|Volume 7, Issue 7 · Friday, February 20, 2009|
Dunnam: Investment in Texas could be $60 billion
State agencies awaiting direction on stimulus bill spending
While only $16 billion in direct funding from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is expected to flow into Texas, the total investment in the state could quite possibly be more in the neighborhood of $60 billion, according to State Rep. Jim Dunnam (pictured) of Waco. Dunnam, who chairs the House Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, said Thursday the bill not only includes $16 billion in direct funding for Texas, but also has the potential to provide $27 billion to local governments and private entities in the state and another $27 billion in tax cuts for Texans.
"It's really astounding," said Dunnam. "We're talking about $43 billion in direct spending in the state of Texas. That's staggering."
But just because President Barack Obama penned his signature on the $787 billion bill on Tuesday doesn't necessarily mean the economic stimulus checks are "in the mail." Although approximately $16 billion of the funding in the bill is expected to flow into Texas, how - and when - those funds will get here is another matter altogether. Officials of the Office of State-Federal Relations (OSFR) gave a brief overview of the bill during the committee hearing Thursday. They admitted that procedures, timetables and other details are slow coming out of Washington, D.C. One thing is clear, however. The money will carry stipulations - some actions must be taken in some cases to qualify for funding and the funding must be tracked at the local level.[more]
Agencies preparing for influx of federal funds
TxDOT prioritizing project list; TEA awaits formula funding
How Texas state agencies will deal with the influx of federal funds from the American Recovery and Investment Act will likely vary from agency to agency. Some will see funding coming directly to them to be distributed through competitive bids, some will just be additional funding added to existing programs with the funding allocations to be determined by the agencies and others are awaiting federal rules and regulations regarding how the funds can be allocated, on what they can be spent and the qualifications for receiving them.
Some funding levels already are known. Infrastructure funding from the stimulus bill nationwide will total $27.5 billion, according to Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) spokesman Chris Lippincott, with $2.25 billion of that headed to Texas. Of that figure, he said $1.5 billion in projects will be selected by the Texas Transportation Commission, $675 million will be headed to projects chosen for funding by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and the remaining 3 percent of the funds - or $67.5 million - will be allocated for transportation enhancement projects chosen by the Commission - such as hike and bike trails.[more]
Amanda Rockow, vice president of public affairs, The University of Texas at Dallas
Career highlights and education: Since October 2006, I have served as vice president of public affairs for The University of Texas at Dallas. In this position, I am the chief government and community relations officer for the University. I primarily interact with elected and community officials to maintain awareness regarding legislative proposals, requests and issues that may affect University operations. I also manage the University's involvement in civic and business organizations in the DFW region. Prior to my time at UT Dallas, I served as vice president of government relations for the Dallas Regional Chamber. I worked at the Chamber for 10 years. I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. in psychology, and I am currently working on a master's degree in public affairs from UT Dallas.
What I like best about my job is: that I am constantly learning. UT Dallas is such a dynamic university to represent. It's rewarding to be involved in an institution that makes a difference in so many lives. The University's staff, faculty and students challenge me daily.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: to jump in with both feet. Creativity and innovation are crucial in this business. Take risks.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: It's OK to be overwhelmed. Take time to get to know people involved in different aspects of the University. Learn from others, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: having a good time with friends or family. Or dissecting the latest episode of the TV show Lost.
People would be surprised to know that I: am expecting my first child in June!
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: It's hard to pick just one thing. UT Dallas has the highest average SAT score among entering freshmen out of any public university in Texas, and more than 45 percent of our baccalaureate degrees are awarded to first-generation college graduates. At the same time, Kiplinger's Personal Finance consistently ranks UT Dallas among the top 100 best values in public colleges in the United States.
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.
Flowers leaving as director of LBJ Library, Museum
Dr. Betty Sue Flowers (pictured), director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, has resigned her position, effective May 22. "After seven wonderful years at the LBJ Library and Museum, I have decided to move on to other adventures and opportunities," she said.
