|Volume 7, Issue 13 · Friday, April 3, 2009|
More than $288.5 million in GSA funds head to Texas
New courthouse for Austin, 'green' modifications for other buildings
More than $288.5 million in federal economic stimulus money from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is headed to Texas in the form of new federal buildings, green building modernization and energy projects. The funds are part of more than $5.5 billion in GSA spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that is aimed at stimulating the economy.
GSA's Public Buildings Service is responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of thousands of federally owned facilities for more than one million federal government employees. The programs selected for funding were chosen because they are among those that could be awarded in the shortest amount of time.
Among the proposed spending for federal buildings in Texas are a new $116 million federal courthouse to be built in Austin and $2 million toward the escalation of the federal courthouse in El Paso.
One of the "limited scope" projects will invest $163 million in the federal building in Tyler (pictured).[more]
Texas Cancer Institute names first executive director
Former COO of CDC to take over top position in new agency
William "Bill" Gimson (pictured) is set to become the first executive director of the newly established Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Gimson, a former chief operations officer of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where he spent 35 years, holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master's degree from Duke University.
The research and cancer institute will distribute up to $300 million a year in grants for 10 years to education institutions and research facilities throughout Texas. The first of those grants may be distributed by the end of this year.
Mike Arismendez, commissioner, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
Career highlights and education: I am a graduate of Texas Tech University, where I received a BBA degree with a double major in finance and economics. I attended St. Mary's University in Austin in the MBA program with a focus on business management. Upon return to the Lubbock area, I started a business in the restaurant industry. I was elected mayor for the City of Shallowater in May 2002, and served in that capacity until I accepted a position as legislative director for State Rep. Carl Isett in the 78th Legislative Session. I am currently employed by the City of Lubbock where I have served as Assistant to the City Council and am currently in Human Resources. I was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Motor Vehicle Board in September 2003 and served until June 2005 upon dissolution by legislation. I was later appointed by Gov. Perry to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in September 2005 to fill an unexpired term. I was recently re-appointed for a six-year term that will end in February 2015. I am married to my wonderful wife, Esmeralda, of 24 years and have two great kids, Dina - 21 and Marc - 19. Community involvement includes the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, Texas Tech Chancellor's Hispanic Enrollment Task Force, former chairman of Lubbock Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, former board member to Lubbock County Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation and former president of Lubbock County Child Protective Services.
What I like best about my job is: I enjoy the ability to interact with the public and assisting them on obtaining employment. I work directly with various individuals in the City of Lubbock organization, which enables me to understand the organization as a whole. Using my position to help an individual who is in need of a service is very fulfilling.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Keep your head down and push forward. Too many times, we allow bureaucracy to limit our job performance. We need to push through, which may mean at times that we are embarking on a new way of doing things. Never be afraid to ask questions, and say you are wrong. Give all the credit to those around you.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: I would advise them to stay positive, treat people with respect and try your best to understand their present situation. We have all been down on our luck a few times in life, and will be a few more times in the future. Remember to treat people how you would expect to be treated yourself.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: I could be caught at the movie theatre with my wife catching a movie. This is our way of relaxation.
People would be surprised to know that I: for 22 years, I have officiated high school football and have officiated high school basketball for approximately 10 years. I enjoy watching athletes on the field or court that I could one day say I was on the same game with them. There are some tremendous athletes that I have had the pleasure of watching.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation issues just over a half a million licenses annually. TDLR is responsible for 128 different licenses, and is responsible for approximately 25 state statutes which pertain to various occupations. These occupations range from boxing to electricians, cosmetologist to elevators, and auctioneers to tow trucks. Because of our efficiencies in issuing licenses, we are the state's umbrella regulatory agency. Our vision is to be the model state agency in the State of Texas. I believe that we have the management and employees in place to achieve that goal. We are committed to public safety while fostering an environment that provides for business development.
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.
Voter registration deadline set April 9
Those interested in voting in the upcoming May 9 local elections in Texas must be registered to vote by Thursday, April 9, according to Secretary of State Hope Andrade. Andrade reminds that, in spite of rumors that a constitutional amendment relating to the homestead tax is on the ballot, there are no statewide propositions on any ballots. All elections are local issues only.
