|Volume 7, Issue 6 · Friday, February 13, 2009|
Saenz, transportation leaders meet in Washington, D.C.
Discuss economic stimulus funding for 'shovel-ready' projects
More than 40 state transportation heads, including Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director Amadeo Saenz (pictured) met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this week in Washington, D.C., to discuss funding that will head to the states when the federal economic stimulus bill passes. The conference committee bill, with a price tag of $790 billion, is expected to be voted on in the U.S. House and possibly the Senate today, Friday.
The billions of dollars in "shovel-ready" projects across the country to be funded are just one aspect of President Barack Obama's stimulus plan that has a goal of creating and preserving millions of jobs for Americans.
Until the bill passes, however, there are a lot of question marks that remain, said Chris Lippincott, spokesperson for TxDOT.
"We've been working with our local partners like MPOs (metropolitan planning organizations) and tolling authorities to identify projects," said Lippincott, "but the details of the bill will play a very important role in what projects we can move forward. There are a lot of issues we don't have firmed up."[more]
Ruocco to head DPS Criminal Law Enforcement
Former FBI agent in San Antonio to lead department
Thomas Ruocco (pictured), former Assistant Special Agent in charge of the San Antonio Division, Austin Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been chosen the new chief of Criminal Law Enforcement for the Texas Department of Public Safety. His appointment was effective Feb. 2.
"Tom Ruocco brings a wealth of experience to DPS, and we are excited about the future of the Criminal Law Enforcement Division under his leadership," said interim DPS Director Stanley E. Clark.
The DPS Criminal Law Enforcement Division, with 1,100 employees throughout the state, investigates multijurisdictional crimes such as narcotics violations, terrorism, motor vehicle theft, gambling, public corruption, fraud, theft and counterfeit documents.
While working for the FBI, Ruocco was responsible for management and oversight of the Austin and Waco offices and the counterterrorism program. In addition to being stationed in San Antonio, he also pulled duty in New York, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. He retired from the FBI last year. Ruocco is a native of New York and holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from St. John's University in Queens.
Gay Dodson, executive director, Texas State Board of Pharmacy
Career highlights and education: I'm a 1969 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, College of Pharmacy. After graduation, I worked as a community pharmacist in the Dallas area for 13 years. I've been an employee of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy since November 1982 and have served for two years as Field Compliance Officer in the Houston Area, three years as senior compliance officer in the Austin office, and almost 10 years as director of compliance before being appointed as executive director on June 28, 1997. As executive director, I serve as the chief executive officer of the agency and an ex-officio member and secretary of the Board of Pharmacy. The Board of Pharmacy is the state agency responsible for licensing and regulation, including discipline of pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in Texas. The mission of the Board is to promote, preserve and protect the public health, safety and welfare by fostering the provision of quality pharmaceutical care to the citizens of Texas through the regulation of the practice of pharmacy, the operation of pharmacies and the distribution of prescription drugs in the public interest.
What I like best about my job is: The variety of challenges and situations presented to me almost on a daily basis.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Make sure you have all the facts when you make a decision. Surround yourself with excellent employees and allow them enough freedom to do excellent work.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Always remember the mission of the agency is to protect the public.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: Attending a sporting event at UT or playing golf.
People would be surprised to know that I: was a member of the University of Texas Longhorn Band and I'm an active member of the Longhorn Alumni Band.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: That we take our job very seriously and work every day to protect the public.
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.
Bevers reappointed HHSC inspector general
Kelly "Bart" Bevers has been reappointed by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In his position, Bevers works to prevent, detect and investigate fraud, abuse and waste in state health and human services programs.
Bevers, who holds a bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University and a law degree from the University of Tulsa, is a member of the Association of Inspectors General Board of Directors and Association of Certified Fraud Specialists Board of Regents.
Bevers' appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. His term will expire Feb. 1, 2010.
Speaker Straus names House committees
House Speaker Joe Straus this week announced committee chairs and members of committees of the Texas House for the 81st Legislature that is currently under way. "The committee assignments I am making today will draw upon the House's wisdom and experience and provide an opportunity for new leadership and ideas," said Straus. Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston will serve as Speaker Pro Tempore.
Committee chairs named by Straus include: Appropriations - Rep. Jim Pitts, Waxahachie; State Affairs - Rep. Burt Solomons, Carrollton; Calendars - Rep. Brian McCall, Plano; Higher Education - Rep. Dan Branch, Dallas; Public Education - Rep. Rob Eissler, The Woodlands; Natural Resources - Rep. Allan Ritter, Nederland; Human Services - Rep. Patrick Rose, Dripping Springs; Business and Industry - Rep. Joe Deshotel, Beaumont; Energy Resources - Rep. Jim Keffer, Eastland; Transportation - Rep. Joe Pickett, El Paso; Environmental Regulation - Rep. Byron Cook, Corsicana; and Technology, Economic Development and Workforce - Rep. Mark Strama, Austin.
To view the complete list of committee assignments, click here.
Follow SPI on Twitter!
Now you can keep in touch with Strategic Partnerships, Inc., and the Texas Government Insider on your cell phone, your PDA or on the Web. SPI now has a Twitter account and we'll be "tweeting" when there's important news about a big RFP of interest, when there's breaking government news, when we've added something to our Web site that you should know about and more. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com. If you don't already have a Twitter account, go to twitter.com and sign up. Follow our tweets on myspi, the direct link to our twitter feed. Watch for our SPI logo at left on our tweets!
Pauken reappointed commissioner, chair of TWC
Tom Pauken of Dallas has been reappointed by Gov. Rick Perry as chairman and employer representative of the Texas Workforce Commission.
