|Volume 7, Issue 15 · Friday, April 17, 2009|
For Texas lottery sales, it's all about revenue
Ticket sales down 1.9 percent but revenue up $3M so far this year
Texas lottery players may be feeling the pinch of the recession, but they're not all folding before they bet - or scratch, in this case.
As the state follows a nationwide decline in lottery sales - figures are down 1.9 percent compared to this time in 2008 - revenue has increased by $3 million so far this fiscal year.
It's all about revenue, according to Robert Heith (pictured), media relations director for the Texas Lottery Commission (TLC). "We've worked hard to improve the game mix," he said. "We've introduced two new scratch-off games and looked at improvements for online games to maintain this increase in revenue."
That's good news for public education. The Foundation School Fund (FSF), which helps pay for public education in the state, receives 27 cents for every dollar spent on a Texas lottery ticket.
Last year the Lottery Commission transferred less than $1 billion (about $983 million) to FSF for the first time since Fiscal Year 2003. TLC has allocated more than $11 billion to the foundation since 1998.[more]
SPI's national newsletter begins publication April 22
Only five more days until Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) launches its new weekly national newsletter - the State & Local Government Pipeline. Our objective is to make this publication the premier source for state and local government news and contracting opportunities.
Although much of the focus of the newsletter initially will be on the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), it also will address national trends, budget updates, planned initiatives and breaking news.
SPI, with its expanded research division and consultants now working with clients throughout the country, is ready to offer a national publication. The newsletter will target government contractors and government executives. It will be patterned after the highly successful Texas Government Insider.
Although much of the focus of State & Local Government Pipeline initially will be on the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), it also will address national trends, budget updates, planned initiatives and breaking news. SPI's research division along with its procurement consultants and subject matter experts will be involved in gathering hard-to-come-by news and information.
The first edition of State & Local Government Pipeline, which will be published Wednesday, April 22, will feature information on how and when individual states plan to spend stimulus funds. It will provide links to information on how much individual states will receive from different pools of money, links to the recovery Web sites of all 50 states and stimulus-related news and features. It will also feature non-stimulus related news regarding government spending and important information for vendors seeking to sell to government.
Huffines elected chair of UT System Board of Regents
James R. Huffines (left) of Austin this week was named chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents. He succeeds H. Scott Caven, Jr., whose six-year term as regent recently expired. Elected as vice chairs of the Board were Colleen McHugh (middle) of Corpus Christi and Paul Foster (right) of El Paso.
Huffines, who is serving as chair for the second time, was named to the Board of Regents in 2003 and reappointed for a second consecutive term. "I look forward to continuing to work with my fellow regents, Chancellor (Francisco) Cigarroa and his leadership team, and the campus presidents to promote excellence and advance the education, health care, research and service missions of what I believe to be one of the preeminent public university systems in the world."
The UT System Board of Regents is composed of nine gubernatorial appointees who serve staggered six-year terms. The University of Texas System is one of the nation's largest higher education systems, with nine academic campuses and six health institutions.
Susan Schultz, program manager, deputy director, Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution, The University of Texas at Austin
Career highlights and education: I have worked at the Center as Program Manager, Deputy Director, mediator and facilitator for six years. The Center is a statewide resource for governmental and public interest entities interested in the use of collaborative and problem-solving processes. We also teach a public policy dispute resolution seminar at the UT Law School. Prior to coming to the Center, I practiced law in Austin for many years in both the private and public sectors, dealing mostly with public utilities and telecommunications cases. I received my law degree from Baylor School of Law, just up the road in Waco. I spent my undergraduate years on the East Coast: first at Mount Holyoke College, a women's, liberal arts college in Massachusetts, spent a semester in Vienna, Austria, then transferred to and graduated from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. My first post-college job was in D.C. with the Association of Trial Lawyers, which is what drove me to go to law school.
What I like best about my job is: As a mediator and facilitator, I get directly involved in helping groups and individuals find their voice and seek solutions to potential or actual controversies or disputes. I find particularly rewarding the opportunity to assist governmental entities in exploring more sustainable ways to engage the public as early as possible in policy dialogues and decision-making. The Center staff also offers training in mediation skills and other innovative means of managing conflict.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: to remember that people may say that they know the difference between mediation and arbitration, but many don't. Even for mediation, many people have heard the term but don't know the full meaning of the process. When people participate in our mediation training, we often hear on the third or fourth day of training comments such as, "I had no idea that the process was so involved," and "Now I understand how an impartial third person can help disputing parties." So, don't pass up the opportunity to elaborate about dispute resolution processes. We can all use a refresher from time to time.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Just like many other professions, the mediation and dispute resolution field has its own jargon. Don't let words or concepts get in the way of helping people find their voice, their strength. Some people feel intimidated about speaking up, whether it be in a crowd or face-to-face with one person. Dispute resolution processes are flexible and can be customized to meet the needs of individuals and groups. Mostly, people want to feel safe and have an opportunity to be heard. That person or group can also be involved in designing a process that would meet its particular needs.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: outdoors, most likely on the hike and bike trail or playing tennis.