Texas border ports of entry to receive DHS funding
Two Texas border ports of entry will share more than $400 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for homeland security projects along the United States-Mexico border. Some $269 million of that has been set aside for port and infrastructure projects in Los Ebanos and Corpus Christi as well as in Otay Mesa, Antelope Hills, New Mexico, and Nogales, Arizona.
Of that amount, $42 million will go toward Non-Intrusive Inspection Equipment (NIIE), both low energy and large-scale systems that are big enough to scan tractor-trailers, at Southwest border ports of entry. The funding also includes $50 million in SBInet funding to accelerate deployment of surveillance technology and associated command and control technologies in Arizona, including deployment in Nogales and Sonoita stations, and $50 million to pay for tactical communications modernization for the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley Sectors.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is expected to visit the Laredo Port of Entry today, Friday, to meet with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to get a closer look at border operations.
Almost one trillion dollars now flowing to all 50 states
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Texas A&M's Murano to lead national energy panel
Texas A&M President Elsa Murano (pictured) has been tapped to serve as president of a 15-member advisory committee charged with developing renewable resources and determining ways to reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.
The panel, sponsored by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, is "uniquely positioned" to address energy independence needs, Murano said in a written statement, adding those involved "want to be clear about the capabilities offered by our member institutions and explain these strengths to decision-makers."
Report outlines TAMU-Galveston hurricane losses
According to a recent State Auditor's report outlining damages suffered by Texas A&M University-Galveston during Hurricane Ike, the university estimates to have suffered approximately $17.3 million in damage losses. The institution expects to recoup $6.5 million from external funding sources and has requested the Texas Legislature appropriate $10.8 million to cover non-reimbursed losses.
Auditors estimate the university's losses to stand at $12.4 million, with the institution recovering $6.7 million from external funding sources, leaving a potential cost of $5.7 million to the state.
Most of the disparity in the figures stems from the university including $5 million in costs related to mitigation or coastal erosion and for shore dock reinforcements not included in the auditors' projections. To read the entire auditor's report, click here.
Healey to direct San Marcos capital improvements
San Marcos city officials recently selected David Healey (pictured) as the city's director of capital improvements. Healey, known for his successful implementation of major municipal infrastructure projects while working as public works director for the city of Fresno, California, began his duties on March 30.
Healey's experience in strategic planning and implementation of public improvement projects will help as he assumes oversight of more than $140 million in infrastructure projects for the city, said City Manager Rick Menchaca. The improvements include street, utilities, sidewalks and a new fire station. Healy also served as director of maintenance for Austin and assistant director of public works in Houston prior to his post in Fresno.
Baylor chooses new chief investment officer
Kent E. Muckel has been selected to serve as Baylor University's chief investment officer starting May 1. He will work in tandem with the Baylor Executive Investment Committee, a group of investment professionals who supervise the investments and practices of the Office of Investments.
Muckel, a chartered financial analyst, has previously served as a senior asset and liability analytics officer, a senior investment analyst for a Fortune 500 company, a manager of public equities and as vice president for fixed incomes for various private sector employers.
Muckel holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado and a master's degree from Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.
Texas Tech names new neurology department head
Dr. John C. DeToledo (pictured), a professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, is set to head Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center's School of Medicine Department of Neurology as chairman. He also serves as scientific director for the J. Kiffin Penry Epilepsy Network and Minifellowship and as chief of Wake Forest's Division of Neurophysiology and Epilepsy.
DeToledo earned his medical degree from the Sao Paulo Medical School in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He completed his residency training at the Sao Paulo Cancer Hospital before completing the Boston City Hospital Neurology Program at Boston University in 1985 and the Columbia Presbyterian Internal Medicine Program in New York in 1986.
DeToledo has also worked as an associate professor of neurology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and as associate professor of neurology at the University of Miami.
Liberty Co. changes plans for FEMA funds
Liberty County commissioners recently adopted a different plan than recommended by the Houston-Galveston Area Council for spending $22 million in hurricane recovery funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
At the urging of the county judge, commissioners approved a plan to spend 60 percent of the recovery funds on infrastructure and 40 percent on housing while HGAC recommended the county allot 60 percent for housing and 40 percent for non-housing infrastructure. County officials believe that 40 percent is sufficient for the housing needs, said the Liberty County judge. With the commissioner's plan, the county and 12 municipalities are to receive about $13 million for infrastructure repairs and $8.8 million for housing. Before the plan is final, however, it must be approved by the HGAC.