Pauken is a former businessman, vice president of a venture capital company, president of a small business and trustee of an investment trust. He holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation and his term will expire Feb. 1, 2015.
Harrell picked as independent ombudsman at TYC
Will Harrell (pictured) of Austin has been chosen by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as independent ombudsman at the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). Harrell has been serving at TYC as ombudsman since May 2007, when he was appointed by the conservator of the TYC. As independent ombudsman, Harrell will report on individual TYC facilities and any problems within the commission, create awareness about his office and review and evaluate procedures established by the commission to ensure the rights of all children incarcerated at TYC.
Harrell, who will serve a term that expires Feb. 1, 2011, holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and master's and law degrees from American University. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Bordelon reappointed as workers' comp commissioner
Rod A. Bordelon Jr. (pictured) of Austin has been reappointed as commissioner of Workers' Compensation at the Texas Department of Insurance. His term, subject to Senate confirmation, will expire Feb. 1, 2011.
Bordelon formerly served as public counsel for the Office of Public Insurance Counsel and as an advisory member of the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, and both the American and Austin bar associations. He also serves on the Workers' Compensation Self Insurer Guaranty Association.
Bordelon holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from South Texas College of Law.
TDA wins marketing awards for Food, Fiber Pavilion
The Texas Department of Agriculture won six awards in the Texas Association of Fairs and Events (TAF&E) marketing competition for the agency's 2008 Food and Fiber Pavilion at the State Fair of Texas.
The pavilion won first place awards for best sponsor follow-up report, best miscellaneous printed materials and best other merchandise. It also was awarded three second-place plaques for best program/brochure/flier with four or more colors, best poster and best newsletter.
"These awards are a true testament of the innovation and creativity of our staff, sponsors and exhibitors that showcase the best of Texas in the Food and Fiber Pavilion at the State Fair of Texas," said Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. "The success and rewards derived from this premier event remind us of the top quality products the Lone Star State has to offer."
$5M ETF investment to aid adult stem cell technology
A $5 million Texas Emerging Technology Fund investment to assist in adult stem cell technology has been announced for the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine's Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Scott and White. According to Gov. Rick Perry, the funds will be used to expand the institute and recruit researchers to work there.
The ETF award will help recruit additional members to the facility's research team, who will work to commercialize 20 existing patent applications and five issued patents for regenerative technology and identify new commercialization opportunities.
"This investment by the state in the expansion of the Texas A&M Health Science Center ensures that Texas will continue to serve as a leader in medical research and innovation," said Dr. Nancy W. Dickey (pictured), president of TAMHSC and vice chancellor for health affairs for the Texas A&M University System. "Formation of this institute and recruitment of these world-class researchers will facilitate the growth of science, creation of new discoveries and expansion within the biotechnology industry."
Speaker Straus announces staff appointments
House Speaker Joe Straus this week announced additions to his senior staff in his Capitol office. Executive staff include: Chief of Staff Clyde Alexander, a former House member who served Straus as his top transition advisor when Straus was elected Speaker; Lisa Kaufman, director of budget and policy and special counsel, former general counsel to a state senator and former director of the Senate State Affairs Committee; Angela Hale, director of communications, former communications director in the Office of the Attorney General; Jesse Ancira, general counsel and senior tax advisor, former Deputy State Comptroller; and Amy Chamberlain, executive assistant, former assistant to the House Parliamentarian and former chief of staff for a state House member.
Senior policy advisors include: Shelly Botkin, natural resources; Janna Burleson, criminal justice; Craig Chick, business and regulatory; Jennifer Deegan, health and human services; David Durden, insurance; Meredyth Fowler, general government; and Andrea Sheridan, education. Senior budget advisors are Andrew Blifford and David Kinsey.
Other staff members named include: Fred Guerra, press secretary; Kevin Robnett, deputy general counsel; Julia Stribling, director of constituent services, Ashley Kaden, junior policy advisor; and Kari Torres, special legislative assistant.
Seale to take over as OneStar Foundation president
Elizabeth Seale (pictured) of San Antonio has been named by Gov. Rick Perry as president of the OneStar Foundation, effective March 23. She will replace Susan Weddington, who is retiring. The OneStar Foundation connects nonprofits with expertise and resources to build their capacity to meet the needs of Texans, including recruiting and retaining volunteers. It also administers the federal AmeriCorps grants in Texas as well as other grants and programs.
Seale comes to the OneStar Foundation after having served as COO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), where she oversaw and managed programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn and Serve American and the Office of Emergency Management. She also was founding director of the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and served as advisor on Presidential Initiatives to the Commissioner for the Administration for Children, Youth and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Seale is a former deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources, where she oversaw the Office of Planning, Child Support Enforcement, Child Care, Social Services, Family Investment and Community Services.
TYC cites changes in administrative staff positions
Bruce Toney (pictured), Chief Inspector General for the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), will soon leave TYC to rejoin the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Toney's position at TYC will be filled Feb. 17 by Cris Love, currently a captain with the OIG. Love brings 24 years of experience in law enforcement and criminal justice to his new position, including experience in the Texas Department of Public Safety-Rangers Division and with the OIG.
TYC also has some other new faces in its administration, including Lori Person, who is the new director of governmental relations. She is a former legislative staff member in the Texas Senate and before joining TYC was Director of Strategic, Business and Technology Planning at the Office of the Attorney General.
