will be used to repair streets negatively impacted by the drought, he said. A $4 million bond will pay for three streets to be completed and several more street improvements.
Corpus Christi seeks input on Packery Channel plan
Corpus Christi city engineers recently organized a round of meetings to give residents a chance to share their opinions on the proposed $2.5 million plan to build parking spaces, overlooks, walkways and navigation aids along Packery Channel.
The public input will be included in a five-year island improvement plan city engineers are developing to present to city council members no later than January 2010. Funds collected from the Packery Channel tax reinvestment zone will pay for the proposed improvements. The fund now has a $7.6 million balance, but city officials said they need to set aside almost $4 million to pay for dredging costs and to finance bonds.
Council members also approved a contract to widen Zahn Road, a beach access road north of Packery Channel. Council members agreed to use a $1 million contribution from a developer, income from city developer fees and funding from 2008 bond projects that came in under budget to pay for the Zahn Road project.
Travis Co. approves $40M bond issuance for pipeline
Travis County commissioners have approved a $40 million bond issuance enabling the construction of a 52-mile water pipeline that would transport water to Manor from Caldwell County. Officials have approved the bonds for a nonprofit to oversee the pipeline. More than 95 percent of the land needed for the pipeline has been purchased.
It could be the best thing in diversifying the water supply in northeastern Travis County, Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt (pictured) said. The pipeline is expected to spur development along State Highway 130.
Kerrville looks to ward off water restrictions
The City of Kerrville may ward off Stage 3 water restriction if plans for a third aquifer-storage and recovery well produces an additional million gallons of water needed to weather the next drought. The Stage 3 water restrictions implemented in August were lifted last week.
The city is in planning stages of constructing a third aquifer storage and recovery well (ASR) set to be up and running next year. The well will probably not be operational by next summer's peak water demands, however. The city could possibly have enough water supply to avoid Stage 3 restrictions if a combination of ASR wells and production wells are able to produce a million gallons of water collectively.
USPS announces price hikes for some services
United States Postal Service rates are set to rise next year. Postage stamps will remain 44 cents, but Express Mail flat envelopes will rise from $17.50 to $18.30. Other Express Mail prices based on weight will go up as well.
The Postal Service will also introduce cubic volume-based pricing for large volume commercial Priority Mail shippers based on box size, meaning customers who ship small, dense packages will receive financial incentives.
Priority Mail prices are set to rise 3.3 percent overall. Prices for First-Class mail, Standard Mail and Parcel Post are not slated to change in 2010.
USDA awards Erath schools $1.3M in loans
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Erath schools $1.3 million in loans through the agency's Community Facilities Direct Loan Program, part of its Rural Development outreach. The funds will be used for the construction of a new 14,000-square-foot building to house the Erath Excels! Academy. USDA Rural Development Director Johnny Smith presented the check during a recent ground-breaking ceremony.
"Erath Excels! Academy has provided an education for many special students in leased facilities that were not built for educational purposes," said Weldon Huston, academy board president. Click here for more information about the USDA's Rural Development programs.
Mansfield residents support proposed school auditorium
Speaking at a city council meeting, several Mansfield residents recently supported a proposed $39 million school auditorium to be built at a planned 1.2 million-square-foot retail complex in the city. The city council and school board members have negotiated on the projects for almost two months, and school trustees set a deadline of Nov. 17 to reach an agreement on the project.
The president of Discover Historic Mansfield Inc. said the retail location would benefit both the school district and the retailers by attracting more patrons. Two other residents, however, questioned whether the proposed project would cause more traffic congestion in the area.
Council members may meet in a special council meeting before the deadline date to continue working on issues such as the proposed land swap between the city and school district and the building of roads and other infrastructure for the project, said Mayor David Cook (pictured).
Lone Star College to begin $79 million in expansions
Trustees for the Lone Star College System recently agreed to begin expansions at LSC-Montgomery and construction of the New LSC-Aldine Center.
The $78 million LSC-Montgomery project includes a new 60,000-square-foot science and health building, a 20,000-square-foot arts center with a performance hall, teaching and rehearsal rooms and a 75,000-square-foot, two-story instructional classroom facility. The LSC-Aldine Center project includes an $800,000, 50,000-square-foot hub for workforce and academic preparation located on 17 acres of land purchased in September for $1.8 million.
New Braunfels questions costs for golf upgrades
New Braunfels City Council members recently questioned the $740,000 cost of design services on the renovation of the Land Park Municipal Golf course. City staff requested the council to approve paying for the design, archaeological studies and construction engineering necessary before proceeding with a $5.6 million renovation of the city-owned golf course. Council members instructed city staff to find cost reductions before the renovation project can move forward. Council members also asked to schedule workshops with the design group to explain why the contract cost was so high.
The proposed design includes changing the terrain of the course, adding new bunkers, upgrading drainage and the irrigation system. The cost of the design and construction is estimated to be about $6.3 million, said Parks Director Stacey Laird-Dicke (pictured). The New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation has agreed to pay for the design services and approved allocating $800,000 originally set aside for a new irrigation system to pay for the design costs.
If City Council members approve the design this fall, construction could begin in October 2010, the parks director said. The golf course will be closed for a year while construction is under way, she added.