Unlike most areas where funds were given directly to affected cities, Liberty County officials voted to decide on funding allocations to municipalities within the county. Liberty County will receive more than 50 percent of the $13 million allocated to Liberty County and the 13 municipalities. Commissioners approved the following allocations:
Newton takes over as Presidio city administrator
Brad Newton (pictured) has been named city administrator for the City of Presidio following action last week by the City Council. Newton will leave a nine-year career in Fort Stockton, where he has worn a number of hats, including director of purchasing, director of city services, homeland security emergency management coordinator and public works director.
Newton began his public service career in 1993 when he was named a member of the Pecos River Compact Commission. He later served as a staff member in the office of a Texas state senator and is also a former small business and local government assistance specialist with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Prior to his public service career, Newton was president of his own service business.
The new city administrator holds an associate degree from Odessa College and a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, where he graduated from the John Ben Shepperd Leadership Institute.
UTSA's Angrove leaving for Sam Houston State
Bill Angrove, assistant vice provost for distance learning and academic technology at The University of Texas at San Antonio where he has served for 15 years, is leaving to serve as associate vice president for distance learning at Sam Houston State University.
Angrove was instrumental in developing and expanding distance learning vehicles during his tenure at UTSA and helped establish the Lynn Whipple Angrove Memorial Endowed Scholarship in the College of Business Department of Accounting.
Angrove will supervise the creation and development of a distance learning system designed to support online degree programs at SHSU.
DPS driver license offices to close statewide April 10
All driver license offices of the Texas Department of Public Safety will be closed Friday, April 10, for statewide system maintenance. The offices will all reopen at their regularly scheduled times on Monday, April 13.
The online driver license and driver record services at www.texasonline.com will also be unavailable from Thursday, April 9, to Wednesday, April 15. Renew-by-phone services will be unavailable from Thursday, April 9, to 7 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22. Local driver license offices will be open for those services on those dates.
Head Start, Early Start funds available
Some $2.1 billion in grant funding from the federal economic stimulus bill will be available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Head Start will receive $1 billion of the funding, with the other $1.1 billion allocated for Early Head Start. Head Start will also benefit from a separate $235 million increase in funding for fiscal year 2009, bringing the total funding increase for Head Start and Early Head Start to more than $2.3 billion.
Grants totaling nearly $220 million will allow current Head Start grantees to serve 16,600 additional children and families. Grants worth nearly $1.2 billion will support Early Head Start expansion and allow the program to serve 55,000 more pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families and nearly double the number of Early Head Start participants. Applications for these grants will be available in the coming weeks.
Head Start American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds worth nearly $354 million will help improve staff compensation and training, upgrade Head Start centers and classrooms, increase hours of operation and enhance transportation services. An additional $466 million, $110 million from Early Head Start federal stimulus funds and $356 million from Head Start ARRA and fiscal year 2009 appropriation funds, will be used to award all Head Start and Early Head Start grantees a nearly five percent cost-of-living increase and bolster training and technical assistance activities. Grants worth $100 million will be available for coordination of the two programs and state-run early childhood care and education programs by allowing states to establish advisory councils on early childhood education and care.
Temple College, TTUHSC address nurse shortage
Seeking to address a critical nursing shortage, a newly signed agreement between Temple College and the Texas Tech University Health Science Center (TTUHSC) is geared toward expanding educational opportunities for nurses in Williamson County and the surrounding area. The agreement allows for the transfer of credits from the Temple College Associate Degree in Nursing into an online program at TTUHSC that will lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree through TTUHSC.
This agreement is a result of an educational partnership in the East Williamson County Higher Education Center (EWCHEC) in Taylor, where Temple College is the lead institution and offers a nursing program both in Taylor and Temple.
"Our program features the accessibility of on-line instruction, and you have the flexibility of working full-time as a Registered Nurse and attending our program as a full-time student for two semesters," said Dr. Myrna Armstrong, regional dean. Obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing increases the number of job opportunities such as management positions for a Registered Nurse. It can also lead to a graduate degree in nursing.
FTA allocates more than $1.2M to transit program
The Federal Transit Authority has allocated a $1,296,766 Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) Program Grant to the Central Texas Rural Transit District (CTRTD) in Coleman.
The funds will help increase transit services for those living in rural communities in Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Nolan and Stephens counties to help them travel to work in Abilene, Brownwood, Eastland and Sweetwater.