The new superintendent of education at TYC is Dr. Clint Carpenter. He came to TYC after serving as an assistant professor in the Texas Tech University College of Education, where he taught leadership classes and coordinated the school's superintendent certification program. He is a former school superintendent for two Texas school districts and holds his doctorate from Texas Tech.
New general counsel at TYC is Toysha Martin, who replaces Steve Foster, who resigned. Martin is a former senior counsel for litigation and workout for a prominent banking group and is also a former deputy county attorney for the Maricopa County, Arizona County Attorney's Office. She has served as assistant attorney general for the Arizona Office of the Attorney General and also worked in the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney's Office. She holds a law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Texas Declaration of Independence signing to be noted
A free, two-day celebration commemorating the 173rd anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence will be held Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 28 and March 1, at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site in Washington, Texas, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials. The events of the celebration will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
Costumed re-enactors and members of the Texas Army will portray Texas icons such as Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Anson Jones. Vendors will be selling foods and drinks and craftsmen and musicians will participate. A Texas-sized birthday cake will be served to concert-goers. The Washington-on-the-Brazos Park Association's new Web project, the Spirit of Independence, will be previewed at the park's Visitors Center. The largest map of Texas, measuring roughly eight feet square, will be on display.
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is located between Brenham and Navasota off State Hwy. 105 and FM 1155. For more information, call 936-878-2214.
Railroad Commission approves pipeline safety rules
New pipeline safety rules approved this week by the Texas Railroad Commission make Texas the first state in the nation to regulate all pipelines in heavily populated areas. Natural gas production and flow lines in those areas will now be under the state's safety jurisdiction. Previously, production and flow lines in those areas were unregulated under federal law and had no safety requirements.
Effective March 2, the new rules will require production and flow lines in populated areas to be operated and maintained according to state pipeline safety rules regarding design, construction, operating pressures and testing, emergency response and damage prevention.
Additional pipeline rules also became effective earlier this month that require natural gas distribution pipeline operators to submit leak reports every six months to the Railroad Commission beginning in July. New pipeline construction reports also will now be required to be filed with the Commission on new liquefied petroleum gas distribution systems. "Adopting these enhanced pipeline safety rules will help to assure the public that pipelines transporting natural gas from wells located in heavily populated areas continue to be under the watchful eye of the state's regulatory agency," said Commission Chair Victor Carrillo.
DSHS orders recall of Texas peanut plant products
Two days after the Peanut Corporation of American voluntarily closed its Plainview plant when lab tests revealed the possible presence of salmonella in some of its products, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey (pictured) ordered the company to recall all products ever shipped from that plant. The order was issued after dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers were reportedly discovered Wednesday in a crawl spaces above a production area during an in-depth DSHS inspection. The inspection also reportedly found that the plant's air handling system was not functioning correctly, causing the adulteration of exposed food products.
In addition to the recall, DSHS ordered the plant to stop producing and distributing food products. The order, signed by Lakey, prohibits the plant from reopening without DSHS approval.
On Tuesday, DSHS reported that laboratory tests were being done on food and environmental samples from the plant, but indicated the closure orders are not contingent on finding salmonella or other illness-causing organisms. DSHS officials said Tuesday it does not appear that any of the products implicated - peanut meal, granulated peanuts and dry roasted peanuts - had reached consumers. The peanut meal and granulated peanuts had not been shipped out of the Plainview facility. The dry roasted peanuts had been shipped to a distributor but were detained and recalled before further distribution. The closure of the plant was in an abundance of caution following a 43-state outbreak of salmonellosis that has been traced to peanuts.
Texas Water Resources Institute names acting director
The Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) has named Dr. B.L. Harris (pictured) acting director, succeeding Dr. C. Allan Jones. The institute provides research and education initiatives related to water resources for Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Harris, a professor in Texas A&M University's soil and crop sciences department, joined the institute in 2001 as project director for the Rio Grande Basin Initiative, a joint venture with New Mexico State University. The project, which implements strategies for meeting water demand in the Rio Grande Basin area, has won numerous awards for its research and education measures.
Harris served as associate director for agriculture and natural resources for AgriLife Extension and associate director for AgriLife Research before joining TWRI. He holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Texas Tech University, and a doctorate from Oregon State University.
University of Dallas scraps plans for pharmacy school
The much-anticipated plans to establish a graduate school of pharmacy at the University of Dallas have been put on hold. University officials this week announced suspension of their plans for the new school, with UD President Dr. Frank Lazarus (pictured) blaming the economy for the demise of plans for the pharmacy school.
"The degree of risk involved with beginning an entirely new school at this time is simply too great to be in the best interest of the University," said Lazarus. He said the university, however, will continue to building on its core strength - "providing a nationally recognized, rigorous and transformative academic experience for all of our students."
Board of Trustees Chair Dan Cruse said the economic landscape has changed "substantially" since university officials announced plans for the new pharmacy school. "The dramatically altered economic environment prevents the university from proceeding with this project," he said.
Wilson County gets animal-agriculture disaster plan
Wilson County recently became the first county in Texas to implement an animal-agriculture disaster response plan, showing responses that should be taken during a natural, accidental or man-made disaster involving agriculture and animals. Funded by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant, the 200-page plan was researched and written by personnel with a San Antonio environmental group following both meetings and review of the document by a veterinarian and members of the Texas Animal Health Commission.
Once a draft plan was written, it was put into use during an exercise in 2007 that included the Texas Animal Health Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Alamo Area Council of Governments, the American Red Cross, Connally Memorial Medical Center and county and local law-enforcement agencies.
The plan will continue to be developed and updated. It was adopted by county commissioners on Jan. 25 and coincides with the Texas Animal Health Commission's existing Foreign and Emerging Animal Diseases Response Plan for the state of Texas.
