|Volume 7, Issue 9 · Friday, March 6, 2009|
Transportation Commission OKs $1.2 billion in projects
Infusion of federal stimulus money will mean jobs for Texans
Local government officials came from as near as Waco and as far away as Abilene to seek support for local transportation projects at a meeting Thursday of the Texas Transportation Commission. Members of the Texas Legislature had some harsh words for the Commission and for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). And representatives of a variety of organizations and associations brought words of both praise and criticism.
But when all was said and done, the Commission approved without discussion the allocation of $1.2 billion in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for 29 construction projects throughout the state. The Commission acted on the recommendation of officials of TxDOT.
TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz (right) said the goal of the ARRA "is to get people to work" and the projects recommended would do just that.
The Commission's decision was supposed to have been made a week ago, but Chair Deirdre Delisi announced last week that the vote would be delayed so that members of the legislature as well as the public could review the projects recommended for funding.
Since then, a half dozen new projects were added to the list to comply with a federal requirement that some of the funding be used in economically distressed areas.[more]
Railroad Commission appoints new executive director
John Tintera (pictured) has been tapped to serve as executive director for the Texas Railroad Commission, the state's top energy regulatory agency. He began working for the commission in 1990.
Tintera has held a variety of posts during his tenure, including deputy director of Technical Permitting and Administrative Compliance, assistant director of Site Remediation, manager of Special Response and district office geologist. He was appointed interim executive director last year, succeeding Rich Varela. He has also worked as a petroleum geologist in the private sector.
Tintera holds a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and a master's degree from Bowling Green State University.
Glenn Neal, director, Consumer and External Affairs, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Career highlights and education: I have been with the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services since its creation in 2004. I manage the department's legislative, stakeholder and media relations. Before joining DARS, I served as director of external relations for the Texas Rehabilitation Commission. I started my career in state government in 1996 when I joined the Office of the Secretary of State as coordinator of Project V.O.T.E., a pre-K through 12th grade curriculum that introduces students to voting. I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in government and from Texas State University with a master's degree in public administration.
What I like best about my job is: Working with talented, committed colleagues who bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the job. I appreciate the opportunity to help set the direction for our department, to work on challenges that affect the larger scope of health and human services and to play a key role during the legislative session.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: To make the best decisions, seek the input of those most affected.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: There are abundant opportunities for advancement in state government; it's up to you to recognize opportunities and to seek the support you need to move forward.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: puttering around the house or just enjoying the outdoors.
People would be surprised to know that I: am a pretty good cook.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude by Lionel Fisher. I find it is becoming increasingly difficult to carve out time for quiet reflection in a world that puts a premium on staying connected. Fisher's book offers glimpses into the lives of people who have taken extraordinary steps to find time alone, sometimes for extended periods, and illustrates the sometimes painful tradeoffs. The book inspires me to continue finding ways to balance the demands of an increasingly connected "24/7" world, the desire to spend time with family and friends and the need for quiet solitude.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gen. Mayorga appointed Texas Adjutant General
Gen. Jose S. Mayorga (pictured) has been appointed Adjutant General of Texas for a term set to expire Feb. 1, 2011. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Mayorga, commander of the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Military Forces, commands more than 15,000 soldiers at Camp Mabry. He is also a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, the Army Engineer Association and the National Guard associations of the United States and Texas.
Mayorga holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, a master's degree from Hardin-Simmons University and another master's degree from the U.S. Army War College.
Additionally, Brigadier General Joyce L. Stevens of Tomball was named Assistant Adjutant General for the Army, Col. John F. Nichols of Spring Branch was chosen Assistant Adjutant General for the Air and Colonel Jeffrey L. Lewis of Cedar Park was named Deputy Assistant Adjutant General for the Army.
Anders chosen chair of Texas Tech regents
Larry Anders (left), a member of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents since 2005, this week was named chair of the board. Named vice chair was Jerry Turner (right). Anders replaces former board chair F. Scott Dueser. Anders is chairman and majority owner of an independent investment advisory and financial services firm in Dallas. A native of Lubbock, he attended West Texas State University before attending Texas Tech.
