|Volume 7, Issue 10 · Friday, March 13, 2009|
Many subcontractors turning to public sector for work
Hopeful stimulus bill will provide more contract opportunities
As residential, commercial and industrial contracting opportunities in the private sector dwindle, many subcontractors are looking for business in the always-busy public sector. For subcontractors in Texas and across the country, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - the federal economic stimulus bill - could be the silver lining for the dark cloud of the nation's flailing economy.
But that silver lining is "very thin," according to David Mendes, senior director of communications and education for the American Subcontractors Association (ASA).
"Commercial and industrial subcontractors are definitely beginning to see the effects of the deteriorating economy," said Mendes. "There is increased competition for contracts and that increases the pressure on subcontractors to come in with low bids."
At the same time, there are subcontractors in other markets who are moving away from private sector construction and are bidding on other types of work, particularly in the public sector. Some have actually been able to save their businesses and weather the economic storm by focusing on public sector contracts, said Mendes.
"Absolutely, with the slumping of the economy, subcontractors are looking at other markets, including the public sector," said Darlene East, incoming president of ASA and president of Holes Incorporated in Houston. "In my own business, we already did some public sector business, but we are looking for other ways to reach into that market."[more]
UT System regents show support for UTMB-Galveston
Legislation would help restore facility's clinical operations
Following several months of planning and consultation after Hurricane Ike's devastation to The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the UT System Board of Regents has adopted a resolution regarding the clinical enterprise's strategic direction. The resolution outlines the next phase of planning UTMB's future.
Regents Chairman H. Scott Caven Jr. (right) said the board alone cannot accomplish the ultimate goal of sustaining UTMB's future, noting that responsibility must be shared with "the legislature, local and federal officials, the philanthropic community and the necessity for a reliable, long-term source of operating funds from these extramural sources."
UTMB's clinical enterprise, particularly John Sealy Hospital, suffered the most damage from the storm and has since only returned to partial operation capacity.
The resolution also authorizes UTMB President David Callender to develop a business plan for a new hospital tower with a modern emergency room, support facilities and approximately 220 beds, contingent on available funding and a revenue stream to support its operation.
Sen. Craig Eiland (left) of Galveston has filed a bill that would dedicate $700 million from the state's rainy day fund to help universities and university-related entities deal with damages from Hurricanes Ike, Dolly and Gustav. Included in that amount is $354.5 million for UTMB. Eiland expects such an investment would help draw down federal funds as well as encourage private funding - hopefully bringing the total recovery funding to near $1 billion.
Ron Pigott, director, Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS), State Comptroller's Office
Career highlights and education: I received my bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and graduated from Texas Tech University School of Law in 1994. During the past 14 years, I have served as in-house counsel to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Water Development Board and the Child Support Division of the Attorney General's Office. In January 2008, I was excited to become the first deputy general counsel to the new Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) Division at the Comptroller's office. I became the Director of TPASS in July 2008. We rolled out our TxSmartBuy online ordering system last December and are wrapping up our first phase of strategic sourcing.
What I like best about my job is: Every day, I get to work with the most dedicated group of people I have ever known. The people in the TPASS division and everyone else at the Comptroller's office are an absolute joy to work with. I am astounded by how much the division accomplishes and I am so proud to be a part of this.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: I became director at an extremely busy time for the division. The amount of work we were doing could freeze you with indecision on where to start. A friend reminded of the African proverb that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Therefore, start anywhere, but be sure to start somewhere.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Lean on your co-workers. We are one team and we support each other. A new team member will be given time to fit in and learn the ropes before we expect them to run at full speed.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: either at the movies or at home playing video games with my son.
People would be surprised to know that I: was a huge fan of heavy metal music growing up. My iPod is full of 1980s metal music.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: I recently read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Allen suggests common-sense ways to ensure we track every "to-do" and keep priorities in mind. To succeed at this, you have to make his system a habit. I sometimes slip, but I am trying to keep all of my notes, tasks and reference information in one place and keep up to date on these. With the amount of multi-tasking we all do regularly in our work, it is important to be able to track all of the tasks, large and small, that must be accomplished.
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.
Givens named associate commissioner at TEA
Anita Givens (pictured) has been named by Education Commissioner Robert Scott as associate commissioner of standards and programs at the Texas Education Agency (TEA). In her new position, Givens will oversee curriculum, textbooks, special programs and No Child Left Behind activities.