TAMU picks ag outreach associate vice chancellor
Dr. Larry Boleman (pictured) has been appointed associate vice chancellor for outreach and initiatives for agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M University.
A former top adviser for university President Elsa Murano, Boleman has also served as assistant deputy vice chancellor for agriculture and industry relations. He served as a beef cattle specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service for 30 years before joining the A&M System.
Boleman holds a bachelor's degree and doctorate from Texas A&M University.
NTTA seeking public input for naming 121 tollway
What's in a name? Perhaps a new moniker for the Texas 121 Tollway.
Officials of the North Texas Tollway Authority have narrowed to three finalists the possible names for the 121 Tollway. Those three finalists include "Interurban Tollway," "Sam Rayburn Tollway" and "121 Tollway."
If Sam Rayburn Tollway is chosen, it would honor the late Congressman from Texas who was the longest-serving Speaker of the Texas House, serving from 1940 through 1961. The name Interurban Tollway would honor the early 20th century passenger rail system that connected Fort Worth, Dallas and many other area cities. The NTTA policy is to ensure that names are geographic location of the project or one or more landmarks, major destinations, infrastructure, or historic sites located near or served by the project. The policy prohibits the use of commercialized names, allows for naming the roadway after any individual posthumously and, includes "tollway" in all future toll highway names.
The NTTA will now solicit feedback to see how the public responds to the names and will also send letters to the nine 121 Tollway corridor cities and three corridor counties for their input and comment. The public can comment on these choices by sending an e-mail through March 6 to TalktoNTTA@ntta.org.
TxDOT awards TSU two-year traffic study
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has awarded Texas Southern University a two-year traffic safety research project, titled Development of Guidelines for Triple Left and Dual Right-Turn Lanes. Traffic engineering experts Dr. Yi Qi (right) and Dr. Lei Yu (left) are leading the 2008-2010 study in collaboration with researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute.
The project will develop geometric design and installation guidelines for triple left-turn and dual right-turn lanes, previously unchartered research territory. It will also analyze the performance and safety standards of existing triple left-turn and dual right-turn lane sites in Texas.
The researchers will use TSU's highly advanced Mobile Traffic Van, which can be used for gathering traffic data at selected intersections and roadway sections, for its data.
San Antonio economic development head resigns
San Antonio Economic Development Director Robert Peche has resigned from his post. Deputy City Attorney A.J. Rodriguez will serve in Peche's stead until a permanent director is found.
Peche worked as the city's economic development coordinator before leaving to work with the San Antonio Spurs in the mid-1980s. He returned to city government as City South Management Authority director before he was appointed head of the economic development office in 2007. Peche holds a master's degree from Trinity University.
UNT appoints interim associate dean of graduate school
Joseph Oppong (pictured) has been tapped to serve as interim associate dean for research and professional development of the Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies at the University of North Texas.
Before joining the UNT faculty in 1992, Oppong taught at the University of Iowa. At UNT he was promoted to professor of geography last year and also served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth. He will maintain both his teaching and research posts as he serves his new charge as interim associate dean.
Oppong earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Ghana, and both his master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
UT-Arlington special events center approved
A $73-million special events center has been added to the capital improvement plan of The University of Texas at Arlington, following action of The University of Texas System Board of Regents Thursday. Planned for the northeast corner of the campus, the center will seat 6,500 in its 190,000 square feet of space.
"UT Arlington envisions this facility as a community resource - a hub for athletics, academics, entertainment and all kinds of community activity," said UTA President James Spaniolo (pictured).
Construction on the center is expected to start in 2010 and be completed by spring 2012. It will be built to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification for sustainable development. A combination of local university funds, private gifts and revenue bonds will provide financing. A parking plan including a large garage north of the center is also under consideration. UTA officials will return to the UT System board of regents in a few months for approval of design plans.
Consulting firm makes recommendations for UTMB
A consulting firm has issued its recommendations for optimizing clinical operations at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). The report, which will be studied by the UT System Board of Regents, offers several options. The analysis was sought after the facilities at UTMB suffered major damage from Hurricane Ike last year and its financial situation was in a downward spiral.
The options include: redevelop all of the UTMB inpatient hospital capacity on Galveston Island with the League City campus purely ambulatory care; redevelop all of the UTMB inpatient hospital capacity inland on the League City campus; or split the inpatient programs into two major UTMB hospitals, one on each campus.
"There are no preconceived outcomes and the Board firmly believes this process represents a robust effort for restoring UTMB and providing a successful model that will ensure its vibrancy in the region for generations to come," said UT Regents Chair Scott Cavens. Caven urged the UTMB community and the general public to review the report and provide feedback, either at the town hall meeting in Galveston on Feb. 20 or by submitting written comments to the UT System. To view the report, click here.
UT System faces hiring, possible salary freezes
New University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. (pictured) this week announced a systemwide flexible hiring freeze for non-faculty positions and plans to recommend to the UT System Board of Regents a freeze of senior executive salaries at all 15 academic and health institutions and the UT System Administration.
The hiring freeze is effective immediately and is anticipated to remain in place through August 2010. Cigarroa also plans to recommend a senior executive compensation freeze for FY 2010. The proposed executive salary freeze would include the chancellor, the 15 campus presidents, the executive vice chancellors and vice chancellors, who have all agreed to the plan.
"The leadership of the UT System and its institutions are keenly sensitive to the current economic climate, which has touched every corner of our great state and nation," Dr. Cigarroa said. "Just as Texans are tightening their belts, so must we."