Turner was appointed to the board in 2007 and is a partner in a law firm specializing in public finance. A resident of Blanco, Turner earned his bachelor's degree from Texas Tech.
Three new regents also took their oath of office. They are: John Huffaker of Amarillo, a partner in a law firm; Mickey L. Long of Midland, president of a well service company; and Nancy Neal of Lubbock, a registered nurse and former member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Hall accepts presidency at Hardin-Simmons University
Dr. Lanny Hall (pictured), who has served as president of Howard Payne University for the last six years, will leave that institution to become president of Hardin-Simmons University. Hall will leave Howard Payne for his new post at the end of the current semester. "My six years at HPU have been good ones," Hall wrote in a note to supporters. "Together we have faced many challenges and have met a number of important goals."
Hall served as executive vice president at HPU from 1986 to 1989. He left to serve as president of Wayland Baptist University and then as chancellor of Hardin-Simmons University. He was serving as interim president of Hardin-Simmons when he accepted the job as HPU's 18th president in 2003. Hall will succeed former Hardin-Simmons President W. Craig Turner, who resigned last summer to take on the presidency of Catawba College in North Carolina.
Hall began his education career as a public school teacher. His public service career includes having served as a congressional aide, as deputy executive secretary of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and as a member of the Texas House of Representatives.
TxDOT to host workshops for DBE requirements
The Texas Department of Transportation will host several minority and small business construction industry workshops this month to provide project details, bidding requirements, certification and networking opportunities for businesses that will be needed to meet federal Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) goal requirements on projects that are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Dates for the workshops include: March 6, Waco; March 12, Dallas-Fort Worth; March 16 - Austin-San Antonio; March 17, San Angelo; and March 27, Houston. More information is available on the TxDOT Web site.
UNT forensic science program accredited
The forensic science program at the University of North Texas has become the only university in Texas to be accredited by the American Association of Forensic Sciences. "Our students will greatly benefit from the accreditation," said Teresa Golden (pictured), director of UNT's forensic science program. The accreditation will provide students and graduates with opportunities for internships, jobs and scholarships.
There are currently some 60 students enrolled in the certificate program, which began in 2005. The accreditation will allow that number to increase to approximately 100. Undergraduate students who major in biology, chemistry or biochemistry can apply to the forensic science program. Selection is based on grade point average and letters of reference.
Students and graduates work in area police departments, as well as federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They also work in area laboratories for ballistics, DNA and arson investigations.
Plano ISD seeks to provide Wi-Fi for students
In an effort to provide free online access for low-income families and students, the Plano Independent School District is studying the possibility of a wireless Internet network throughout Plano within the next two years.
Jim Hirsch (pictured), associate superintendent of academic and technology services at PISD, said the project will allow low-income families Internet access they might not have been able to afford, allowing students to do research and use the district's educational software from home.
The first part of the project will include installation of an antenna and then installation of routers in homes. With no money in next year's budget for the project, Hirsch is hopeful for assistance from the Plano Education Foundation.
Four Texas cities land on EPA Energy Star list
Texas' four major metro cities have landed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of 25 cities with the most Energy Star-certified buildings.
Houston ranks third on the list with 145 Energy Star-buildings. Dallas-Fort Worth ranked fifth with 126 buildings. Austin ranked 13th with 77 certified buildings, and San Antonio landed in the 16th place on the list with 56 certified buildings.
The cities saved a combined total of $130.7 million in utility costs thanks to their Energy Star designations.
Palestine applying for grant for water improvements
Palestine City Manager Dale Brown has been given the green light by city council to apply for a federal grant that would provide 75-25 percent matching funds for water system improvements.
The city may qualify for disaster funds to be used for a one-million-gallon elevated water storage tank and new water line. Other pressing projects include $860,000 in pump station improvements.
The city plans to apply for $3 million to $4 million in grants to cover as much of the projected $6.47 million it will cost to fund the projects. City officials should know in about a month whether the initial application is successful, Brown said.
