|Volume 7, Issue 16 · Friday, April 24, 2009|
TxDOT's online tool makes tracking projects easier
'Project Tracker' key to following ARRA-funded construction projects
Tracking transportation projects in Texas is being made easier by a new user-friendly tool that "business owners, drivers and everyday Texans can understand," said Chris Lippincott, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
The state agency's Project Tracker database is drawing particular attention now as Texans track construction projects that are benefiting from funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Some $1.2 billion in ARRA funding was approved in March by the Texas Transportation Commission for 29 construction projects statewide. Pooled funding from other sources should result in more than $2.6 billion in new transportation projects for Texas. Now Texans can track both the projects and the spending.
In an effort to make TxDOT's activities more transparent, both the chair of the Texas Transportation Commission and TxDOT's executive director encouraged the department to "do a better job of communicating what we're doing and how we're doing it," said Lippincott. "The Project Tracker is a manifestation of our wanting to share more information with the public in a timely manner and user-friendly format."[more]
Gilman named chief scientific officer for cancer institute
Nobel Laureate leaving UT Southwestern post to spearhead research
Nobel Laureate Dr. Alfred G. Gilman (pictured) has been named chief scientific officer for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Gilman, who currently serves as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and as dean of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, will retire from those positions and begin his work with the CPRIT on June 8.
Gilman received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1994 for the discovery of G proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells. He holds a bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Yale University and his medical doctor degree from Case Western Reserve University. Before joining UT Southwestern, he spent 10 years in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He became the chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1981 and in 2006 was elected executive vice president of academic affairs and provost.
In his new role at CPRIT, Gilman will spearhead the research division and lead the research grant process with responsibility for recruiting and overseeing peer review panels, developing and implementing intellectual property agreements and developing and overseeing research grant monitoring.
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This week, Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) launched its new free weekly national newsletter - the State & Local Government Pipeline. The response from states across the country has been overwhelming.
Initially, the newsletter will focus on the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), but we also feature news on national trends, budget issues, state and local initiatives and breaking national news.
Our objective is to make this publication the premier source for state and local government news and contracting opportunities. It targets government contractors and government executives and is patterned after SPI's highly successful Texas Government Insider newsletter.
This week's edition features links to documents outlining where different pools of money from the federal stimulus bill are going, an overview of how different states are using the funds, stimulus-related news briefs, links to stimulus Web sites of all 50 states, a calendar of events and more. It also features non-stimulus related news regarding government spending and important information for vendors seeking to sell to government.
The State & Local Government Pipeline is free and will be published every Wednesday. Click here to sign up and start having your free copy e-mailed to you each week.
Arturo Alonzo, Deputy Commissioner for Business & Finance/Chief Operating Officer, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Career highlights and education: 35 years in educational administration, the last 30 years in higher education. Career includes experience in public education administration (Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio), Education Service Center, Region 20 and The Texas Engineering Extension Service, a component of the Texas A&M University System. Currently serving as Deputy Commissioner for Business and Finance/Chief Operating Officer at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. In this position, responsible for all operations of the agency, including overall management of the $1.2B biennial budget, loan program, loan bond and debt service funds, business operations, human resources, information technology, facilities and telecommunication services, financial accounting and reporting, internal controls and policy development and analysis. Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree from Texas A&M University; Master of Business Administration (MBA) from The University of Texas at San Antonio and Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) from Texas A&M University.
What I like best about my job is: That I have the opportunity to be involved not only with the operations of the agency, but also be involved with the development of educational policy. I consider myself fortunate that I am able to participate in the decisions that shape higher education policy. Higher education is critical in ensuring that our young citizens are prepared to compete in a global society and I am happy to be part of that effort. I have always had a passion for education, particularly higher education, and now I have a great opportunity to be involved at the state level.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: To be patient while learning the many aspects of higher education policy and operations. Higher education is a complex field with many nuances and it is easy to get discouraged if all the aspects do not become clear at once. I have learned that one needs to listen to all sides of the issues and make decisions based on sound, empirical data that will support the decisions that we make every day on behalf of students.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Follow your moral compass and make decisions on what is right and fair. It is sometimes tempting to do what is easy or what is convenient but one must always think of the greater good, in this case, the students in higher education in Texas.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: With my grandchildren - Julia, Nick and Gabi - or at the bookstore. If I am really lucky, I could probably be found at the bookstore with my grandchildren.