UTPA-UTB/TSC to partner to further health goals
An agreement will be signed next week between The University of Texas-Pan American and The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College to create an Early Physician Assistant Studies Program (EPASP). The program's goal is to increase the number of physician assistants to serve the medically underserved region of South Texas.
Some of the administrators of the two universities expected to be on hand for the Feb. 18 signing of the agreement at the UTPA Visitors Center include: Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost/vice president for Academic Affairs and acting president; Dr. Bruce Reed, dean, UTPA College of Education; Frank Ambriz, chair, UTPA Physician Assistant Studies Program; Dr. Juliet Garcia, UTB/TSC president; and Dr. Eldon Nelson, dean, UTB/TSC College of Health Sciences.
The EPASP will enroll, retain and graduate five students each year from UTB/TSC who will then attend UTPA, with the program beginning in 2009. Those students will be accepted in the UTPA Physician Assistant Studies Program after receiving a bachelor's degree from UTB/TSC and providing documentation of work and volunteer experiences in a medical setting. The program's goal is to increase the number of persons annually in the Brownsville and Cameron County area who enter the physician assistant studies program.
UTMB chooses Elger as new executive vice president
William R. Elger (pictured), a Certified Public Accountant, has been named executive vice president and chief business and finance officer at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, effective March 1.
Elger, a senior associate dean of administration and finance at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, previously served as executive director for administration and chief financial officer at the University of Michigan Medical School. Elger holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Entities sign agreement for Giant Magellan Telescope
Nine astronomical research organizations, including one from Australia and one from Korea, have signed the Founder's Agreement to construct and operate the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in the Andes Mountains in Chile.
Participants include The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Arizona, the Australian National University and Astronomy Australia Limited and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute.
GMT will open new windows onto the universe and help answer questions that cannot be answered with existing facilities. The telescope will have seven primary mirrors, each 8.3 meters in diameter, giving it the power of a telescope with a single mirror of 25 meters. Using GMT, astronomers will learn about the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the origin of the first stars and first galaxies, the mysteries of star and planet formation, galaxy evolution and black hole growth. GMT will also play a key role in the detection and imaging of planets around nearby stars.
Enrollment deadline near for prepaid college tuition
The enrollment deadline for the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, a prepaid college tuition program, is Feb. 28, after which enrollment will close until September.
The program allows families to lock in college tuition and fees at current prices for public universities and colleges, and offers families an opportunity to prepay those expenses before a student enters college. More than 4,800 children are currently enrolled in the program.
For more information about the Texas Tuition College Fund, click here.
Air Combat Command to request more Dyess personnel
Air Combat Command plans to request more active-duty personnel to curb maintenance staff shortfalls at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene.
In fiscal year 2009, Dyess has hired 25 contractors to provide additional resources for scheduled maintenance on Dyess' B-1 fleet, allowing active-duty personnel to work on endeavors related to flying. Additionally, Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls has plans to almost double the number of crew chiefs trained specifically for Dyess. Sheppard trained 26 B-1 crew chiefs for Dyess last fiscal year, and this year plans to train 45.
To reach a goal of 316,500 in the service by Oct. 1, the Air Force had been aiming to cut 40,000 airmen from its ranks, according to officials. Gears have shifted, however, and plans are now to expand service to approximately 330,000 by the end of 2010.
Texas mayors convene in Dallas for clean air forum
The Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition (TCACC) and mayors from several metropolitan Texas cities - including Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso and Houston - met recently in Dallas to discuss issues ranging from clean air and transportation needs to homelessness.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert (pictured) said the occasion marks the first time Texas cities and counties "have been organized statewide on environmental laws," noting the significance of the mayors' ability to coalesce on potentially polarizing issues.
The participating mayors requested the state provide $25 million in annual funding for supportive services that assist homeless individuals in addition to asking the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Department of Public Safety to issue official identification for everyone discharged from a Texas jail or prison prior to the release date.
TxDOT chairwoman backing U.S. 281 upgrade
Deidre Delisi, chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, recently said that upgrading U.S. 281 from George West to the border is a top priority and that some funding for the project is included in the federal economic stimulus package being studied by Congress.
The Rio Grande Valley is the one area of the state that is not served by an interstate-grade highway and TxDOT is committed to change that, Delisi said. TxDOT plans to upgrade U.S. 281 by circumventing bottlenecks at Falfurrias, Premont, Ben Bolt and George West, she said. The estimated total cost of the entire project is about $197 million.
Included in the original versions of the federal stimulus package is $87.5 million to pay for upgrading the section of U.S. 281 in Falfurrias, $13 million for the upgrade at Ben Bolt and a $26.1 million to build a free right turn and railroad overpass at George West. Left out of the stimulus package are a $50 million connector project in Ben Bolt and road construction at Premont, which is estimated to cost between $40 million and $104 million, depending on whether an overpass is built. While the commission still must vote on allocating national economic stimulus funds, Delisi said she would push hard for approval to upgrade the highway as improving transportation from the border will benefit the entire state as well as South Texas.
Friendswood considering $9M bond election in May
Friendswood City Council members recently discussed asking voters to approve $9 million in bonds to help fund $20 million in new projects.
Mayor David Smith (pictured) proposed that the city consider three funding sources to pay for a new library, civic center and infrastructure projects. Council members discussed asking voters to approve $9 million in bonds, $6 million to build a new library and to renovate the old library into a civic center and $3 million for improvements to parks.