People would be surprised to know that I: speak French fluently, as it was my native language, and that when I was learning German, my German teacher was puzzled that I spoke German with a French accent!
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Just as the dispute resolution field is evolving beyond mediation and arbitration, so is the Center. While the number of staff members at the Center has remained at six since I joined, the breadth of our trainings and projects has expanded to reflect broader processes to foster collaboration and resolution. The earlier in time that we can get people to sit down, think about options and negotiate, the greater the opportunity for dialogue and understanding. The Center is a great resource, and I invite you to visit our Web site and contact us.
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.
SOS initiative aims at updating election forms
Ensuring user-friendly forms for citizens, poll workers and election officials is the goal of a new initiative established by Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade. Election officials from 10 Texas counties - Bexar, Brazoria, Denton, El Paso, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Potter, Smith, Tarrant and Travis - are participating in the initiative.
The officials met earlier this week with Secretary Andrade (standing left) to evaluate the wording and design of the first group of forms to be reviewed and made recommendation regarding how to improve them. They also evaluated forms deemed duplicative that could either be combined or eliminated.
Some of the new forms are expected to be available for the upcoming November election. "County election officials are extremely valuable in this effort since they have expertise in processing the forms and work directly with citizens and candidates that fill out these forms," said Andrade.
TxDOT recycling efforts earn department award
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was recently named the 2009 Government Recycling Program of the Year by the Construction Materials Recycling Association. At the awards ceremony in Florida, TxDOT was recognized for its 25 highway districts being among the most progressive for the last 15 years in using recycled materials and aggregates.
TxDOT saved 1.8 million tons of virgin aggregates in the last two years by recycling concrete aggregate in cement-treated base, flexible base, continuously reinforced concrete pavement, filter dams, gabion walls, concrete traffic barriers, flowable fill and select backfill for mechanically stabilized earth walls. "If every state supported recycled aggregate like TxDOT did, the amount of recycled C&D (construction and demolition) materials in this country would go up tremendously," said TxDOT's John Barton, assistant executive director for engineering operations.
Small airports to benefit from federal stimulus funds
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials are ready to move ahead with upgrades to several general aviation airports around the state with $258 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
The Texas Transportation Commission has also given staff approval to submit 10 aviation project proposals to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA, in turn, has approved four Texas projects at Synder Airport, Grayson County Airport, Sulphur Springs Airport and Brady-Curtis Field, totaling $12.6 million.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Fred Underwood (pictured), citing the vital role reliever and general aviation airports play in the state's transportation network, said support of these endeavors "will continue to yield large results for small urban and rural communities around the state."
TDHCA to host public hearing on stimulus funding
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) will hold a public hearing to field comments on the Weatherization Assistance Program draft funds issued by the Department of Energy State Plan for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Texas is expected to receive $326,975,732 from the ARRA state allocation formula grant award.
The public hearing will be held Wednesday, April 22, at 1 p.m. in room 170 of the Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 North Congress Avenue in Austin.
UT Dental Branch chooses Valenza as new interim dean
John A. Valenza, D.D.S., (pictured) has been named interim dean of The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, effective March 23, when he will oversee the school's patient care, educational and research programs. He will replace Catherine M. Flaitz, D.D.S.
Valenza, executive associate dean and associate professor in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences, joined the faculty of UT Dental Branch in 1987. Since then he has taken thr helm of several leadership roles, including director of advanced education and extramural affairs, associate dean for patient care and acting chair of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences.
Valenza graduated from UT Dental Branch in 1981 before completing his residency in general practice at The University of Tennessee Memorial Hospital.
Extra $2B going to school districts throughout Texas
Texas school districts and charter schools are set to receive about $2 billion in supplemental federal Title I and special education funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. An additional $1 billion will become available in low-cost or no interest bonds through the federal Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) program.
The agency has posted preliminary planning amounts for special education programs and districts that qualify for federal Title I funding aimed at children of low-income families.
The ARRA will allocate authority to issue $1 billion in tax credit bonds through the QSCB program - directed to 100 school districts throughout the country with the highest number of Title I students - which will provide low-cost or no interest bonds to districts. Texas stands to receive an additional $1 billion in bonding authority the following year.
A list of the Texas districts and the preliminary estimated bond allocation follows:
SHSU appoints Dana Gibson as CFO of university
Sam Houston State University has named Dana Gibson (pictured), former president of National University in California, the first female vice president of Finance and Operations.
Gibson's new charge will be as chief financial officer of the university, managing SHSU's investment portfolio and real estate acquisitions and sales. She will also oversee the divisions and departments of information resources, human resources, business office, public safety, purchasing, dining services and the University Press and Copy Center.