UIW moving forward on optometry school construction
University of the Incarnate Word officials are moving forward with building and renovation plans for the new School of Optometry in addition to two new clinic buildings, where low-cost eye care services will be rendered. Up to 60 students will be accepted into the optometry program's inaugural class this fall.
Incarnate Word President Louis Agnese (pictured) said the optometry school and one clinic will be housed where the university's adult degree completion program is located after a $7.5 million renovation. A new 30,000-square-foot clinic, costing between $10 million and $12 million, will be constructed at the corner of East Commerce and Waters streets and is expected to be completed by 2011.
Dr. H.S. Ghazi-Birry, the optometry school's dean, said a sliding scale for fees will be implemented at both clinics, depending on patients' ability to pay.
DCCCD chancellor appointed to national committee
Dallas County Community College District Chancellor Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr. (pictured) has been appointed to serve as a member of the Association of Community College Trustees advisory committee of presidents for a term set to expire in December 2010.
The ACCT committee, comprised of community college or technical college presidents from five United States regions, was established to ensure chief executives' voices are heard in recommending and evaluating educational programs offered by the association.
Lassiter attended the group's first meeting at the National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., last month.
Sherman ISD studies new administration complex
Trustees for the Sherman Independent School District recently met with architects to discuss preliminary plans for a proposed school administration complex to be located on U.S. Highway 82.
Preliminary plans call for the new $11.6 million administrative complex to include several training spaces, offices for groups of district personnel, technology rooms and a separate boardroom to seat a minimum of 100, said Superintendent Al Hambrick. The boardroom also will include screens for media presentations and computers for each board member. The preliminary plans also include a service center and a grounds and transportation building. Other costs, such as installing security and air conditioners, would total about $1.6 million if performed by district personnel, said Assistant Superintendent Bruce Barnett.
The district's administrative offices currently are housed in an aging gymnasium, which the superintendent recommended the district consider renovating into a community gym once new administrative offices are available.
TxDOT touts pass-through financing for projects
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials are calling on local municipalities and private entities for pass-through financing of state transportation projects.
Pass-through financing allows municipalities and private entities to be reimbursed from the state for transportation projects they have funded once the projects become operational. Up to $300 million in projects could be financed through the initiative.
Phil Russell (pictured), TxDOT assistant executive director of Innovative Project Development, said pass-through financing allows "the continued development and construction of needed transportation projects across the state."
Texas A&M Teaching Excellence Awards noted
Top faculty at Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University and Texas A&M University-Kingsville have received Teaching Excellence Awards as part of an honors program initiated last fall by The Texas A&M University System.
Some 80 faculty members, representing 18 percent of the nearly 500 who participated, will receive checks ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 for winning. The merit-based awards are based on student evaluations.
The Teaching Excellence Awards, a $1.1 million initiative led by Chancellor Michael D. McKinney and funded through the A&M System, will expand to all nine A&M campuses next year and will increase in scope to include the top 20 percent of participating faculty, all of whom are eligible to enter. Top 3 percent winners include:
Killeen looking to merge city's master plans
Killeen City Council is looking to merge the city's master plans - which encompass everything from sewer and drainage projects to parks and transportation - into a single comprehensive plan for the next 20 years. City Manager Connie Green (pictured) said the city will need a comprehensive plan to meet its 2030 objectives.
Green said the plan will "lay the framework in how we develop in our ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction) and our relationship with Fort Hood," adding the city and the army base will have to address how to bring together all the master plan efforts.
The comprehensive effort should bolster the city's relationship with Fort Hood, helping advance projects such as building a new north/south corridor into major growth areas and a second runway at the city airport.
Galveston ISD to cut 163, including 99 teachers
In a second round of layoffs, trustees for the Galveston Independent School District recently approved eliminating 163 positions, including 99 teachers. Originally, trustees planned to lay off 111 teachers, but retained 12 teaching positions to help reduce class sizes.
The reduction in positions is necessary to save the financial stability of the district, said Board President Andy Mytelka (pictured). About 40 percent of the positions eliminated are not currently filled, Mytelka said. So far, Galveston ISD has saved $8.8 million by eliminating 218 staff positions, he noted. The district is expecting a $17 million budget shortfall for 2009-2010 because of lower revenues caused by damage to the district's property base by Hurricane Ike and a 25 percent drop in enrollment after the hurricane.