Council members also discussed raising $10 million by issuing certificates of obligation and using cash reserves to pay the remaining costs of the three projects. The current library is too small to meet community needs, Smith said. The certificates of obligation would be used to fund other infrastructure improvements, including roads and drainage.
Amarillo College to offer wind energy program in Dumas
Directors of the Dumas Economic Development Corporation recently agreed to a proposal to offer a wind energy program at the Moore County Campus of Amarillo College.
Jack Stanley of the Sciences and Engineering Department at Amarillo College said the Moore County Campus should be ready to begin offering a wind energy program as early as this fall. The cost of starting up the program is about $69,000, including a facility upgrade, equipment, software, operation expenses and faculty training.
Wind energy technicians are in demand as Panhandle Worksource has determined that as many as 500 to 750 wind technicians will be needed by 2012 in the Texas Panhandle, Stanley said. The wind energy program is a 25-hour course over two semesters with from 12-15 students in each class. Once certified, a wind technician usually earns between $35,000 to $45,000 annually, Stanley said.
Aransas Pass ISD agrees to collaborative class plan
Trustees for the Aransas Pass Independent School District recently approved an agreement with other Aransas County school districts that will allow each school district to share classes with students from other districts.
The shared classes will allow some equipment to be purchased by only one district and used by others, thus reducing the need for each district to purchase the equipment, said Dr. Sue Thomas, superintendent of Aransas Pass ISD. The superintendents' collaborative program includes San Patricio ISD, Aransas County ISD and Calallen ISD, she said. For instance, Gregory-Portland ISD students may come to Aransas Pass for health care education while students from Aransas Pass ISD may travel to Ingleside for training in welding, thus relieving Aransas Pass of purchasing expensive welding equipment and hiring an instructor.
The collaboration also may result in distance learning, where a class will be streamed in real time to other classrooms or an individual student's computer, she said. Districts in the shared-class plan also are discussing shared instruction with Del Mar College in Corpus Christi and Coastal Bend College in Beeville.
Athens ISD looking at calling May bond issue
Trustees for the Athens Independent School District recently discussed the possibility of calling a bond issue in May after hearing the district is facing overcrowded conditions at several schools.
Superintendent Fred Hayes (pictured) told trustees that Athens Middle School needs eight more classrooms to accommodate sixth grade students who were moved from another school last year and recommended the board call a single-issue bond election to pay for the expansion. Voters in Athens rejected a $21.5 million bond issue last November and a $28.4 million bond issue in May 2008. The district also needs four more classrooms at Athens Intermediate School and at South Athens Elementary School, he said.
Currently, the district rents seven portable buildings at a cost of about $17,000 a year, the business manager reported. Trustees took no action on the superintendent's proposal.
Kerrville selects four finalists for city manager
The Kerrville City Council recently named four finalists for the city manager position. The finalists are:
Council expects to begin interviews with the four finalists within the next few weeks.
Midland's $1.8M Centennial Plaza upgrades slated
Upgrades to the City of Midland's Centennial Plaza totaling $1.8 million are set to begin in March and be finished by November. The refurbishing will include LED (light emitting diode) lighting, a new waterfall, fountain upgrades and a revamped amphitheater.
Assistant City Manager Marcus Johnston (pictured), one of the staff members charged with seeing the project through, said the finished project will be "a nice change that people should look forward to."
The "want project," as Mayor Wes Perry termed the upgrade, was creatively financed through tax money from hotels and motels, a $250,000 community development grant and $800,000 from Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 1.
Corpus Christi council supports coliseum renovation plan
Corpus Christi city council members recently agreed to continue negotiations with the developer proposing to convert the city's old coliseum into a 2,000-seat arena, an interactive gaming center and marketplace.
While some council members questions the accuracy of attendance projections provided by the developer and the possibility of competition with other downtown venues, others argued that the facility will work well with other attractions on the bay front to attract even more visitors to the downtown area.
City officials expect to sign a contract with the developer within the next six weeks and begin construction to renovate the facility in seven to eight months. The proposed Spirit of Corpus Christi should be completed by June 2011 and will also include a memorial fountain dedicated to veterans, a food court, ice rink and an exhibition area for art shows.
Freer ISD wins grant for science, math education
The Freer Independent School District recently received notice of its selection for a $538,630 grant from the Texas Education Agency. The grant is from the agency's Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (T-STEM) Startup Cycle 4 Grant Program, said Superintendent Alberto Gonzales (pictured).
Freer was the only small school district chosen by TEA to receive the T-STEM grant this cycle, Gonzales noted. Texarkana, Austin, Ysleta and Lubbock school districts were the four other school districts winning the grants, he said. A new high school and new junior high school with science, math and technology labs currently under construction will serve as STEM academy facilities.
The grant will provide development and training for teachers, equipment for coursework, extended learning experiences and real-world opportunities for students, Gonzales said. The STEM program also includes college and career awareness activities, student and teacher academic summer camps, the purchase of new technology to support and elevate application levels in math and science and bringing distinguished lecturers to address students. The goal is to reduce dropout rates and increase the number of students enrolling and successfully completing math, science and engineering classes to meet the demands of an increasingly evolving job market.
Onalaska cites superintendent, principal posts
Onalaska Independent School District trustees recently met to discuss two vacant administrative posts for superintendent and junior high/high school principal.
Trustees named Lynn Redden, former superintendent for Coldspring Independent School District, as lone finalist for superintendent. Redden has served as acting superintendent of Onalaska ISD since replacing David Kennedy in September.
Charles Boyce, acting principal at Onalaska Junior-Senior High School, has been named to the post's permanent position. He replaces Troy Parton, who resigned to accept a superintendent position in another district.
