|Volume 7, Issue 8 · Friday, February 27, 2009|
Transportation Commission holds off on funding vote
Will allow legislators, public time to review projects for stimulus
The Texas Transportation Commission will wait until next week to choose the highway projects it will recommend for funding from the $1.2 billion in highway and bridge funds coming to Texas from the federal economic stimulus bill. However, the Commission Thursday approved a minute order regarding another $500 million Recommended Transportation Stimulus Maintenance Prjoects of road and bridge rehabilitation and maintenance and $600 million in the 2009 Safety Bond Program that provides funding for highway improvement projects that have the greatest potential for reducing traffic accidents.
"Projects have been selected from across the state representing all regions," said John Barton (left), assistant director for engineering operations at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The maintenance spending includes $370 million for 182 road projects, $73 million for 27 road rehabilitation projects, $31 million for 47 bridge projects and approximately $30 million for 10 safety enhancement projects. As a result, more than 900 miles of highway will see safety improvements such as widening narrow two-lane roads, adding left turn lanes and continuous left turn lanes, installing concrete and cable barrier in divided highway medians, converting undivided highways to divided roads, building overpasses and more.
What didn't happen Thursday as originally intended was the approval by the Commission of a prioritized list of TxDOT Potential Federal Stimulus Priority Projects statewide that would be funded from the $1.2 billion in funding from the economic stimulus package. Legislative hearings earlier in the week gave lawmakers the opportunity to tell TxDOT officials and Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi (right) they were not thrilled about not having input in the selection.
That led Delisi to announce on Tuesday, "At this time I do not anticipate the Commission voting on the entirety of the $1.7 billion at the Thursday commission meeting. We're going to let the list sit out there and give everybody ample time to comment."
The new list of Recommended Transportation Stimulus Projects has now been scrubbed, presented to the Commission, explained to legislators and posted for the public to view. It will likely be voted on by the Commission at its Thursday, March 5, meeting.[more]
SPI announces partnership with MultiState Associates
To help businesses find, capture contracts resulting from stimulus
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) this week announced a partnership with MultiState Associates Inc. for a timely initiative. The country's two leading companies in government procurement and government relations will provide client-customized services designed specifically to help firms find and capture government contracts resulting from the federal economic stimulus bill. The joint venture allows the partners to work in all 50 states, providing opportunity identification, capture strategy, advocacy assistance and more.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) will send nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments throughout the country - some arriving within the next 30-60 days. The federal bill sends billions of dollars for technology, healthcare, construction, public safety and energy solutions to every state. Governmental entities are expected to hand the work off to private sector vendors and service providers.
Contracting opportunities for private sector firms will be abundant, but competition will be fierce. Click here to see how SPI and MultiState Associates follow the stimulus money, identify opportunities and assist in capturing these government contracts.
DFPS announces two new assistant commissioners
Rasco, Deckinga bring years of experience to new appointments
Sasha Rasco (top) and Audrey Deckinga (bottom) have been named assistant commissioners of the Department of Family and Protective Services, according to DFPS Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein. The commissioner noted that both bring "a wealth of experience and commitment" to their new roles.
Rasco began her role as assistant commissioner for Child Care Licensing (CCL) on Feb. 16. She has worked in CCL since 1997, serving as the director of policy and program operations since 2003. She boasts nearly two decades of work in the child-care industry, beginning as a direct child-care worker. She also has served as a policy fellow for the Maryland Governor's Office of Children, Families and Youth and has private sector experience with the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association and the Texas Alliance for Children and Family Services. Last year, Rasco was appointed by the governor to serve on the Committee on Licensing Standards. She holds a master's degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.
Deckinga has worked in human services for more than 30 years and in three states. She was a therapeutic foster parent in Minnesota and has worked for Child Protective Services in Texas for more than 18 years. She will begin her role as assistant commissioner on March 1. She has worked as a caseworker, supervisor, program director and division administrator for placement and services at state headquarters and as the director of policy and programs. For the last three years, she has been a senior policy analyst in the office of health services for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Deckinga holds a bachelor's degree from Calvin College in Michigan and a Master's in Social Work (MSSW) from The University of Texas at Austin.