Gibson has worked in the financial sectors of several institutions of higher learning, including Southern Methodist University, the University of Colorado at Denver and Texas Woman's University (TWU). She holds a bachelor's and master's degree from TWU and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Arlington.
DSHS hits peanut manufacturer with charges
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has filed $14.6 million in administrative penalties against Plainview Peanut Co., LLC for alleged food safety violations.
The citations include: unsanitary conditions, product contamination, illnesses linked to consumption of peanuts from the plant and operating without a state-issued food manufacturer's license for nearly four years.
DSHS has ordered the facility to close and to recall products shipped since the plant opened in March 2005. Any money collected from the dispute will be allocated to the state's General Revenue account.
Grants available to help curb underage tobacco use
Tobacco Compliance Grants ranging from $1,000 to $150,000 are available through the State Comptroller's Office for school police departments, municipal police departments, sheriffs, constables and district attorneys to combat underage tobacco use.
Grant amounts will depend on the number of local tobacco retailers or the number of students who will receive education regarding the dangers of smoking and the laws against teen smoking. Deadline for application for the grants for schools with on-campus law enforcement is May 4 and deadline for other law enforcement agents and district attorneys is May 11. For more information and grant application forms, click here or call (888) STEP-123.
African-American Legislative Summit planned
"Momentum of Change" will be the theme of the 10th Annual African-American Legislative Summit set for Monday and Tuesday, April 27-28, in Austin. The event will be presented by Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University and will examine issues impacting African-American communities in Texas on a grassroots level. The event is hosted by the House Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Legislative Black Caucus.
Dr. James Alan Fox of Northeastern University will deliver the keynote address focusing on homicide among young black males. Panel discussions will address issues such as higher education, the economic crisis, technology, the environment and black-on-black crime. The summit will be held at the Texas State Capitol and the AT&T Executive Education Conference Center at 1900 University Avenue, within walking distance of the Capitol. The summit is free, but registration is required.
Water Development Board approves assistance
The Texas Water Development Board this week announced the approval of financial assistance for two projects totaling $3.27 million. The assistance includes a $2 million loan to the city of Brady and a $1.27 million loan to the city of Bryan, both from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements using the pre-design funding option.
The board also approved $1 million in flood protection planning grants for the state to assist local governments in developing flood protection plans for watersheds to protect from flooding through measures in Bastrop County, City of LaFeria, Hays County, Guadalupe County, City of Balch Springs, El Paso Water Utilities-Public Service Board and City of Alvin. Another $598,295 in water related project grants to fund irrigation water use metering, conservation education and public awareness, innovative technology transfer and economic impacts of reduction irrigation water use to the Lower Colorado River Authority, Texas A&M AgriLife Research-High Plains, Texas A&M AgriLife Research-Irrigated Acreage and Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District.
Kerrville scraps purchase of building for city hall
The proposed $1.6 million purchase of a Water Street building to be the new Kerrville City Hall has been scrapped. Although a contingency contract was signed in December, a consultant advised the city that the building was not suitable for city offices because of the costs for retrofitting the building.
Mayor Todd Bock (pictured) said the council voted unanimously not to close on the contract, but added the city has no timeline for finding and moving into a new location in the downtown commercial district as the city outgrows its current facilities.
TCEQ awarded $1.73M to aid environment
To address pollution hazards posed by the country's fleet of 11 million diesel engines, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $1.73 million to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The funds will be used to support clean diesel projects and various loan programs. The move stands to create jobs, boost economies, curb diesel emissions and protect human health.
The initiative, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will "put Texas to work by improving water infrastructure, cleaning up and redeveloping Superfund and brownfield sites, and developing clean diesel technologies that bolster the state's economy," said EPA Acting Region 6 Administrator Lawrence E. Starfield.
ARRA funds are geared to reduce emissions from school buses by retrofitting vehicles with exhaust controls, thus reducing emissions of particulate matter.
Killeen approves $352,570 federal grant application
The Killeen City Council recently authorized the Killeen Police Department to receive $352,570 in grant funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. The funding will come from the $554,786 grant awarded by JAG to Bell County, said Police Chief Dennis Baldwin (pictured).
The grant funds will be used to buy more patrol cameras, a specialized K-9 patrol SUV, equipment to process evidence and organized crime investigations, Baldwin said.
Council members also approved the acceptance of a $7,700 grant from the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct specialized seatbelt patrols from May 18 to May 31. The funding will be used to pay officers overtime to focus on seatbelt enforcement, he said.
TABC launches new Web site this week
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission this week launched a new Web site, designed for easier navigation and increased accessibility, according to agency officials.
Additional new content will include information related to local option elections, ports of entry, human trafficking and more. The site is located at www.tabc.state.tx.us.