Givens has served as acting associate commissioner of standards and programs since the fall and has been instrumental in efforts to update science, and Career and Technical Education curriculum standards. She is one of the state's foremost experts on the use of technology in the classroom. She also served TEA as deputy associate commissioner for standards and alignment and as senior director of instructional materials and educational technology. Givens will also be one of the 22 members of the newly created Commissioner's Task Force on Federal Stimulus and Stabilization, which will oversee work at TEA related to the federal economic stimulus bill.
Givens boasts a public education career of more than 25 years and is a former kindergarten and second grade teacher. She holds a bachelor's degree from Houston Baptist University and a master's degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. She has been with TEA for 18 years.
Stimulus billions flowing to state, local governments!
Interested in seeing upcoming contracting opportunities?
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) is tracking all the federal stimulus money (almost $1 trillion) as it flows to all 50 states. And, SPI researchers are also tracking the related upcoming opportunities for government contractors throughout the United States.
Here's some of the data being gathered by SPI researchers:
SPI researchers can also provide detailed information about upcoming individual opportunities in every state.
The country's two leading providers of government procurement and government relations are available to help contractors qualify opportunities and capture government contracts in all 50 states. Click here for details about services offered.
Booker to lead new TEA commissioner's task force
Jerel Booker (pictured), associate commissioner for educator quality and standards at the Texas Education Agency (TEA), has been named to head the newly created Commissioner's Task Force on Federal Stimulus and Stabilization. According to Education Commissioner Robert Scott, the task force will oversee work under way at TEA that is related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - the federal economic stimulus bill.
Booker has in the past administered more than $10 million in federal grant funds for research and special projects and has worked with state and federal regulatory agencies and as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights at the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Booker, with assistance from the executive committee, will coordinate agency plans in response to the federal legislation. The bill is expected to push up to $6 billion in federal funding to Texas educational institutions as part of a national economic recovery plan.
The 22-member task force is made up of TEA managers of departments and divisions. Joining Booker on the executive committee will be Gene Lenz, deputy associate commissioner for special programs, and Nora Hancock, associate commissioner for planning, grants and evaluations. Susan Hunter Smith will serve as counsel to the executive committee.
Library, Archives Commission plans celebration
The year-long celebration of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission's 100th birthday will begin Thursday, March 19, with a noon press conference and birthday celebration on the South Steps of the Texas State Capitol. The theme for the celebration is "1909-2009 - A Century of Service to Texas." In addition to cake being served, a limited number of books will be given away to children attending.
"We are excited about celebrating our first century and look forward to beginning a second century of service to Texas," said Peggy D. Rudd, TSLAC director and librarian.
The agency is celebrating the act creating the Texas Library and Historical Commission that became effective March 19, 1909, when Gov. Thomas M. Campbell signed the bill that created the agency.
New Mexico to hear about Comptroller's initiative
New Mexico state legislators today will hear first-hand about transparency initiatives being implemented in Texas by the State Comptroller's Office. Robert Wood, director of the Texas Comptroller's Local Government Assistance and Economic Development Division, will speak before the New Mexico State Senate and Sen. Kent L. Cravens, who is part of a group of legislators in that state seeking to create a searchable, online database of government spending.
Texas already has such a database, Where the Money Goes, created in 2007 by State Comptroller Susan Combs. It is one of Combs' initiatives aimed at improving government accounting accuracy, spending and transparency.
Prepaid college tuition program enrolls nearly 13,000
More than $239 million in prepaid college tuition contracts were sold and nearly 13,000 children were enrolled in the first annual Texas Promise Fund enrollment, according to Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.
The fund, which allows parents or guardians to lock in college tuition and fees at their current rate, is closed until September; however, children under one year of age may be enrolled in the program until July 31 at current contract prices. Combs said the U.S. Department of Education estimates 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs in the near future will require postsecondary training if not a bachelor's degree.
For more information about the Texas Promise Fund, click here.
TDHCA to hold public roundtable on homelessness
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is holding a roundtable discussion on options for implementing the state portion of the Homelessness Prevention Funds made available through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The roundtable discussion is scheduled for Thursday, April 2, from 1-4 p.m. at the Thompson Conference Center located at the southwest corner of Dean Keeton Blvd. and Red River Street in Austin.
Forgione to work with New Jersey education firm
Austin Independent School District Superintendent Pat Forgione (pictured) won't let grass grow under his feet when he leaves his post at AISD. Forgione, who has served as superintendent in Austin since 1999, will in July begin serving as a Distinguished Presidential Scholar and Executive Director of a new Center on K-12 Assessment and Performance Management with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) of Princeton, New Jersey.