Harper Estes, president, State Bar of Texas
Career highlights and education: I am a third-generation graduate of Texas Tech University and got my law degree from Baylor University. I have practiced law in Midland with Lynch, Chappell & Alsup, P.C. my entire career. Serving as president of the State Bar of Texas is a great honor that I never expected to receive, but I'm trying to make the most of it.
What I like best about my job is: The people you meet. I am privileged to work with an outstanding staff. Meeting lawyers throughout the state and country has been fun, informative and rewarding. I love being a lawyer, so it's fun for me to meet and get to know other lawyers.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Don't try to do too much and be willing to rely on the help of others. This was good advice and has been easy to follow because of our great staff, outstanding Board of Directors, and the willingness to help on the part of our immediate past president and president-elect.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Have fun but never forget the importance of the work.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: at a matinee with my wife, if we can agree on a movie.
People would be surprised to know that I: play guitar and sing (both poorly) in a gospel/bluegrass band called The Backsliders. We play mainly at retirement homes where the audience doesn't hear so well.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: It's been a while since I read it, but one of the great books I have read is Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch. It's one book in a three-volume history of the civil rights movement. I was struck by the courage of people of all races who stood up against an accepted injustice and faced not only social pressure but also physical danger in doing so. It forces you to think about whether or not you could or would do the same.
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.
Downsizing, layoffs cited at Texas Youth Commission
Total of 720 positions cut from agency since October 2008
Continued downsizing at facilities and more staff reductions within the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) have been announced by TYC Executive Commissioner Cherie Townsend (pictured). At the West Texas State School in Pyote, the capacity for youth at the facility will be reduced to 48. Some 110 staff positions have been eliminated, including 67 that were filled. TYC officials say the facility will be turned into a modified security facility whose focus will be on chemical dependency and abuse treatment.
Additionally, approximately 130 positions, including 13 that were filled, have been eliminated from the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Mart. The total staff for Mart I will now be 356 for its lower average daily population of 180 youth and total staff for Mart II will be 309 for a reduced population of 192. Also, the agency's central office was cut by 15 positions, including two layoffs.
System-wide, TYC has cut approximately 720 positions from its staff since October of last year, resulting in a savings of $25 million. "It is imperative that we are good stewards of Texas taxpayers' dollars and continue to build an agency that is effective and efficient," said Townsend. "We are coming out of an extremely difficult period in our agency's history, and I'm convinced that, as a result of the reforms we've undertaken, we will be better able to serve the youth in our system." Townsend told employees of TYC that the legislature expects TYC to reduce the size of its workforce to match the 50 percent reduction in the facilities' population that has occurred as a result of reforms over the last two years.
Funding coming to state for hurricane expenses
Some of the costs incurred by damages from Hurricane Ike will be paid for by $60 million coming to Texas from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The funds will be used to help pay for shelters, ambulance staging areas, transportation, food, water, ice, generators and National Guard expenses and will flow through the Governor's Division of Emergency Management.
More than $134 million of the funds are likely to reimburse some 350 businesses, local governments and charitable organizations that provides services during the aftermath of the hurricane.
Houghton, Underwood reappointed to commission
Ted Houghton (left) of El Paso and Fred Underwood (right) of Lubbock have both been reappointed to the Texas Transportation Commission, the agency that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, with terms set to expire Feb. 1, 2015. Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.
Houghton, who is self employed, has served on the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board, the School Land Board, the El Paso Electric Company Board of Directors and the 1984 Olympic Committee. He holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at El Paso.
Underwood, president and CEO of a group of cotton manufacturing facilities, has served as the former vice president and director of the National Cotton Council as well as director and member of the advisory committee of Plains Capital Corporation. He currently serves as a chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the Cotton Warehouse Association. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University.
Austin names Carstarphen lone superintendent finalist
Dr. Meria Joel Carstarphen (pictured) has been named lone finalist for the position of superintendent of the Austin Independent School District. She will succeed Dr. Pat Forgione, who has announced his retirement, effective June 30. AISD Board President Mark Williams called Carstarphen "a passionate, energetic, reform-minded visionary, who understands the challenges of a diverse urban school district."
Carstarphen currently is superintendent of the St. Paul, Minnesota, public schools. She is a former chief accountability officer in the Washington, D.C., schools, was executive director for comprehensive school improvement and accountability in Kingsport, Tennessee, and special assistant to the superintendent in Columbus, Ohio. She also has taught abroad in Spain and Venezuela. She began her public education career as a middle school teacher in Selma, Alabama.