Central Texas high-speed rail could see funding
Passenger rail service between San Antonio and Austin could get some of the $8 billion in federal economic stimulus funding announced this week by President Barack Obama. In making the announcement, 10 potential corridors for high-speed rail were identified as part of a nationwide network. The San Antonio-Austin route is part of the South Central corridor that was identified.
The funds are identified not only for development of new high-speed rail lines, but also for improving service on existing rail lines. The goal, according to federal officials, is to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil by reducing the dependence on motor vehicles and airplanes for some of the nation's travel. Reducing motor vehicle and airline traffic also will have a positive effect on the nation's air quality.
Texas Tech names new vice president-research
Taylor Eighmy (pictured) has been named vice president for research at Texas Tech University, effective July 1. Eighmy currently serves as interim vice president for research and director of the Strategic Initiatives Office of the University of New Hampshire (UNH).
As vice president of research, Eighmy will be the principal research officer for the university, overseeing and encouraging innovative research and scholarship in all fields. His office also will direct the Office of Research Services, the Northwest Texas Small Business Development Center, the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center, the Center for Biotechnology and Genomics and the Institute for Comparative and Experimental Medicine. He will also manage two research facilities, the Experimental Sciences Building and the East Loop Research Building.
Eighmy has been in his current position with UNH since 2007 and was assistant vice president for research and director of strategic initiatives there from 2004 to 2007. He holds a bachelor's degree from Tufts University and master's and doctoral degrees in from UNH.
EPA distributes more than $10M for cleanups
The Environmental Protection Agency has allocated $10.779 million to assess and clean up underground storage tank petroleum leaks in Texas. The agency distributed $197 million nationally, appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which will create and retain jobs related to at least 1,600 cleanups around the country.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the agency is "putting people to work by serving our core mission of protecting human health and the environment," as well as providing protection from dangerous land and water pollution. Otherwise, petroleum or other hazardous substances could leak into soil and contaminate groundwater, a major source of drinking water for most Americans.
Henderson ISD approves $55M facility upgrades
Trustees for the Henderson Independent School District approved a facility master plan calling for spending about $55 million to upgrade district campuses and facilities.
The master plan includes $29 million in projects for Phase 1 and $26 million in projects for Phase 2. Phase 1 will include building a new gymnasium and activities building at Henderson High School, relocating the administration building to Chamberlain Elementary and renovation and expansion of an elementary school as well as projects at Lion Stadium and Central Elementary, said Superintendent Bobby Brown.
Board President Jon Best (pictured) said board members are still in discussion on whether to call a bond election in the next year or two.
Community Services Block Grant program nets $48M
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced plans to allocate $48,148,072 to Texas' Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program, part of a $1 billion national initiative funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Organizations are required to use the funds to reduce poverty by assisting low-income families and revitalizing disenfranchised communities. The organizations receiving the CSBG funding help with job training and placement, credit counseling and other financial literacy programs, housing assistance and nutrition programs, among other initiatives.
Click here to see a state-by-state description of CSBG Recovery Act funding.
Ahrens to serve as new vice president at SAWS
Charles E. Ahrens (pictured) has been named Vice President of Water Resources and Conservation for the San Antonio Water System. A graduate of Texas State University, Ahrens brings more than 22 years of experience in public process and water resource management programs to his new job.
In his new position, Ahrens will be in charge of a staff of 64 professionals responsible for the development and implementation of programs and services in the areas of water resources and water conservation.
San Angelo receives grant for Web-based EOS
San Angelo recently received a $109,000 federal grant to purchase a Web-based emergency operation system to help emergency responders keep a closer eye on disasters when they happen. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded the grant for the system that will be used in the emergency operations center shared by city, county and school district officials during emergency situations such as tornados or grass fires.
The new emergency operation system will permit emergency responders to use computers at the EOC or a laptop computer to connect with multiple emergency officials during a disaster, said Ron Perry, the emergency management coordinator for San Angelo.
The new emergency operation system also will allow emergency workers to monitor flooding in real-time and has a mapping system to allow workers in San Angelo to track the movement of any buses that are bringing evacuees to the city. The new emergency operation system will help city, county and the state government to manage crisis much better than in the past, Perry said.
Bryan previews 2010-2014 capital improvement plan
Bryan city council members recently previewed city staff recommendations for capital improvement projects to begin in 2010 and continue through 2014.
The recommendations for projects to begin in 2010 include a $2.9 million renovation of downtown Bryan, $3.9 million in improvements to College Main Street and Old College Road and reconstruction of 28th Street and 26th Street, said City Engineer Paul Kaspar (pictured). Under consideration for 2011 are $1.6 million in improvements to Martin Luther King Jr. Street and $680,000 to repair the railroad crossing at Groesbeck Street. In 2012, the recommended capital improvement projects include widening University Drive from Earl Rudder Freeway to FM 158 and reconstructing South College Avenue, Kaspar said.