In his new position, which will allow Forgione and his wife to remain in Austin, he will focus on social responsibility, equity, opportunity and quality in research and development work to advance the field of educational testing and data management in public and private school systems.
"I look forward to tapping into the resources of ETS as well as national, state and local education policymakers and school boards, teachers and administrators for designing, developing and implementing new systems of assessment and performance management," said Forgione. He will be succeeded at the helm of AISD by Dr. Meria Carstarphen, who was recently selected by the AISD board as sole finalist for the position.
Staples to take part in 'Operation New Fences'
Texas Agriculture Commission Todd Staples is set to take part in "Operation New Fences," a relief effort designed to help farmers and ranchers rebuild property fences destroyed by Hurricane Ike last year.
More than 1,700 miles of fence were destroyed in Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson, Liberty and Orange counties. To take part in Operation New Fences, request information or donate supplies, click here.
Texas Tech HSC names Philips new vice president
Dr. Billy Philips (pictured) has been named vice president of the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health, part of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He begins his new charge April 1.
Philips is chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston. He currently serves as the founder and director of the Cancer Nutrition Network for Texans and is a member of the UTMB Cancer Center. He previously served as the director of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UTMB, where he has served in some capacity for the past 35 years.
Philips holds a bachelor's degree from Oklahoma City University and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He completed his post-doctoral studies at the New England Epidemiology Institute at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
Baylor selects presidential search, advisory groups
Baylor University Board of Regents Chair Dr. Howard K. Batson has announced the appointment of a search committee charged with selecting the university's 14th president.
A Presidential Search Advisory Committee, comprised of Baylor faculty, staff, alumni, students and Baptist church and local communities, has also been assembled to assist in the effort.
A number of regents accepted search-committee appointment, including: chairman Joseph B. Armes, Stan Allcorn, Wes Bailey, Albert C. Black Jr., Dr. Duane Brooks, R. Stephen Carmack, Harold R. Cunningham, Bobby Charles Dagnel, Gary D. Elliston, Sue Holt Getterman, Neal T. "Buddy" Jones, Ramiro Abraham Pena Jr., Dr. John C. Reimers and R. Gary Stone.
Nonprofit grants A&M $1M for petrophysics laboratory
The Anadarko Foundation has given $1 million to the Texas A&M Foundation for the construction of the petrophysics laboratory in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering.
The new lab will be utilized for an undergraduate course in reservoir petrophysics - the study of rock properties found in natural resource reservoirs - and more than a dozen graduate courses related to reservoir engineering.
"Texas A&M Engineering is grateful that they (Anadarko) have chosen to partner with us in this way to educate students who themselves will be future leaders," said G. Kemble Bennett (pictured), vice chancellor and dean of engineering. More than 200 Anadarko employees are A&M alumni.
Carthage looks to stimulus to help pay for civic center
Carthage City officials recently applied for $4 million in federal economic stimulus funds to revive plans for the city's proposed community shelter/civic center. The project is ready for shovels to hit the ground so the city can start work immediately, said City Manager Brenda Samford.
City commissioners in December postponed plans for the 30,500-square-foot shelter/civic center after projected costs rose from $5.2 million to $7.2 million. The proposed facility includes reinforced walls, a kitchen/concession area, restroom and shower facilities, a stage, storage area, a power generator and emergency communications offices. The city has about $5 million of the funds needed, including $4.5 million from a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $1 million in the city's general fund. The increased cost was due to the architect underestimating material costs for reinforced walls required for the shelter designed to house up to 2,000 evacuees Samford said.
TAMU dean new World Maritime University president
Texas A&M University Dean of the College of Geosciences Bjorn Kjerfve (pictured) has been appointed president of the World Maritime University (WMU), an affiliation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency. Kjerfve also serves as a professor of oceanography and geography at the university.
Kjerfve served as a professor of marine and biological sciences at the University of South Carolina, where he also was director of the Marine Science Program, before beginning his tenure as dean of the College of Geosciences in 2004. He has also served as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, where he supervised the two-year, $115 million renovation of a U.S. scientific ocean drill ship in Singapore.
A native Swede, Kjerfve has taught graduate courses and conducted research internationally at a number of universities, including the University of Sydney, Australia. and Goteborg's University in Sweden.
HUD approves $1.3B in grants for coast cities
Shawn Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has approved $1.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds to rebuild areas of Houston and Galveston ravaged by hurricanes Ike and Dolly. The process required of local officials before they can spend the funds could take months, however.
