|Volume 7, Issue 47 · Friday, December 11, 2009|
A TGI exclusive...
Some state contractors face loss of TXMAS contracts
State Comptroller's Office offers retention options for vendors
Proposed cancellation of approximately 300 Texas Multiple Award Schedule (TXMAS) contracts was simply a contract management effort, according to officials of State Comptroller Susan Combs' office. The Comptroller of Public Account (CPA) has limited resources dedicated to contract management support, said Ron Pigott (pictured), director of the Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) Division of the CPA. Pigott said he expected "some concern" from vendors when his letter announcing the proposed cancellations went out earlier this month, but added that he didn't think it would be "a big problem."
Vendors who hold TXMAS contracts can contract with the state without having to go through the competitive bid process because they already have an approved federal GSA (General Services Administration) contract. But on Dec. 1, Pigott sent out letters to some of those TXMAS contractors saying their contracts would be terminated. The letter said that those scheduled for termination "did not achieve a significant level of sales activity during the past year."
Pigott's letter indicated that "resources dedicated to contract management support are limited," and noted that state statutes require TPASS "to focus on high volume contracts or contracts with significant dollar value." He added that in the future, vendors whose contracts were set for termination would "most likely be sourced in the future through a competitive basis."[more]
DHS Security Preparedness Grant funds announced
$2.7 billion available through 13 different federal programs
More than $2.7 billion in 13 different grant programs is up for grabs for state and local governments, private sector entities and others through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Preparedness Grants. The federal agency this week announced the 2010 funding opportunities that are aimed at strengthening the United States' ability to prevent, protect, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, disasters and other emergencies.
Grant applicants can choose from a baker's dozen grant programs with available funding. Each of the 13 grant programs can be used to fund a variety of activities including planning, organization, equipment purchases training, exercises, etc.
New York got the lion's share of funding from the largest pot of money - $842 million in the State Homeland Security Program grant funds. More than $113.5 million of that is headed to the West Coast. California ranked second with an allocation of nearly $107.5 million and Texas was a distant third with $57.1 million.
Patricia V. Hayes, Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations and Educational Policy, Texas State University System
Career highlights and education: In my current position, I represent the interests of the System, the Board of Regents and the eight component institutions before the Texas Legislature and state agencies. Previously, I served as the Associate Commissioner for Educator Quality and P-16 Initiatives at the Texas Education Agency where I directed all aspects of educator quality in the state as well as coordinated educational policy efforts between Pre-K to 12 public education and higher education entities. One of the greatest challenges of my career was in this position as I was responsible for the integration of a small agency into a larger more established one and there were lots of issues to resolve in the process. Also served as the director of the P-16 Coordination Office within TEA. Before joining TEA, I represented Texas private colleges and universities on legal and policy matters before the legislature as well as served as a staff attorney and legislative liaison for classroom teachers. I also served the state in a variety of legislative capacities including as a legal intern in the Office of the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, as director of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education and as the Special Assistant for Education to former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff. Earned my law degree from the George McConnell School of Law at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in government from The University of Texas at Austin.
What I like best about my job is: Learning about new issues affecting higher education policy and using that knowledge to advise my chancellor and Board of Regents in making strategic decisions to provide the best affordable, quality education to our students.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Knowing when to say "when" and learning how to stop taking your work home - a difficult task considering I work in governmental relations! A husband and two small children have helped me learn that lesson much quicker.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: To be confident in your abilities to do the job and not be intimidated by those with years more experience. We all still have plenty to learn.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: wandering the aisles of the local bookstore. My reading list is never-ending and my house is living proof!
People would be surprised to know that I: have a creative streak and enjoy making handmade stationery for relaxation.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: My latest magazine obsession is Success magazine. It is full of motivational, inspirational and educational information with thought-provoking action items for anyone interested in personal improvement. My current book companion is Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham. It is a fascinating read that challenges the status quo on what it means to be "successful" professionally and personally. He proposes that if you identify and focus on your personal strengths first, include them actively in the choices you make and the priorities you set daily, then you can actually have the full and successful life that most people strive for every day. For as Martha Washington once stated, "The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances."
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Dee Ellis chosen as Texas' state veterinarian
Rockdale veterinarian Dee Ellis (pictured) has been named Texas' new state veterinarian and executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The agency is the state's livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. He replaces Dr. Bob Hillman, who will retire at the end of this month.
Ellis has a farming and dairy background and worked as a TAHC animal health inspector while earning his degree in animal science from what is now Texas State University-San Marcos. He later earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Texas A&M University.
He entered private practice as an associate veterinarian in Gonzales, but later returned to TAHC as a field veterinarian in Wharton. He was eventually promoted to area director for Central Texas, and held that position for 18 years. In 2002, he completed a master's degree in public administration from Texas State and the following year transferred to the TAHC Austin headquarters as staff veterinarian. A year later he moved up to assistant state veterinarian.