Martha Opersteny of the Center for Community Support said rural residents face "many barriers and challenges as they work to keep their family farm and ranch lands," adding many are required to travel to metro areas to work. CTRTD will provide a helping hand, she said.
TSU to get $3.9M to make hurricane repairs
Texas Southern University will receive $3.9 million in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help make repairs to campus structures damaged last September by Hurricane Ike. The state will receive a 75 percent reimbursement of the costs associated with repairs to more than 280 classrooms and halls in the Science Building. Additional funding is also set aside for repairs to the Sawyer Auditorium, an historic landmark at TSU.
UTEP's Riojas nominated for DVA assistant secretary
Jose D. Riojas (pictured), vice president for Strategic Initiatives at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), has been nominated for Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security and Preparedness for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Riojas, a retired Brigadier General for the U.S. Army, also serves as chairman of the UTEP National Security Advisory Board. Riojas serves as the Director of the DHS Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration. He also serves as the Executive Director for the Center for Defense Systems Research, a DoD research center headquartered at UTEP. He began his military career as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery in 1976. His military resume includes imperatives in Korea, Germany and Southwest Asia. For more than 10 years, he commanded at the battery, battalion, division artillery and task force levels.
Riojas graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1976 and went on to earn a degree from the U.S. Army War College in 1997.
Lone Star College-Tomball narrows president search
Four finalists have been selected to replace Dr. Ray Hawkins, president of Lone Star College-Tomball, who will step down in August. Hawkins has served as president since 2001. Prior to that charge, he served as president of Tyler Junior College for 14 years.
Finalists for the position include: Dr. Dan Bakke, president of Pulaski Technical College in Arkansas; Dr. Susan Karr, vice president of instruction at Ouachita Technical College in Georgia; Dr. Audre Levy, president of Glendale Community College in California; and Dr. Donald Pearl, academic vice president of Suak Valley Community College in Illinois.
A search committee chaired by Dr. Katherine Persson announced the finalists. A final recommendation will be made to the LSCS Board of Trustees on May 7.
HISD hires firm to help find new leader
The Houston Independent School District board this week approved a contract with a search firm to help the district search for a new superintendent. The firm chosen will charge the district $100,000 plus expenses. A new superintendent is being sought to replace current Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, who has announced he will retire by the spring of 2010.
TAMU approves ag headquarters, visitors center
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has approved construction of a $62.4 million Agriculture Headquarters Building and Visitor Center (as seen in accompanying architect's rendering). The facility is set to be completed in April 2011 on the A&M flagship campus in College Station.
The five-story, 168,000-square-foot facility will house administrative offices in addition to three academic departments, including agricultural economics, agricultural leadership, education and communications and recreation, park and tourism sciences.
A 13,000-square-foot Visitor's Center will be erected beside the headquarters building. According to Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences, the center will "showcase how agriculture makes a difference in lives of people across our state, nation and world to prospective students and the general public."
Keller ISD moves forward with school plans
Keller Independent School District officials are set to close a deal to construct an intermediate-middle school and a multipurpose facility once funds are received from a recent bond sale. Trustees approved the purchase of the land for the two buildings last month.
A bond package totaling $142.3 million, approved by voters in November, includes $56.5 million for the school (which will house fifth- through eighth-graders) and $10.2 million for the multipurpose facility (which will comprise warehouse space and administrative offices).
Architects will present their designs for the facilities at an April 9 board meeting. Construction crews are expected to break ground on the school this summer, and both facilities are set to open in fall 2010.
Texas A&M System names new general counsel
Andrew L. Strong (pictured) has been selected to serve as general counsel for Texas A&M University System. He replaces Jay Kimbrough, who stepped down in October.
Strong served as managing partner for a firm he co-founded in 1994 before joining a Houston firm as partner in 2005. He brings with him extensive litigating and negotiating experience at both state and federal levels. He has worked with government entities, universities and private clients.
Strong holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from South Texas College of Law.
Corsicana seeks funding from county for city services
Corsicana city officials recently requested that Navarro County officials pay an additional $77,592.03 this year for library, fire protection and animal control services that the city provides for county residents.