Houston plans to use 80 percent of its $109 million grant for housing, whereas Harris County plans to only use 40 percent of its $140.7 million for new housing and housing rehab.
Galveston County, the area struck hardest by the storms, received 53 percent of $814 million administered by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, prompting some organizations to file an administrative complaint with HUD, claiming the state's plan failed to meet federal requirements outlining how the state would spend the money and who would benefit from it.
UT-Dallas picks head for mechanical engineering
After a six-month search, Dr. Mario Rotea (pictured), head of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been named the first director of The University of Texas at Dallas' new Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Rotea served 18 years on the engineering faculty at Purdue University and a year as a senior research engineer at the United Technologies Research Center in Connecticut. He was appointed program director of control systems in the Division of Civil and Mechanical Systems at the National Science Foundation in 2005.
Rotea holds a bachelor's degree from the National University of Rosario in Argentina, and a master's and doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota.
UT-Tyler names Berman assistant vice president
Assistant Vice President for Student Life Dr. Lou Ann Berman (pictured) has been named assistant vice president for assessment and institutional effectiveness at The University of Texas at Tyler. Berman will help develop new processes and tools to advance and maintain the university's goals and help facilitate assessment processes in her new role.
Berman previously served as dean of allied health and nursing at Tyler Junior College, where she provided support to 12 instructional programs.
Berman holds a master's degree from UT-Tyler and a doctoral degree from Texas Woman's University.
Oklahoma City technology center designated TEEX
Francis Tuttle Technology Center, located in Oklahoma City, has been designated a Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), a division of the Texas A&M University System. The center offers Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and TEEX classes for students from around the world.
Francis Tuttle Safety Coordinator Roger Hargis (pictured) said safety professionals throughout the world seek this training, adding the center now has the capacity "to facilitate the training needed for our stakeholders when and where it is needed for clients."
The center services the private sector, municipalities and public agencies with more than 5,700 classes per year.
UNT, Denton in negotiations with hotel developer
The University of North Texas System and the City of Denton are partnering to negotiate with a developer who operates four hotels in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to create a top-tier hotel with meeting and convention facilities on the UNT campus.
UNT President Gretchen M. Bataille (left) said the hotel will attract conferences normally held elsewhere, adding the facility will "contribute to our vibrant campus life, especially when it comes to athletic, academic and cultural events and employment opportunities for our students."
Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs (right) called the venture an "exciting opportunity," citing the numerous opportunities the city has lost to host large conferences, conventions and training seminars because of the lack of a facility sizable enough to accommodate large numbers of patrons.
Panel appointed for Sul Ross president search
The Board of Regents at Sul Ross State University has appointed a 15-member search committee chaired by Trish Pollard (pictured) to choose the university's next president, who will succeed Dr. R. Vic Morgan after Morgan's 19-year tenure.
Pollard, a university regent, was selected to head the committee comprised of Sul Ross faculty, staff and students as well as community representatives chosen from a total of 126 nominations and 93 individuals.
Board of Regents Chairman Bernie Francis said the board strived for "balance in this decision-making process" to ensure the community and constituency were properly represented.
UT Health Science Center at Tyler elects chief of staff
Dr. Dudley Goulden (pictured), chief of cardiology and professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, has been elected to serve as chief of staff for the university. He succeeds Dr. Thomas Belt.
Goulden - who is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease and nuclear cardiology - is a fellow in the American College of Cardiology and a member of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, the Texas Medical Association, the Smith County Medical Society and the American Heart Association. He has served in 15 cardiovascular-disease-therapy clinical trials.
Goulden began his tenure at UTHSCT in 1991 before leaving in 2001 to practice in Mississippi. He returned to UTHSCT the following year.
TAMU-Kingsville unveils Javelina Express Go Center
Texas A&M University-Kingsville officials gathered recently to launch the Javelina Express Mobile Go Center (pictured), made possible in part thanks to a $134,000 gift from the Texas Pioneer Foundation and $5,000 from College for All Texans.
Dean of University College Dr. Dann Brown said TAMK's student demographic includes "economically disadvantaged students who may lack the ability to attend traditional college events, first generation college students whose families may not be familiar with the steps involved in joining a college-going culture and students preparing to transfer to A&M-Kingsville from community colleges participating in joint admission agreement programs."
The center - a 42-foot trailer equipped with 17 laptop computers and satellite Internet connection - is designed to support new Javelinas, their families and communities, Brown said.