State sales tax figures continue downhill slide
State sales tax receipts continue to decline, according to figures released today, Friday, by the State Comptroller's Office. The state collected $1.7 billion in sales taxes in November, down 14.4 percent compared to the same month last year. The final sales tax allocation for 2009 leaves local sales tax revenue at $5.6 billion for the year. That is 5.1 percent lower than the annual figure for 2008. November state sales tax collections and December sales tax allocations to local governments represent sales that occurred in October.
Cities, counties, special purpose districts and transit systems received $417.1 million in December sales tax allocations, down 14.6 percent compared to December 2008. Texas cities received tax allocations of $279.6 million for December, down 14.9 percent compared to the same month last year. Counties' December sales tax allocations were down 20.2 percent from the same month last year, totaling $24.6 million.
Ten local transit systems received December sales tax allocations of $96.5 million, down 12.1 percent from December 2008. Another $16.3 million went to 163 special purpose taxing districts, a decrease of 15.4 percent compared to last December.
Huffines to relinquish role as chair of UT regents
James Huffines (pictured), chair of The University of Texas System Board of Regents, has announced he will relinquish his chairmanship in March. Huffines was appointed as a regent in 2003 and has since served two terms as chair. He plans to continue to serve on the board.
Two vice chairs of the regents - Paul Foster and Colleen McHugh - are considered possible candidates to succeed Huffines.
TETF makes $5M investment in Mirna company
A $5 million investment from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund has been made in Mirna Therapeutics, Inc., according to Gov. Rick Perry's office. The money will be used for the development and commercialization of the company's biopharmaceutical research in micro ribonucleic acid (RNA) treatments for cancer.
Mirna is currently developing a cancer treatment that introduces synthetic micro RNA, or miRNA, back into tumors to trigger their death. The treatment would focus on inflammatory, cardiovascular, ophthalmic, metabolic, neurological and infectious diseases.
Mirna is partnering with The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas Southwestern and The University of Texas at Austin to develop the therapy.
TxDOT nixes funding on three Denton County projects
After officials of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently removed funding allocations for three road projects scheduled for Denton County, local leaders began looking for ways to keep the budget shortfalls from impacting the county road projects.
The road projects put on hold are on FM 407, SH 114 and I-35E, said the county's transportation consultant, who blamed increasing costs, a stable gasoline tax and the number of road construction projects in the state as the reason why TxDOT pulled funding for the three Denton County projects.
To proceed with the projects, county officials will need to pay for the roadwork from revenue received from the SH121 toll road, the consultant said. TxDOT officials plan to reimburse the county when construction on US377 begins, he added.
Corpus Christi panel appointed to improve local economy
Confronted with an estimated $7 million budget shortfall this year, Corpus Christi City Manager Angel Escobar recently appointed a 26-member advisory committee of community and business leaders to find ways to help stimulate the local economy.
Comprised of representatives from small business, real estate, banking and education, committee members will consider citizen suggestions such as shopping locally, fast-tracking government projects that create jobs, helping local businesses and attracting more visitors to the city.
City officials expect as much as a $5 million decline in sales tax revenue to the city, with sales tax revenues decreasing by 14 percent in August and September, 11 percent more than the 3 percent decline estimated by city staff. The city also faces an additional $2.3 million bill for higher costs from the Texas Municipal Retirement System and $3.7 million in liability from the cost of retirement health benefits, said Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez (pictured).
TAC installs new officers, board members
The Texas Association of Counties (TAC) recently installed Roberts County Judge Vernon Cook as the 2010-2011 president of the statewide association. Cook previously served on the Miami City Council and on the board of trustees of the Miami Independent School District.
TAC board members also elected Betsy Price, tax assessor-collector for Tarrant County, as the president-elect and re-elected Travis County Constable Bruce Elfant to serve a second term as vice president.
Serving on the 2010 board of directors are Oldham County Judge Don Allred, Tom Green County Judge Mike Brown, Bell County Judge Jon Burrows, El Paso County Auditor Edward Dixon, Sutton County District Attorney Laurie English, Hidalgo County Constable Larry Gallardo, Calhoun County Commissioner Roger Galvan, Brazoria County Clerk Joyce Hudman, Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss, Navarro County Justice of the Peace Connie Mayfield, McLennan County Commissioner Ray Meadows, Tom Green County Treasurer Dianna Spieker, Victoria County District Clerk Cathy Stuart, Tarrant County Commissioner J.D. Johnson, immediate past president and ex-officio member. Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks is representative to the National Association of Counties (NACo) and ex officio member, Brazos County Commissioner Marc Hamlin, representative to NACo and ex officio member, and Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestage, NACo representative and ex-officio member.
Tarrant County College to offer weekend courses
Tarrant County College is preparing to introduce weekend courses designed for working individuals. The classes begin next semester at TCC's Northeast and Trinity River campuses and will enable students to take core courses as needed on weekends. The credits will transfer to four-year institutions or earn students an associate's degree.
"I knew there would be a number of people out there who couldn't go to classes during the week for various reasons," said interim TCC Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley (pictured), who has propelled the initiative and was instrumental in launching the program next month.