People would be surprised to know that I: come from a rural background and that I am just as comfortable in a cowboy hat and boots as I am in a business suit. Most people who have only seen me in a suit find it hard to believe that I can be a cowboy.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: That the Higher Education Coordinating Board is much more than a coordinating agency that imposes rules and regulations on institutions of higher education. The agency has many visionary, committed individuals who care about students and who want the best for them. I wish more people knew that Texas is a national leader in higher education and that many of our proposed practices are on the leading edge of educational reform.
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.
Taylor chosen new TEA associate commissioner
Laura Taylor (pictured) has been named the Texas Education Agency's (TEA) associate commissioner for accreditation. In her new role, she will oversee program monitoring, campus turnaround, financial audits, charter schools and governance, among others.
Taylor, who has served as interim associate commissioner since November, began working for the agency in 1993 as a fiscal program specialist in the special education division. She most recently served as the TEA's deputy associate commissioner for program monitoring and intervention.
Taylor holds a master's degree and a Texas administrator certification from Texas Tech University.
Thirty-seven correctional officers graduate at LIT
Thirty-seven Texas Department of Criminal Justice trainees (pictured), ranging in age from 19 to 69, participated in a graduation ceremony recently at the Lamar Institute of Technology Multi-Purpose Center.
Starlene Wilder of Kountze received the George Beto Award for academic excellence. Nytia Robert and Joseph Batton, both of Beaumont, were honored for their marksmanship.
Other graduating trainees included residents of Buna, Daisetta, Liberty, Bridge City, Groves, Lumberton, Nederland, Orange, Port Arthur, Silsbee and Vidor.
Early voting for May elections begins Monday
Early voting for the upcoming May 9 statewide elections begins Monday throughout Texas. In addition to balloting to elect local officials in a number of elelctions, more than 50 local bond proposals with a combined price tag of more than $1.7 billion will also be at stake. The last day for early voting is Tuesday, May 5.
Texas gets ARRA funding for Coast Guard projects
U.S. Coast Guard projects in Texas and 10 other states will be funded with $240 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, announced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week. The investment is part of the more than $3 billion set aside for DHS and the General Services Administration to support homeland security programs.
The projects include: $142 million for bridge alterations projects on the Mobile Bridge in Hurricane, Ala.; the EJ&E Bridge in Devine, Ill.; the Burlington Bridge in Burlington, Iowa; and the Galveston Causeway Railroad Bridge in Galveston. Another $88 million will be used for construction of building for Coast Guard Sectors in Corpus Christi and Jacksonville, Fla., and for personnel housing, boat moorings and other improvements in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware.
Another $10 million will be used to upgrade or replace worn or obsolete components on the Coast Guard's fleet of 12 high-endurance cutters. These cutters are located in Seattle; Alameda, Calif.; Kodiak, Alaska; Honolulu; San Diego; and Charleston, S.C.
Texas drought information Web site created
A new multi-agency, comprehensive drought information Web site has been created as a clearing house of drought-related public information and education. Participating agencies include the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Water Development Board, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Forest Service, Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The Web site includes drought-related news, including historic and forecasted National Weather Service rainfall information, water updates from state water authorities and agricultural drought damage assessment updates presented by experts. The information on the site is free to the public and will be activated when there are periods of prolonged, widespread drought in Texas. The Web site includes two sections - Resources on Droughts and News Updates/Situation Reports with information from participating agencies.
DPS rolls out new driver license, identification cards
For the first time in nearly eight years, Texans will be issued newly redesigned Texas driver license and ID cards.
The Texas Department of Public Safety recently announced both a new look and enhanced security features for the cards (pictured).
DPS Director Col. Stanley E. Clark said the new cards will "give law enforcement improved resources for verifying the authenticity of Texas-issued driver licenses and identification cards, while combating counterfeiting, photo swapping, tampering and other types of fraud."
The new cards began production on April 15 for persons receiving new, renewal or duplicate driver licenses and ID cards. Current cards will remain valid until they expire. The vertical format for those under age 21 will continue.