Tom Johnson, chairman of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, said he is grateful for the leadership Flowers has provided at the LBJ Library and Museum. He also praised the many initiatives launched during her tenure.
Flowers was named director of the LBJ Library and Museum in 2002. She had previously served as the Joan Negley Kelleher Centennial Professor in the English Department at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as a Piper Professor and a member of the University's Academy of Distinguished Teachers. She is also a former associate dean of graduate studies and director of the Plan II Honors Program.
TCEQ receives EPA grant for more than $18M
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has received a grant totaling $18,609,238 from the Environmental Protection Agency for its Performance Partnership Grant (PPG), benefiting Texas' environmental quality programs.
The programs aim to reduce, eliminate or prevent a number of pollutants - from solid waste to pesticides - through standard-setting, monitoring, permit granting and enforcement.
State official seeks improvements to 911 network
The Commission on State Emergency Communications recently issued a report, Next Generation 911 calling for existing 911 systems throughout Texas to be replaced by a new 911 system able to handle more sophisticated technology.
Paul Mallett (pictured), executive director of the Commission on State Emergency Communications, said a new 911 system would have the capability of handling text messaging, voice-over-Internet protocol and cell phone camera images and video that the old system cannot use. The ability to receive text messages into a call or dispatch center will be especially beneficial to those with hearing or speech difficulties or during incidents when people cannot speak because of a dangerous situation, Mallett said. The Commission has requested the legislature to allocate $19 million for the next two years to help rural areas implement the new system. The goal is to have the new 911 system operating throughout Texas within six years, Mallett said.
Some cities and counties already are planning to install the improved 911 system. The Bexar Metro 911 Network District expects to spend about $24 million over the next five years to implement the new 911 upgrades in Bexar, Comal and Guadalupe counties, the executive director said. And the Alamo Area Council of Governments that oversees the 911 system for seven other South Texas counties also plans to spend about $1.4 million to improve the 911 network in its area, according to its deputy director. The 911 network receives most of its funding from a fee charged to landline and cell phone customers each month.
TWC allocates $50K for entrepreneurship initiative
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has granted Momentum Texas Inc. (MTI) a $50,000 grant to administer the Texas Entrepreneurship Initiative, based on the concept of economic gardening - that is, growing and tending a business.
MTI, a Dallas-based nonprofit agency charged with community building and entrepreneurial growth, encompasses three goals: to provide better linkage between entrepreneurs and information; to enhance the capacity of business service providers; and to improve local business climates.
This year's participants in Texas Entrepreneurship Initiative included the cities of Abilene, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Lubbock and Tyler. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
State collects $1.92B in sales tax revenue in January
The state collected $1.92 billion in sales tax revenue for the month of January, according to State Comptroller Susan Combs, up 3.9 percent from a year ago. She called the growth "modest" and said collections from retail trade and construction sectors have decreased.
Combs sent $665.5 million in local sales tax and $445.2 million in sales tax to Texas cities, up 3.9 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, from February allocations last year. Texas counties received $41.4 million, up 9.9 percent from last year, in sales tax revenue allocations. Special-purpose taxing districts received $26.7 million in sales tax, up 24 percent from last February, while 10 local transit systems received $151.2 million, up 3.3 percent from last year.
Water Development Board approves project funding
The Texas Water Development Board recently approved financial assistance totaling $215,481,000 as follows:
Reception fetes retiring UT-Brownsville/TSC provost
Dr. Jose G. Martin (pictured), retiring provost at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, was recently honored as one of the college's Diamonds Among Us and the first Provost Emeritus at a retirement reception. Martin retires Feb. 27 after nine years with the university.
Martin previously served as chairman of the Department of Chemical and Nuclear Energy at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He holds a bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University and both a master's and a doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Martin plans to keep an office at UTBTSC to write and conduct research related to architecture, engineering science and sustainable energy.
New executive marketing director hired at SFASU
Bob Wright (pictured) has been named executive director of marketing and public affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University, replacing Andy Kesling, who resigned in May.