Phase 4 of downtown renovation projects is slated to begin in 2013, and in 2014, city staff recommend a $1.1 million neighborhood revitalization project for an area not yet selected, he said. The recommendations will be included in a proposed capital improvement master plan to be presented for council approval in May.
Stimulus overlooks largest Texas border ports
Even though border entry points at Laredo and El Paso make up the state's busiest crossing areas, none of the $720 million in stimulus funds allocated to upgrade border land ports will go there. Smaller ports in Texas, such as Falcon Dam, Los Ebanos and Amistad Dam, are set to receive a portion of the $420 million set aside for facilities operated by Customs and Border Protection. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also recently announced $300 million will be issued to improve ports operated by the General Services Administration (GSA) in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and Maine, but not Texas.
Last year the GSA estimated it needed $5 billion over 10 years to upgrade facilities as it scrambled to get funds included in the stimulus package. The agency has submitted to Congress details outlining plans for the $300 million it received.
ACC picks up silver award for Constitution debate
Austin Community College recently won the silver prize for best student program - beating out 100 other district submissions - from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The council awarded the college's Center for Public Policy & Political Studies, Government Department and the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division for their efforts in the annual ACC Constitution Debate.
The debate centered on topics specific to the Constitution. ACC facilitators spurred conversation and kept the debates lively but civil.
Center for Public Policy & Political Studies Director Peck Young (pictured) received the award on behalf of ACC. He said the Constitution, "one of the most important documents in our history," was also one of the most debated, which may explain the uptick in the number of students who compete in the debate each year. In 2007, 200 students participated in the discourse; in 2008, that number doubled to 400.
Brownwood ISD moves forward with laptop initiative
Brownwood Independent School Districts trustees have voted to approve the second and final phase of the One-to-One computer initiative, a $1.5 million project that will provide a laptop for all 900 students and change the way teachers communicate with students in the classroom.
Teachers are "tremendously favorable" about the project, according to Superintendent Reece Blincoe, despite the off-chance the new teaching methods may compromise the standardized test scores for which BISD has earned state and national recognition.
"The computers aren't the solution," trustee Justin Murphy said, adding he thinks the initiative will engage students if teachers are properly trained. He said the One-to-One project marks an improved means of delivery that will "help level the academic playing field for all students regardless of socioeconomic status."
Commerce awards $1.5M to WTAMU for upgrades
The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded a $1.5 million grant to upgrade the former Palo Duro Hospital for a West Texas A&M University research facility. The funds, distributed through the department's Economic Development Administration, will be matched by WTAMU for the project.
The renovated building will house office space for the University's Alternative Energy Institute and University Research Alliance, as well as research facilities for Dr. Guy Loneragan, associate professor of animal science, and Dr. Robert DeOtte, associate professor of environmental engineering.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. James Hallmark (pictured) said converting the facility to research labs "will greatly expand our capacity" and open doors to research that will "have direct applications and impact our region's health and economy."
Lamar chooses Dodson as director of honors program
Kevin Dodson has been selected to serve as permanent director of the University Honors Program at Lamar University after a nationwide search.
In 1991 Dodson, a professor of philosophy and interim director of the honors program during the 2008-2009 academic year, began his one-and-only professional tenure at Lamar, where he has taught philosophy, moral and political theory, and the philosophy of history. He has presented papers at national conferences and international congresses with support from the German Academic Exchange Service and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Dodson holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington and a doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
TSU, Port of Houston Authority partner on degree
Texas Southern University is teaming up with the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) for a new degree program in Maritime Transportation Management and Security. The program - the first of its kind at any Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the country - will address three imperative national transportation needs: logistics, security and environmental matters.
PHA has committed $2 million to the project over the course of the next two years. A majority of those funds will be used to recruit students and promote and develop the program.
PHA Chairman James T. Edmonds (pictured) said the partnership "is a perfect realization of Texas Southern's commitment to providing our students with cutting-edge, relevant academic programs that speak to the real needs of today's and tomorrow's job markets."
Palestine EDC director resigns for Athens post
Palestine Economic Development Corp. (EDC) Executive Director Brian Malone has announced plans to step down, effective May 9, after 10 years at the helm. He will take over at the Athens EDC as president and chief executive officer, where he will replace Chris Potter.
Prior to the formation of Palestine's EDC, the city had lost approximately 1,000 jobs, Malone said. Land was not "shovel ready," he said, and when word spread someone was asking, prices often spiked, spurring businesses to look elsewhere.
Malone said the EDC has sought to recover jobs and bring employers into Palestine during his tenure. "We've accomplished that," he said, referring to the city's sales tax growth.
Galveston Co. looks to build new fire, EMS station
Galveston County is looking to build a fire and EMS station utilizing county-paid firefighters until volunteers return to the area, which was devastated last year by Hurricane Ike. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has since helped pay firefighters from Galveston to man the area and set up a makeshift station at Crenshaw School.