TWC, leaders gather to address ARRA training funds
Community college leaders from throughout Texas recently joined officials of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), local workforce boards and business and industry representatives to discus how to effectively apply American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding to support job training. The TWC has allocated more than $150 million of that funding to 28 local workforce boards throughout Texas to deal with job training and to help Texans find jobs.
"For our communities, state and country to respond to the economic downturn requires us to work together more than ever before," said Grayson County College President Dr. Alan Scheibmeir (pictured), one of the community college participants in the conference. "Our partnerships with local businesses, local economic development entities and the Texas Workforce Commission create an environment of credibility where we can deliver quality and timely training that meets the unique needs of our communities."
Other community college officials at the conference included: Dr. Paul McCarthy, president of El Centro College in the Dallas Community College District; Michael Reeser, president of Texas State Technical College - West Texas; Austin Community College President Dr. Steve Kinslow; Millicent Valek, president of Brazosport College and also president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges; and Dr. Herb Swender, president of Frank Phillips College in Borger.
TxDOT takes TCEQ environmental award
The 2009 Texas Environmental Excellence Award, the state's highest environmental award, has been won by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)-sponsored award was presented to TxDOT for its overall environmental efforts in the government category.
TxDOT was chosen by a panel of environmental experts for the public and private sectors. The award is based on programs that conserve natural resources, reduce waste and prevent pollution. TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz, Jr. will accept the award at TCEQ's May 13 awards banquet.
"The Texas Environmental Excellence Awards recognize Texans that are implementing the most innovative and effective environmental projects in the state," said TCEQ Chairman Buddy Garcia.
Gandy chosen lone finalist for TAMU-Kingsville post
Dr. Rex F. Gandy (pictured), dean and professor in the College of Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), has been named sole finalist for provost and vice president of academic affairs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. If approved by the TAMU System Board of Regents, Gandy will assume his new post on Aug. 1.
Gandy has been in his current position at USM since 2003. He also serves as the site director for the Alliance for Graduate Education in Mississippi. He previously was chair and professor at the University of Idaho, was associate dean for research in the College of Sciences and Mathematics and director of the Auburn Fusion Laboratory at Auburn University and was a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gandy earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Memphis and his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin.
Federal grant will complete Edwards Aquifer plan
A cost-sharing Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grant for $1,063,125 has been awarded to the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP). The grant comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The EARIP was created in 2007 and directed stakeholders to produce a plan for protecting federally listed endangered or threatened species while managing the use of the aquifer. The plan must be completed by Sept. 1, 2012.
The stakeholders already have provided more than $775,000 toward developing the plan. This grant will provide significant funding toward completion of the plan. EARIP stakeholders include water utilities, cities, groundwater conservation districts, agricultural users, industrial users, environmental organizations, individuals, river authorities, downstream and coastal communities and state and federal agencies.
UT receives $30M for new computer science complex
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $30 million to The University of Texas at Austin as part of a $120 million capital campaign to construct a new computer science complex. The College of Natural Sciences must raise the remaining amount of funds for the venture, which will comprise two buildings and a connecting atrium.
J Strother Moore (pictured), chair of the computer sciences department, said UT graduates are in high demand "because computer science is the engine that drives much innovation and discovery," adding it is "basically impossible" to be competitive without computing expertise in today's market.
UT produces between 16-20 percent of all graduates from top-tier schools nationally.
UT-Tyler names new assistant vice president
John C. Hutchins has been named assistant vice president for enrollment management and marketing at The University of Texas at Tyler, effective June 1. He will replace Jim Hutto, who retired in December. In his new charge, he will oversee the admissions and financial aid offices.
Hutchins previously served as vice president for enrollment management at North Carolina Wesleyan College before serving as a senior enrollment consultant at a private firm.
Hutchins holds a bachelor's degree from Florida Atlantic University and a master's degree from Tulane University.
Patton chosen dean of College of Education at TCU
Dr. Mary Martin Patton (pictured), former interim dean of the College of Education at Texas Christian University, has taken on the position full-time. She had been serving as interim dean since the retirement of former dean Dr. Sam Deitz.
Patton's education career includes more than three decades of work including being a public school teacher and principal. She has held numerous professional and service positions, most recently being accepted to the Harvard Institute for Management and Leadership in Education. Before joining TCU, Patton was an education professor at the University of New Mexico. She spent 17 years in public schools and also taught at The University of Texas at Austin and was a project director at Central Texas College.