Wright, a former reporter, director and bureau chief at a television station, began his career in higher education as the first college relations director at the North Harris Montgomery Community College District, now known as the Lone Star College District. He has also served as vice chancellor for communications at the Texas A&M University System and as executive director of public affairs at Southern Methodist University. Other tenures at The University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Houston combine for a total of 19 years of higher education service.
Wright's new charge at SFA will be to supervise marketing activities related to admissions, publications, communications, advertising and special events.
Field of finalists for Texas Tech vice president at three
Thomas Neal Farris (right), Colin Guy Scanes (middle) and T. Taylor Eighmy (left) have been selected as finalists for the position of vice president at Texas Tech University, according to President Guy Bailey.
Farris currently heads the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University; Scanes serves as vice chancellor of research and economic development and as dean of the graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and Eighmy serves as interim vice president for research and director of the strategic initiatives office at the University of New Hampshire. Farris will participate in an open forum Feb. 23 in room 309 of the Texas Tech Library at 4 p.m.
A 10-person search committee comprised of various campus representatives selected the finalists from a pool of 50 candidates. Bob Stafford, search committee chairman and member of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents, said the three finalists would each "bring a strong research and administrative background to the job."
Texas A&M-HSC professor to serve rural health panel
Dr. Larry Gamm, professor at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, has been appointed to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Gamm serves as head of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the HSC-School of Rural Public Health in addition to heading the National Science Foundation-supported Center for Health Organization Transformation. He has also served as director of the Southwest Rural Health Research Center and was instrumental in developing the Rural Healthy People 2010 publication and Web site.
Gamm said it was an honor "to serve on this active committee that meets with rural leaders around the country and continually searches for better approaches to meeting the health needs of rural Americans."
TSU alumnus donates $1M for global trade center
Dr. Kase Lawal (left) and his wife, Eileen (right), have donated $1 million to Lawal's alma mater, Texas Southern University - the single largest endowment from an alumnus in the university's history.
The funds, to be distributed over a 10-year term, will establish the Kase and Eileen Lawal Center for Global Trade (LCGT) within the Jesse H. Jones School of Business and will provide scholarships for international business students. TSU President Dr. Don Rudley said the Lawals' commitment to "the mission of Texas Southern University" marked one the proudest moments of his life.
The Lawal Center for Global Trade will establish a national resource center geared toward excellence and innovation in entrepreneurial global trade.
UNT selects Mona Hicks as new dean of students
Dr. Mona Hicks (pictured) has been selected to serve as University of North Texas' dean of students, effective immediately. Hicks previously served as interim dean in addition to her role as deputy chief for student development.
Prior to her tenure at UNT, Hicks served as senior director for Strategic Initiatives and Assessment in the office of the dean of students at Vanderbilt University. She also served as director of the Student Activities and Women's Resource Center at Rice University.
Hicks holds a bachelor's degree from Saint Edward's University in Austin, a master's degree from Western Illinois University and a doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University.
UNT taps EPA leader to oversee Office of Sustainability
The University of North Texas has named Todd Sprinks, an official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to lead its environmental efforts and supervise its Office of Sustainability. The office, according to Sprinks, "will continue to promote environmentally sustainable practices in everything the university does."
A UNT alum, Sprinks served as co-director of the university's International Studies major before joining the EPA as a special projects coordinator in July 2007. For his new charge, Sprinks will work closely with UNT's Sustainability Council - made up of students, faculty and staff - to focus on four major areas: research, university operations, outreach and curriculum development.
Sam Atkinson, chair of the Sustainability Council, said hiring one of the EPA's leaders puts UNT at the forefront of sustainability programs. At UNT, he said, "We mean green."
