|Volume 7, Issue 48 · Friday, December 18, 2009|
Keel to serve as Texas Facilities Commission director
Former state representative, parliamentarian to lead state agency
Former State Rep. Terry Keel (pictured) has been named executive director of the Texas Facilities Commission, effective Dec. 31. He was chosen by the agency's commissioners at a meeting this week.
In addition to having served as a member of the Texas House for five terms from 1997 to 2007, Keel also is a former Travis County sheriff, a position he held from 1992 to 1997. His past work experience also includes having been the Travis County Assistant District Attorney from 1984 to 1992 His most recent endeavor was as parliamentarian of the Texas House from 2007 to 2009.
Keel earned an Associate of Arts degree from Austin Community College, a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from the University of Houston College of Law.
School bond guarantee program starting up again
Could save Texas districts millions on facility construction
The federal government's decision to allow the state to reopen the Texas Permanent School Fund (PSF) Bond Guarantee Program has come at a good time for many school districts in Texas. The program, which has been backing property-tax supported bonds for facilities for years and saving school districts millions on construction projects, was closed in March.
This week, the Internal Revenue Service announced it will update its regulation to allow bonds to be guaranteed up to 500 percent of the cost value of the PSF as of this week.
Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott (pictured) said the ruling "increases our capacity to back school district bonds by hundreds of millions of dollars." That, he said, will help school districts build new buildings to meet their growing student populations while helping them save money.
Many Texas schools are facing problems similar to the Midland ISD, which has more than 100 portable buildings on its campuses, most of which are being used for classrooms. Like other rapidly growing districts, Midland is likely facing a bond election in its near future. In Brazosport, where a $166 million bond election failed last year, officials are looking at a smaller bond issue just to take care of maintenance items. And the Northside ISD in San Antonio is laying the groundwork for a bond issue next year that could go as high as $600 million.[more]
John Tintera, executive director, Texas Railroad Commission
Career highlights and education: I earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University and Master of Science from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Both degrees are in geology. Spent the first decade of my career working for some of the largest, and also some of the smallest, oil companies in the world and drilled a lot of prospects. I joined the RRC in 1990 in our Wichita Falls district office, came to Austin in 1992, and worked a series of technical and management positions in the Oil & Gas Division. I've been the executive director of the agency for about a year.
What I like best about my job is: The Railroad Commission staff I get to work with and for.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Never underestimate the power of politics.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Always remember what the words "public servant" truly mean.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: at the gym, trying to stay in shape. A constant battle it seems.
People would be surprised to know that I: earned two varsity letters on Michigan State's Fencing Team with sabre as my weapon of choice. I went to the Nationals my senior year, led my team in most wins and beat the defending NCAA Champ from the previous year. We fenced against all the Big 10 universities - Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan., Illinois, Penn State, etc., and also Notre Dame, Rutgers, the Air Force Academy and other elite schools. My teammates nicknamed me "the Detroit Buzz Saw" because of my speed and aggression on the fencing strip.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: We are a relatively small agency with big responsibilities and many dedicated and talented staff who truly care about our state, the environment and the future of Texas. I see it all the time in our work, our interactions with the public and the extra effort that we try to put into our service careers.
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.
Donna Nelson reappointed to Public Utility Commission
Donna Nelson of Austin has been reappointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Her term will expire Sept. 1, 2015. She was first named to the PUC in 2008.
Nelson previously served as a special assistant and advisor on energy, telecommunications and cable budget and policy issues in the Governor's Office. She is a former director of the PUC telecommunications section and legal advisor to the PUC chairman. She also served as an assistant attorney general of Texas, specializing in antitrust suits.
Nelson holds a bachelor's degree from Black Hills State College and a law degree from Texas Tech University.
Insurance database officials launch letter campaign
TexasSure's goal to reduce uninsured throuhgout state
TexasSure, a statewide database that provides law enforcement agencies help in confirming whether a passenger vehicle registered in Texas has valid auto liability insurance, recently began a campaign where customers with insurance who can not be matched are notified to help resolve the issue. The service has been available to county tax assessor-collectors in all 254 Texas counties since June 2008 and to all law enforcement offices since October 2008.