County Commissioner Pat Doyle (pictured) said officials are looking "at the overall picture of having a proper and safer response 24-7" to emergencies. Ike ravaged one of the stations in the peninsula area and damaged the rest.
Preliminary plans call for the construction of a $5 million fire station, elevated to weather high tides and storms. The facility would also double as a community center.
Round Rock nursing school lands $476K grant
The St. David's School of Nursing at the Texas State University Round Rock Higher Education Center has received federal funds totaling $476,000 for new projects, computers, equipment and staffing needs. The three-story, 77,000-square-foot nursing facility is expected to open in fall 2010 with 100 junior and senior students enrolled in classes.
The entire Texas State University health science division is set to move from San Marcos to Round Rock by 2013, according to officials of the nursing school information office.
TSU System Board of Regents appoints new chair
Ron Blatchley (pictured) has been selected to serve as chair of the Texas State University System Board of Regents. He replaces Bernie Francis, who was appointed as a regent.
Blatchley, who retired from his career in higher education in 1985, serves as partner of a housing company, which currently bids in and around the Bryan/College Station area. He previously served as director of student affairs at Texas A&M University before he and his wife worked as restaurant owner-operators until 2003.
Blatchley earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Sam Houston State University.
Aransas County weighing options for new courthouse
Aransas County commissioners recently reviewed two plans from an architect to expand or replace the county courthouse. Under one plan, the county would enlarge the existing courthouse with a five-story addition that would cost $30 million. The architect also presented a plan to build a new $24.9 million facility across the street from the current courthouse that would be energy efficient and hurricane resistant and would cost about $5 million less than remodeling the old courthouse. The new site also would be built up to 20 feet above sea level as opposed to the current site of about 8 feet to10 feet above sea level.
While the Texas Historical Commission has asked commissioners to save the courthouse as a rare example of 1950s architecture, county officials appear to be leaning toward building a new facility. The county judge noted that the old courthouse lacks energy efficiencies in addition to having asbestos and mold problems and a bad roof and is too small to accommodate the county's needs.
El Paso County asks for update on Sportspark
El Paso County commissioners recently agreed to require a private sports company to submit a detailed report on how it plans to renovate, operate and maintain Sportspark, a county-owned baseball field complex. County officials have been in negotiations with the company since 2007. The company claims it will cost $15 million to refurbish, operate and maintain the 40-acre ball field park in east El Paso while the county said it will pay only the $9.7 million agreed on earlier by commissioners.
The company's chief executive said he will respond to the request with a detailed proposal within 30 days, but admitted there is a large gap between what the county is willing to pay and the cost of developing and operating a facility that meet's his company's high standards of quality. The proposed maintenance and operations agreement calls for the company to build six lighted youth baseball/adult softball fields that will be replicas of famous baseball stadiums in addition to building four lighted youth baseball diamonds, a children's playground, batting cages, a section for group or corporate gatherings and two enclosed concession facilities.
County Judge Anthony Cobos (pictured) said that budget constraints are compelling the county to consider privatizing the park, but that 30 days is plenty of time for the company to present a viable plan. Commissioners also met recently with El Paso city officials to discuss the possibility of the city taking over or operating the park, as a way to lure baseball and softball teams for tournaments that would generate revenue for the area. The facility, however, has attracted fewer tournaments than expected and is losing about $250,000 a year.
UH partners with junior college for building
A new $37 million, 145,000-square-foot facility is set to open at the University of Houston System at Sugar Land (UHSSL) campus. The facility - which includes 44 classrooms, five computer labs, nine science labs, 73 faculty offices and an exercise room - will be shared by UHSSL and Wharton County Junior College.
A community fundraising campaign titled "Building Futures Together" helped secure funds for the venture, including a $4 million gift from the George Foundation and a $3.5 million contribution from the City of Sugar Land.
An invitation-only groundbreaking is slated for Wednesday, April 22, at 9 a.m. Classes at the facility will begin this fall.
San Antonio to apply for police grant funds from ARRA
The San Antonio City Council has voted to apply for a grant, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that could add 100 police officers to its roster. The city will know in September whether the grant will be funded.
City Councilman Justin Rodriguez said the city may end up getting fewer officers due to competition for the funds. After the grant expires at the end of 2013, the city would be obligated to maintain the officers for a year, incurring a cost of about $11 million.
Since the grant is limited to community policing, Police Chief William McManus (pictured) has proposed assigning new recruits to the San Antonio Fear Free Environment program, allowing about 50 new hires to attend the police academy in December.
Lubbock ISD interviews candidates for superintendent
Trustees for the Lubbock Independent School District recently interviewed several candidates for superintendent, but have not yet narrowed the list of candidates since the interviews were conducted.