Tahita Fulkerson, president of the Trinity River Campus, said community colleges should not mirror four-year universities in the design of their curriculum. The weekend college program is designed to address the needs of working individuals, most of whom are non-traditional students.
Austin to field applicants for Cap Metro board
Austin City Council is seeking applications for appointment to the Capital Metro Transportation Authority Board of Directors, the body charged with setting management and control policy for the organization.
A subcommittee comprised of Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and council member Chris Riley will review the applications and make a recommendation to Austin City Council. The appointee will serve a three-year term on the board.
Fore more information, click here.
A&M officials name director of Texas AgriLife Research
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has named Craig Nessler (pictured) director of Texas AgriLife Research, the state's leading agency for life sciences-, natural resources- and agricultural-based research.
Nessler has served as director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station at Virginia Tech for the past five years, bolstering the university's national ranking in research expenditures during his tenure. He began his career at Texas A&M in 1979 as an assistant professor of biology, followed by a position as head of the biology department.
Nessler holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M, a master's degree from the College of William & Mary and a doctoral degree from Indiana University.
UT-Arlington, UNT to continue textbook rental programs
Due to high demand, The University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas are expanding their textbook rental initiatives, which can save students more than half the cost of buying. Both schools were among seven institutions nationwide to offer the rental program.
Approximately 4,000 UT-Arlington students rented about 6,000 textbooks last semester. That number is expected to increase as word has spread about the pilot program. The initiative will likely remain permanent.
UT-Arlington bookstore Director Bill Coulter said the program has been a huge success with students, faculty and staff. "It's the first time in the 40-something years I've been in this that I've had students happy with me," he said.
A&M appoints Crocker dean of George Bush School
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has appointed Ryan C. Crocker (pictured) dean of Texas A&M University's George Bush School of Government and Public Service.
Crocker recently retired from the U.S. Foreign Service, where he worked for 37 years. He most recently served as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, a position he held from 2007 to 2009. He also led diplomatic missions in Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon. He is also a former Professor of National Security Strategy and International Affairs Advisor at the National War College. Crocker held posts in Iran, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt, and Washington, D.C.
Crocker holds a bachelor's degree and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Whitman College in Washington.
Texas Tech Health Science Center earns reaccreditation
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) has received reaccreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The Commission announced TTUHSC's status, based on a site visit conducted last May, at a recent meeting.
Elmo Cavin (pictured), interim president of TTUHSC, said the reaffirmation is a direct result of "the hard work and dedication of our faculty, staff, administration and students."
SACS also endorsed the university's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Interprofessional Teamwork, with few recommendations. The program aims to improve learning by focusing on issues important to students.
University of Dallas announces new president
Dr. Thomas W. Keefe (pictured) is set to become the University of Dallas' eighth president. His new role begins March 1.
Keefe most recently served as vice president of Advancement at Saint Louis University, where he worked as a key member of the presidential council and spearheaded a $300 million capital campaign for a new building and sports arena. Prior to that charge, he served as president of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation as well as executive director of the school's Advancement department.
Keefe holds a bachelor's degree from Benedictine College and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the University of Kansas.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit to lead USDOT project
The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is set to lead a new demonstration project of the U. S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) program. The federal government is funding more than $5 million of the $8.3 million project.
The initiative seeks to improve mobility along the corridor from Dallas north to SH 121 in Plano by engaging the planning, technology and infrastructure resources of nearby cities and jurisdictions. The project's pursuit, according to DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas (pictured), is to "bring together in a single, easy-to-follow format, a number of independent components, like real-time travel information, DART information, parking availability and traffic monitoring."
The cities of Dallas, Highland Park, Plano, Richardson and University Park, along with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the North Texas Tollway Authority, the Texas Transportation Institute, The University of Texas at Arlington, Southern Methodist University and the Texas Department of Transportation will joint DART in the collaborative.
Houston ISD superintendent unveils reorganization plan
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier (pictured) has revealed details of his reorganization plan to organize top administrators by school level in lieu of a regional superintendent structure. HISD currently has six regional superintendents, five of whom oversee geographic regions with one supervising charter and alternative schools. A total of four regional managers and 20 executive principals rank below the superintendents.
Grier's plan, which was to go before the school board this week, calls for one chief officer for each elementary, middle and high school with a school compliance officer overseeing charter schools. The executive principal post will be redefined as school improvement officer (SIO) specializing in either elementary, middle or high school under Grier's plan. Currently executive principals oversee all grade levels.
Grier is also adding three positions to the district's roster: chief innovation and research officer, director of assessment and chief major projects officer. Two positions will be eliminated under Grier's plan, saving HISD an estimated $160,000 annually.
MPO approves transportation plan for San Antonio
The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has approved a long-term transportation plan that calls for toll projects on several of San Antonio's major highways. Private industries will not play a role in the projected $4.35 billion projects, according to the plan.
County Commissioner Kevin Wolff (pictured), an MPO board member, recommended stripping concession contracts - comprehensive development agreements that allow private companies to design, build and operate toll roads on long-term leases - as a primary source for project funding.