Created by the 79th Legislature, the TexasSure Vehicle Insurance Verification program is designed to reduce the number of uninsured motorists in the state. According to the program's database, 22 percent of registered passenger vehicles in Texas were not matched to an insurance policy as of Nov. 23, 2009. Among the reasons an insured vehicle may not match to a registered vehicle are that the insurance company does not have accurate information, the vehicle registration is expired or the information is not current. Other reasons are that the vehicle is not registered in Texas or that the vehicle was sold recently and the insurer was not notified.[more]
TPWD Fisheries Division director to retire
Phil Durocher (pictured), director of Texas Park and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Fisheries Division for the last 18 years, is set to retire at the end of the year after a 35-year tenure with the agency.
During that time, Durocher has led a cultural shift in fisheries management throughout the state. He has played an instrumental role in the conversion of bass fishing practices, turning fishermen from consumptive users to recreational, catch-and-release anglers. Durocher said the change was the only way "we could ensure bass fishing for the future."
Durocher began working at TPWD in 1974 as a research systems analyst in the Data Processing Division. Three years later he transferred to the Inland Fisheries Division, where he helped develop the Resource Monitoring Program as a research analyst. He began working as director of fisheries management for Inland Fisheries in 1984.
Appraisal districts to be reviewed by Comptroller
To help make property appraisal practices throughout the state more accurate and uniform, the State Comptroller's Office will begin Methods and Assistance Program (MAP) reviews of county appraisal districts (CADs) beginning in January 2010.
The reviews are required by legislation from the 81st Texas Legislature. They will examine CAD's governance, taxpayer assistance, operating procedures and appraisal standards, procedures and methodologies. Each CAD will be reviewed in alternate years, with approximately half of them reviewed in 2010 and the remainder reviewed in 2011. (To view the complete list of the 128 CADs that will be reviewed during that time, click here.)
School districts, cities, counties and other taxing jurisdictions set their local property tax rates based on appraisal amounts set by CADs. "The Comptroller's role is to assist appraisal districts to comply with the law and generally accepted appraisal practices, to train appraisal review board members and to help property owners understand how to protest their property values if they disagree with the CAD's appraisal," said Debbie Cartwright (pictured), director of the Comptroller's Property Tax Assistance Division.[more]
Comptroller announces Energy Star appliance rebates
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has announced the state will use about $23 million in federal stimulus funds for a mail-in rebate program for consumers who purchase certain Energy Star appliances. The rebates have been approved for those who replace functioning appliances with the energy-saving models. The program will also offer an incentive to recycle old appliances.
According to Combs, flat rebates will be given for Energy Star-certified refrigerators ($240), freezers ($180), room air conditioners ($45), central air conditioners ($600 - $1,000, depending on model purchased), heat pumps ($1,200 - $1,600), water heaters ($255 - $640), clothes washers ($150 or $180) and dishwashers ($110 or $140). An additional rebate of $75 will be given to consumers who buy an eligible appliance and recycle the same type of functional unit.
The rebates are effective for items purchased between April 16 and April 25 to coincide with Earth Day 2010.
TDCJ notes new IT officer, other staff changes
Officials of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) recently selected Mike Bell as the agency's chief information officer. Bell will replace Robert Bray, who recently retired. Bell is a former officer with the U.S. Navy and currently serves as deputy director and security officer for the Information Technology Division of TDCJ. He also served as a technical consultant for TDCJ and several Fortune 500 companies and holds a bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State University. Bell is pursuing a master's degree in information technology at the University of Maryland.
TDCJ officials also appointed William Stephens, Oscar Mendoza and Thomas Prasifika to the positions of deputy directors in the Correctional Institutions Division. Stephens, who most recently was Region II Director in Tennessee Colony, will replace Rodney Cooper, who retired. Stephens holds a bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State University. Mendoza, who managed the Security Threat Group Management Office, the Correctional Training and Development Department and the SAFE Prisons Program, will replace Management Operations Deputy Director David Stacks, who also retired. Mandoza has a master's degree in criminal justice. Prasifka will replace Pamela Williams, who retired as deputy director for Support Operations, where he will oversee the Classification and Records Office, offender transportation system, the Laundry, Food and Supply Department. He previously was an assistant director in the Manufacturing and Logistics Division. He has 25 years experience with TDCJ and served as a senior warden at multiple TDCJ facilities.
Other staff changes recently announced by TDCJ include the appointment of Pamela Thielke as deputy director of Support Operations in the Parole Division and Matthew Demny as director of the Agribusiness, Land and Minerals Department. Thielke has a bachelor's degree and served as section director for Specialized Programs since April 2007. Demny has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and previously served as deputy director of the Agribusiness, Land and Minerals Department.