In addition to teachers, the eliminated positions include groundskeepers, custodians, building engineers, principals, assistant principals, counselors, nurses, librarians, secretaries, administrative personnel and aides. Those positions primarily were from three schools, which were so badly damaged that the facilities will not be ready to reopen by next fall.
Raymondville delays new $1.4M multi-service center
Raymondville city commissioners recently agreed to delay plans to build a proposed $1.4 million, new multi-service center after receiving seven bids of more than $2 million for the project.
The proposed 13.000-square-foot facility, to be located on FM 3164 across the street from Raymondville High School, was designed to house tenants such as the Raymondville Economic Development Corporation, the Raymondville Chamber of Commerce, WorkForce Solutions and a satellite office of the University of Texas-Brownsville.
City Manager Eleazar Garcia noted that delaying the construction contract most likely will postpone the move-in date for tenants and suggested commissioners consider asking for new bids on the project. Garcia also suggested cost-savings measures such as scaling back on the types of materials originally planned and reducing the size of the project to save money.
Manvel studies combined city hall, library, police station
The Manvel City Council recently discussed options on how to pay for an addition to its city hall to incorporate the library and the police department into the facility. Mayor Delores Martin (pictured) noted that the city's financial advisors have encouraged the city to apply for a $2 million loan to pay for the renovations and that three banks have expressed an interested in lending the city the funds.
The next step, Martin said, is to ask consultants to determine if $2 million will pay for the proposed renovation. She also noted that the availability of low interest rates and several local contractors looking for business are more reasons to proceed with the project.
Waxahachie approves $10M in bonds for projects
The Waxahachie City Council has approved the issuance of more than $10 million in bonds needed to fund various projects around the city. Projects slated include the historic MKT train depot restoration, a runway expansion at Midway Regional Airport and construction of a new downtown parking garage.
A new Standard and Poor rating of A+ will secure the city a lower interest rate of 4.25 percent for its record of sound financial planning and funds management.
No petitions for a referendum election have been filed, allowing the council to authorize issuance of the bonds.
Midland Fire Departments to get $489K grant for radios
The Midland Fire Department recently received notice of the award of a $489,440 grant to purchase 83 handheld radios and 27 radios to be mounted on emergency vehicles. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program of the Department of Homeland Security provided the grant, which requires a 20 percent match, or $122,360, from the city.
While most of the new radio equipment will be used by Midland firefighters, the grant also provides funding to pay for five vehicle-mounted radios and 14 handheld radios for the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department and six vehicle-mounted radios and 17 handheld radios for the Northeast VFD, said Fire Chief Russ Conley (pictured). The department also recently received a $200,000 grant to pay for wild land bunkers for firefighters, Conley noted.
Donna ISD approves $52 million bond proposal in May
Hoping to pay for a new high school, trustees for the Donna Independent School District recently called a bond election in May asking voters to approve nearly $52 million for the project. Voters rejected the district's last two bond proposals, a $49.4 million proposal in 2008 and a $47 million proposal in 2006.
District officials cite a 28 percent increase in enrollment in the last six years that has resulted in overcrowding and the use of 28 portable buildings as the reason a new high school is needed. The current high school was designed for 1,600 students and now houses nearly 2,200 students, said Superintendent Robert Loredo, who also noted safety concerns because students attending classes in portable buildings are more isolated if an emergency should occur.
Baylor professor to lecture Vietnamese students
Dr. Benjamin Kelley (pictured), dean of Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science and professor of engineering, will join three other academics from around the nation in lecturing at several universities in Vietnam.
Kelley will speak to 17 Vietnamese students at Hanoi University of Technology via videoconference as part of an educational program funded by a $70,000 U.S. Faculty Scholar Grant.
Kelley said the program is great because it exposes Vietnamese students "to a Western-style education, which is much more interactive than the students are accustomed to in the classroom," adding students can listen to the lecture at the university, at home or at any number of Internet cafes around the city.