Board President Gordon Wilkerson (pictured) declined to comment on the number of candidates who were interviewed, but said the interviews went well and trustees are well within the timeline adopted for the search for a new superintendent. No candidates have been eliminated, he said. Board members will immediately notify the public when a finalist is selected.
The new superintendent will replace Superintendent Wayne Havens, who is retiring from the district he has led since 2003.
Fort Bend hears update on science, high tech center
David Wallace, who heads the Global Center Feasibility Committee, recently updated trustees for the Fort Bend Independent School District on how the proposed center of science and technology could change the course of education in math, science, technology and engineering. The center is planned as a public/private partnership that would form collaborative partnerships with organizations such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Children's Museum of Houston.
The center would provide a resource for accelerated science staff development training for teachers and advanced, hands-on learning for students, Wallace said. The committee interviewed more than 1,000 employees, parents and students of the district and a majority supported the idea for a center for science and technology. Many also questioned the cost of the center and how the school district would ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to use the high-tech science center, Wallace said. Other benefits of a global science center are that it would attract more qualified teachers and provide enriched learning opportunities to students during the summer and other school holidays.
Superintendent Tim Jenney (pictured) said district officials are encouraged that the global center is viewed as a viable project and is looking forward to the committee's final report in May.
Azle to begin planning for new $3.9M fire station
Azle city officials will begin planning for a new $3.9 million, 19,000-square-foot fire station when they begin discussions for the budget for the coming fiscal year, City Manager Craig Lemin said recently.
The city also is considering a new police station or a combined police/fire facility, Lemin said. The combined facility would be about 32,000 square feet in size and cost about $7.2 million to build. The fire station or combined facility most likely will be located on land next to an extension of Denver Trail. The site, which was donated by a former fire chief, is in a central location.
While the city would most likely ask voters to approve bonds to pay for a combined facility, Lemin said the city could possibly pay for the fire station using existing funding. The city needs to move emergency response vehicles from their current site because vehicles must use a one-way street to get to areas south or east of the station or make a u-turn past the current location, which can delay response time.
Waller County sheriff urges more courthouse security
Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith (pictured) recently urged commissioners to spend $225,000 to $450,000 for technological and security upgrades at the Waller County Courthouse.
Smith recommended installing a metal detector at the east entrance and making that the main entrance and using a video system to allow inmates to be arraigned from the jail via video conferencing. Using a video system would eliminate about half of the transports the sheriff must make to the courthouse, he said.
The sheriff also suggested locking three doors to make those doors employee entrances that can be opened only with a fingerprint, card swipe or key code. He also asked for the county to fill an existing position as a security guard at the courthouse and create two more security guard positions.
Huntsville to apply for $4.6 million in grants
The Huntsville City Council recently authorized the city manager to apply for $4.65 million in grants for highway and park improvements, housing construction and other purchases.
City Manager Bill Baine said he plans to apply for and accept a $2 million grant through the Economic Development Administration for a design and engineering study for Highway 19 in an effort to take traffic off of Interstate 45 and around the city during hurricane evacuations. This grant will require a 20 percent match in cash or in-kind services from the city, he said. He also will apply for a $971,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a water well generator grant, which will require a 25 percent match from the city.
City officials also will apply for a $1 million Neighborhood Stabilization Grant through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to be used to locate abandoned structures and pay for reconstruction on those sites. Residents of Huntsville who are considered disadvantaged would be selected through a committee-led process to occupy those rehabilitated homes, city officials said. Additionally, the city will apply for a $250,686 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Texas Recreational Trails Fund to build a new, half-mile trail in the Eastham-Thomason Park.
Aransas Pass gets $1M for Conn Brown Harbor
Aransas Pass recently received a $951,000 Boating Infrastructure Grant and a $267,750 Boating Access Grant awarded through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The grants will be used for building 24 slips for transient boats ranging from 26 to 60 feet and seven slips for transient boats 100 feet or longer. The grants also will pay for new boat ramps, docks and more parking spaces in the harbor area, said City Manager K.M. Hubert. City staff will continue to pursue grant funding to build a pavilion and additional bathroom facilities in the harbor area, he said.
Gainesville moves forward on expansion of civic center
Gainesville City Council members recently put their stamp of approval on two resolutions in support of a $650,000 expansion of the civic center.
The first resolution approved actions of the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation to finance the civic center project. The second resolution was in support of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce moving into the new civic center and selling the site on which it now operates in order to reimburse the GEDC with proceeds from the sale.
Of the $650,000 approved for the civic center expansion, $50,000 will be used to replace the roof and sprinkler system of the existing civic center, said Mayor Glenn Loch (pictured). Once the new building is built on city property, the Chamber of Commerce will then lease the new building from the city.