Carstarphen holds a bachelor's degree from Tulane University, a master's from Auburn University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She also has studied at the University of Seville, Spain, and the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
A 21-day waiting period is required by law before the AISD can formalize a contract with Carstarphen. That period ends March 19. Her official start date has not yet been determined. In the Minnesota school district, she managed an urban district with an annual budget of $625 million, 6,500 employees and more than 40,500 pre-K-12 diverse students in more than 100 schools and learning sites.
Beaumont, Orange ports to receive $4M each in grants
With the help of $8 million in economic recovery grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the ports of Beaumont and Orange will improve their cargo operations. Beaumont and Orange will each receive about $4 million in grant monies.
The Port of Beaumont is looking to upgrade rail access on its Orange County property with the funds. The city will have to drum up $1.5 to $2 million in additional funds to complete the project, according to Chris Fisher (pictured), executive director of the Port of Beaumont.
The Port of Orange will use its portion to develop new cargo transportation infrastructure at its Sabine River facilities.
DIR announces strategic plan advisory group
The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) recently approved the appointments of its Advisory Committee to the State Strategic Plan. DIR is required to develop a biennial state plan for information resources management to provide direction for such management in the state. The plan is used by Texas state agencies to develop their information resources management plans. Those plans are due to the state's leadership on Nov. 1.
Those named to the 2009 advisory committee include: Mike Castillo, president, Castillo and Associates, Humble; Gary Chapman, senior lecturer, LBJ School of Public Affairs, Austin; Dr. Linelle Clark-Brown, dropout prevention coordinator; Austin ISD; Peter Cooper, chief information officer, El Paso County; Sam Decker, chief marketing officer, BazaarVoice, Austin; Jeff Fleece, deputy chief information officer, Health and Human Services Commission, Austin; Victor Gonzalez, director of innovation and chief technology officer; Comptroller of Public Accounts, Austin; and Tim Howell, information technology analyst, City Manager's Office, City of Hutto.
Also: Johanne Ibsen-Wolford, major accounts sales branch manager, Siemens Communications, Inc., Austin; Dr. Walt Magnussen, director for telecommunications, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; John Monk, administrative officer, Health Professions Council, Austin; Gail Roper, chief information officer, City of Austin; Roger Sessions, chief technology officer. ObjectWatch, Chappell Hill; Joseph Stinus, Gulf Coast liaison, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Austin; Dan Vavasour, deputy director, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Austin; Dr. Jim Weatherby director, Information Systems Division/IRM, Texas Legislative Council, Austin; and Ann Woody, director of information technology Services/IRM, Texas Department of Insurance, Austin.
Texas Tech earns honor roll distinction again
Texas Tech University has landed on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the second consecutive year. Tech was selected for the honor among a group of 20 institutions by the Corporation for National and Community Service, thanks in part to School of Art faculty member Carla Tedeschi (pictured), associate professor in communication design.
Tedeschi and three other professors - Laura Lowe, Heidi Brady and Joaquin Borrego - each completed projects to earn the distinction in the ensemble effort headed by Service Learning Coordinator Irene Arrellano.
Carol Edwards, dean of the College of Visual & Performing Arts, said Tech's second consecutive honor roll ranking demonstrates the university's commitment to seeking an active role in the community. She said Tech's goal is ultimately to provide students "with the opportunity to develop their creative and artistic talents in addressing social issues and supporting community-based programs."
Tech to interview fourth vice president candidate
The number of candidates to be interviewed for vice president of research at Texas Tech University has grown from three to four. Randy K. Avent, associate chief technology officer at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, was added to the list of candidates that also includes Thomas Neal Farris, Colin Guy Scanes and T. Taylor Eighmy.
Farris is professor and head of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, Scanes is vice chancellor of research and economic development and dean of the graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Eighmy is interim vice president for research and director of the strategic initiatives office at the University of New Hampshire.
Avent joined MIT in 1986. He is chief technology officer for a laboratory that was created in 1951 as a federally funded research center focused on improving the nation's air defense system through advanced electronics. Avent holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of North Carolina and a second master's degree from North Carolina State University. He also is a graduate of the MIT Sloan School of Management, Greater Boston Executive Program.