TSLAC announces Administrative Services changes
Vincent Houston (left) and Sarah Norris (right) have been named Administrative Services Division director and agency conservator, respectively, at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).
Houston served as director of administration, acting chief executive director and chief financial officer for the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists prior to his new role at TSLAC. He has also served as deputy director for finance and administration for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. He earned his bachelor's degree at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University).
Norris previously served as an advanced conservation intern at the Newberry Library in Chicago and as a conservation technician for The Benson Latin American Collection, a unit of The University of Texas Libraries specializing in Latin American materials. She has also worked for the Perry-Castanda Library and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, both at UT-Austin. Norris earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at UT-Austin.
TDRA approves $711K grant for Brenham generators
The Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA) has approved a grant totaling $711,485 for the purchase and installation of two electrical generators in Brenham. The city is still reeling from the devastation of Hurricanes Ike and Dolly last year.
The funds, part of a Supplemental Disaster Recovery Grant Program, will be used for installing a permanent 500-kilowatt generator at a water facility and a 150-kilowatt generator at a local evacuee shelter.
Angelo State names vice president for student affairs
Dr. Dale R. Tampke (pictured) has been named vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Angelo State University.
Tampke previously served as associate dean for undergraduate studies at the University of North Texas. He holds a bachelor's and master's degree from Texas A&M University and a doctoral degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Other finalists for the position included Dr. Brent Paterson, senior associate vice president for student affairs at Illinois State University, and Dr. Homer A. Wesley, vice president for student services at Mississippi University for Women.
TAMUHSC hosts Round Rock ribbon cutting
The Texas A&M Health Science Center (HSC) hosted a ribbon cutting for the first building on its Round Rock campus recently, a mere 30 months after receiving funding from the Texas Legislature to establish a new medical education campus in Williamson County.
"The opening of this building is a great first step in our commitment to the people of Central Texas," said Michael D. McKinney, M.D., chancellor of The Texas A&M University System.
The Texas Legislature appropriated $9 million for the HSC Round Rock campus to offer medical education in 2007. In 2009, the legislature provided additional funds to support further expansion efforts.
Angelo State University narrows field for provost
Three finalists have been selected for the position of provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Angelo State University. The candidates include: Dr. Christopher Markwood (right), provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs/dean of faculties at the University of Wisconsin-Lake Superior; Dr. Charles McAdams (middle), dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwest Missouri State University; and Dr. Ronald Rosati (left), provost of Alfred State College, State University of New York.
Markwood previously served as dean and professor at the University of Central Oklahoma from 1994 until 2001. He holds a bachelor's degree from the Southwest Baptist University, a master's degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a doctoral degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
McAdams served as professor and interim dean at the University of Central Missouri from 1983 until 2004. He holds a bachelor's and a master's degree from the University of Illinois and a doctoral degree from Tennessee Technological University.
Rosati previously served as dean and professor at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He holds a bachelor's and master's degree from Cornell University and a doctoral degree from Iowa State University.
Austin picks Stafford for Cap Metro board
Ann Stafford, manager of corporate and foundation relations for Texas Performing Arts, is the City of Austin's latest appointment to the Capital Metro board. Her appointment leaves only one place open on the eight-member board. That position will be filled by the Travis County Commissioners Court.
Stafford was a former high-tech manufacturing company employee before joining Texas Performing Arts. She hold a bachelor's degree from Auburn University.
James Martin will head TAMUHSC disease center
Dr. James F. Martin (pictured) has been named interim director of the Center for Molecular Development and Diseases (CMDD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology in the Texas Medical Center in Houston. He replaces founding director Dr. Robert Schwartz.
Martin has served on the Center for Cancer and Stem Cell Biology (CCSCB) faculty at TAMHSC since 1996 and as professor since 2006.
Martin holds a bachelor's degree from Fordham University and both his doctoral degree and medical degree from The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
Austin approves agreement for new $13M hiway flyover
Austin City Council members recently approved an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build two more flyover bridges at the intersection of Loop 1 with US 290. Construction on the project is expected to begin by May 2010, city officials said.
The agreement with TxDOT calls for Austin to issue $13 million in certificates of obligation to pay for the project and that TxDOT will repay the city 80 percent of the original construction costs, an arrangement authorized by legislators in 2003. Once the state reimbursement is received by the city in 10 to 15 years, the city will have paid between $2 million to $3 million in interest to bring its final cost of the project to about $5 million.