Corsicana collected a $25,000 subsidy for each of the three services from Navarro County and is asking for an increase to $35,000 per program service when the new fiscal year begins. City officials also requested that the county pay half of the loan payment for two economic development projects, $17,592 a year for the Northrop Grumman Information Technology property in Navarro Centre and $30,000 annually for a new industrial park on SH 31. The city has repaid the loans for these projects since their inception, while the county declined to pay on the economic development projects. County officials, however, paid half of the salary of the director of the economic development agency and Corsicana officials requested the county continue with the $68,322 payment to reimburse half of the director's salary. The city is not seeking an increase in the $350,000 payment the county provides for ambulance service, said City Manager Connie Standridge.
County Judge H. M. Davenport Jr. said he plans to meet with the county auditor to gather more information on the request for additional payments by Corsicana city officials. He expects commissioners to make a decision by May 1 as requested by the city.
Tarleton names Richardson as new vice president
Dr. Rick Richardson (pictured) has been named Vice President of Institutional Advancement (VPIA) for Tarleton State University. He replaces Dr. Koy Floyd, who has served as the university's VPIA since 1993.
Richardson has previously served as vice president for Institutional Advancement at McMurry University in Abilene and as executive director for Development, Planned Giving and Foundation Relations at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Richardson earned his bachelor's degree and Juris Doctorate degree from Baylor University, a master's degree from TAMU-Corpus Christi and a doctoral degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.
Five universities to share in grant funding
Five Texas universities will share $17.4 million in grant funds as part of the fiscal 2008 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) program. The funds will be used to enhance education programs and research capabilities at the institutions named in scientific disciplines critical to national security and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
Texas institutions of higher education receiving grants include Prairie View A&M University, The University of Texas at El Paso, The University of Texas at San Antonio, The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas-Pan American.
Research grants ranging from $245,000 to $574,000 will have a performance period of 36 months. Grants will be made by the Army Research Office. All awards are contingent on the successful completion of negotiations between DoD and the academic institutions.
UH gets $3 million grant for online degree program
The Greater Texas Foundation has granted $3 million to the University of Houston College of Education to create an online master's degree program for Texas middle school science and math teachers. The funds will be allocated over a six-year period and provide tuition for four groups of 25 teachers.
The Integrated Science, Math and Reflective Thinking (iSMART) program improves on science and math instruction by incorporating the two subjects while developing teachers' leadership skills.
Jennifer Chauvot (pictured), assistant professor of math education at UH, said students will "learn models of teaching that show how the subjects can be integrated, develop curriculum they can incorporate into their teaching and learn from each other so that they can be leaders on their campuses."
Search firm to help Trinity find new president
Trinity University officials have hired a minority and female-owned search firm to identify candidates to become the institution's 18th president. President John H. Brazil has announced plans to retire in January 2010.
A search committee headed by Trinity University trustee and prominent San Antonio businessman John R. Hurd will assist in the search.
Guerra resigns as superintendent of Laredo ISD
Superintendent Veronica Guerra (pictured) recently resigned as superintendent of the Laredo Independent School District. Guerra has held that position since April 2007.
Board members selected Alvaro Perez, the district's chief financial officer, as the administrator-in-charge until an interim superintendent is named.
Board president Jose Valdez said he will meet with a state association for a recommendation to name an interim superintendent and also expected the association will conduct a nationwide search for a new superintendent. Valdez said he expects the search to select a new superintendent to take two to three months.
Eastfield Community College hosts symposium
A one-day symposium at Eastfield Community College's Learning Center will take a look at how physical spaces affect and enhance learning. National education advocates and visionaries, project developers and student stakeholders will all be on hand to share their experiences.
The symposium is set to take place Friday, April 17, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Eastfield College Learning Center atrium. Educators are encouraged to attend. Admission is free.
Huntsville looking toward $2M grant for highway
Huntsville City Manager Bill Baine (pictured) is working to garner a $2 million engineering grant with a $400,000 matching grant from the five-member Walker County Commissioners Court. The funds will help finance an improvement project on State Highway 19 to help redirect traffic off Interstate 45 and around the city, especially during hurricane evacuations, according to Baine.
"We're looking at creating an urban arterial on a portion of Highway 19 between Interstate 45 and Highway 30," Baine said.
Total cost for the improvement initiative is projected at $21 million, including the $2 million grant - a "down payment," according to Baine.
UTMB files restraining order against Shriners
The University of Texas Medical Branch has filed a temporary restraining order against the national Shriners organization with a trial date set for April 6. UTMB hopes to block Shriners Hospital for Children from shutting down its 30-bed Galveston facility, displacing researchers and potentially losing millions in federal research dollars.