Patton holds bachelor's and master's degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, her certificate in education administration from Portland State University and her Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin.
FEMA allocates $2B to Texas recovery from storm
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has allocated more than $2 billion to the state of Texas - in the form of grants and low-interest disaster loans - since Hurricane Ike wrought devastation last September.
Federal Coordinating Officer Brad Harris said those funds "have helped put roofs over displaced Texans' heads, and they have contributed to the recovery from storm-related losses."
Meanwhile FEMA and state and local partners are close to completing several important missions, seven months into the recovery process. Cleanup of debris and detritus in the area is 97 percent completed, while the direct housing mission is all but finished.
Lionel Maten hired as new director of UTSA housing
The University of Texas at San Antonio Division of Student Affairs announces that Lionel Maten (pictured) has been named director of housing and residence life. Maten comes to UTSA from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, where he currently serves as director of university housing. He previously was associate director of housing at the University of Louisville and Carnegie Mellon University.
Maten will begin his job at UTSA on June 8. He will be facing a future expansion of campus residential opportunities as part of UTSA's implementation plan for 2016. UTSA currently houses some 3,700 students on campus.
System names six to interview for medical director
Six physicians have been chosen to be interviewed for the position of medical director with the Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical System. Interviews will take place in late May. The new director will fill the vacancy created by Dr. Edward Racht, who left the position in November after 13 years to join an Atlanta hospital group.
The candidates include:
Frank Miller to head up San Antonio's airport facility
Frank Miller (pictured), Pensacola Regional Airport director in Pensacola, Florida, has been named San Antonio's new Aviation Director, effective May 18. Miller will oversee daily operations at the San Antonio facility.
Miller boasts 22 years with the Pensacola airport and has also previously been airport manager for the Walker Field Airport Authority in Grand Junction, Colorado, and for both the city and borough of Juneau, Alaska. He is also active in the Airports Council International of North American, currently serving as second vice president and previously serving on the board.
Harris County to apply for $7.2M stimulus grant
Harris County commissioners have agreed to apply for $7.6 million in federal stimulus funds but have not yet decided how to spend it. Commissioners have outlined a tentative proposal that would allocate a majority of the funds toward leasing a helicopter for the Sheriff's Office, a new surveillance van and machine guns for boats patrolling the Houston Ship Channel.
The court also agreed to partner with the City of Houston and apply for a $15.2 million Justice Department grant they would split. A detailed description of how the money will be used must be submitted with an application to the Justice Department by May 18.
Another $2 billion in stimulus funding has already been allocated to another Justice Department grant initiative. If the grant is approved, the city plans to purchase 2,400 radios for the new emergency radio system, according to Dennis Storemski, director of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Houston launches wireless computer literacy program
Houston has launched its Wireless Empowered Community Access Network (WeCan Works), an ambitious initiative designed to bring computer literacy services to underserved communities.
WeCan Works offers computer training and access, job counseling and apprenticeship opportunities to at-risk youths and those seeking GED certification as well as older individuals looking to improve job skills. The program utilizes more than 5,500 computers at some 400 sites across the city - including libraries, schools, community colleges and Workforce Solutions sites - according to Nicole Robinson (pictured), the city's director of digital inclusion.
Houston Mayor Bill White, while conceding a digital divide is inevitable in every community, said there is no bigger task than preparing residents "to compete and win in the global economy."
San Antonio downtown post office will be going green
San Antonio's downtown post office, one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, is set to receive a $61.3 million facelift, thanks to federal stimulus dollars allocated by the General Services Administration. The overhaul will likely stand as the single largest green (environmentally sound) initiative in the city.
The funds are part of a $5.5 billion package that will be used to improve and construct federal buildings and ports of entry.
Laurence Doxsey (pictured), director of the city's office of environmental policy, said this is the largest sum he has seen devoted to the "greening" of an existing building in San Antonio. A federal building in Houston is also slated to be redesigned with green features.
Stephenville ISD announces new administration hires
Stephenville Independent School District Board of Trustees have voted to fill three key administrative positions. Following the resignation of Carie Downes, Dr. Kathy Ray, a campus improvement consultant with the Texas Education Agency, has been hired as assistant superintendent for personnel/instruction. She earned her doctoral degree from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Tracy Newby has been promoted from assistant director of special education, a role she has filled since 2003, replacing Donna Gordon, who is retiring, as head of the department. Newby holds a bachelor's and a master's degree from Tarleton State University as well as a teaching certification from Texas Woman's University.