New UMHB president unveils reorganization plan
Dr. Randy O'Rear, who is set to succeed Dr. Jerry Bawcom as president of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on June 1, has already unveiled a reorganization plan for the institution, advancing the careers of key personnel in the process. O'Rear, a UMHB graduate, has served 20 years on staff at the university as an assistant director of advancement, director of development, associate vice president for enrollment management and vice president for external relations. His Senior Leadership Reorganization Plan includes the following promotions and placements (in photos from right):
THECB grants more than $240K to Lone Star College
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) recently allocated $249,397 to Lone Star College-Online to develop, pilot and evaluate 12 instruction modules. The award, part of the THECB Texas Professional Development Modules Project, is geared at developing online training modules for faculty, incorporating the best practices for academic improvement in a hybrid or online environment.
LSC-Online Associate Vice Chancellor William Durham said LSC's Web-based applications will be "setting statewide standards for online training of instructors through the implementation of this grant."
LSC-Online was also recently named as a finalist for the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc. Learning Impact Award (LIA) for its Faculty Orientation for Online Teaching program. The awards will be announced in May at an international conference in Barcelona, Spain.
UTHSC-Houston awarded $1.2M in scholarship funds
The John S. Dunn Research Foundation has awarded The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing $1.2 million for scholarships. The funds will be used exclusively for students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science Accelerated Nursing Program. The program has graduated 53 students since its inception in May 2004.
Patricia Starck (pictured), DSN, RN, FAAN, dean of the nursing school, said the gift marks the largest ever received by the School of Nursing and will provide full-tuition scholarships for 78 nursing students through 2013.
The John R. Dunn Research Foundation supports biomedical, educational and research programs in the Greater Houston area.
Lamar Institute graduates all pass licensing exam
For the first time in three years, Lamar Institute of Technology graduates passed the state-licensing exam on their first try, according to Ken Mason (left), assistant director of the regional police academy.
Will Lyons (right), chair of the Department of Public Service and Safety, said he is "always proud to see the police cadets succeed in passing the state licensing exam, but it is especially impressive to see them all pass on the first attempt. The regional police academy instructors and staff worked very hard in preparing the students and the cadets put forth that extra effort to be ready to sit for the state test."
New classes for the Regional Police Academy begin in the fall.
Juan Sanchez Munoz named new VP at Texas Tech
Juan Sanchez Munoz (pictured) has been named to fill the newly created position of vice president for institutional diversity, equity and community engagement at Texas Tech University. "Matters of diversity and equity are vitally important at Texas Tech University," said Tech President Guy Bailey. "By combining our efforts, I believe Texas Tech can better meet the challenges we face in recruiting, retaining and graduating students."
Munoz has been with Texas Tech since 2004, having served as special assistant to the president for institutional diversity and associate vice provost for faculty affairs. As an associate professor in the department of curriculum and instruction, he also serves as director of the Center for Research in Leadership and Education and Program Coordinator for Bilingual Education and Diversity Studies in the College of Education. Munoz holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California - Santa Barbara, a master's degree from California State University - Los Angeles and a doctoral degree from UCLA.
John Ellis Price will be UNT Dallas' first president
When the University of North Texas at Dallas becomes an independent university in 2010, Dr. John Ellis Price (pictured) will become the institution's first president. Price this week was named president-designate by the UNT System Board of Regents. The title "president-designate" is effective immediately, according to System Chancellor Lee Jackson.
"The Board is taking this step now to give assurance to all the supporters of the new university and to put in place the most stable leadership to guide the critical steps toward accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools," said Regents Chair Gayle Strange. Jackson said the appointment now shows the regents' confident in Price, their commitment to the people of Dallas and their "desire to provide a path for the seamless transition of UNT Dallas from a branch campus of UNT Denton to an independent, four-year university."
Texas State professors may get free down payment
Some professors at Texas State University could be in line for a $5,000 "bonus." That's what the City of San Marcos is offering them to make San Marcos their homes. The $5,000 would come in the form of a forgivable loan for a home down payment.