Edinburg to receive $1.6M for airport improvements
The city of Edinburg recently received a $1.6 million grant to pay for runway expansion at the South Texas International Airport.
The grant from the Federal Aviation Administration was announced by the Texas Department of Transportation. It will pay 90 percent of the estimated cost of the runway expansion project and the city will pay the remaining 10 percent, said City Councilman Gus Garcia (pictured).
The city is also asking the state for an additional $6 million in grants to pay for its proposed 20-year, $40-million plan to expand the airport's runways to be able to land large cargo planes needed during hurricanes and other emergencies. The improvements are needed, Garcia said, as the state has designated the airport to be part of its emergency preparedness staging area.
Corpus Christi ISD approves design plans for schools
Trustees for the Corpus Christi Independent School District recently approved design plans for two new elementary schools to be built with funding from bonds approved by voters in November.
The design plans call for two 78,000-square-foot buildings similar to two existing elementary schools, with some modifications such as the administration offices being located closer to the entrance than at Webb and Shaw elementary schools, said Superintendent Scott Elliff. The designs will allow for six to eight additional classrooms to be built if called for by future enrollment growth, he said.
Responding to declining enrollment, the district plans to consolidate two existing elementary schools into each of the two new schools. The board will seek a bid to be awarded in March and expects construction on the two new facilities to begin in June, Elliff said.
New Braunfels studies $400M in capital improvements
The New Braunfels City Council recently moved forward in adopting a $400 million capital improvement plan to be completed over the next five years.
The plan prioritizes and estimates the costs of approximately 130 improvements to municipal facilities, parks and drainage systems, said Mayor Bruce Boyer (pictured). It includes plans for designing a new city hall, revamping the municipal golf course and widening Walnut Avenue. The plan will serve as a guideline, not a blueprint, he said.
Council members also approved spending $46,500 for a feasibility study to determine the need for a youth sports complex. The study will evaluate the possible economic impact of such a complex, which was listed in a recent needs assessment conducted by the United Way of Comal County.
Pflugerville approves $14.5M for roads, library
Pflugerville city council members recently authorized the sale of $3 million in bonds to pay for expanding the library and $11.5 million in certificates of obligation to fund five road projects.
Voters in 2008 approved a $7 million bond issue that included provisions to expand the Pflugerville Community Library from 10,000 square feet to 43,000 square feet. City council members plan to issue the remaining $4 million in bonds in late 2009.
The $11.5 million in certificates of obligation will be used to pay for $3 million in improvements to Pflugerville Parkway, $3 million for Kelly Lane, $2 million for Heatherwilde Boulevard, $2.5 million for Pflugerville Parkway east and $300,000 to Pfennig Lane.
Nolanville hires interim city administrator Looney
Jeffery Looney has been named temporary city administrator for the city of Nolanville. Looney is a former Teague city administrator, where he served for seven years. He also previously served as city manager in Malakoff and in Rangeley, Colorado. Looney will be paid an hourly rate for his services.
Get your free copy of the Texas Government Insider
The Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter. If you are not a subscriber, or if you would like to tell your friends or co-workers how to receive a free copy, click here.
Permission to reproduce, reprint
This newsletter may be reproduced, and all articles within may be reproduced and/or reprinted without permission when credit is given to the Texas Government Insider, a publication of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Note to media:
Need expert commentary on procurement issues relating to state government, city and county government, K-12 public schools, higher education or healthcare? Our consulting team has more than 300 years of high-level experience in decision-making among these government entities. Give us a call at 512-531-3900 and we'll arrange an interview for you with one of our experts.
Technology presents a major divide...Texas schools must be on the futuristic side...
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Do you know children in kindergarten who 'blog'? You may...if you live in the Childress School District.
In Dallas, elementary students are using video casts to interact with other students in Minnesota. Students in El Paso are creating podcasts and videos to post on the Internet.
And just when newcomers to educational technology get comfortable with a Mac or a PC, along come "digital lockers," tablet computers, wireless networks and interactive whiteboards. Texas school systems must stay ahead of the curve. Technology has changed the world and being "tech savvy" will influence careers, lifestyles and the overall economic prosperity of our state.
School districts with good technology infrastructure are more successful than others. Not only is technology critical to classroom learning, administrators rely on sophisticated software for processing payroll, tracking food service operations and maintaining Web sites for students, faculty and parents. Students must be prepared for jobs in a global economy based solidly on technology and administrators save time, resources and money by using it for overall operations.[more]
UT regents pick Nye as UTIMCO chairman
Erle Nye (pictured) of Dallas has been named chair of The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) board of directors. He replaces Robert Rowling, who resigned last week after coming under fire of the Senate Finance Committee regarding bonuses approved for UTIMCO employees.
Nye, appointed by the UT System regents Thursday, is a former chair of the Texas A&M System Board of Regents and is chair of UTIMCO's Audit and Ethics Committee. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M, a law degree from Southern Methodist University and a Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa from Baylor College of Dentistry. He has experience in engineering, financial, legal, operations and regulatory areas.
Regents also reappointed J. Philip Ferguson of Houston and Ardon E. Moore of Fort Worth to the UTIMCO board. UTIMCO oversees investments that support the UT System and the Texas A&M University System.
Crowley ISD postpones new school to balance budget
Trustees for the Crowley Independent School district recently agreed to delay the opening of two intermediate schools to help balance the budget. Voters in 2007 approved $417 million for new construction and renovation of school facilities, but rejected a bond proposal in October for funding to staff and operate the new facilities.