Texas Tech ranks among supercomputing elite
Texas Tech University's recent acquisition of a new high-performance computing cluster has placed it in the supercomputing elite. The university ranked 288th internationally, 71st among world academic institutions and 28th among U.S. academic institutions for computer power in the latest TOP 500 Supercomputer Sites project.
University President Guy Bailey said the ranking will help the institution achieve its goal of attaining Tier One university status in Texas.
The new supercomputing cluster will advance research projects in high energy physics, molecular dynamics, computational chemistry, fluid flow modeling and other areas, which combined, account for about $4 million in annual research funds.
College Station ISD approves $144M bond election
College Station trustees have voted to bring a $144 million bond package before voters. The package, which would result in a projected 14-cent tax increase over three years, includes money for a second high school and an eighth elementary school. The tax rate's debt service portion is set at 22.1 cents per $100 of property value.
Should voters pass the bond, slated projects include the first phase of a high school (at a cost of $111.3 million), an elementary school, a transportation center, building renovations and bus purchases.
Charlotte Slack (pictured), district board president, said she thinks the bond proposal will "go down in history as a very significant milestone."
Baylor Health Care Systems requests stimulus funds
Baylor Health Care Systems officials plan to ask for federal stimulus money to help fund some of its multimillion-dollar projects. Baylor representatives were scheduled to meet with the head of the House Appropriations Committee this week in Austin.
Baylor officials are seeking funds for a new cancer center and a three-year, $15-million project to transform the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center into a diabetes center, both in Dallas. An outpatient cancer center and cancer hospital, costing $350 million and set to open near Baylor University Medical Center, is also on the table.
Baylor officials did not say how much they intend to request from the stimulus package.
Austin considers solar kiosks for parking meters
Austin City Council is considering whether to replace 500 downtown parking meters with solar powered kiosks. The existing 13-year-old, coin-only meters malfunctioned 14,000 times last year, costing the city as much as $500,000 in fees, fines and staff time. The kiosks, which would accept debit and credit cards for payment, would allow more spaces for vehicles to park downtown since, unlike the old meters, the units are not designed for specific spaces.
Robert Spillar (pictured), Austin's director of transportation, said the existing meters were only designed to last 10 years and that the city plans to replace most of the old meters.
The solar-powered kiosks, designed to last 15 years, would be financed through short-term debt, which would be paid for in eight to 10 years with parking fees, according to Spillar. Beginning as early as next year, however, the city would have enough funds left over after making debt payments to allocate for traffic, road and sidewalk improvements, Spillar said.
Bartlett to be COO at Brooks Development Authority
The Brooks Development Authority recently chose Timothy R. Bartlett as its new chief operating officer.
As chief operating officer, Bartlett will oversee all operational aspects of the authority to ensure the development agency's finances and operations are sound.
The Brooks Development Agency is responsible for developing the former Brooks Air Force Base into an economic catalyst on the south side of San Antonio. The authority is responsible for infrastructure, maintenance, development, land use and environmental planning at the former Air Force base.
UT nanomedicine scientist honored with $7M award
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Breast Cancer Research Program has honored Dr. Mauro Ferrari (pictured) with a five-year, $7-million Innovator Award to develop a targeted new delivery system for breast cancer drugs.
Ferrari, a nanomedicine scientist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, stands as this year's sole recipient of the award for a proposal he submitted in 2008. The proposal outlines Ferrari's drug delivery system, which, if successful, would concentrate more drugs at the site of a tumor and decrease side effects.
Capt. E. Melissa Kaime, director of the DoD Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, called Ferrari's approach to delivering treatments to cancer cells without attacking normal tissue "novel and visionary." Through the Innovator Award, she said, Ferrari will have the funding and freedom he needs to help eradicate breast cancer.
Rusk County up for $500,000 in disaster relief funding
Rusk County could receive more than $500,000 in federal disaster funds for infrastructure and housing if the East Texas Council of Governments gives the final approval at its meeting on March 5.