City officials note that not only would the new homeowners contribute to property and sales tax in the city, but their educational backgrounds would also help the city attract research and development firms to the city. The goal is to improve stats in the city regarding residents with college degrees and to increase the per capita income. Those who qualify are full-time professors who have not purchased a home in San Marcos within the past three years. They would not have to pay back the interest-free loan as long as they live in the home and work at least five years at Texas State.
Prior to head UT Pan Am presidential search committee
David B. Prior (pictured), executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at The University of Texas System, will chair a presidential search committee to advise The UT System Board of Regents on the selection of a president for The University of Texas-Pan American to replace former President Blandina Cardenas, who resigned in January. Charles A. Sorber is currently serving as interim president. The committee will present a list of up to 10 candidates to the board.
"UT Pan American is a beacon for higher education opportunity in the Rio Grande Valley and plays a crucial role in the economic development of that region and in the lives of so many South Texans, which makes the selection of a new leader for that institution a top priority for the Board of Regents," said UT System Board of Regents Chair Scott Caven.
Other members of the search committee include: Regents Paul Foster and Janiece Longoria; Juliet Garcia, Ph.D., president of UT Brownsville; Rodney H. Mabry, Ph.D., president of UT Tyler; Bruce Reed, Ph.D., dean of the UTPA College of Health Sciences and Human Services; Danika M. Brown, Ph.D., chair of the UTPA Faculty Senate and assistant professor in the Department of English; Arturo Fuentes, Ph.D., UTPA associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering; Jerry Polinard, Ph.D., UTPA professor in the Department of Political Science; Mary Lou Cano, administrative assistant in the UTPA university advancement division; and John-Robert Iruegas, UTPA student. External community representatives include: Marla Guerra, Ph.D., superintendent, South Texas Independent School District; R. David Guerra, president, International Bank of Commerce; Nat Lopez, president, Harlingen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, former regent and chairman, Pan American University; Margaret McAllen, former regent, Pan American University; Jaime Ramon, chairman, University Foundation and partner, K&L Gates; and Anne Shepard, former CEO, Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce. An executive search firm is assisting the UT System in the national search.
A&M School of Rural Public Health gears up for registry
The Hurricane Ike Registry (HikeR), a registry of individuals who have volunteered to contribute their thoughts and opinions about emergency planning and preparedness, is under way in College Station. The USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health devised the initiative with the full support of the Galveston County Health District.
HikeR seeks to improve future preparedness, response and recovery efforts related to natural disasters and large-scale catostrophes by allowing the public to participate in activities and research studies. The program will focus on improving public health response efforts, ranging from community immunizations to septic system failures, debris removal to potable water supplies.
Participants in the program must have been affected by Hurricane Ike, be 18 years of age or older and have completed a written or online participant-contract information form.
New director of career services cited at UT-Tyler
John Rick Shrout (pictured) has been named director of career services at The University of Texas at Tyler, replacing Krista Richardson. His tenure begins March 2.
Shrout previously served as a student development center director and a Title III student services activity director/career counselor at the University of West Alabama. He has been published in numerous publications, including the Journal of Counseling Psychology, and was recognized as the Outstanding Placement Professional of the Year by the Alabama Association of Colleges and Employers last year.
Shrout holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Auburn University.
Austin City Council picks Dudley as acting city auditor
Austin City Council has approved a resolution naming Taylor Dudley as acting city auditor, replacing Stephen L. Morgan, who recently announced his resignation.
Dudley, a certified internal auditor and fraud examiner, began working as a volunteer in the office of city auditor in 1990 and most recently served as deputy city auditor. Dudley holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
New head named for West Texas A&M department
Twenty-year veteran Dr. Nick Gerlich (pictured) has been announced as the new head of West Texas A&M University's Department of Management, Marketing and General Business.
Gerlich began his tenure at WTAMU straight out of graduate school in 1989. He most recently taught marketing and also serves as director of Continuous Improvement in the College of Business.