Michelle McMichael, principal at Wilmeth Elementary in the McKinney ISD since 2005, will fill a new position in the administration office as director of curriculum and instruction. She begins her new charge June 8.
UTHSCSA School of Medicine earns accreditation status
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has awarded accreditation to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine for a maximum of five years. The event marks the second five-year accreditation (the highest accreditation status) the school has received.
"It is a great compliment to Dr. Lois Bready (left), the designated institutional official for graduate medical education in the School of Medicine, and the residency program leaders in each department," said Dr. Glenn A. Halff (right), acting dean of the School of Medicine.
San Antonio consortium sues over Agro-Defense facility
The consortium that lobbied to bring the $650 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) to San Antonio's Texas Research Park will ask a federal judge to overturn the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build the facility outside the state. A press release announcing the lawsuit cited "serious irregularities in the decision-making process, improper political influence and disregard for public safety."
Texas missed a deadline met by competing states like Kansas, whose legislature was able to approve $105 million when DHS asked for incentive offers by an end-of-month March 2008 deadline.
The NBAF, where diseases passed from animals to humans will be studied, will replace a lab run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Plum Island, N.Y.
Lubbock EDA elects Curtis Griffith as new chairman
Curtis Griffith (pictured) has been elected chairman of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA), succeeding David Alderson, who recently stepped down.
Griffith has headed Lubbock's second-largest financial institution since 1993. He joined LEDA, the agency responsible for recruiting and retaining new businesses and industry, three years ago. He said he will serve at least one term as chairman.
In related LEDA news, Gary Lawrence will step down as CEO in May 2010. Tony Whitehead, vice chairman of the board, will lead a search committee to find his replacement.
FEMA awards Texas more than $36M for damages
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded millions in grants to Texas counties and communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, including:
Galveston expects no city employee layoffs for now
Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc (pictured) said he will not recommend any layoffs for city employees this fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. He warned cuts may happen next fiscal year as the city faces a $3 million budgetary shortfall.
Pay cuts totaling 3 percent for city employees, implemented last year, may not be enough to avoid layoffs next April, LeBlanc said.
About 100 people did not return to their city jobs after Hurricane Ike flooded 75 percent of the island's homes last September, resulting in a property value decrease of about 10 percent. The city's hiring freeze so far has kept those positions from being filled.
Brown County considers borrowing funds for projects
Brown County officials have discussed borrowing money for capital expenditures, including court house security measures, and "potential" real estate purchases, according to County Judge Ray West. The county would borrow money through tax notes or certificates of obligation for Fiscal Year 2010, though West did not have any cost figures or estimates.
The need for heightened courthouse security was recently underscored by two events: a Brownwood High School student was arrested for carrying a loaded pistol, and authorities detained a man who tried to leave the justice of the peace offices after he was told warrants had been issued for him.
West said any security measures the county takes "will be dependent on finding the funds."
UTMB loses another staff member as result of storm
Dr. Brian Zachariah (pictured) has resigned from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston over mounting frustration related to the slow recovery of John Sealy Hospital's emergency room. The facility suffered major damage during Hurricane Ike's onslaught last September.
After the hurricane compromised hospital capacity, emergency room personnel began offering a "treat and transfer" program, but the unit is now slated to close. Zachariah said he wasn't going to leave his post "while the ER was still open."
Zachariah's departure marks the 16th resignation from a team of 17 members before the hurricane struck. He had worked at the facility for five years.
Lone Star College-Cy-Fair narrows president search
Dr. Audre Levy and Dr. Kaye Walter have been named finalists for the position of president of Lone Star College-Cy-Fair (LSCCF).
Levy, president of Glendale Community College in Glendale, Calif., has served as president of Los Angeles Southwest Community College, provost of Edison Community College in Naples, Fla., and executive vice president of San Jose/Evergreen Community Colleges. She holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Michigan State University, as well as a doctoral degree from Pepperdine University.
Walter, executive vice president/chief learning officer at Valencia Community College in Orlando, Fla., previously served 12 years at Kansas City Community College in a number of capacities, including vice president for academic services, dean of mathematics and the sciences and professor of chemistry. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston, a master's degree from the Saint Paul School of Theology and a doctoral degree from Rice University.