UTEP names Hispanic male new School of Nursing dean
Dr. Elias Provencio-Vasquez (pictured), the first Hispanic male in the country to earn a doctoral degree in nursing, has been named dean of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas at El Paso.
Provencio-Vasquez serves as associate dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies at the University of Miami. He will begin his new charge as dean - another national first for a Hispanic male - in February. He has served as a clinician, educator, researcher and administrator for the past 30 years, with extensive experience in developmental assessments of HIV and drug-exposed infants, children and adolescents.
Provencio-Vasquez earned his doctorate at the University of Arizona.
Dewhurst looks at transportation funding options
Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said he would not support a tax increase to fund the state's expanding transportation needs but would look into another option. Dewhurst said he would study whether to allow sales taxes from businesses located on or near new roads to be diverted to the projects. Sales taxes from those businesses are currently applied to the General Revenue fund.
It's a move that would require legislation, which previously passed the Senate but died in the House. Dewhurst told the Dallas Morning News that he would not call for a huge tax increase in the middle of a recession.
Transportation officials have indicated that highways developed after 2012 won't have the funding needed to get started. Other funding options include toll roads, fuel-tax increases and borrowing.
UT-Austin names dean of LBJ School of Public Affairs
Robert Hutchings (pictured) has been named dean of The University of Texas at Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Hutchings, an international relations professor at Princeton University, has served in several high-level diplomatic positions in the federal government. From 2003 to 2005, he served as chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, advising the president on foreign policy issues. He has also served as ambassador in the State Department and as director of European affairs at the National Security Council.
Hutchings has held academic posts at Georgetown University and the University of Virginia, where he earned his doctorate.
McCracken to head clean-energy technology coalition
Austin Councilmember Brewster McCracken (pictured) has been named executive director of the Pecan Street Project, a nonprofit coalition comprised of private business leaders, academics and government officials who test clean-energy technology.
McCracken said the Pecan Street Project's mission is to "test and develop systems to make renewable energy work as well and cost-effectively as conventionally generated electricity."
In his new role, McCracken will manage a $10.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to test clean-energy technologies at a redevelopment site in Austin.
Austin Community College to add faculty, staff
Austin Community College is adding more than 100 new full-time faculty and staff positions to meet enrollment increases with the 2010 opening of the institution's Round Rock Campus. The full-time faculty positions are posted on the ACC jobs Web site.
Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow (pictured), ACC president and CEO, said hiring for the new Round Rock campus reflects "ACC's commitment to expanding our faculty and staff base as enrollment increases."
The college will begin internal hiring for staff occupancies in January. Additional vacancies are expected to be posted throughout the spring and summer.
U of H selects Oliver College of Architecture dean
Patricia Belton Oliver (pictured) has been named dean of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston. She replaces Joseph Mashburn, who stepped down last year to turn his attention to teaching.
Since 2001, Oliver had served as senior vice president of educational planning and architecture at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., where she created the environmental design department to bridge the area between architecture and product design. As associate dean at Cal Poly Pomona, Oliver founded the Ontario Community Center for Urban Research, the university's first interdisciplinary, public/private design research center.
Oliver holds both a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Quittner selected as new city attorney in Seguin
Seguin City Council members recently selected Andy Quittner as the new city attorney. Quittner, who currently serves as assistant city attorney in San Marcos, is scheduled to begin his new duties on Jan. 19, 2010. He replaces former City Attorney Ross Rischer, who resigned to accept a position with a private law firm.
Quittner, who began his career working for a U.S. magistrate in Corpus Christi, also held positions with the city of Corpus Christi and Nueces County. He has a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University, a master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from The University of Texas College of Law.
WTAMU picks associate dean of graduate school
Dr. Robin Capt (pictured) has been named associate dean of Graduate School and Research at West Texas A&M University. In her new role, she will supervise, coordinate and facilitate graduate programming and interpret policy for students and departments.
Capt previously worked as chief operating officer of a private engineering-consulting firm from 1995-2008 before joining the WTAMU faculty. From 2000-2002, she served as a research assistant at Texas State University's College of Education.
Capt earned her bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's degree from Texas State University and a doctoral degree from Texas Tech University.
El Paso approves $67K grant for Los Portales Museum
El Paso County commissioners recently approved $67,000 to pay for the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society to operate and maintain the Los Portales Museum. The funding is provided by hotel occupancy tax revenue.
