|Volume 7, Issue 19 · Friday, May 15, 2009|
Hawkins announces retirement as HHS commissioner
Will leave his position after 35 years in state government
Saying, "It has been an honor," Albert Hawkins (pictured), Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner, has announced his retirement.
Since January 2003, Hawkins has been responsible for the five state health and human services agencies that have combined budgets of $25 billion annually and more than 50,000 employees. He was at the helm when the state's 12 health and human services agencies were consolidated by the State Legislature into five agencies under his jurisdiction.
In his letter to Gov. Rick Perry, Hawkins called his 35 years of public service "remarkable and rewarding." He added, "Over the last six years, many challenges have been resolved, but some persist and new ones will emerge. There is still much to be done..."
Perry praised Hawkins for his budget expertise, compassion and commitment to quality. "We are going to miss his leadership," said Perry.
"I know how important your work is," Hawkins wrote in an e-mail to his employees announcing his upcoming departure. "Day after day, week and week, you make a difference in the lives of people who need us. I'm proud to have been a part of an organization with such a noble mission. I hope you are, too."
Hawkins will leave his post in Texas after 35 years of state government experience. Prior to being appointed commissioner, Hawkins served as a senior White House aide for two years to then-President George W. Bush. He also previously worked as budget director in the Governor's Office from 1995 to 2000 and was an employee of the Legislative Budget Board for 16 years.
During his public service career, Hawkins was honored with numerous awards, including the Bob Bullock Award for Outstanding Public Stewardship.
Hawkins holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin.
Texas taxpayers say 'yes' to $1.37 billion in bonds
For hospitals, schools, renovations, park upgrades, infrastructure
Texas residents approved more than $1.37 billion in local bond funding during last Saturday's elections throughout the state. Despite the recession and a slumping economy, voters approved 73 percent of the $1.88 billion total on the ballots.
The approved funds will finance local capital improvement projects such as new hospitals, new schools, renovations, park improvements and infrastructure over the next few years.
They will also allow for the purchase of laptops, security equipment, school buses, telecommunications equipment and other technology items.
A total of 61 local entities held bond elections on May 9 with residents approving at least one proposition in 43 of the local referendums.[more]
To view a complete list of all May 2009 bond election results, please visit the Reports section of the SPI Web site.
Want to follow the federal economic stimulus money?
Since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed into law, Strategic Partnerships, Inc. has been tracking the $787 billion in federal economic stimulus funding that is being distributed to the states and to other governmental entities, from public schools to local law enforcement agencies.
And every Wednesday since it started publication a month ago, SPI's new free national e-newsletter, the State & Local Government Pipeline, has provided information on where the money is going throughout the country, who it's going to and how it's being spent.
In this week's edition, SPI President and CEO Mary Scott Nabers' column examines the high demand for public safety solutions and the millions in grant funds that will be available to public safety entities to invest in everything from equipment for officers to technology updates. There is also information regarding $742 million being split among nine states for transit projects, a listing of the creative uses school districts are finding to spend their stimulus dollars, comparative data on how states are spending their funds and links to documents spelling out more detailed information on how the money is being spent.
Our objective is to make this publication the premier source for state and local government news and contracting opportunities. While we are focusing right now on the ARRA funding, we also cover news on national trends, budget issues, state and local initiatives and breaking national news.
The State & Local Government Pipeline is free and is published every Wednesday. Click here to sign up and start having your free copy e-mailed to you each week.
Obama makes budget recommendations for transit
Austin bus rapid transit system, Houston METRO projects included
Funding for a proposed 37.5-mile street-running bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Austin is included in $1.83 billion in transit funding in President Barack Obama's budget recommendation to Congress. The funding proposal for Austin would come from more than $600 million Obama would set aside for new funding projects.