Three to interview for TAMU vice president
Three candidates have been named to interview for the vice president for research position at Texas A&M University - John Gilligan (left), Douglas Kniss (center) and Jeffrey Seemann (right).
The new vice president will manage one of the largest research agencies in the nation and will replace Richard Ewing, who resigned his position.
Gilligan is a nuclear engineering professor at North Carolina State University. He holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and his master's and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Kniss is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University. He holds a bachelor's degree from Susquehanna University and his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
Seeman is a cell and molecular biology professor and dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences at the University of Rhode Island. He holds a bachelor's degree with honors from Oberlin College in Ohio and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Transportation Commission awards LBJ project
The Texas Transportation Commission Wednesday awarded a $4 billion LBJ Freeway project to LBJ Development Partners. LBJ Development Partners is a partnership of American and international organizations, including multiple Texan firms. The project includes addition of new toll lanes and a rebuild of 13 miles of the freeway.
Construction is expected to begin this year and be completed by 2014. The project is expected to cost approximately $2 billon, with $460 million of state tax money to help defray the costs. The development parnters are expected to spend another $2 billion to cover finance charges and maintenance and operation for the next 45 years. The North Texas Tollway Authority will be paid to collect fees on the toll part of the roadway. The state will retain ownership of the new freeway.
N. Texas universities' initiative earns partnership award
University Crossroads, a collaboration of colleges and universities in North Texas, has been awarded the School College Partnership Award for its efforts to encourage student success and offer an enhanced college-going culture in Dallas Independent School District schools.
University Crossroads was co-founded by Michele Bobadilla (left), senior associate vice president for outreach services at The University of Texas at Arlington, and Zeb Strong, Jr. (right), director of recruitment initiatives at UT Arlington.
Presented at the College Board's Southwestern Regional Conference in Oklahoma City earlier this month, the award recognizes the efforts of several colleges and universities, including: Austin College, Dallas County Community Colleges, Midwestern State University, Paul Quinn College, Southern Methodist University, Tarrant County Colleges, Texas A & M University, Texas A & M University-Commerce, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University, Texas Wesleyan University, Texas Woman's University, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at Dallas, University of North Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas.
Commission breakfast to honor women in legislature
The women members of the 81st Legislature will be honored at a breakfast Tuesday, March 10, hosted by the Governor's Commission for Women. The event is being held in conjunction with National Women's History Month in March. Gov. Rick Perry and his wife Anita will attend and make brief remarks, as will House Speaker Joe Straus.
The Governor's Commission for Women is designed to promote opportunities for Texas women through outreach, education, research and referral services. It also highlights the accomplishments of notable Texas women through the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. Proceeds from the March event will support the commission's initiatives. It will be held at the new AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, beginning at 7:30 a.m.
The 2007-2009 members of the commission include: Wendy Taylor, Chair, Austin; Carol Peterson, Vice Chair, Alpine; Stephanie Cavender, San Antonio; Peggy Hairgrove, Bryan; Cynthia Jenkins, Irving; Christie Leedy, Abilene; Lisa Lucero, Austin; Becky McKinley, Amarillo; Carmen Pagan. McAllen; Lisa Perini, Buffalo Gap; Sharon Pittman, College Station; Tresa Rockwell, Austin; Connie Weeks, Austin; and Daisy White, Houston. For sponsorship and ticket information, contact Lesley Guthrie at (512) 475-2615.
DART to receive nearly $62M in federal stimulus dollars
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is set to receive nearly $62 million in federal stimulus package dollars, according to President Gary Thomas (pictured). No decisions have been made as to how the funds will be distributed, though officials plan to spend the money on capital projects already outlined in DART's 20-year financial plan.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments, along with the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration, will distribute the funds once they are released. Thomas said $300,000 of the funds will be administered for rail upgrades and modernization.
DART plans to spend about $1 billion on construction and other capital endeavors this year, its busiest ever.
TWC announces increase in unemployment benefits
One of the first noticeable indications of passage of the federal economic stimulus bill was announced this week by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and will show up as part of unemployment benefits in mid-March. TWC officials noted that as a result of the stimulus bill, those drawing unemployment benefits will see a $25 per week increase in their benefits.
The increase is available for those receiving unemployment benefits as of Feb. 22 and payment of the increase will be retroactive to Feb. 22. The increase is effective for initial claims filed through Dec. 26 of this year. It applies to all types of unemployment benefits and employers will not be charged for the additional funds.