SAHA selects Ramirez new president and CEO
The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) board of commissioners has chosen Lourdes Castro Ramirez (pictured), a housing director in Los Angeles, to serve as president and CEO beginning April 6. She will replace interim president Ret. Gen. Freddy Valenzuela, who will remain with the authority as a consultant during the transition process.
Castro Ramirez began working at the Los Angeles Housing Authority in 1999. In 2005, she was named acting director of Section 8, the second largest housing division in the nation, before she was promoted to director the following year. There she oversees some 50,000 residences, 440 employees and an annual operating budget of about $53 million.
Castro Ramirez holds both a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of California-Los Angeles.
UTEP breaks ground on new $70 million building
The University of Texas at El Paso broke ground this week for its new $70-million, 140,000-square-foot Chemistry and Computer Science building. College of Engineering Dean Dr. Richard Schoephoerster (left) said the investment was good news for both the Science and Engineering colleges. A $124 million allocation from The University of Texas System Board of Regents funded most of the project.
Schoephoerster said the added space and opportunities for interdisciplinary research "will create extraordinary opportunities for our students and faculty."
It was a sentiment echoed by College of Science Dean Dr. Anny Morrobel-Sosa (right), who said the building is an affirmation of UTEP's commitment to becoming a national research, Tier One university.
Rice University awarded DOD grant for equipment
Rice University will share in a $52.5 million grant from the Department of Defense (DoD) for the purchase of research equipment. More than 100 academic institutions shared in the 222 awards, which range from $50,000 to $1 million, under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).
Officials from the Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research and Air Force Office of Scientific Research solicited proposals from university investigators around the nation for the merit-based competition.
The award is contingent on the successful completion of negotiations between Rice University and the DoD research offices.
UTB-TSC narrows provost search to five candidates
Finalists for the position of provost at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College have presented or will present their qualifications during a series of public forums. Pictured from right, Jorge Dias-Herrera, Zulma Toro-Ramos, Ronald Yasbin, Alan Artibise and Ronald Elsenbaumer were chosen from a narrowed pool of 10 applicants.
Diaz-Herrera, dean of the College of Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, said he has been instrumental in the creation of the college, which has since become the most comprehensive computing college in the country.
The following applicants have yet to interview: Toro-Ramos, dean of the College of Engineering at Wichita State University in Kansas; Yasbin, dean of the college of sciences at the University of Nevada; Elsenbaumber, president for research and federal relations at The University of Texas at Arlington; and Artibise, executive dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences at Arizona State University.
Prairie View A&M building to bear Clark's name
The Don K. Clark Building was scheduled to be dedicated today, Friday, honoring PVAMU alumnus Don Clark (pictured), whose career includes being an FBI special agent and a consultant for CNN and Fox National News.
The Don K. Clark Building houses the university's College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology and the Texas Juvenile Crime Prevention Center.
Clark graduated from PVAMU in 1967 and boasts a 35-year career in law enforcement, security and counter-terrorism.
City of Garland institutes temporary worker pools
The City of Garland has instituted two temporary worker pools to fill vacant municipal jobs in a move set to benefit taxpayers, according to City Manager Bill Dollar (pictured). The jobs range from general labor to administrative and professional and are mostly short-term.
Dollar said the city should see "an immediate cost savings by minimizing fees paid to temporary employment agencies" in what he described as a "win-win" situation.
Garland benefits manager Rick French said the city's two temporary pools began in February with about 200 letters sent to retirees and 37 respondents. Other cities, such as Carrollton, are also looking to spur the economy with hometown stimulus plans that will offer temporary city jobs to those who are unemployed.
Presidential search narrows at UTHSC-San Antonio
A search committee at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has reportedly narrowed the field of potential presidential candidates.
Candidates (from left) Ciro Sumaya, founding dean of Texas A&M University Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, and William Henrich, interim president at the health science center, declined to say whether they were still in the running. James Peake, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said he believes he is still in the running.
Other candidates, including plastic surgeon and former NFL wide receiver Jamie Garza and David Jimenez, chair of neurosurgery at the health science center, have confirmed they are no longer being considered for the position.
Carroll ISD to ask for $138 million in bonds in May
Trustees for the Carroll Independent School District recently agreed to place a $138 million bond proposal on the May 9 ballot. The proposed bond proposal includes three propositions:
Saying she had received feedback from citizens who questioned the necessity of the stadium proposition, Board President Erin Shoupp (pictured) requested trustees to consider removing the stadium proposition from the package. A majority of trustees, however, argued that voters should be allowed to decide on the stadium improvements which were recommended in the district's long-range facility plan. Trustees agreed to remove $2 million in projects from the bond proposal before agreeing to place the $138 million bond proposal on the ballot.