On March 12, Shriners Hospital gave 130 medical researchers, faculty, staff, residents and fellows approximately two weeks to vacate the hospital. Moving equipment from the facility could take up to 10 weeks, however, and could prevent researchers from securing some of the $10 billion in funding soon to be allocated by the National Institutes of Health, according to UTMB officials.
The Shriners Hospital for Children has been closed since Sept. 13 after Hurricane Ike wrought devastation on the island. UTMB owns the land on which the facility sits but does not own the building. So far UTMB's efforts to lease research space in the building have been ignored, according to medical branch officials.
Two UT-Austin biologists receive $3 million in grants
Two biologists with The University of Texas at Austin recently received grants totaling $3 million for their research projects. Dan Bolnick (right), an assistant integrative biology professor, and John Wallingford (left), an associate molecular cell and developmental biology professor, also received six-year appointments in which the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will pay their full salary and benefits in addition to the $1.5 million research award.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a nonprofit medical research institution with a mission of funding potentially groundbreaking research projects. Bolnick's research centers on the evolution of species using stickleback fish and how they co-evolve with other organisms while Wallingford explores how shape is generated in developing embryos, especially the neural tube, which is a precursor to the central nervous system.
Region 2 ESC to highlight assistive technology at expo
The Region 2 Education Service Center is staging a technology expo on April 14 to highlight some of the assistive technology available to help special education students gain better access to curriculum and improve their learning experience.
Assistive technology includes any device that helps students communicate or improve reading, writing or mathematics, said a consultant for the service center, and includes such items as an electronic device that provides speech to students unable to speak and attachments to a wheelchair that allow students without arms to use computers to write and perform other tasks.
The center serves 42 school districts, seven charter schools and 11 counties in the Coastal Bend area of South Texas. About 775 students in the area use some kind of assistive technology to more actively participate in classes, the consultant said.
Temple College at Taylor Center is rechristened
The Temple College at Taylor Center has a new moniker: East Williamson County Higher Education Center (EWCHEC), as pictured in the accompanying photo.
Dignitaries including Temple College President Dr. Glenda O. Barron and Texas State Technical College President Elton Stuckly, Jr. recently attended a groundbreaking ceremony for EWCHEC, an outgrowth of community partnerships that set out to fund and establish Temple College at Taylor in 1997. Temple College, Legacy Early College High School, Texas State Technical College and Texas Tech University all serve as partners in the educational cooperative.
Officials have purchased a 60-acre tract of land for a new EWCHEC campus, though the Taylor facilities in downtown Taylor will continue to be used.
East Texas COG to receive $7.6M from stimulus funding
Officials of the East Texas Council of Governments recently announced the agency expects to receive $7.6 million in federal stimulus funds that will benefit workforce training, transportation and criminal justice programs in addition to providing funds local cities and counties expect to receive for projects.
Almost $5 million of the federal funding has been designated for the Workforce Solutions East Texas Board that serves 14 counties in the region, said Wendell Holcombe, director of workforce development for ETCOG. The training will range from nursing to plant operations and will depend on the job market, he said.
Another $1.3 million from the allotment to the Texas Department of Transportation has been set aside for the council's Rural Transit District. Another $1.3 million also has been allocated for criminal justice programs for county and city law enforcement agencies and prosecuting agencies. The estimates are preliminary and could be changed based on federal guidelines that are due to be released near the end of May.
San Angelo goes green with stimulus-funded project
San Angelo is poised to receive $865,000 in stimulus funding to improve energy efficiency. The funds may possibly be used for renovation of the city hall and health department.
City Manager Harold Dominguez (pictured) said a major initiative of the renovation project is "look at becoming more green." The city hall upgrade would include what Dominguez termed "an ice plant" (in layman's terms) to cool the building instead of central air conditioning as one environmentally sound measure.
The city has hired an architect specializing in historical renovations to keep the historical integrity of the building intact during the process.
Seguin ISD studies options for elementary renovations
Trustees for the Seguin Independent School District recently discussed the option of delaying renovations to Ball Elementary School that were to begin soon or begin renovations as planned and relocate students to different campuses.
Superintendent Irene Garza recommended delaying the construction project until a new elementary school is completed, but acknowledged the unpredictability of the economy as a concern for that plan as construction costs could increase. The renovation project is currently on schedule with completion scheduled for June 2010, she said.