Lufkin to receive $5M from DETCOG for shelter
The Deep East Texas Council of Governments is expected to allocate $5 million (of a total $70 million in hurricane relief funds) to Lufkin to build a long-term shelter for people evacuating to Angelina County because of natural or man-made disasters. The county was recently designated a disaster sheltering hub by state officials.
A construction site has not yet been determined for the shelter, according to City of Lufkin Assistant Manager Keith Wright (pictured). However, construction may begin before the end of the year, just in time for the 2009-2010 hurricane season, according to project officials.
Angelina County Judge Wes Suiter said the city estimates that anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 people fled into the city after Hurricane Rita. The Lufkin school district housed more than 8,000 evacuees during the process.
Baytown names new public works director
Darryl Fourte, former division manager in the public works department at Overland Park, Kan., has been named public works director for Baytown. In his new role, he will monitor budgets, oversee water/wastewater utility operations and supervise the planning of solid waste, traffic control, streets/drainage and equipment services.
Fourte, in addition to his three years service as division manager, has also served 25 years with the Dallas public works department, seven of which were spent as senior program manager. Fourte holds a bachelor's degree from Dallas Baptist University and a master's degree from the University of Phoenix.
City of Carrollton to launch local stimulus plan
Inspired by the 1935 Works Progress Administration, City of Carrollton officials have devised a homegrown stimulus plan, the Carrollton Works Progress Program, to create jobs and spur economic growth. Details are still being ironed out.
City Manager Leonard Martin (pictured) said people "want to feel productive." After listening to debate over the federal stimulus program, Martin said he wanted to do something "at the grassroots level" to help pump money into the local economy and create jobs for people while getting work done the city has been delaying.
By moving projects forward, the idea is to merge public and private sector assets to create temporary jobs, such as data entry clerk positions for residents.
San Angelo ISD's Griffin chosen TASBO president
Pattie Griffin, director of human resources for the San Angelo Independent School District, will become president of the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO), one of the state's most comprehensive education organizations, beginning Feb. 27. The organization is comprised of more than 5,000 members that include leaders in the fields of finance, accounting, technology, data processing, human resources, transportation and text books, among others.
Griffin has been a member of TASBO for 13 years and has worked for San Angelo ISD for 24 years, starting, she said, "from the trenches up" as a library clerk at Bowie Elementary. She has also served as a coordinator and director of benefits for the district in addition to working in the office of the assistant superintendent of business.
In her current role as human resources director, Griffin helps maintain the district's compensation plan, the employee leave program, payroll and other pivotal areas.
THECB allocates funds to TWU for nursing program
The state's largest educator of new nurses, Texas Woman's University, is set to receive a grant totaling $378,167 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), allowing the university to graduate even more nurses. The funds, part of the Professional Nursing Shortage Reduction Program, will help alleviate the current nursing shortage by allowing the university to hire additional nursing faculty and providing stipends to retain current faculty.
Dr. Pat Holden-Huchton (pictured), dean of the TWU College of Nursing, said one factor contributing to the nationwide nursing shortage is "the lack of qualified faculty available to educate students," adding the funds will increase TWU's ability to attract "highly qualified faculty in order to graduate more new nurses."
THECB funds are distributed per the 80th Texas Legislature to state and private nursing programs that demonstrate an increase in the number of nursing graduates at all academic levels (associates, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral).
Victoria Co. seeks grant for operations center
Victoria County commissioners recently agreed to apply for a $1 million federal grant to help pay for a new emergency operations facility.
A new emergency center is needed as the current joint city-county emergency operation center is located in an aging building with a failing foundation that may not withstand a Category 3 hurricane, said Jeb Lacey, the county's emergency management coordinator. The existing 987-square-foot center is also less than 100 yards from a rail line that daily carries hazardous materials, he said.
County officials are hoping to expand to an 18,000-square-foot emergency center that could serve as a regional facility for seven counties as well as state and federal personnel, said County Judge Don Pozzi. The new center also would be on an underground electrical grid and have a generator for backup power, he said.