Delisa chosen senior director of development
Monica L. Delisa (pictured) has been named senior director of development for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.
Before serving as director of major gifts at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson, Delisa worked for the university's College of Agriculture, 4-H Youth development, College of Nursing and Steele Children's Research Center. Delisa holds both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of Arizona.
FAA grant paves way for Wichita Falls runway rehab
A $371,563 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration will be used for the planning of a runway rehabilitation at Sheppard Air Force Base, which officials at the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport plan to lease.
Monica Morris, city director of airports, said she hopes the planning project will allow the city to claim further funding from the impending stimulus package, which includes $1.1 billion in general aviation allocations, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. She said the project will allow officials to "get the project designed and engineered so we can be 'shovel ready.'"
City officials plan to use about $280,000 of the FAA grant for planning and then ask the administration for stimulus dollars for construction costs in 2010. Costs for paving the aging runway would run about $5 million; a complete overhaul would cost approximately $20 million.
Sul Ross president retiring after 20-year tenure
After a 20-year tenure as president of Sul Ross State University, Dr. Vic Morgan (pictured) has announced plans to retire on Aug. 31. Under his leadership, the university's endowment has ballooned to almost $13 million with more than 210 separate endowments.
Morgan joined the Sul Ross faculty in 1975 as a mathematics professor before heading the Division of Science as director four years later. He began serving as executive assistant to the president in 1985. Before joining the Sul Ross faculty, he served as assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University.
Morgan earned his bachelor's degree from Howard Payne University and his master's degree from Vanderbilt University. He holds a doctoral degree from the University of Missouri.
College of the Mainland presidential search down to one
The search for a new president at College of the Mainland in Texas City has narrowed to one - Michael Elam has been selected sole finalist for the post. He currently serves as vice president of student development at Daytona State College, the seventh largest community college in Florida.
Elam has held administrative posts at Illinois State University, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Houston.
Elam holds a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University and has completed studies at the Harvard University institute on the Management of Lifelong Education.
UH-Victoria professor selected as interim dean
University of Houston-Victoria professor Mary Natividad (pictured) has been named interim dean of the university's School of Education and Human Development. The appointment marks Natividad's second turn as interim during her 16-year tenure. She was also appointed to the interim post before becoming dean of the school in 2002, a position she held until 2005, when she returned to teaching.
Natividad spent three years at the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador as a mental health counselor before serving as an assistant and associate professor of counseling at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., for eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master's degree and doctorate from Northern Illinois University.
Natividad replaces Dean John Stansell, who has resigned from the post for personal reasons. A newly appointed search committee will seek to find a permanent replacement for Natividad.
Prairie View A&M appoints Williamson as director
Prairie View A&M University trustees have named Dean Williamson (pictured) director of Institutional Research. In his new role, he will develop a technologically advance office that will maintain and oversee student enrollment, information systems, financial aid and human resources.
Before his tenure at Prairie View A&M, Williamson served as executive director for planning and institutional research at Brewton-Parker College, where he also served as chairman of the business division. He served as a storekeeper, Second Class Petty Officer and data processing system coordinator in the U.S. Navy from 1979 until 1985.
Williamson holds a bachelor's degree from Sul Ross State University, a master's degree from Wayland Baptist University and a doctoral degree from Regent University.
UTMB Hurricane Fund gets $60K donation
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston's Hurricane Recovery Fund has spiked to a total of more than $1 million thanks to a recent $60,000 donation from the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
The foundation, established by Houston Mayor Bill White to help fill unmet needs for Hurricane Ike victims, is primarily geared toward helping those in Galveston, Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties. The recent contribution will help UTMB students affected by the storm.
Allocations from the fund so far have been used for research, restoration and damage repair and establishing educational and clinical care programs to help those who lost their homes in the storm.
Pratt to serve as interim dean at University of Houston
Dr. Joe Pratt (pictured) has been named interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Houston. He replaces John Antel, who vacated the position when he was named senior vice president for academic affairs and provost for UH and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs for the UH System.
Pratt is a leading historian of the petroleum industry and a historian of the Houston region. He received his undergraduate degree from Rice University and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining UH in 1986, he taught at the University of California-Berkeley, the Harvard Business School and Texas A&M University.