The county is slated to receive $549,000 under the preliminary method of distribution adopted by ETCOG, said Julie Burnfield, the ETCOG community and economic development manager. The amount of the award may change if ETCOG members vote to revise the plan after hearing complaints from Smith County residents who said they opposed the counties in ETCOG having so much power in deciding who receives funding, Burnfield said.
The Office of Rural Community Affairs is scheduled to release $9.2 million in federal funding for disaster relief to cities and counties affected by Hurricanes Ike and Dolly, she said. Counties eligible for the grants include Anderson, Cherokee, Gregg, Harrison, Marion, Panola, Rusk, Smith and Upshur.
Athens ISD proposes $25.7M bond election in May
Citing the need to rid the district of portable classrooms, trustees for the Athens Independent School District recently called for a $25.7 million bond election on May 9.
After a long discussion, board members opted to split the proposal into two propositions to give voters more options. The first proposition will ask for $7.5 million to build classrooms at South Athens Elementary, Athens Intermediate School and Athens Middle School to move students out of portable buildings. The proposition also contains plans for a band hall and auditorium. The district currently rents seven portable buildings at a cost of $17,000 and will soon need more, said Superintendent Dr. Fred Hays, who noted that portable buildings badly impact the district's maintenance and operations budget.
Proposition 2 for $18.2 million will be used to build a new elementary campus designed to meet the district's needs for the next seven to 10 years. Board President David Freeman (pictured) noted that dividing the propositions into two questions increase the chances that at least one of the proposals will be approved. Voters in Athens defeated a $28.4 million bond proposal in May 2008 and another $21.5 million bond proposal in November 2008 while passing a $3.75 bond proposal in the November election.
El Paso to build new transit terminal, bus shelters
El Paso is planning to build two new transit terminals and 150 new bus shelters throughout the city with the $15 million from the Federal Transit Administration as part of the economic stimulus package.
The proposed $8.4 million Glory Road terminal will feature a parking garage to encourage riders to park their vehicles and ride the bus. It also will have sidewalks, enhanced lighting and real-time computer screens showing departure and arrival times of buses. The proposed $4.1 million West Side terminal will have a parking lot, several small bus shelters and enhanced lighting, said Terry Quezada, capital improvement program administrator. The city also plans to build and improve 150 bus shelters by adding sidewalks, adding benches and improving lighting at a cost of $2.5 million.
The city is required to issue projects for the two new transit terminals and bus shelter improvements within 120 days showing how the money will be spent.
Pine Tree ISD approves $1.8M for administration bldg.
Trustees for the Pine Tree Independent School District recently approved $1.8 million to pay for final renovations to the district's administration building and $35,000 for 21 security cameras to install on the district's multi-purpose building and the primary campus.
District officials plan to renovate a former seventh-grade campus to house the office space for the district's administrative offices as well as a boardroom, an alternative campus, areas for support services and a community center. The district previously approved $1.4 million to pay for the first two phases of the renovations, which included cleaning and painting the building, installing a fence and adding air conditioning.
About half of the funding for the renovations is from bond funds, interest and savings from other projects and the remaining costs will be paid from the district's general fund, said Superintendent Lynn Whitaker (pictured). Staff could be moving into the newly renovated facility this summer, Whitaker said.
College Station approves red-light cameras
College Station officials have approved red-light cameras for five of the city's busiest intersections. The cameras, which cost $315,000, should be working by June.
Four intersections are currently monitored by red-light cameras, which resulted in nearly 2,000 monthly violations when the units were first installed. That number has dropped to about 1,000 per month. More than 15,500 citations have been issued since the program was implemented in 2006.
Using money collected from red-light citations, the College Station City Council has agreed to begin researching which intersections should next be equipped with the cameras. Funds collected from red-light camera violations must be used for traffic and safety improvements per state law.
WTAMU alumni association names new director
Becky Stogner (pictured) has been named executive director of the West Texas A&M University Alumni Association.
Stogner, the director for both annual giving and development at The Don and Sybil Harrington Cancer Center since 2003, has also served as a campaign and development associate with the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Mo.