Located in a schoolhouse built in the 1850s, the museum focuses on San Elizario's history, including the native population who lived in the area prior to Spanish colonization and well as the history following the colonization of the area by the Spanish. The museum last year received a $20,000 grant from the Texas Historical Commission to repair water damage to interior walls, level the floor, replace cracks in the floor, restore the earthen roof and replace damaged vigas.
Larry Barnes selected to lead WTAMU department
Dr. Larry Barnes (pictured) has been named head of the Department of Communication Disorders at West Texas A&M University. Barnes joined the WTAMU faculty in 2002, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses.
He holds a bachelor's degree from Baptist Bible College, a master's degree from Denver Seminary and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.
HGAC awards Lone Star College $338K grant
The Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) has awarded the Continuing Education program at Lone Star College a $338,000 grant to expand the initiative to LSC-Montgomery and LSC-North Harris. The grant arrives as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal funding through HGAC's Training for Jobs program.
The Continuing Education project provides dislocated workers, displaced homemakers and low-income residents with short-term training options to help prepare them for re-entry to the workforce. With the grant funds, LSCS will provide tuition, books, fees and tools to students participating in one of two programs - truck driving or air conditioning maintenance.
Austin council updated on downtown urban rail system
A route for a proposed downtown urban rail system in Austin is still under consideration, but the new rail system is likely to run from The University of Texas through the area of the State Capitol and then to the planned Seaholm District, said Robert Spillar (pictured), director of the city's Transportation Department. Council members last month approved an engineering study on the feasibility of the city building an urban rail system to reduce traffic congestion.
Officials also hope to expand the urban rail system with a corridor to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and to regional rail lines, Spillar said. The Strategic Mobility Plan should have initial cost estimates for the urban rail project by February 2010, and answers on who will operate the rail system should be submitted by May 2010. While Capital Metro has the authority to operate the city's urban rail system, other operators such as The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and the Austin-San Antonio rail corridor also are under consideration as potential operators, he said.
UT-Tyler receives $1.4M grant for UTeach program
The University of Texas at Tyler has recently received grants totaling $1.4 million to establish the UTeach program. The grants are comprised of a $427,000 donation from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and $973,000 grant from the Texas Education Agency.
UT-Tyler marks the 15th nationwide campus to implement the highly sought UTeach program, which originated at UT-Austin in 1997. The program complements and reinforces "the high quality and caliber of our graduating teachers in the science, math and computer science fields," according to UT-Tyler President Rodney H. Mabry. The program allows students to graduate in four years with both a degree and a teaching certification.
Galveston Housing Authority approves $88M plan
Commissioners for the Galveston Housing Authority recently approved an $88 million redevelopment plan that will reduce public housing density in the city. The proposed redevelopment plan replaces 569 units of public housing destroyed by Hurricane Ike with 390 public housing units to be built at previous sites and 179 units to be built on scattered sites throughout the city.
The plan calls for 120 units to be built at the site of Oleander Homes on Broadway, 110 units at Cedar Terrace on Ball, 120 units at Magnolia Homes on The Strand and 20 single-family houses, divided into 40 duplexes at Palm Terrace on Sealy Blvd.
In a response to critics who said the plan does not reduce density enough, Harish Krishnarao, the authority's executive director, said he would explore renovating existing houses for the proposed 179 scattered sites. The Planning Commission and City Council also must approve the public housing redevelopment plan before construction can begin. Building the new developments will take from two to three years to complete, officials said.
Del Mar OKs agreement for new Northwest Center
Regents for Del Mar College in Corpus Christi recently approved a lease at no cost for the next 10 years for a building from Corpus Christi Medical Center to be their new Northwest Center. The agreement calls for college officials to decide after five years whether to move to a larger building or renegotiate the lease with the hospital. The Corpus Christi Business and Job Development Corp., which manages city sales tax revenues, also contributed $979,000 to equip and furnish the new building located near US77. College officials now must find a construction manager to ensure the building is ready for students by June 2010.
The new center will allow the college to train more nurses, medical laboratory technicians, paramedics and other health professionals, said Mark Escamilla (pictured), president of Del Mar College. The center also will offer a new energy degree with classes in solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy and other alternative energy studies, he said.
LSC to begin renovations on University Park campus
Lone Star College officials plan to begin renovations of their new 1.2 million-square-foot University Park campus into a second university center and conference facility. LSC-University Park recently purchased eight buildings located on 45 acres of the Hewlett-Packard complex for the new campus.