Laredo ISD names new interim superintendent
The Laredo Independent School District Board of Trustees has selected Ronald K. McLeod as interim superintendent from a field of eight candidates. He will replace Veronica Guerra, who has resigned from the post.
McLeod has headed both Clear Creek ISD (1990-1995) and El Paso ISD (1979-1990) as superintendent. In 1988 he was honored as Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. He has also served as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent during his 50 years as a leader in education.
McLeod marks the Laredo ISD's fourth interim superintendent since 1996, in which time the district has had five superintendents and three interims. The board this week voted to finalize a superintendent search contract with the Texas Association of School Boards. The board hopes to hire a new superintendent near the end of July, with that person reporting to work at the beginning of the next school year.
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Timing could not get much better for security firms!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
While some industries are seeing a slowdown because of the nation's sagging economy, demand in the security industry is increasing at an historic pace. Never has timing been better for contracting firms that provide new and enhanced security offerings.
A recent survey by an international organization measured the demand for security services nationwide and results were outstanding. Security and protection is critical in the minds of citizens throughout the country. The public at large wants (and expects) as much security and protection that government can provide. This is a national trend and one that is certainly obvious in Texas.
For security firms selling to governmental entities, the trend translates into thousands of new opportunities each month. Government is purchasing security products and services related to almost everything - port security, border security, emergency center operations and procurement of metal detectors for courthouses. Cities, counties, school districts, public hospitals and universities are hiring security guards and installing all kinds of electronic surveillance devices.[more]
Montenegro named finalist to head Nevada district
Hector Montenegro (pictured), the former superintendent at Arlington Independent School District, recently was selected as one of six finalists for the position of superintendent of the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada.
Montenegro was chosen from 27 applicants and is scheduled for an in-person interview later in April. Montenegro resigned in July as superintendent in Arlington after serving less than six months in that position. He also served as superintendent at the Ysleta Independent School District.
Memorial City group agrees to $11M private bond issue
Board members of the Memorial City (TIRZ 17) Redevelopment Authority recently approved an $11 million private bond issue to fund 18 capital improvement projects along IH-10 between Bunker Hill Road and Beltway 8 in western Harris County. The authority received a more favorable interest rate using the private placement, said Pat Walker, executive director of the authority.
The projects include $10.9 million to widen Gessner Road, $7.3 million to widen Bunker Hill, $7.2 million for thoroughfare improvements on North Gessner, $2.5 million for drainage and mobility improvements on Bunker Hill, $2 million for drainage improvements to Memorial, $2.2 million for drainage improvements to Frostwood Drive, $3.5 million for drainage improvements to Barryknoll, $3.9 million for drainage and mobility improvements to Town and Country, $1.7 million for drainage improvements to Kimberly, $2 million for roadway improvements to West Bough and $1 million for park and green space improvements.
Alpine is considering
Health Institute plans seminar on Federal Health Board
The Texas Health Institute will host a half-day seminar on "Building a Federal Health Board: Impact on Texas" from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday, May 22. The event will be at the Federal Reserve Bank of Houston, 1801 Allen Parkway in Houston. The conference will feature Bill Gilmer of the El Paso branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and panelists Dr. Herminia Palacio, executive director, Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, Chair, Harris County Healthcare Alliance Board, and Dr. Lewis Foxhall, president, Harris County Medical Society and Vice President for Health Policy, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. For more information and to register, click here.
LBJ School to host Auditors Institute in May
The 57th Annual County Auditors Institute will be held Tuesday through Friday, May 5-8. The event will be at the Doubletree in Austin. For more information, contact the LBJ School of Public Affairs at 512-471-0820. The event will feature an opening general session on Wednesday, followed by concurrent sessions on governmental accounting, researching statutes and human resources. Concurrent sessions on Thursday will address government accounting, public purchasing and auditing basics. Thursday sessions include forfeiture auditing, records retention and an update by the Texas County and Districts Retirement System. To register, click here.
AACOG slates foreclosure workshop in May
The Alamo Area Council of Governments will host a free Foreclosure Prevention Workshop On Saturday, May 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The workshop will be at the Al J. Notzon IIII Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. Workshop sponsors include the AACOG Housing and Weatherization Department, the City of San Antonio Department of Community Initiatives and the San Antonio Foreclosure Prevention Task Force. Homeowners can meet with representatives of area banks, mortgage companies, lenders, certified housing counselors and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials to discuss assistance and options to prevent foreclosures. Parking is free and refreshments will be available. For more information, contact Mayra Rivero at (210) 362-5282.
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 from 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.
State Notary training seminar planned by AACOG
A State Notary training seminar sponsored by the Alamo Area Council of Governments will be held Thursday, May 28, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in AACOG's Al J. Notzon III Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. The seminar is for both current notaries and those who wish to become notaries. Ten participants are required in order to hold the seminar. For information, contact AACOG Government Services Manager Joe Ramos at (210) 362-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.