He has served as chair of the UH history department and as executive director of the Scholars' Community, UH's largest undergraduate retention program.
Plano authorizes $128.6M May bond election
The Plano City Council recently agreed to ask voters in May to approve $128.6 million in bonds for public improvements. The bond proposal includes only badly needed projects to continue city operations, said Mayor Pro Tem Harry LaRosiliere (pictured). Included in the proposal are:
UNT interim director of admissions now permanent
Dr. Rebecca Lothringer (pictured) has been named director of admissions at the University of North Texas.
Before serving as interim director of admissions at UNT for the past nine months, Lothringer served as admissions/financial aid advisor and coordinator of recruitment at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Last year she served as president of the Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the largest state association of its kind in the nation.
Lothringer holds a doctorate from UNT, where she has also taught Psychology of Learning and Success.
McLennan CC selects McKown as next president
McLennan Community College trustees recently selected Johnette McKown (pictured) as the college's new president. McKown will replace President Dennis Michaelis, who plans to retire in August.
McKown previously served as the vice president of business services and as executive vice president of MCC and in several positions at Paris Junior College. She has a bachelor's degree from Louisiana College, an associate degree from Paris Junior College and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Brownwood reviews plans for upgrading parks
The Brownwood City Council recently reviewed preliminary plans for a new swimming pool, the Camp Bowie Sports Complex and renovation of the Brownwood Coliseum Annex. Voters in May 2008 authorized using $6 million in city sales tax revenues to pay for most of the parks and recreation projects. City officials plan to use grants and private donations to pay the remaining costs. Preliminary plans call for a new swimming pool to cost between $1 million and $1.4 million that would include areas for "zero" wading, diving, lap swimming, a slide with other water toys and a shaded area. It also calls for renovating the coliseum annex at a cost of about $980,000 into a senior center that will double the size of the current senior center.
The preliminary plan also calls for city staff to work with engineers to identify areas where work on the Camp Bowie Sports Complex can be performed by city workers and volunteers to reduce costs. Areas under consideration for city staff and volunteers to perform include utilities, the parking lot, drainage, grading and site work. The National Guard is scheduled to begin clearing the 66-acre site in June with work on grading, utilities and building the ball fields to begin soon after the site is cleared.
Killeen ISD planning new automatic library system
Trustees for Killeen Independent School District recently approved the acquisition of an automatic library system.
The automated system will cost no more than $350,000 and connect all libraries in the district to the Internet so students can access resources at home and librarians can share data, said Dr. Robert Muller (pictured), the interim superintendent. The system should be operational at the beginning of the next school year, he said.
Currently the district's decentralized library system will not permit access beyond each individual library. Once operational, the new system will allow students, staff and parents to have constant access to the library's digital database by logging onto the system, Muller said. The new system also provides a more accurate tracking system.
Tarrant County to expand medical examiner offices
Tarrant County commissioners recently approved a $2.5 million expansion of the medical examiner building. Plans call for adding an additional 8,000-square-foot area to the existing building to accommodate trace evidence, firearms and alcohol laboratories, said David Phillips, the facilities director.
To stay within the $26.5 million in bonds approved by voters in 2006, 125 new parking spaces will be eliminated, Phillips said. The project also includes a new building for a biohazard morgue. Construction on the 42,000-square-foot building is expected to begin in October and be completed in 2011, Phillips said.
El Paso to transform old YMCA into recreation center
The El Paso City Council recently agreed to begin negotiations with a contractor to transform the 50-year-old central YMCA into a city recreation center.
The cost of the renovation has not been determined, but some city officials estimate it will cost about $3 million to remodel and renovate the 35,000-square-foot building, said Susie Byrd (pictured), who represents the West-Central area of the city where the new recreation center will be located.
The renovations will include updating the gym and pool area, remodeling the office space, creating a new entrance to the building and updating the heating and cooling system.
Orange to buy land to improve and expand fire station
Orange City Council members recently agreed to pay $112,000 for land just north of the Orange Fire Department to allow expansion of the fire station.
The land will be used to move the central fire station further back on the property to enable fire trucks to drive through the facility rather than back out, said Fire Chief David Frenzel. He plans to recommend an architect to design the new structure to show council members by next month.
The new building is expected to cost about $4.5 million, Frenzel said. Insurance should cover much of the cost because the old building received significant damage from Hurricane Ike.