MPO Chairman Tommy Adkisson said he believed the organization "definitely took a step in the direction of reducing tolls," marking a substantial victory for those who oppose them.
TxDOT moves forward on Grapevine highway project
Officials of the Texas Department of Transportation recently issued the final notice to proceed with a $1 billion reconstruction project for seven Grapevine-area highways. The NorthGate project will begin on Feb. 15 and includes reconstruction and expansion of highways on the north end of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. The final notice gave the developer hired by the state ability to fast-track the project authority to take possession of the roads.
Texas Southern University returned to probation
Officials of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools recently placed Texas Southern University back on probation just six months after lifting the punishment. The probation was reinstated because TSU officials failed to provide the accrediting body with an official audit of its finances or of its financial aid programs, a spokeswoman for SACS said.
TSU President John Rudley (pictured) said he expects this latest probation to remain in effect until June 2010, as official state audits will not be available until January.
SACS placed TSU on probation in late 2007 after a series of financial and management problems were discovered at the university. That probation was lifted in June although the accrediting commission continued oversight of financial aid and sponsored research programs at TSU. That oversight was scheduled to end this month until SACS officials re-imposed the probation. SACS officials, who noted that TSU remains accredited despite the probation, are scheduled to visit the Houston campus in April 2010.
CPS Energy chairwoman Aurora Geis stepping down
CPS Energy Board Chair Aurora Geis (pictured) will resign her post in the wake of an investigation into the San Antonio energy office's ongoing problems. She has indicated she will step down once her successor is named. The problems at the energy office began when estimates relating to the costs of a nuclear energy project were reportedly kept from the board. Once the real costs of the project were revealed, a string of resignations, reassignments and an inquiry began. General Manager Steve Bartley eventually resigned, as did Robert Temple, vice president of nuclear development. Two other CPS executives - Mike Kotara, vice president in charge of energy development, and Jim Nesrsta, vice president of plant construction - were suspended. Kotara was reassigned as a result of the investigation and Nesrsta kept his position.
CPS released its final report earlier this week.
Tech Chancellor Kent Hance wins Shepperd award
Texas Tech University System Chancellor Kent Hance (pictured) has been named the winner of the 2009-2010 John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute's annual Outstanding Texas State Leader Award. "My life and my passion have been devoted to serving the people of Texas," said Hance of winning the award. "I love and will always love Texas."
Hance drew the nomination this year not only for his work as Tech System chancellor, but also for his previous service to the state as a Texas state senator, a U.S. Congressman and a Texas Railroad Commissioner. He was chosen by a statewide panel of judges to receive the award. Shepperd Institute Director Robert Burns said Hance was chosen because he has "shown extraordinary skill and tenacity in business, government, education and law."
The Institute was founded to provide Texans an education about leadership, ethics and public service. The award was created to honor former Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepperd's belief that it is the duty of every Texan to contribute to his or her community and state.
Corpus Christi claims $5 million gap in coliseum talks
Corpus Christi city officials and the National Swim Center Corp. are still $5 million apart in negotiations for redeveloping Memorial Coliseum into an Olympic swim center with a hotel, restaurants and retail shops.
Two council members, however, would like to continue negotiations with the developer even after the Jan. 12, 2010, self-imposed deadline set by council members to issue a demolition order for the coliseum.
Council members requested National Swim Center officials to provide proof of the nonprofit corporation's ability to successfully organize swimming competitions, details about the corporation, its financial pro forma and the proposed site plan for the development. The corporation also has a plan to build a parking garage, but has not yet provided details about paying for the parking garage. City officials and the corporation also will be required to conduct an economic impact study before a contract can be signed.
Gedert chosen to head Austin solid waste services
Austin city officials recently selected Robert Gedert (pictured) as the new director of the city's Solid Waste Services Department. He is scheduled to begin his new job on Feb. 1, 2010, and will oversee 398 employees with an annual budget of $66 million.
Gedert, a former chief of the Source Reduction and Recycling Branch for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, currently is the executive director for the California Resource Recovery Association. He has won a reputation as a nationwide leader in designing, developing and operating solid waste and recycling programs for cities, counties and states. He also has designed and operated material recovery facilities in Cincinnati, Hillsboro and St. Mary's, Ohio.
Dallas ISD terminates director of information technology
The Dallas Independent School District recently terminated Patricia Viramontes as the executive director of information technology for the district.
No reason for the termination was given, but the 2008-2009 annual financial report for the district was critical of the district's IT system, claiming that the computer processing environment does not support reliable financial accounting and reporting and that the problems had impacted business processes for several years.
District officials also appointed Steve Corby, the district's new chief financial officer, as the interim manager of IT and expect to begin a search soon for a new IT manager for the district.
Three finalists selected for UNT Dallas post
Three finalists have been named for the provost and vice president position at the University of North Texas at Dallas.
Jon Beehler (left) is associate provost for economic initiatives and dean of the Haile/US Bank College of Business at Northern Kentucky University. V.K. Unni (center) currently serves as vice president for academic affairs at Bryant University in Rhode Island. Brian Canfield (right) currently serves as vice president for academic affairs at Southern Arkansas University.