The University Center will house six state universities - Prairie View A&M University, Texas Southern University, Sam Houston State University and University of Houston and University of Houston Downtown. While LSC officials plan no large-scale structural changes, the plan is to do basic renovations to bring the buildings to code for higher capacity and its role as a college campus, said Jimmy Martin, construction and facilities officer. The renovations include adding signage, removing walls, reconfiguring rooms into classrooms, and upgrading restroom facilities, Martin said.
More than 3,000 students from LSC-CyFair's satellite Willowchase Center are expected to begin classes at LSC-University Park for the spring 2010 semester. The renovated campus is expected to serve about 10,000 students in the next year or two, he said. Hewlett-Packard, which still has several thousand employees working on the campus, will share the cafeteria but will be separated from college facilities with secured doors, Martin said.
Beeville seeks public input on proposed park upgrades
To gain information for a master plan under preparation for city parks, Beeville City Council members recently authorized city staff to distribute questionnaires seeking public input on the kind of improvements they want for parks and recreation facilities.
The consultants said they had studied satellite photos of the city's parks and visited most of the parks to assess existing facilities and assess the amount of space available in each facility and would like citizens to respond to a list of questions and to offer suggestions. Council members have the option of placing the questionnaire on the city's Web site, distributing it to local businesses and publishing the form in the newspaper.
Council members also were asked to schedule a workshop to review an inventory list of park facilities and to collect ideas on improvements. The improvements list will include cost estimates. The goal is to complete a master plan to submit to the state a week before the deadline for the city to apply for state grant funds from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Houston police chief Harold Hurtt to retire
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt (pictured) has announced plans to retire from his post after six years. He will name an interim replacement as Mayor-elect Annise Parker launches a new police chief search.
Three current assistant chiefs' names have surfaced as possible candidates for chief - Timothy N. Oettmeier, Vicki L. King and Kirk A. Munden.
Hurtt previously served as police chief of Phoenix for six years. During his tenure as Houston chief, Hurtt oversaw the construction of a new property room and a new South Central patrol station. He equipped all HPD officers with tasers and was instrumental in restoring the department's DNA crime lab to full accreditation, among other accomplishments.
El Paso Texas Tech health school to be comprehensive
The El Paso campus of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center will be a new comprehensive university educating hundreds of doctors, dentists, pharmacists and other allied health professionals, officials of Texas Tech University recently announced.
Enrollment at the El Paso campus of Texas Tech will include schools of pharmacy, dentistry and allied health with enrollment to eventually reach 900 students in all of the colleges included in the health sciences center, said Chancellor Kent Hance of the Texas Tech University System.
Texas Tech officials have established no budget or timeline for the health college and it may take as long as 10 years to have all components of the new health sciences center in place, Hance added. The first step is to create the center and hire a president and staff. The first class of the Texas Tech at El Paso medical school began in July.
Hidalgo MPO approves $1.5 billion transportation plan
The Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization has officially adopted a 25-year, $1.5 billion, Metropolitan Transportation Plan to be updated every five years. The plan ranks more than 70 projects according to priority - covering more than 3,000 miles of roads - and includes the $200 million freight-connector project being developed by Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority.
HCMPO Director Andrew Canon said there are more projects included in the 300-plus-page plan than the MPO has money for because of the recession. The plan does not include any commuter rail projects because, as Canon said, there first needs to be more buses on the road.
"If you do not have the buses going, we cannot get people from the station to their jobs," Canon said.
Kerr County agrees to join economic task force
Kerr County commissioners recently agreed to join the Kerr County Task Force slated to look at restructuring the Kerr Economic Development Foundation. Commissioners appointed County Judge Pat Tinley as the county's representative on the 10-member task force proposed by Kerrville Mayor Todd Bock (pictured).
Bock recommended restructuring the current 40-member board of the economic development foundation because the city has little input into the foundation, which operates independently of the city and the county. The new task force appointed to study the issue will include representatives from the Kerrville Economic Improvement Corp., Kerrville Public Utility Board, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Kerrville Independent School District, a large employer and a small employer, both to be selected by city staff. Kerrville officials hope the task force can begin meeting in January.
The foundation's $177,500 budget last year was assisted with a $25,000 contribution by the city, $25,000 from the county, $25,000 from the Kerrville Public Utility Board and $40,000 contributed from the private sector. The remaining $62,500 is funded through 4B sales tax revenue and is approved by the Kerrville City Council.
Judson ISD weighs outsourcing for some services
The Judson Independent School District is considering a proposal to outsource more than 200 jobs in maintenance, custodial and groundskeeping occupancies.