UT director appointed to White House Office
Sherburne "Shere" Abbott, director of the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability at The University of Texas at Austin, is set to be named associate director of environment for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a key post in the Obama administration. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Abbott has served as director for the Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability since 2006. Prior to that charge, she served as chief international officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest general science organization in the world. She has also consulted many private foundations and other non-governmental institutions on environmental science and sustainable development.
Abbott holds a bachelor's degree from Goucher College and a master's degree from Yale University, where she served as a Dodge Fellow.
El Paso authorizes $4.4 million for new bus terminal
Hoping to improve access and availability to bus services, the El Paso City Council recently authorized $4.4 million to build a new bus terminal at Zaragoza Road and Alameda Avenue.
The terminal will be one of four citywide mass transit centers planned to improve bus service throughout the city, said Jane Shang (pictured), deputy city manager for mobility services. The federal government is contributing $3.6 million to the project that is expected to begin construction this spring and be completed in early 2010, Shang said.
The new 2,000-square-foot transfer terminal will include restrooms, Wi-Fi and a digital message board to alert riders of the expected time of bus departures and arrivals, vending machines and space available for retail services such as a restaurant, Shang said. The project also includes rehabilitation of the historic Lowenstein Building, six bus bays and parking for park-and-ride passengers. City officials also are working to establish transit terminals near downtown, on the west side, near The University of Texas at El Paso and possibly in the northeast side of the city, she said.
UH alum donates $1.5 million to school
University of Houston alum Lance Funston has contributed $1.5 million to his alma mater's Jack J. Valenti School of Communication. His gift will help fund a media technology computer lab, a student television production lab, a new entrance and lobby and study area. The Valenti school, part of UH's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, enrolls more than 1,500 students each year, making it one of the institution's largest academic units.
IBWC agrees to repair most levees in Hidalgo County
The International Boundary and Water Commission recently agreed to repair almost 170 miles of river and interior floodway levees along the Rio Grande using $220 million in funding from the recent economic stimulus package.
Only two small portions of the levees will not be repaired under the planned improvements to raise and repair the levees to provide adequate flood protection during a 100-year flood. IBWC estimates nearly 300 jobs will be created with the project.
The commitment to repair the levees will end more than two years of work by the county since the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it would not certify the levees, said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas (pictured). Officials had estimated the county would incur $1.7 million in property damages and lose $950 million in retail sales if a flood were to top the river levees. No timeline for the project has been released, Salinas said.
Rosebud-Lott ISD calls for $15 million bond election
Trustees for the Rosebud-Lott Independent School District recently cited the need to solve maintenance and security issues at school facilities when board members agreed to ask voters to approve $15 million in bonds on May 9. If approved, the bonds will fund a new elementary school to replace Rosebud Primary School built in the 1930s and Lott Elementary School, originally built in the 1950s. The new elementary campus will place all pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students on one campus if approved by voters.
The district also plans to pay for upgrades to the high school/middle school, including the addition of a fire-suppression system and bringing the facility into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. District officials predicted the new facilities and improvements could be completed within two years.
Palestine ISD approves $64M May bond election
Citing the needs to re-arrange campuses and remove all portable buildings, trustees for the Palestine Independent School District recently agreed to ask voters to approve $64 million in bonds to pay for those improvements.
Superintendent Tommy Wallis (pictured) noted that every school in the district would receive improvements from the bonds if approved. Plans call for the district to reopen the Washington Elementary campus as a Head Start and pre-kindergarten center, to renovate the Northside Primary School to house kindergarten and first graders and renovate the Southside campus to house second- and third-grade classes.
The district also plans to renovate Story Elementary School to accommodate fourth through sixth grades and Palestine Middle School to house seventh and eighth grades with the high school to house ninth through 12th grades, said Wallis. The rearrangement will remove all portable buildings, improve safety and provide economic stimulus for the area, Wallis said.
Rosenberg FD awaits nearly $160K in DHS grant
Rosenberg Fire Department is set to receive a grant totaling $159,480 through the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Grants and Training as part of its Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. The funding will help ensure first responders at the fire department will have access to necessary resources.
The Office of Grants and Training partners with state and local officials to embolden the capabilities of first responders everywhere through a variety of measures, including funding, training, exercises, equipment acquisition and technical assistance.