College Station ISD could face bond election in May
Trustees for the College Station Independent School District are considering calling for a $144 million bond election recommended by a committee comprised of district staff and community members.
The committee recommended the proposed bonds to be used to fund a $111.3 million new high school, a $19.4 million elementary school, $7.8 million for a new transportation facility and $5.7 million for new buses and renovations to the high school.
Superintendent Eddie Coulson (pictured) told trustees the recommended projects were necessary and should be pursued soon since construction costs recently have come down. The second high school could be open as early as fall 2012, Coulson said. The district also has about $8.8 million from a $67.4 million bond package approved in 2007 that can be used for capital projects, land acquisition and technology upgrades, he said.
Longview to spend $100,000 for public works software
Longview City Council members recently approved spending $100,000 for new public works software to provide faster response to infrastructure problems.
The new work order management system also could bring shorter wait times for residents needing water or sewer repairs, said Keith Bonds, public works director. The public works department currently uses six databases to track work requests and job tickets generated through telephone calls, radio, daily work records or preventive maintenance.
The new software will bring those six databases into one program that will act as a red flag to alert city staff if, for example, a water line has been repaired multiple times within a short period of time. The program should be operating within three months, he said.
Pampa city officials ask for help in funding water park
Pampa Assistant City Manager Shane Stokes (pictured) recently asked the Pampa Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) to contribute $3 million to help the city build a new family water park.
Pampa city officials have approved selling $9 million in certificates of obligation and using $3 million of those funds to pay for a portion of the water park. The city also plans to asked for donations from individuals and civic groups as well as apply for a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to pay for the proposed water park, Stokes said. The city would like to open the park by May 2010. Stokes also asked the PEDC to contribute $250,000 to purchase new playground equipment, benches and walkways at six city parks.
The proposed water park and improvements to city parks will help attract more visitors to Pampa and PEDC is authorized to spend money for tourism, Stokes said. The board of directors of PEDC indicated they plan to study the proposal before making a decision.
Manvel approves $1M to expand city hall, move library
The Manvel City Council recently authorized the city manager to seek a $1 million loan to pay for expanding the city hall to house a library operated by the county.
Plan calls for the city hall to be expanded from 1,500 square feet to more than 8,000 square feet to make room for the library. The Manvel Library currently is housed in a converted, 3,000-square-foot house.
The proposed move to city hall would give the library an additional 100 square feet in space specifically built to house a library, said Mayor Delores Martin. The city should move forward with the project, the mayor said, as construction costs are decreasing as the economy has slumped.
Nueces County studies replacement of bathhouse
Nueces County commissioners are exploring how to replace a $1 million bathhouse and office complex opened in 2002 that had structural problems so severe the floors collapsed following a water leak. The damage to the Padre Balli bathhouse and office complex occurred about a year ago when an unnoticed leaking pipe caused the floor to rot. The building is damaged so severely it most likely will be torn down, county officials said.
Since the damage was discovered, the building has been boarded up and the county currently uses a temporary building to sell parking permits to beachgoers. Commissioners reached no decision on how to pay for building a new bathhouse and office complex.
Bridge City ISD to appoint panel to review facilities
Trustees for Bridge City Independent School District recently agreed to form a community-based facilities committee to study the district's hurricane-damaged facilities and make recommendations on how to proceed with repairing or replacing damaged schools.
The new committee is needed as all of the district's facilities, except for the main campus of Bridge City High School, were heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike, said Superintendent Jamey Harrison (pictured). While some of the facilities have been repaired, some of the more heavily damaged buildings may be past the point of repair, he said. The district has made temporary repairs to an intermediate and middle school and plans to make more permanent repairs this summer.
Sims Elementary School, however, is the most difficult challenge, Harrison said, because the storm surge caused heavy damage to the school's mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and rewiring the cinder block building could cost between $4 million to $6 million. He asked the committee to explore whether repairing the elementary school is practical or if a new building is necessary. He also said the district must find a way to fund any repairs or new construction through other revenue means than a bond referendum. The facilities committee will include between 15 to 20 members representing parents, teachers and the community.