Judson ISD spokesman Sean Hoffmann said the district is only gathering information for an evaluation at this stage. He said a request for proposals to find a vendor providing comprehensive facilities management services is not a sign the district plans to cut positions.
The bidding process will close at the end of January, and a decision as to whether the district will outsource facilities-management positions will follow in February or March, according to Hoffman.
Waco council asks changes in bid process to help locals
Waco City Council members recently asked the city manager to consider issues such as local experience rather than always accepting the lowest bid in the city's competitive bid process.
At an earlier meeting, the executive director of the local branch of Associated General Contractors had urged the city to adopt a "competitive sealed proposal" process that weights more factors than price, saying a revised process could help contractors and benefit the local economy. Several council members then questioned whether the bid process could be tweaked even more.
The city sometimes uses the sealed proposal system and will likely use that process for projects remaining from the 2007 bond election, said City Manager Larry Groth (pictured). Those projects include renovations at Knox Hall, the new police station and renovation of the library. Groth and the city attorney noted that state law prohibits local governments from favoring local contractors unless the amount is less than $100,000 and the bids are within 5 percent of each other. The city can use criteria such as the ability to do a project quickly, the ability to provide prompt service and a history of doing business locally although those criteria also could apply to an out-of-town firm, Groth said.
El Paso approves $4M to weatherize, cut energy use
El Paso City Council members recently agreed to accept a $4 million federal stimulus grant to help about 600 low-income households weatherize their homes to reduce energy consumption.
The weatherization program, which will begin in about a month, will allot a maximum of $6,500 in improvements to each home, will help pay for replacing insulation, windows and energy-wasting appliances, said Bill Lilly, director of community and human development. This national weatherization program funding was channeled through states, which then determined funding for cities and nonprofit organizations, he said. No local matching funds are required for the grant, he said.
To qualify for funding, a family of four can earn no more than $44,100 annually. After an application is filed, the city will determine it the applicant meets income guidelines and will send an inspector to the home to decide what work should be done. A contractor will be hired to do the work and no funding will be given directly to the low-income family, Lilly said.
Montford states interest in chairing board of CPS Energy
Former State Sen. John Montford (pictured) recently said he is interested in chairing the board of San Antonio's CPS Energy when current Chairwoman Aurora Geis leaves that post. But, he added, he has made no final decision to pursue the job. Montford is currently a senior vice president of a telecommunications firm in San Antonio and plans to retire from that position in 2010. The former state senator, who previously served as a chancellor of Texas Tech University, recently met with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a member of the utility's board, to discuss the CPS post.
Interest in restructuring the CPS board began after an investigation indicated that some of the utility's executives working on expansion into nuclear energy failed to disclose a high cost estimate to other board members while giving a much lower figure to the community. As a result, two CPS executives were forced to retire and a third CPS executive was reassigned. Castro also urged the resignation of Geis and Stephen Hennigan, a senior member of the CPS board, to help regain the support of the city council and the public. Hennigan has not resigned his position on the board, while Geis agreed to leave the board as soon as a successor is named.
CPS is currently proposing a substantial rate increase and up to $500 million in new debt as demand for energy has declined. Board members have agreed to launch a search to replace Geis. The goal is to close the application process within 10 days so the board can begin the interview process as soon as possible.
Nacogdoches approves $6.2 million funding for shelter
Nacogdoches County commissioners recently accepted a $6.2 million grant to pay for an evacuation shelter and community center. The Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA) awarded the grant.
Under the agreement with TDRA, the county may use the facility for other purposes, but any funding generated from the shelter must be used only for upkeep and maintenance of the facility. Because the agreement prohibits the county from making a profit on the shelter, any funds in excess of the cost of maintenance and operations must be returned to the state.
Commissioners also authorized the county judge to begin negotiating a contract to create a final design for the evacuation shelter. Preliminary plans call for the shelter to accommodate 800 people temporarily and 500 people on a long-term basis.
Northside closing in on possible bond election
A 250-member bond committee of the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio recently moved forward in proposing a bond election in May 2010 with a price tag as high as $600 million. Committee members, who ranged from parents, representatives from neighborhood associations and business, developed five different bond packages with price tags ranging from $500 million to $600 million.
A smaller, 20-member steering committee will now review each of the proposals and deliver a final recommendation on a bond proposal to Superintendent John Folks (pictured). Folks said he plans to take the steering committee recommendation to trustees on Jan. 19, 2010.