The district cannot afford the projected $7.6 million cost of opening the new schools after they were built, said Superintendent Greg Gibson He blamed the state's funding formula for loss of revenue to the district, which now receives $500 less per student than the state average. Gibson said one of the new schools could be open for the 2010-11 school year if the district realizes savings from a new energy management initiative. District officials do not anticipate calling for a bond election to pay for any costs of opening the two new campuses, he said.
El Paso PSB proposes $77M flood prevention plan
The Public Service Board (PSB) of El Paso recently unveiled plans to spend almost $77 million on flood prevention during the next three years. One-fourth of construction costs, $19.2 million, will be paid from revenues, including a new storm water fee, and the remaining $57.5 million will be raised from the sale of bonds, said Ed Archuleta (pictured), president and chief executive officer of the Public Service Board.
The three-year flood protection plan calls for PSB to begin $40 million in construction projects in March, including the beginning of at least 10 major projects. These include flood prevention projects on Interstate 10 and upgrading canal systems in the northeast section of the city to reduce flooding of homes and businesses, Archuleta said. The plan also calls for $6 million to be spent on the creation of nine park areas with ponds that will double as storm water reservoirs and green space.
Clifton receives grant for new police camera system
The Clifton Economic Development Corporation recently approved a $30,000 grant to the Clifton Police Department to help purchase a $96,700 "Eye-in-the-Sky" camera system to enhance its ability to pinpoint criminal behavior.
The camera system will include point-tilt-zoom cameras and fixed cameras that will provide videotapes for police to review, said Police Chief Steve Adcock. The cameras will not provide real time imaging, he said.
Lamar, Red River counties win grants for water supply
The Office of Rural Community Affairs recently awarded a $127,656 grant to Red River County and a $97,100 grant to Lamar County to provide new or improved water service to rural residents.
In Red River County, 13 families will gain access to public water service through an expansion of the system paid for with grant funds. In Lamar County, the city of Deport will replace an estimated 1,180 feet of dead-end water line and install six fire hydrants. The grants are a part of the Small Towns Environment Program or STEP, a competitive grant program, said Charles S. Stone, executive director of the Office of Rural Community Affairs.
Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD puts hold on bond election
Officials of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District recently recommended that a bond issue to fund new facilities and technology planned for November should be delayed.
The decision was made after reviewing the district's projected enrollment, debt capacity, staffing requirements, tax rate and technological needs, said Superintendent Gene Buinger (pictured).
Rather than seeking a bond election in November, Buinger recommended using about $1 million from the general fund to pay for technological improvements. Buinger also said he expects the district to lose some tax revenue as many of the city's shopping centers are losing tenants and sales tax revenue may continue to decrease. A slowdown in home construction also has resulted in enrollment growing at a slower rate than previously projected, he said.
County, city recognized
National Hurricane Conference slated in April
The 2009 National Hurricane Conference, the nation's forum for education and professional training in hurricane preparedness, is slated for April 6-10 at the Austin Convention Center. The event will feature workshops, training sessions, exhibits and an awards banquet. Nearly two-dozen emergency response agencies and organizations will participate and provide a national forum for federal, state and local officials to exchange ideas and recommend new policies to improve emergency management as it relates to hurricane preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation to save lives. Attendees will discuss lessons learned from previous hurricanes, hear information on state-of-the-art programs, hear about new ideas being tested or considered and receive information from assistance programs. For more information, click here. For registration information, click here.
TASSCC plans March Technology Education Conference
The Texas Association for State Systems for Computing and Communications (TASSCC) will hold its Technology Education Conference (TEC) from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, at the Commons Center in Austin. "Web 2.0 - Services and Innovation in the Public Sector" will be the thrust of the conference. TEC 2009 will focus on several popular Web-based applications and give real life examples of how government organizations can provide improved services to the state of Texas. Early bird registration is under way and will end Thursday, Feb. 26. Online registration ends Friday, March 20. For more information, click here. Sponsorships are available.
2009 Texas Homeland Security Conference set in March
The 2009 Texas Homeland Security Conference will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio March 23-26. It will combine all of the workshops, presentations, training classes and resources normally associated with the Texas Hurricane Conference and the Texas Homeland Security Conference. Workshops and presentations from a wide variety of experts will focus on the full spectrum of homeland security goals: Prevention, Protection, Response and Recovery. The conference is sponsored by the Governor's Division of Emergency Management and brings together representatives of law enforcement, border security and port security, transportation and cyber security, as well as firefighters, emergency medical personnel, Texas Military Forces, voluntary organizations and private sector representatives. Attendees also will include officials from higher education, public education, health and medical care and public officials from local, state and national governments. Representatives of more than 30 state agencies on the Governor's Emergency Management Council and federal officials also will attend. For more information on conference registration, general session speakers, workshops and training opportunities, click here.
TxDOT to host small business briefings
The Texas Department of Transportation will conduct a series of briefings throughout the state to educate small and minority-owned business owners on how to do business with TxDOT, particularly relating to how TxDOT procures services and purchases products. General Industry Sessions will include an Overview of TxDOT Toll Projects and Contracting Opportunities on Toll Way Projects, Professional Services Consulting Contracts and State Contracting for Information Technology Products and Services. Other breakout sessions will target small and minority businesses on Small and Minority Business Certifications, Resources for Small Business Development and Marketing Your Business to the State. TxDOT contracts include, but are not limited to, engineering, real estate professionals, IT services, computers, printing, construction, maintenance, goods and services and more. The briefings will be held Feb. 18 and 19 in Laredo; March 26 and 27 in Houston; and April 15 and 16 in Odessa. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.