Crowley approves park trail, plans for rec center
The Crowley City Council recently approved funding for a new $1.5 million one-mile bike trail to connect Bicentennial Park to Teeter Park. Council members also approved design plans for a new recreation center. A federal stimulus grant awarded through the Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program will pay 80 percent of the $1.5 million cost of the bike trail project, which is scheduled to begin construction in March 2010 and be completed in September 2011. The approved design for the new multipurpose recreation center includes a double gym and suspended walking track, banquet rooms, childcare centers and a kitchen.
Longview ISD trustees propose indoor practice facility
A trustee for the Longview Independent School District recently urged school officials to build an indoor practice facility to accommodate field sports rather than continuing with the current plan to remodel a gymnasium with synthetic turf.
Some parents and students are concerned that the Green Gym at Longview High School may be remodeled with a rubberized floor instead of synthetic turf, John Preston (pictured), a board member said. A rubberized floor would accommodate basketball and volleyball, but will not support field sports, said the director of extracurricular activities at the district. He also pointed out that basketball and volleyball teams can practice at another stadium, while those who participate in track and field and other outdoor sports have nowhere to practice during bad weather. Trustees took no action on the suggestion and several board members said they will need more community input before making a decision on a new indoor practice facility.
Austin eyeing new dash cameras for patrol vehicles
Austin city officials recently began considering a recommendation by the Austin Police Association to buy a new digital vehicle camera system to replace the old video cameras now installed in police patrol vehicles. The recommendation followed an announcement from Police Chief Art Acevedo of a policy change that requires officers to enable their vehicle camera system in certain situations or face increased disciplinary penalties such as termination. No estimate was available on the cost of a new video system. Council members are considering whether to put a new video system in all patrol vehicles or only in vehicles that patrol high-crime areas. Police Association officials support placing the proposed new digital camera system in all vehicles.
Flower Mound approves site plan for field house
Members of the Flower Mound Town Council recently approved a site plan sought by the Lewisville Independent School District for a 17,000-square-foot field house for Flower Mound High School. Council members, however, denied the school district's request for a waiver for a requirement for underground utility lines. School district officials asked for the waiver based on an estimate that the cost of the lines could range from $50,000 to $1.2 million. However, a district official said he is confident the estimated cost will be about $500,000 to install the underground utility lines.
Carol Kyer (pictured), president of the school board, told council members that if the school district is required to add an additional $500,000 cost to the field house project, it may prevent the project from moving forward or could delay it for five years to determine if enough money is left from the approved bonds to proceed. The district is facing an $18 million deficit, she said.
Sealy moving forward on plans for new I-10 frontage
Sealy city officials are moving forward with plans to build a new frontage road on IH-10 running west from Highway 36 beginning as early as spring 2010. City officials plan to present the final project plan to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for approval within two weeks, said City Manager Chris Coffman. Council members previously approved paying up to $11,000 for a traffic study required for the project. If TxDOT approves the plan for the frontage road, the Federal Highway Administration also must approve before the city can complete design of the project and begin construction, Coffman said. Once the project is complete, the frontage road will be turned over to TxDOT for maintenance after the agency completes its plan to create an I-10 frontage road system. The new frontage road will fit into TxDOT plans for a frontage road system.
The project was originally estimated to cost about $1.4 million and the Sealy Economic Development Corporation agreed to pay $500,000 of the cost. A local developer has agreed to donate the land needed for right-of-way and pay for half of the project's cost. Coffman said he estimated construction costs of the project have decreased by as much as 10 percent since planning on the project first began.
Beeville hires Ginter as new city manager
Beeville City Council members recently selected Tom Ginter as the new city manager. Ginter, who has 20 years of experience in municipal government, recently served as interim director of public works in Port Aransas. Ginter has a bachelor's degree from Millikin University and a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma.
Demands on technology chiefs huge - triage is the norm!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Technology problems at governmental agencies are very similar to the ones large private sector firms struggle with regularly. But, in government, sometimes the challenges are greater. Public entities today have significant financial constraints, very little control of their budgets and lots of regulatory and transparency requirements.
The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) is required to coordinate and oversee the use of technology for all state agencies. That is a big task! Recently, the agency released its 2010-2014 State Strategic Plan for Information Resource Management, which is always of high interest. Agency executives want to know what DIR hopes to accomplish and companies that sell technology products and services want to know what agencies plan to purchase in the coming months.
Some of the most interesting information found in the document is data gathered by polling executive officers, information resources managers and others who work with technology. It provides insight into executive concerns and gives vendors a peek into what technology leaders want to accomplish in the months to come. Interestingly enough, what concerns government technology chiefs in Texas is pretty much the same as what troubles their counterparts throughout the country. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers reports technology executives throughout the country are most concerned about security for networks and systems, management of electronic records and cost control.[more]
Kovacs leaving Port Aransas for job in Park City, Utah
Port Aransas City Manager Michael Kovacs (pictured) is giving up sun and sand for mountains and snow, as he is leaving Port Aransas to accept an assistant city manager position in Park City, Utah. Kovacs, a public management professional for a dozen years, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He has progressively moved up the ladder in city management.
Kovacs served as a city and town administrator in Presidio, Texas, and Surfside Beach, South Carolina, before landing in Port Aransas. In Park City, his job will be assisting with leading self-managed teams of department directors and staff, facilitating communication between the city and its citizens and guests, guiding the city's state and federal lobbying efforts, providing assistance to the emergency management team, serving as the city manager in the city manager's absence and other duties. Park City Municipal Corporation has a staff of 350 employees and an annual budget of more than $46 million.
Dallas partnership takes
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.