Randall County postpones election to create EMS district
Randall County commissioners recently agreed to delay holding an election in May to ask voters to create an emergency services district.
Citing the need to increase public knowledge of the need for the district, County Judge Ernie Houdashell (pictured) suggested it would be better if county officials waited until November to hold the election. The proposed emergency services district would use tax funds to provide emergency and fire services to unincorporated areas of Randall County as well as to the villages of Tanglewood, Timbercreek and Palisades under the plan developed by the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission.
Several residents of those areas, however, told commissioners that more study is needed to determine how large of an area the proposed district should serve.
Bexar law enforcement agencies await funding
Bexar County law enforcement agencies are set to receive up to $4.1 million in federal stimulus funds administered by the Justice Department if the groups meet federal guidelines.
The funds, part of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, would be distributed among San Antonio jurisdictions ($3.8 million) and the Bexar County Sherriff's Office ($267,617). The money could either be used to address budget shortfalls or hire new officers, according to officials.
The agencies must come together and file a joint application by mid-May if they wish to see the funds, said Peter Zanoni, budget director for San Antonio.
Lindale approves $3M for capital improvement projects
The Lindale City Council recently approved issuing more than $3 million in certificates of obligation to continue several ongoing capital improvement projects, including improvements to water, sewer and street infrastructure and completing the interior of a new municipal building.
The interior of the new 10,000-square-foot municipal building, which is being designed to house the Lindale Police Department and temporarily house city administrative offices, should be completed by mid-year, said City Administrator Owen Scott (pictured). Construction on the new facility began last year after the city purchased the property for about $925,000 after a developer tabled a project. City officials are considering whether to demolish the current city hall and build a new city hall to accommodate city staff.
City officials also plan to use proceeds from the sale of the certificates of obligation to fund part of a nature trail at Faulkner Park, which also received a $100,000 matching grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Funds from the certificates of obligation should be available in mid-April, Owen said.
Longview ISD faces school construction delays
The lack of land in desired locations for new Bramlette and McClure elementary schools might delay Longview Independent School District's construction plans, according to a district official. The issue is expected to go before the board as early as this week.
The delay could force students from the two elementary schools to move to other campuses while the new schools are built on existing district property, according to Assistant Superintendent of Operations Lynn Marshall. The district is considering rebuilding Bramlette at its present location and constructing McClure where Ware Elementary School is currently located. Marshall said it was important for the district to "recreate or maintain as much of the neighborhood school concept as we possibly can."
Jacksonville, Lon Morris close to center agreement
Officials from the city of Jacksonville and Lon Morris College are close to agreement after eight months of negotiations regarding a plan for the city to convey the rodeo grounds and recreation center to the college in return for the college allowing the city to use the facilities.
The issue of liability has been the major source of disagreement between city and college officials said Dr. Miles McCall (pictured), president of Lon Morris College. Because the college does not have sovereign immunity that prevents the city from being sued, the college is pursuing a partnership with a national organization such as the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA to use the facility and assume the legal liability, McCall said.
Jacksonville city council members in July authorized the mayor to work with the college to work for a mutually agreeable proposal where the college would acquire the property to develop an agriculture center, agree to make improvements to the existing facilities and allow the city to use those facilities. The mayor said both parties are very close to reaching an agreement. Currently,%FF the agreement contains stipulations that the city will retain all mineral rights to the land and that improvements to the properties must be made within seven years or ownership of the property will revert back to the city. City and college officials expect the city council will take action on an agreement in April concerning the 11-acre tract.
Janiece Longoria will serve on UTIMCO board
University of Texas System Regent Janiece Longoria (pictured) has been selected to serve on the board of The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO). She will succeed former regent and UTIMCO board member Robert Rowling, who resigned last month.
In addition to her work as a UT regent, Longoria also is a commissioner for the Port of Houston Authority. She was appointed a UT System regent in 2008 and is partner in a Houston law firm. UTIMCO is a 501(c)(3) investment management corporation that manages investment assets under the fiduciary care of the UT regents. It invests endowment and operating funds in excess of $18 billion.
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Construction, building-related firms find large government opportunities
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Although jobs are at the core of the federal economic stimulus plan, public sector organizations with shovel-ready construction projects are hoping that the stimulus funds will draw more competition into the public sector marketplace and thereby lower some of their budgeted costs.
Residential construction throughout the country has declined significantly, but public sector entities - public schools, institutions of higher education and state and local governments - are building and renovating buildings at a dizzying pace. The result is that more companies are bidding on public sector construction projects. The increased competition may indeed produce lower prices for public entities.