The three were chosen by an 11-member search committee, chaired by UNT Denton Vice Provost for Academic Outreach Sandra Terrell, that conducted a nationwide search.
Smith County officials moving on with grant application
Smith County commissioners recently agreed to continue the application process for a $300,000 to $500,000 grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The Smith County Transportation Advisory Committee, on behalf of the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority, is seeking the grant to pay for pre-construction site assessment studies and determine the needs and location of a multi-modal transportation facility, said Jamai Moharer, chairman of the advisory committee. The deadline for the application is Dec. 21.
The multi-modal facility will combine differing modes of transportation, making it a "one-stop shop" for all transportation needs, including bus, city and regional transit, taxi, rental cars, parking and possibly light rail, Moharer said. Once approved, it will take from three to five years to complete the facility, he added.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit wins $5.3 million federal grant
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded a $5.3 million grant to Dallas Area Rapid Transit to pay for an integrated corridor management system to help reduce traffic congestion on major freeways.
The Dallas integrated corridor management systems (ICM) will target traffic congestion on US 75 between Dallas and SH 21 in McKinney. The system is designed to provide information to commuters on the entire transportation network to help make better decisions about how to best travel the route.
The ICM project will collect information on current travel conditions on area freeways, frontage roads, arterial streets, DART Rail, park-and-ride lots and high occupancy vehicles lanes, with operating agencies sharing that information with other operating agencies and motorists.
Mineral Wells to seek $2 million to reduce energy use
Mineral Wells City Council members recently agreed to accept state or federal funding to pay for installation of solar energy panels at seven city buildings at a cost of about $2 million.
City officials expect to learn soon if funding from the State Energy Conservation Office will be awarded to help pay for the energy-savings project, said City Manager Lance Howerton. City officials hope to win enough grant funding and matching grants to pay for the solar panels or, as an alternative, to pay for the project over the next several years based on a percentage of actual energy savings generated by the solar panels, Howerton said.
Council members also approved a conditional award of a contract to an energy company to install the solar panels contingent on the availability of funding for the project.
Nacogdoches delays acceptance of $6.2 million grant
Nacogdoches County commissioners recently tabled action on a $6.2 million federal grant to build an evacuation shelter and community center to accommodate evacuees during natural disasters and other emergencies. The action followed comments by County Judge Joe English (pictured) that a problem could delay distribution of the funding.
The Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA) distributed grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), which announced the award. However, HUD officials last month rejected the state plan for distributing the recovery funding, claiming the state did not provide enough opportunities for residents to comment on how the funds would be distributed. As a result, DETCOG and three other southeast Texas government councils are now scheduling public hearings on the distribution method.
If the grant is accepted, Nacogdoches County will be responsible for overseeing construction of the shelter/center and installing a generator, with the costs limited to almost $5.4 million for construction of the building, $533,000 for engineering and architectural services and $286,765 for planning and project delivery. It was determined that the shelter used during Hurricane Ike lost power and was unsuitable for sheltering evacuees during emergencies.
State to award funds for Bluewater Highway project
The state is set to award more than $6 million to the Bluewater Highway (County Road 257) Shoreline Stabilization Project to repair damage incurred along the highway during Hurricane Ike last year. The funds, appropriated by the Texas Legislature for disaster relief, will be used to complete road restoration.
The Bluewater Highway serves as an evacuation route for Galveston Island, Brazoria County and Follett's Island residents. Damage from the hurricane has jeopardized the area's marshland and tidal habitat, placing more than 2,600 acres at risk of erosion and overwash.
The General Land Office will supervise the initiative, including the restoration of the natural beaches and sand dunes along the highway.
Gainesville eyeing $7 million water system expansion
Gainesville city leaders recently drew up preliminary plans for an estimated $7 million project to expand the city's water treatment plant and distribution system.
The proposed improvements will increase water treatment from one million gallons per day to two million gallons per day by expanding the Moss Lake Water Treatment Plant Surface Water Supply System at a cost of $2,275,351, said City Manager Barry Sullivan (pictured). City leaders also plan to install larger water lines in the northeast water distribution center at a cost of about $3,577,420 and build a new water line along SH 82 at a cost of about $711,646, he added.
The project is designed to aid future growth and help businesses requiring access to water and water pressure to meet industrial standards, said Sullivan. He said he will ask city council for authorization to apply for a grant through the State Participation Agreement Program to finance 80 percent of the water system expansion. The Water Development Fund of the Texas Water Development Board on the open bond market in 2010 could provide financing for the remaining 20 percent cost of the water system expansion, he said. City leaders should learn in April if the application is approved.
EPA awards TCEQ more than $4M for water program
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $4,192,888 to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to help administer the state's base-water quality program. The initiative is aimed at preventing, reducing and eliminating water pollution.
TCEQ will also utilize the funds to help execute environmental management programs aimed at curbing and controlling hazardous solid wastes, air pollution and pesticides.