The second option, which several trustees supported, is to relocate all first- through fifth-grade students to two existing elementary schools and permit graduating pre-k students to stay in their facility for kindergarten. School staff would follow students to the schools being used for the relocation and nine additional staff positions could be created from that process, Garza said. Board members made no decision and will further discuss options at a later board meeting.
Officials break ground for Denton A-train station
Officials broke ground last week for Hebron Station, a hub for Denton's new A-train transportation, marking the first groundbreaking for Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA). The station is one of three DCTA stations expected to be in operation by the end of 2011 and will service more than 50,000 students at Denton's two leading universities.
At the ceremony, DCTA board Chairman Charles Emery (pictured) was heralded for leading efforts for the past seven years to bring DCTA rail service to the county.
Emery said he expects the rail service to create 1,000 to 2,000 jobs within the next two years, adding the expected $6,000-per-rider savings could retain about $70 million per year for the local economy.
SE Texas Development District to receive $300,000
The South East Texas Economic Development District recently was selected to receive $300,000 in federal funds to aid in developing an economic recovery strategy focusing on damage assessment and speeding recovery efforts in Hardin, Jefferson and Orange counties. The grant is from the U.S. Department of Commerce through its Economic Development Administration.
Crow family contributes $1M toward Parkland fund
The family of Trammel Crow recently contributed $1 million to the capital campaign to build a new $1.27 billion Parkland Memorial Hospital. The gifts were from brothers Harlan and Stuart Crow, along with their wives, and Trammel S. Crow.
The gift came at a critical time as philanthropic support often wanes during a bad economy, said Dr. Ron J. Anderson, president and CEO of the Parkland Health & Hospital System. The gift from the Crow family raises the capital campaign total of $83.8 million of its $150 million goal, he said. The new hospital also is being funded with $747 million approved in a November bond election and from $350 million in cash on hand and in future revenues from the hospital, Anderson said.
Groundbreaking for the new 1.7-million-square-foot facility is scheduled for 2010. The Parkland complex will include an 862-bed, full-service hospital, an outpatient center, office center, a parking lot and other support facilities.
Granbury ISD selects Mayfield superintendent finalist
Trustees for the Granbury Independent School District recently chose Ron Mayfield (pictured) as the lone finalist for superintendent. Mayfield currently serves as superintendent for Fort Stockton ISD.
Mayfield has bachelor's and master's degrees and a mid-management and superintendent certification from Texas Tech University. Granbury ISD trustees are scheduled to meet on April 20 to finalize the selection.
Port Arthur ISD taps fund balance for projects
The Port Arthur Independent School District will use $4 million from the district's fund balance - instead of bond money - to finance unanticipated construction projects. The funds will be used for construction of ticket booths at the new Memorial High School athletic field, installation of fire sprinkler systems and general maintenance and equipment.
Trustees have also approved the sale of $85 million in bond money to be sold when they can get the best interest rate within the next 180 days.
Some schools can apply for child nutrition funds
Federal economic stimulus funds for child nutrition programs will be distributed by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Schools that qualify can use the funding for food preparation equipment replacement and upgrades.
To be eligible, schools must participate in the national school lunch program, with priority given to schools with a majority of students eligible to receive free or reduced-cost meals. The funds must be used to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of delivering meals. TDA began receiving applications for the $11 million in funding on April 1.
Kilgore planning city park to be built over landfill
Kilgore city officials recently began planning for a new city park to be located on top of a former landfill. The city has received a $50,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the proposed park to be located at the Synergy Park Industrial Facility.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has approved the site of a former landfill, which was closed in the early 1980s, as a park site, said City Manager Jeffrey Howell. Preliminary plans call for the park to include multi-sports practice fields, a pavilion picnic area, playground, a walking trail and fitness stations. The sports fields will have no scoreboards or seating so the fields will be interchangeable as a practice facility for several sports, he said.
Council members are expected to vote on whether to hire a park consultant at their meeting on April 14. The city has three years to spend the grant funds on the park, or risk losing the money, Howell said.
Waco explores trolley to link downtown, Baylor
Waco city officials recently agreed to use $300,000 in federal funds to pay for an engineering study of a proposed fixed-line trolley line with a route connecting the downtown area with Baylor University.
The funding is from the federal economic stimulus funding the city will receive for transportation, said City Manager Larry Groth (pictured). The study, which should begin late summer, also will include the feasibility of connecting other areas such as East Waco and the zoo, he said. The study should be completed in early 2010.