Austin police to utilize mobile fingerprint scanners
Austin police officials expect that about 100 officers in areas of the city will begin using new $1,000 mobile fingerprint scanners to aid in the identification of criminal suspects and motorists who cannot produce a drivers' license when stopped for traffic offenses.
The new devices, which are currently being used by about 100 police agencies nationwide, allow police to scan a suspect's fingerprints and transmit those prints to a regional database of nearly 1 million previously arrested people, said Assistant Police Chief Al Eells. If a match is found, officers will receive the information on their patrol car computers. If no match is found, the person can be released more quickly since a trip to the jail for fingerprinting is avoided, or the suspect may still be taken to the city jail if the officer determines that is necessary, he said.
The city is using a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security aimed at reducing violent crime in specific areas of the city to purchase the first group of scanners, which will be first be used in Northeast, North Central and South Central Austin, Eells said. A person refusing to be fingerprinted on the mobile scanners may be subject to arrest, he said.
Sabine ISD panel recommends May bond election
A citizens committee recently recommended that trustees for Sabine Independent School District call a bond election in May to raise funds for a new elementary campus and renovations to an existing elementary school and the high school. Board members are expected to vote on the recommendation at their next meeting on Feb. 23.
Superintendent Stacey Bryce (pictured) noted that the school district has gone 18 years without a bond election and praised the committee for its work in developing the recommendation.
The committee estimated the cost of the facilities improvements would be about $21.4 million, but advised asking voters for $19.9 million and using existing funds for the remaining $1.5 million. The citizen's panel recommended renovating an existing elementary school to house pre-K and kindergarten in one wing and fifth and sixth grade in another wing, renovating a shop area and storage facility at the high school into science labs and the construction of an athletic field house and softball field.
Conroe PD petitioning to create its own academy
The Conroe Police Department will petition the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education in June to create its own accredited police academy in order to aid recruitment for more officers. Only 22 applicants were submitted during the last round of hiring for five open positions. Only certified police officers were allowed to apply.
Deputy Police Chief Philip Dupuis said the department wants to recruit "those that are not yet licensed and go ahead and license them," adding not everyone can afford to attend the academy.
The city hopes to attract more local candidates for positions on the 105-member force with its own on-site police academy, similar to the one the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office implemented. The cost of adding the academy would be minimal, according to Dupuis, since the city already hosts training programs and holds staff and guest lectures presented to the 16-week academy. If accredited, classes will begin in September or October.
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Public safety funds will flow abundantly in Texas soon!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Government is charged with securing the homeland and its citizens. That responsibility consumed government following the events of 9-11. It was difficult to focus on anything else for more than a year. Now, however, with the economy capturing the national spotlight, security concerns have become less visible. Even so, funding for security-related initiatives, projects and equipment continues to escalate.
Most Americans have a sophisticated grasp of the critical nature of security. Even so, we often forget that local law enforcement agencies and officers are the first line of defense in keeping communities, citizens and the nation safe. In the months to come, local groups throughout Texas will receive large amounts of funding for security and public safety.
The federal government sends billions of dollars each year to all 50 states for public safety. Currently, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $4 billion in funding for state and local law enforcement efforts. An estimated $147.2 million of that will come to Texas to support state and local law enforcement efforts.[more]
Myers resigns as head
TACDC plans 2009 community development conference
The Texas Association of Community Development Corporations will host its 2009 Texas Community Development Conference Monday through Wednesday, March 16-18, at the Omni Southpark Hotel in Austin. The event will feature breakout sessions, a networking reception, exhibits, Legislative Day at the State Capitol, catalyst training programs and an evening event at the Bob Bullock State History Museum. The catalyst program brings together community development experts and technical assistance and coaching. The goal of the program is to sustainably increase the productivity of CDCs in Texas. For information and to view the agenda, click here. To register, click here.
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 March 26 and 27 in Houston and April 15 and 16 in Odessa. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.