Cleveland Library director vies for broadband grant
Mary Merrell, director of the Cleveland Library, has announced plans to pursue a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a community broadband Internet network. Merrell and Cleveland City Councilman Mike Penry recently attended a summit held by the Gates Foundation outlining the grant application process.
The funds would be used to help pay for the installation of high-speed Internet connections throughout Cleveland.
Merrell said that if the library can rally community partners, "It will be like buying items in bulk." She said it would be possible to purchase a discounted Internet line, which normally rents for more than $3,000 per month.
Alvarado ISD receives award for IT initiative
Alvarado Independent School District is set to join a list of Fortune 500 companies for its use of a storage area network (SAN) for digital learning and disaster recovery solutions designed to protect critical data. The district has received an InfoWorld 100 award for use of the SAN technology. The awards annually recognize the 100 most innovative IT initiatives in the nation.
Kyle Berger (pictured), AISD's executive director of technology, said the district has taken great measures to ensure "each of our students, from kindergarten through high school, have the technology they need to effectively learn and grow."
AISD ranks as one of two K-12 districts to receive the award this year. "We have taken great lengths at Alvarado ISD to make sure each of our students, from kindergarten through high school, have the technology they need to effectively learn and grow as individuals," said Berger.
Lubbock attorney pushes for new community college
Local attorney Victor Hernandez is pushing for the creation of a community college in Lubbock County. Hernandez has assembled a 55-member task force to get the initiative off the ground.
South Plains College, a two-year institution, already houses two satellite campuses in Lubbock with an enrollment of about 5,000 area students. Hernandez believes South Plains' increased enrollment along with projected state funding cuts will strain the system.
Details have not yet been outlined regarding the location or funding measures for the proposed new community college.
Comal residents force bond election on justice center
A resident-led petition to force a bond election has proven successful in Comal County. Voters will now have a chance to decide whether to fund a proposed $36 million, state-of-the-art downtown justice center. Volunteers gathered 3,325 signatures as verified by the Comal County Clerk's office. Only 3,000 signatures were needed to force the measure.
The decision to construct the four-story, 127,000-square-foot justice center - which would constitute the largest Comal County-funded construction project in history - will now be made during a May 2010 bond election.
"As we move forward, we'll have to try and explain to people why this justice center is so vital," said Comal County Judge Danny Scheel (pictured). "Hopefully, the voters will understand, and will approve it."
Excess Recovery Act funds go to bypass project
Excess federal funds from the Southwest Parkway and Chisholm Trail Parkway venture will be geared to completing the U.S. Highway 67 bypass project in Johnson County, according to Brian Barth, deputy district engineer for the Fort Worth District of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Barth said he hopes to get the project going by March. "There is a deadline to spend Recovery Act funds," he said.
There have been 18 motor vehicle deaths on the bypass since 1997, according to County Judge Roger Harmon.
Brazosport ISD considering smaller bond proposal
After 55 percent of voters last month rejected a proposed $166 million bond referendum, Brazosport school officials recently discussed the possibility of proposing a smaller bond election in May 2010.
Board President Jay Luce (pictured) requested staff to begin work on a bond that could be on the May 2010 ballot and pay for necessary maintenance items. Board members did not discuss a cost estimate on the bond referendum under consideration.
Approving the bonds for maintenance proposals would allow the district to begin rotating the purchase of buses, carpet, paint, instruments, technology and uniforms, said the director of finance. The $520,000 allotted this budget year to maintenance primarily pays for items such as replacing air conditioning filters and testing fire alarms and is insufficient to pay for major maintenance projects, he added.
Perez to retire as superintendent of Midland ISD
Superintendent Sylvester Perez (pictured) recently announced his retirement from the Midland Independent School District.
Perez, who has been an educator for 38 years, served as superintendent in Midland since 2006. His retirement is effective on June 30, 2010. Trustees will begin to interview search firms soon to find a replacement for Perez.
Abilene wins $1M grant to improve energy efficiency
Abilene recently netted a $1 million Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant to increase the use of renewable energy in 11 city buildings. The grant also will pay for adding solar photovoltaic panels on the civic center.
The $1 million energy upgrade is the second in a series of energy-efficient upgrades the city recently undertook. City officials recently completed a $9 million project that improved operations, security and efficiency in 34 city buildings that is expected to save the city $12 million in utility costs during the next 15 years. The new project, which includes replacing some equipment and a program to provide free compact fluorescent light bulbs to residents to encourage use of the more efficient bulb, should reduce city utility costs by more than $28,000 annually when completed in November 2010, city officials said.
Amarillo moves forward with water project, new bridge
Amarillo city commissioners recently moved forward with a $25 million project to improve the city water system and authorized an agreement that moves forward construction of a $9.1 million bridge over railroad tracks on Grand Street. A majority of the money for the water development project and new bridge is provided by federal stimulus funds.
Assistant City Manager Dean Frigo said bids for the water project came in lower than the estimated $25 million for which the city obtained a no-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The TWDB, however, will allow the city up to 25 percent more than the contract cost to cover the project, which could allow the city to add other improvements to the plant, Frigo said. Any money left over from the project must be returned.