Athens EDC picks Malone for new president/CEO
Brian J. Malone (pictured) has been named Athens Economic Development Corporation's (AEDC) new president and CEO. His job begins May 15, when he will succeed Chris Potter, who resigned in December.
Malone previously served as executive director of economic development in Palestine and Atlanta, Texas. He holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree from Texas Tech University.
Malone said he plans to identify the strengths of Athens' infrastructure, workforce, location and industrial complex while learning which businesses stand to benefit from AEDC's services.
JPS Network moves forward with e-prescription plan
The John Peter Smith (JPS) Health Network hospital board has approved a $556,000 plan qualifying the clinics for federal incentives offered to facilities that use electronic prescribing. E-prescriptions would reduce the number of errors administered every year, including those related to drug-allergy and drug-combination risks, pharmacy callbacks and handwriting-legibility issues.
JPS board members hope to tap into federal stimulus dollars for the funds to kick-start the initiative. Otherwise they have not indicated how they plan to fund the conversion.
The board has also approved $1.9 million to clean up medical records and scout for a company that can help the system implement an electronic format for patient documents.
Comfort ISD looks for leftover bond money projects
Excess interest money remaining from 2006 bond issue funds will allow Comfort Independent School District to fund more campus improvements.
The district completed its construction projects within budget and is prioritizing future initiatives, according to school board President Barbara Lindner (pictured).
Members of the community and school staff have caucused to review a wish list of potential projects, including a new parking area, a canopy for the elementary school and new roofing for the high school. The group will present a list of recommendations for the board's approval at a May 11 meeting.
Cedar Park conducts study, considers transit service
The City of Cedar Park is conducting a commuter rail-stop feasibility study, having just completed a transit services plan.
The city plans to implement a two-vehicle bus system to run at peak-usage times, based on the needs of residents. The system would cost $88,000 in the first year, which the city plans to include in its 2010 budget.
The city is looking at funding options and will consider bids from private companies, according to Assistant City Manager Jose Madrigal.
Temple partnering to facilitate high-speed rail plans
Temple City Council is partnering with another agency to analyze and implement high-speed Texas T-Bone rail service, which would link Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, and create a hub in Temple. The council has formed a corporation to help facilitate the process.
Temple Mayor Bill Jones III (pictured), a proponent of the rail service, said the system "would be face-changing for this state," adding there has been "fairly significant changes" regarding funding since the current presidential administration took office. A total of $8 billion has been set aside for high-speed rail projects nationwide as part of the impending stimulus package.
Uvalde approves issuance of $25M in certificates
Uvalde County commissioners have approved issuance of $25 million in certificates of obligation to fund the construction of a 144-bed county jail and other new facilities, including a rodeo arena and new buildings for the City Fairgrounds. Funds from the certificates' sales will be available May 14. The winning investment firm placed an offer with a 4.53 average interest rate.
Uvalde County recently earned an "A" rating, which "makes a huge difference when you bid and sell bonds," according to financial advisor Mark McLiney.
Commissioners have also approved the establishment of the Capital Improvement Fund, which will be used to manage the $25 million in certificates of obligation, according to County Auditor Alice Chapman.
Laguna Madre port gets $1.8 million federal grant
The Laguna Madre port has been awarded a $1.8 million federal grant that will go through the Port Isabel/San Benito Navigation District. The funds will be used to repair a dock damaged by Hurricane Dolly last July.
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TSABAA Summer Conference slated in June
The Texas State Agency Business Administrators' Association 40th Annual Summer Conference is slated for Monday through Wednesday, June 22-24, at the Omni Bayfront Hotel in Corpus Christi. Guest speakers Monday will be Meagan Johnson, who will address generation gaps, and Madeline York, who will address personal style. An ERP update will be given Tuesday by a representative of the State Comptroller's Office as will a legislative update and an update on the federal economic stimulus bill. Other session topics are on visual technology, recognition and body language. The Administrator of the Year will be named during the Wednesday session and there will be sessions on direct deposit and State Government Accounting Internet Reporting System (SIRS). To view the draft agenda, click here. For a registration form, click here.
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, click here or 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, click here or 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.