Supporters for a fixed route trolley line point to fixed streetcar lines in cities in other states such as Portland, Little Rock and Tampa as examples of how fixed-line trolleys have encouraged private development along their routes. These trolley systems ranged in cost from about $5 million to $20 million, said Chris McGowan, of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
Fort Stockton studies proposed $7M baseball complex
Fort Stockton city and county officials recently met with representatives from an Arlington architecture firm to review plans for a proposed $7 million, four-field baseball complex in the southwest area of the city adjacent to two existing baseball fields located on land owned by the Fort Stockton Independent School District.
The favored plan has four fields built to Little League specifications lined up in a row on an east-to-west line to reduce the amount of earthwork needed, said Fort Stockton Mayor Ruben Falcon. The architect will take information from the meeting, further refine the plan and return with a finalized plan, Falcon said. The city has $1 million in certificates of obligation to help fund the project and officials also plan to apply for grants and perform some of the work on the project to help reduce costs, Falcon said.
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Many stimulus projects being launched statewide
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Federal stimulus money continues to flow and new projects are being launched daily throughout the state. Texas has already received millions of dollars and billions more will follow. Some of the funding has already been allocated to shovel-ready projects, and work has begun.
Some of the stimulus funding flowing to the states is based on specific formulas and will be used to expand and enhance existing programs. Other funding is competitive and cities, counties, regions, universities and health care clinics will compete for all kinds of grant funds.
It's easy to see activity that is a direct result of the stimulus bill. Look for new activity in infrastructure projects, roadway construction, weatherization efforts and new programs at military bases. There are government contracting opportunities of every type and size. In Waco, a trolley route is being considered. It would connect downtown Waco to the Baylor University campus and would enhance transportation options for thousands of residents while creating new jobs, contracting opportunities and numerous procurements for materials, supplies, heavy machinery and trolley cars.[more]
Canyon PD seeks funds for cameras for patrol cars
Canyon city officials recently authorized the police department to apply for a $20,000 state grant to purchase new in-car video cameras for the city's patrol vehicles.
The city is required to video record all traffic stops so patrol vehicles may be out of service for traffic enforcement for several weeks if the camera system needs repair, said City Manager Randy Criswell (pictured). The current camera system using VHS tapes frequently needs repairs, making it critical that the city replace the old VHS cameras soon, said Lt. Dale Davis of the Canyon Police Department.
Fannin Co. to receive $1.1M for flood, drainage projects
Fannin County officials recently learned that the county will receive nearly $1.1 million from the National Resource Conservation Service to repair roads and drainage projects damaged by floods during the summer of 2007.
The county also has $350,000 in community development block grant funding for the project and has set aside $37,537 in county funds for the road and drainage improvement projects, noted County Judge Eileen Cox.
TGI to publish on Thursday next week because of holiday
Taylor ISD delays bond
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.
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.
National Hurricane Conference slated in April
The 2009 National Hurricane Conference, the nation's forum for education and professional training in hurricane preparedness, is slated for April 6-10 at the Austin Convention Center. The event will feature workshops, training sessions, exhibits and an awards banquet. Nearly two-dozen emergency response agencies and organizations will participate and provide a national forum for federal, state and local officials to exchange ideas and recommend new policies to improve emergency management as it relates to hurricane preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation to save lives. Attendees will discuss lessons learned from previous hurricanes, hear information on state-of-the-art programs, hear about new ideas being tested or considered and receive information from assistance programs. The Hurricane Conference Web site is at http://www.hurricanemeeting.com.
TxDOT to host small business briefings
The Texas Department of Transportation will conduct a series of briefings throughout the state to educate small and minority-owned business owners on how to do business with TxDOT, particularly relating to how TxDOT procures services and purchases products. General Industry Sessions will include an Overview of TxDOT Toll Projects and Contracting Opportunities on Toll Way Projects, Professional Services Consulting Contracts and State Contracting for Information Technology Products and Services. Other breakout sessions will target small and minority businesses on Small and Minority Business Certifications, Resources for Small Business Development and Marketing Your Business to the State. TxDOT contracts include, but are not limited to, engineering, real estate professionals, IT services, computers, printing, construction, maintenance, goods and services and more. The next briefings will be held April 15 and 16 in Odessa. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.