Commissions also approved an agreement that calls for the city to close the ground-level Grand Street railroad crossing and the railroad operator to contribute $264,000 to the overpass project. The local match required for the $9.1 million bridge project is $1.8 million and the Texas Department of Transportation has agreed to hold the city's portion of construction costs at $973,273. City officials also must acquire right-of-way for the project at an estimated cost of $806,500. The deadline for starting the project, which was fast-tracked to qualify for stimulus funding, is March 10, 2010.
DISD superintendent contract not renewed
Embattled Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa will not receive a contract extension, following his evaluation by the school board on Thursday. Although his contract was not extended, he is still under contract in his position until 2012. It is the second consecutive year in which a contract extension was not given to Hinojosa.
DISD has battled serious financial problems under Hinojosa's leadership, but the board acknowledged that progress in righting the ship has been made in the last year. The board also said when Hinojosa is evaluated next year, student achievement, financial management and stakeholder satisfaction will all be considered.
El Paso Water Utilities seek $2.7M loan for dam
Officials of El Paso Water Utilities recently agreed to seek a $2.7 million interest-free loan from the federal stimulus program to improve the Van Buren Dam in central El Paso. The utility will save nearly $1.4 million in interest over 20 years if the no-interest loan is approved, said Ed Archuleta, CEO of the water utility. The project will increase the dam's capacity, upgrade the spillway and remove silt from the retention pond, he said.
El Paso City Council members are expected to consider the public utility loan request at the council meeting on Dec. 22. The water utility recently obtained a $6.425 million interest-free loan to pay for three other drainage projects.
Dallas group approves plan for a $5M downtown park
The Economic Development Committee of the Dallas City Council recently approved a plan for development of a second major downtown park at an estimated total cost of $14.5 million.
The development for the Belo Garden downtown park is being paid for with city bond funds and through donations from the Belo Corporation, the Belo Foundation and Robert and Maureen Decherd. The company and foundation together donated $5.5 million for the park's construction and the Decherd family contributed $1 million to pay for upkeep and improvements at the 1.6-acre park at Main and Griffin streets. The new Belo Garden Park is scheduled to open in early 2012.
Federal government announces millions more in new grant funds for Texas!!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
It's no small wonder that more and more businesses are entering the public sector marketplace. The opportunities are diverse and abundant. Just this week, the federal government announced $3.3 billion in funding that will go directly to the states and result in thousands of contracting opportunities at all levels of government and with nonprofits. Texas is expected to receive many millions more very soon.
Another $600 million in stimulus funding was announced this week to support construction and renovation projects at 80 federally qualified community health centers nationwide. In Texas, more than 60 community health centers received funding totaling $116 million.
One such center in Waco - the Heart of Texas Community Health Center - was awarded $5.3 million. It will be used to construct a new three-story medical clinic. Another center in Brownsville received $7.5 million for construction and more than $11 million went to a facility in San Antonio. An El Paso community health center was awarded $6 million and $7.5 million went to a facility in Harlingen. Texas community health centers were awarded a total of more than $37.3 million for facilities construction alone. Click here and look under "Recent Reports" for a complete list of Texas awards.[more]
Murray named lone finalist for Bastrop superintendent
Trustees for the Bastrop Independent School District recently selected Steve Murray (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Murray will replace Interim Superintendent Roderick Emanuel, who said he wished to seek a different job within the district.
Murray currently serves as superintendent for Little Elm ISD and previously was superintendent at La Vernia ISD, a deputy superintendent at Del Valle ISD, an administrator for the Marble Falls, Brenham, Katy and Wimberley school districts and a teacher at Klein ISD. He holds a bachelor's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, a master's degree from Southwest Texas State University and his superintendent certification from Texas A&M University.
Texas Interagency Literacy Council plans first meeting
The newly created Texas Interagency Literacy Council will hold its first meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 14, at the Texas Workforce Commission offices. The council was charged by the Texas Legislature to develop a statewide action plan for the improvement of literacy in Texas. In addition to state agency representatives, the council also includes other workforce officials and individuals who are affiliated with other organizations that promote literacy and community outreach.
Coastal Bend College wins $193,756 federal grant
Coastal Bend College recently won a $193,756 grant for a distance learning program for medicine that allows students to access courses using a video conference system connecting a classroom near home to the main campus of a college, saving the student time and cost while pursuing a medical career.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the grant that will link nine rural schools with two Coastal Bend College campuses to provide health-related training in areas of health care now confronting a shortage of providers.
Paris eliminates one position in reorganization
A departmental reorganization in the city of Paris has resulted in the elimination of the position of assistant director of public works, resulting in the termination of John Brunson, a 17-year city employee who held that position, said City Manager Kevin Carruth.
Carruth previously selected Steve McFadden, a consultant and a former resident of Paris, as the interim public works director to fill the position until a public works director is hired. McFadden, who indicated he has no plans to apply for the position of public works director, retired as police chief in Lewisville. If he chooses, Brunson can apply for the permanent position of public works director, Carruth said.