Stogner holds a bachelor's degree from Missouri Baptist University. She also completed a course in principles and techniques of fundraising at the School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Abilene Housing Authority receives $391K for housing
The Abilene Housing Authority recently received $391,000 in federal stimulus funds to pay for improvements to the agency's four public housing sites.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated more than $500 million in federal stimulus funds to cities and counties in Texas and about $1 billion set aside for housing authorities nationwide remains unallocated, noted Gene Reed, the executive director of the Abilene Housing Authority. Reed said he plans to compete in the bidding process for part of the remaining $1 million as HUD recently rated the Abilene Housing Authority as a high performer.
While authority staff have not yet completed plans on exactly how the $391,000 in stimulus funds will be spent, Reed noted that the funds may be used to make public housing more energy efficient, for capital improvements and critical safety repairs. The authority has several projects in mind, Reed said.
Brazosport ISD delays bond election until November
Trustees for the Brazosport Independent School District recently agreed to delay a proposed bond election from May to November.
The district's finance director had proposed a bond proposal ranging from $6 million to $20 million to pay for preventative maintenance, such as replacing roofs, air conditioner coolers, carpet and door replacements in the lower range, and replacing technology, buses and musical instruments if a higher amount is approved.
Following a discussion in which board members could not agree on the amount of the bond to ask voters to approve because of current economic conditions, Board President Jay Luce (pictured) noted that while the district needs the $20 million bond, the district "cannot survive" without a $6 million to $8 million bond. Board members agreed to continue discussions in a future meeting on whether to call a bond election in November.
Friendswood moving forward with bond election
The City of Friendswood is moving forward with plans for a bond election to fund $20 million in certificates of obligation (COs). In May, voters will get to decide whether to issue $9.6 million to build a new library, convert the old library into a community center and improve parks. Also on the table is $11 million in COs to fund roads, parks, an animal shelter and records building.
In 1997, the Friendswood city charter was amended to prohibit the city from issuing debt without voter approval except in the case of an urgent public need or emergency. Mayor David Smith believes there is a strong possibility the city could finance the certificates without raising taxes, however.
In a "worst-case scenario," according to Smith, voters might face a tax rate increase of 6 cents per $100 valuation if they approve the bond package.
Denton eyes process to speed government projects
Following a request by the Denton Independent School District, Denton city council members agreed to explore the option of setting up a separate construction process to speed up government projects.
Denton ISD officials asked the city to reduce the time it takes to receive a building permit by allowing the district officials to complete some pre-construction steps while applying for building permits. The school district would still be required to meet the city's development standards under terms of the proposal.
Mayor Mark Burroughs (pictured) noted that Denton County also could benefit from a separate construction project and questioned whether the city's universities could be included in the faster track plan. City Manager George Campbell said he expects city staff to present a plan to speed up the permit process for government projects within months.
New head engineer named for Odessa district
Mike McAnally has been named head engineer for the Odessa district of the Texas Department of Transportation, succeeding Lauren Garduno, who will take the helm as district engineer for the neighboring Abilene district.
McAnally, who began working for the Odessa highway department 26 years ago as a summer hire, will oversee construction and maintenance activities for more than 300 employees in 12 counties, including Andrews, Crane, Ector, Loving, Martin, Midland, Pecos, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Ward and Winkler.
McAnally has served as interim director of transportation planning and development with the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the past year in addition to his role as operations director for the Odessa district.
Angleton weighs decision on purchasing new fire truck
A $173,000 grant from the Texas Forest Service could provide the Angleton Fire Department with a new fire truck this year. Council members are weighing the decision to buy a 2009 model pumper truck, which costs $368,000. The vehicle would replace the truck at Angleton's downtown fire station, which would replace the truck at Station 2.
City Manager Greg Smith (pictured) said the new truck will be ready for use when it rolls into town, adding there is no way he could not recommend the procurement. He said the city would pay its share of the price on a 10-year lease-purchase contract.
Fire Chief Eric Smith said the Forest Service grant money must be used this year. If council members approve the decision, the vehicle could be delivered Aug.15.
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Billions of stimulus dollars
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.