Pharr-San Juan ISD to buy $3.6M building for school
Trustees for the Pharr-San Juan Independent School district recently approved the $3.6 million purchase of a former retail building to house a school for students at risk of dropping out. The Pharr Economic Development Corp. (EDC) currently owns the building and leases it to the school district for $15,000 a month. The district plans to make a $1.4 million down payment with four subsequent payments of $550,000 and expects to pay for the building by April 2011.
Taking ownership of the building allows the district to expand the 15-classroom College, Career and Technology Academy high school, which now has about 250 students enrolled in day and night classes, said Superintendent Daniel King (pictured). The 40,000-square-foot building was built in 1979 and bought by the Pharr EDC in July 2000. This is the second year the school has operated from the building. Almost 400 students were enrolled in the academy during the summer, he said.
Once the purchase is final, the district will take over the leases of other tenants in the building, which includes offices of the Hidalgo County Elections Department, Texas Workforce Solutions, the Texas Education Agency's Region One Service Center and Dress for Success. The district will contact each tenant to discuss the future of the site, King said.
Henderson County to update cameras in patrol cars
Henderson County commissioners recently approved the purchase of 23 new video devices to replace old, outdated VHS cameras currently used in sheriff department patrol vehicles.
The new video devices are small enough to fit into the rearview mirror, which will serve as a monitor for the device, said Dan Parker, chief deputy of the Henderson County Sheriff's Department. The unit constantly records and officers can save images beginning with the previous 60 seconds by pushing a button, he said. The images are saved to a scan disk and returned to the office and loaded into the computer system. The images will be erased after 90 days unless the image is connected to an ongoing investigation. The camera also has a GPS device attached.
The sheriff's department received permission to use a $98,000 grant in 2007 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to pay for the cameras rather than for the original purpose of buying laptop computers for all patrol vehicles. County officials decided against purchasing the laptops due to unforeseen expenses such as the cost of a service agreement, he said.
New Braunfels adopts $400M capital improvement plan
The New Braunfels City Council recently adopted a five-year, $400-million capital improvement plan.
The plan to upgrade 130 city facilities, parks, streets and drainage is flexible and should act as a guide toward building and upgrading infrastructure, said Mayor Bruce Boyer (pictured). The challenge is identifying funding to pay for the projects and the city may pursue possible grants, issue certificates of obligation or hold a bond election to fund the projects, he added. Among the projects in the five-year plan are improvements to Landa Park, widening Walnut Avenue, a new city hall and creation of railroad quiet zones.
Council members also authorized the purchase of 12 new police vehicles at a cost of $290,000 and 14 new electronic ticket writers costing about $62,000.
League City Council considers using reimbursements
The League City Council is considering the creation of a new emergency management response (EMR) fund using Hurricane Ike reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross as seed money.
As a result, according to interim Finance Director Terry Knudsen, the EMR fund "would not have to compete for budget resources."
The city has requested $4 million from FEMA and is set to receive $188,398 from the Red Cross for a parking lot that suffered damage during Ike. Knudsen suggests using $1 million in FEMA money and more than $1,000 left from the remainder of the parking lot repairs to establish the EMR fund.
$5M in certificates of obligation divides Lockhart Council
Despite a number of outstanding bond debts set to fall off the City of Lockhart's budget this year, some council members are wary of approving the purchase of $5 million in certificates of obligation (COs) due to the dwindling economy. The COs are set to fund drainage and street repairs, the construction of a new animal shelter, the purchase of a new fire truck and the renovation and restoration of the second and third floors of the Masonic Building.
Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada said, although he supports the projects, "I have to vote against [issuing the certificates of obligation]," citing the uncharted territory the national recession has wrought.
Mayor James "Jimmy" Bertram (pictured) said the council should not be ruled by fear, adding the CO project list comprises needs rather than wants. He said the council should stand behind its earlier decision to fund the projects.
Comal County to build sixth dam
Comal County officials have approved authorizing bids for building the county's sixth flood-control dam. The $9 million to $12 million dam will be in the Solms area and will create a shallow 600-acre lake during heavy rains. The county has qualified for a $7.5 million federal grant to help defray costs of the project. Officials hope to award a contract within the next 30 days in order to have construction begin in 90 days and be completed in 18 months.
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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.