Clute selects Beverly to upgrade accounting system
Clute City Council members recently selected former Freeport City Manager Gary Beverly to upgrade the city's accounting system. Beverly will assist the city's former city manager, Barbara Hester, Financial Director Doug Roderick and Acting City Manager Mark Wicker with the revamp of the accounting system, which was recommended by the city's auditor because of recent problems it created. The agreement with Beverly calls for him to work 40 hours a week for a three- to four-month period, city officials said.
Robert Sturns leaving Arlington for Fort Worth
Robert Sturns (pictured), who served as the economic development manager in Arlington since 2007, recently resigned that position to return to Fort Worth as its economic development manager. Sturns previously served seven years as the business development coordinator in Fort Worth before he left to head up Arlington's first economic development office.
Sturns is the third official of the city's economic development office to leave to accept other jobs. Melissa Woodall, an economic development specialist, and Maggie Campbell, president of the Downtown Arlington Management Corp., left the city earlier this year. Sturns said he plans to help with the transition to a new manager for the economic development office.
Travis health care district changes name second time
After a survey revealed that 60 percent of county residents said they had never heard of the Travis County Healthcare District, the district's board recently agreed to change the name of the district to Central Health, a name county officials said would better describe the district's functions. The health district's original name was the Travis County Hospital District.
Board members are working with a consultant on a new logo design, marketing and communication strategies to improve public awareness of the health district's mission of providing primary, specialty and hospital care to low-income and uninsured people in Travis County. The board also approved naming the district's Medical Assistance Program the Central Health Plan.
Where are they now?
Where do folks go when they leave state government? Some go to work in the private sector or for nonprofits. Some transition to executive-level positions in higher education while others may seek elected local government positions. And some just retire and spend a lot of time with their grandkids at the fishin' hole. This column focuses on where former state government officials and employees are now.
Jim Gaertner came to Sam Houston State University after having held numerous positions with The University of Texas at San Antonio, including dean of the College of Business, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. He also previously spent seven years at the University of Notre Dame, where he was director of the university's London master of business administration program, among other positions. Gaertner was named president of Sam Houston State University in 2001, but recently announced his retirement, effective Aug. 31, 2010.
William A. "Bill" Nance served as Director of Financial Planning Systems at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board from 1971 to 1984. He then served as Director of Finance for the Texas State University System from 1984 to 1991. From 1991 to 1993, he was Associate Vice President, Finance and Management for Texas State University-San Marcos. In 1993, he was named Vice President for Finance and Support Services at Texas State, the position he currently holds.
San Antonio interim airport police boss to be replaced
Capt. Ronald Bruner is set to be replaced as interim police chief of the San Antonio Airport Police Department after a five-year tenure. Police Chief William McManus has selected a replacement he will appoint this week. In the meantime, Lt. John Gruchacz, a member of the airport police force, will temporarily serve as commander.
Seadrift to seek grant for regional wastewater system
Seadrift City Council members recently agreed to apply for a grant to study the feasibility of creating a regional wastewater system for southwestern Victoria County and Calhoun County. The city's share of the cost of the study is $1,500, said Mayor Elmer DeForest. The study should be completed in 2011, he said.
The study will look at city sewer systems, septic systems, subdivisions and other developments, but will not determine where a regional wastewater plant would be built, DeForest said.
Kostelnik appointed commissioner for port
Corpus Christi City Council members recently appointed Bob Kostelnik (pictured), a former refinery manager, as the newest commissioner of the Port of Corpus Christi. Kostelnik will replace Ruben Bonilla, the current chairman of the port commission, who reached his term limit. The port commission is charged with setting policy for the port.
A group representing 17 companies located along the Corpus Christi ship channel urged the appointment of Kostelnik after the port commissioners proposed fee increases prompted by the recession and the implementation of a port security division, a move the industrial group claimed is an unnecessary expense. Port commissioners recently approved a proposed increase in fees on ships and barges to help pay for the new marine patrol.
Sherman to seek funding
TSABAA planning 30th Mid-Winter Conference
The Texas State Agency Business Administrator's Association's 30th Mid-Winter Conference is planned for Wednesday through Friday, Jan. 13-15, 2010, at the YO Ranch Resort and Conference Center in Kerrville. John O'Brien, director of the Legislative Budget Board, will highlight Thursday activities with a report on "The Economy, Revenue Projections and the Budget." Other activities include presentations on effective communication for state leaders and a legislative outlook. Nine continuing education credits can be earned by attending the conference. To view the agenda, click here. For registration information, click here.
Notary law, procedure seminar offered by AACOG
Current, new and non-notary participants who would like to earn their Texas notary public commission can attend the Alamo Area Council of Governments' upcoming three-hour quarterly Notary Law and Procedure seminar. The seminar is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 from 9 a.m. to noon at AACOG, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 165 (Classroom 6, 1st Floor) in San Antonio. Dixie Lucey, director of education for the State Notary Commission, will teach the seminar. For more information on the seminar and how to register, click here.