District staff previously identified projects with about a $646 million price tag that included proposals for seven new schools, classroom additions at six campuses, $21.2 million to renovate other schools and $23 million to purchase land for future schools. The staff also proposed bond funding to improve science labs, technology, maintenance and transportation.
Lake Dallas eyes ways to join transportation authority
City officials of Lake Dallas are looking at using special taxing districts and tax abatements in their efforts to bring a commuter rail stop and mixed-use development to about 60 acres of property along I-35E that may be redeveloped because of highway improvements planned along that route.
City Attorney David Berman told council members that the city could use tax-increment finance district funds for a number of purposes, including buying membership into the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), which was originally established in 2003. At that time, only Denton, Highland Village and Lewisville approved the half-cent sales tax for the transit authority, while other cities in the county, including Lake Dallas, Shady Shores and Corinth, rejected the sales tax increase and membership in the DCTA. In 2006, those cities again rejected joining DCTA, which now has no rail stops planned for the route between Lewisville and Denton.
The next step in the project, a council member said, is to determine the capital costs from the new DCTA membership committee and whether Lake Dallas will be allowed to buy into a membership at this time. That information should be available to council members in January, he said.
El Paso approves $300,000 for electronic ticketing
El Paso City Council members recently authorized the police department to use a $300,000 federal grant to purchase 100 hand-held electronic ticketing devices and improve its computerized fingerprinting system. Police in El Paso have used ticketing devices since 2005, but several of those units are worn out because of exposure to weather. The grant required no local matching funds.
Dallas to seek new federal funds for streetcar loop
Dallas city officials recently said they plan to pursue funding for a proposed downtown streetcar loop from a new $280 million federal program to improve trolleys and streetcars in urban areas.
Linda Koop (pictured), a city council member, noted that the newly announced program represents another avenue for the city to pursue to help pay for the estimated $80 million cost of the proposed downtown streetcar loop. City planners also are looking into the possibility of linking downtown with Oak Cliff, she said.
U.S. Department of Transportation officials recently announced the $280 million program to upgrade urban circulator projects such as streetcars, buses and bus facilities to support communities, expand business opportunities and improve the quality of life in addition to creating jobs. Another $150 million in federal transportation funds will be available for projects that encourage preservation and enhancement of urban and rural communities by providing mobility options that improve access to jobs, healthcare and education in addition to contributing to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly environments.
El Paso seeking $5 million for new bike lanes
El Paso City Council members recently approved a plan to ask the state to pay for creating eight bicycle paths, more pedestrian signs and benches and other amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians as part of the state's $68 million transportation enhancement program to improve alternative commuter pathways.
City officials estimate that striping the bicycle lanes on streets located in the East Side and Lower Valley will cost about $1.5 million. The lanes will be designed for those who use bicycles as their primary form of transportation. The city already has secured federal money for the bike lane project, but if the state funding is approved, the city will use the federal funding for other similar projects, said Terry Quezada of the engineering department.
Creating walking paths near the medical center and linking the zoo will cost an estimated $1.7 million and adding more large signs downtown to aid pedestrians in locating critical destinations such as government offices or international bridges will cost about $2 million. The city will be required to pay about 20 percent of the total cost of the projects if the state funding is approved, Quezada said.
Texas to receive millions more in federal funds
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
On the heels of a federal stimulus bill that is pumping out $787 billion, billions more will soon be flowing out of the nation's capital...and large chunks of that amount will end up in Texas.
The federal government's omnibus appropriations bill was recently passed by the U.S. House and Senate and is now headed to the President's desk. The $1.1 trillion spending measure is expected to be signed.
Included in the bill, as in all appropriations bills, are numerous "earmarks" - special provisions that direct funds to various states for specific projects. Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) estimates that this year's disclosed earmarks will total $11 billion.
Some of the Texas earmarks include:
Texas Government Insider announces publication dates for upcoming holidays
Baytown city manager looking at job positions
Baytown City Manager Garry Brumback (pictured) recently confirmed he was a candidate for a city manager position in North Miami, Florida, and has considered positions that he believes would be appropriate for his advancement. Brumback has served as city manager in Baytown since September 2007. Prior to that, he served as assistant city manager in Clearwater, Florida.
In response, city council members appointed a panel to study Brumback's contract and performance evaluation and report back to council their findings. The three-member panel will search terms and conditions of contracts of other city managers in the area, meet with Brumback to determine what he would want in a contract and discuss issues surrounding the city manager and a plan to move forward.
Bloomfield may seek
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.