The Austin proposal includes a system along two interconnected corridors - the 21-mile North and South Lamar/South Congress corridor and the 16.5-mile Burnet/South Lamar corridor. The North Lamar/South Congress corridor runs from the North I-35 park-n-ride lot at Tech Ridge to the planned South IH-35 Transit Center, while the Burnet/South Lamar Corridor runs from St. David's North Austin Medical Center to 38th Street at West Avenue near the Medical Center.[more]
Angela English, executive director, Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities
Career highlights and education: I have taught special education for children with severe and multiple disabilities in Waco, and worked as a therapist at St. David's Hospital and Shoal Creek Hospital in Austin with children and adolescents. In 1990, I began work with the legacy agency Texas MHMR in Mental Health Quality Management, which surveyed the 42 community mental health centers and 12 state hospitals across the state. In 2002, I accepted a position with the Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities as the accessibility and disability rights coordinator, and last year became the executive director for the Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities. Our mission is to further opportunities for persons with disabilities to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity and self-determination. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts and special education with teaching degrees in both fields, and earned a master's degree in educational psychology at Baylor University in Waco. I then obtained licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
What I like best about my job is: that through our work, we can improve the lives of Texans with disabilities and that I am in a position to help make attitudinal changes. Culture-shifts happen not because someone at the top makes a pronouncement - a culture-shift happens when the attitudes and behaviors of people change. I'm out to change the negative stereotypes people may have regarding Texans with disabilities.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Love in business and work means making decisions and conducting oneself in a way that cares for people and the world we live in. Your challenge is to enhance the humanity of every person.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: There are four guiding principles that I impart to any team member in our office. First, know the infinite value of each person and be intentional about the care of others; be it the janitor or the CEO, everyone has value in the organization. Then, understand the value of tolerance and diversity, particularly for valuing people that don't look like you. Third, understand the value of the common good. In this I mean the consideration of your team, your internal and external consumers and the big picture in decision-making. Visualize the end product, work toward it and ask how your team can create an environment where your work is a win-win for everyone involved. Lastly, practice leadership skills by words and deeds that inspire people to go in a certain direction.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: either out with my camera and tripod taking photos or I would be out on my bike riding around town.
People would be surprised to know that I: have a fascination with how the brain works and that I have extensive training in forensic hypnosis and handwriting analysis.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: I recently read, Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin, who is a gifted animal scientist who has autism. She draws from her experiences with autism to deliver extraordinary information about how animals think, act and feel. She uniquely outlines a deeply logical approach to compassion for the animal world.
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Henrich sole finalist for UTHSC-San Antonio president
William L. Henrich, M.D. (pictured) has been named sole finalist for president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The announcement was made Thursday by the UT System Board of Regents. Henrich has been serving as interim president since February, replacing former president Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., who left the center to become chancellor of the UT System.
Prior to being named interim president, Henrich was vice president for medical affairs and dean of the health science center's School of Medicine. He also holds the John P. Howe, III, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Health Policy. "The Board is confident that Dr. Henrich has the business acumen to further advance excellence at the Health Science Center while further establishing it as a critical economic engine for the San Antonio and South Texas regions," said Regents Chair James R. Huffines.
Prior to joining the health science center, Henrich was chair of medicine and held an endowed professorship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. He also was physician-in-chief at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Henrich has served as professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, associate chief of staff for research and development at the VA Medical Center in Dallas and attending physician at Zale Lipshy University Hospital. Henrich earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia College and his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine.
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Mike Geeslin reappointed as Insurance Commissioner
Mike Geeslin has been reappointed as the State Insurance Commissioner. Geeslin will continue to oversee the Texas Department of Insurance, which regulates the insurance industry and provides information and assistant to insurance consumers. He was reappointed by Gov. Rick Perry to a term that will expire Feb. 1, 2011.
Geeslin previously served as deputy commissioner for policy at TDI. He also previously worked in Perry's office during his terms as governor and when Perry served as lieutenant governor. Geeslin also worked in the offices of two Texas state senators - Sen. Florence Shapiro and the late Sen. Tom Haywood.
Geeslin holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University.
TPWD cancels 2009 Expo, suspends 2010 event
The highly popular Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo, scheduled for Oct. 3-4 this year, has been canceled. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials say the Expo has become the latest victim of the slumping economy in the form of sponsorship revenue declines and increases in operational costs. TPWD has canceled this year's event and suspended it for next year as well.
"This was a difficult and painful decision, but after looking hard at the financial realities and seeking creative ways to keep the event going, we finally concluded that the economic recession is affecting sponsor support to the extent that it is not viable to stage Expo," said Carter Smith (pictured), TPWD executive director. TPWD instead will expand its efforts to support similar events throughout the state such as stock shows and rodeos and events targeted to minority audiences to reach larger and more diverse audiences.
The operating budget of more than $40,000 each year for what was billed as the country's largest free, family-oriented festival of the outdoors, was largely underwritten by sponsors. Without sponsorship funds, the resources to stage the event were insufficient. TPWD will re-evaluate the Expo in August 2010 to see if it should be reinstated.
TEF allocates $6M to San Antonio medical company
The state is set to allocate $6 million through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) to Medtronic, Inc. to open a diabetes business unit in San Antonio. Medtronic Diabetes, a leader in advanced diabetes management solutions, stands to create 1,400 jobs and generate about $23 million in capital investment.
Chris O'Connell, president of the Diabetes business and senior vice president at Medtronic, Inc., said the TEF was a big reason the company decided to build in Texas.
The TEF has invested more than $377 million in state projects, generating some 54,000 new jobs and $14 billion in capital investment since its inception in 2003. Funding was reappropriated in 2005 and 2007 to recruit and bolster business, and ensure job growth in the state.