In Texas, city of Addison officials were pleasantly surprised when they sought bids on a park project. More than 20 bidders responded - and the low bid was more than 25 percent below the city's original estimate for the cost of the project.
In Victoria, seven city construction projects have come in under budget - $5.3 million under budget! Officials there are now making plans to use the salvaged money elsewhere.[more]
Brazos, Washington counties win $362,880 grant
Officials of Brazos and Washington counties recently received notice they will receive a $362,880 grant to help pay for new radios for fire trucks and ambulances in both counties as well as enhance training for emergency responders. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Grants and Training provided the grant to improve the ability of first responders to protect the health and safety of the public, said Brenham Fire chief Ricky Boeker (pictured), who oversaw the grant application.
The funding will be used to purchase firefighter safety and rescue equipment, including radios for a new area-wide communications system currently being developed, Boeker said. Ambulance services and fire departments in Bryan, College Station and Brenham will benefit, he said. The local entities are required to contribute 20 percent, or $90,720, to match the grant, he added.
West Oso ISD names Sandroussi superintendent
Trustees for the West Oso Independent School District recently selected Michael Sandroussi as the lone finalist for superintendent of the 2,000-student school system.
Sandroussi recently served as superintendent of the Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District, but left that position in February following a financial shortfall which forced the district to lay off about 230 employees. West Oso trustees are required to wait 21 days before a final contract is offered to a lone finalist.
Wichita Falls selects Risley as new city attorney
The Wichita City Council recently selected Miles Risley as the new city attorney. Risley previously served as city attorney for Victoria.
Under a special arrangement, Risley will work four days a week in Wichita Falls at a reduced salary and spend one day a week in Victoria for 60 days as Victoria city officials search for a new city attorney. Risley holds a bachelor's degree from West Texas State University and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law.
Dallas ISD names new budget director
CPA Patti Flanagan has been named Dallas Independent School District's new budget director, replacing John McGee. Flanagan has served as chief finance officer at Roosevelt ISD, near Lubbock, where she also served as executive director of finance at Lubbock ISD.
Flanagan previously worked with DISD's new Chief Financial Officer Larry Throm, who served as Lubbock ISD's budget director.
UT Tyler welcomes new development specialist
Laura Jackson (pictured) has joined The University of Texas at Tyler Office of Student Life, where she will oversee new student orientation and other programs as a student development specialist.
Jackson previously worked as a campaign manager for a Texas senator and state representative. She has served in the Texas Forest Service as an aid for the Forest Legacy Program. Jackson holds both a master's and bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University.
TAMIU will seek matching $250,000 grant funding
Texas A&M International University will be seeking to raise $250,000 in matching funds to secure a grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will give the university $500,000 to provide scholarships for students interested in studying engineering.
The endowed scholarships would be for students in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Donors can establish a named endowed scholarship with a minimum gift of $12,500. The university has set a goal of raising $125,000 this year and a like amount next year.
El Paso county hospital
Texas Lyceum plans April public conference
The Texas Lyceum's 24th Public Conference, "The 2009 Stimulus Package: What's in it (or not) for Texas," will be held Friday, April 3, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the AT&T Executive Conference Center on The University of Texas campus. Among the invited speakers are Paul Hobby, deputy chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Ray Perryman of the Perryman Group and former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Among the topics will be a federal view of the stimulus package, next steps and how the stimulus will affect the state budget. To view the agenda, click here. To register, click here.
SETAPP to host conference for public purchasers
The Southeast Texas Association of Public Purchasers (SETAPP), the local chapter of NIGP (National Association of Governmental Purchasers), will host the 2009 Lone Star conference for public purchasers the week of May 3-6 in Galveston. Keynote speaker on Monday will be Nancy Brooks, director for procurement at Iowa State University. The conference will also feature a variety of breakout sessions regarding topics from construction project delivery methods to disaster recovery. For program, registration and hotel information, click here.
DIR to host Power to Purchase Technology Expo
The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) will host the Power to Purchase Technology Expo on Thursday, April 30, at the Palmer Events Center in Austin. The Expo is free to all government and public entity personnel and will feature leading technology products and services. The Expo is customized for state, local and education sectors and will bring together DIR-contracted technology vendors and show public entities how to maximize their buying power through DIR information and communications technology contracts. Breakout sessions will be offered regarding ICT Contracts training, new products and services on contract, emerging technology and other technology issues. Attendees can earn continuing education credit. For more information and to register, click here.
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.