State collects $1.65 billion in sales tax revenue
Texas collected $1.65 billion in sales tax revenue in April, down some 3.1 percent compared to last year's monthly figure, according to State Comptroller Susan Combs. She said decreases in monthly collections are expected to continue through this year, even though year-to-date revenue is up 1.3 percent for Fiscal Year 2009.
Local governments received $541.8 million in May sales tax allocations, down 2.3 percent from May 2008, and Texas cities were allocated $367.1 million, down 2.8 percent compared to last year's total. Ten local transit systems received $120.8 million in sales tax allocations, down 3.8 percent from last year. Special-purpose taxing districts were allocated $21.4 million, up 15.2 percent from May 2008.
ETF gives Cedar Park pharmaceutical startup $1.6M
Officials at the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) have allocated $1.6 million to Cedar Park-based startup Mystic Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to commercialize its drug-delivery technology. The 19-employee company develops devices that administer eye medicine through nasal sprays. The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Central Texas Regional Center of Innovation and Commercialization announced the award this month.
Mystic Pharmaceuticals CEO and co-founder Timothy Sullivan said the company expects to begin clinical trials on its devices in July. The company has also proposed devices that would deliver vaccines for biodefense and public health measures.
The Legislature created the ETF in 2005 to help Texas researchers and startups in fields as diverse as nanoelectronics and alternative energy.
Sherman resident appointed as state historian
Sherman resident Light Townsend Cummins (pictured) has been appointed state historian by Gov. Rick Perry. He replaces Jesus de la Teja with a term set to expire in two years.
Cummins, an author and history professor, serves as director of the Center for Southwestern and Mexican Studies at Austin College. He also serves as a board member of the Texas State Historical Association and as an associate of the Danforth Foundation. He is a member of Humanities Texas.
Cummins holds a bachelor's degree from Texas State University and a doctoral degree from Tulane University.
Port of Houston Authority approves $4M in projects
The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) has approved nearly $4 million for Bayport Container Terminal projects and a Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) grant request. The grant would help secure private-industry funding for diesel engine air emission reduction measures.
More than $98 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds have been allocated for infrastructure projects at the Houston Ship Channel (HSC), one of the largest-ever federal grants distributed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the channel.
Today marks deadline for franchise tax returns
Today, Friday, marks the deadline for Texas businesses to file their annual franchise tax returns.
State Comptroller Susan Combs has urged taxpayers to consult the comptroller's office Web site for general information and to download franchise tax forms.
Combs said taxpayer assistance phone lines are inundated this time of year and said the Web site offers quick answers to many frequently asked questions.
TCEQ, TSSWCB release annual water report
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board this week released their Managing Nonpoint Source Pollution in Texas - 2008 Annual Report. Included in the report are numerous examples of how cities and other entities are dealing with improving water quality in the state.
The report, released by these two agencies that jointly administer the federally funded program, summarizes the state's activities to collect data, assess water quality, implement projects that reduce or prevent nonpoint source pollution and educate and involve the public in maintaining the quality of water resources for current and future generations.
To view the report, click here.
Laredo Community College adds night nursing program
Laredo Community College plans to launch a new evening track to its Associate Degree Nursing Program this fall. The track will offer the same training as the daytime program, according to nursing instructor Ana Click (pictured). Classroom hours for the evening program are scheduled for Monday through Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., with a 12-hour clinical scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays.
"Students can complete the 12-hour requirement in one day or two days," Click said.
The initiative's aim is to increase the number of nursing graduates, addressing the nationwide nursing shortage. The ADN program, fully accredited by the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, allows students to participate hands-on at local hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
San Marcos requests $96.2 million in stimulus funds
San Marcos city officials recently agreed to pursue $96.2 million in federal stimulus funds to pay for a variety of housing, energy, public safety, water and transportation programs. City officials requested:
Educators to convene seeking to ramp up transfer rates
On May 22, more than 1,000 Texas educators and administrators will convene at eight sites across the state to address and share practices to increase acceptance, retention and graduation rates among junior and community college transfer students.
The Texas Transfer Success Conference, sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), marks the nation's first statewide conference focused on crafting an inter-institutional community with an emphasis on the needs of transfer students. Meetings are scheduled for Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Antonio and Tyler.
Dr. Marc Cutright (pictured), director of the Center for Higher Education at the University of North Texas, who helped design the program, said Texas and national rates of bachelor degree completion may suffer if more is not done to help students complete their education. In the United States, only slightly more than 25 percent of the population aged 25 and older holds a bachelor's degree, according to the latest census figures.
Texas Tech selects Robertson as associate dean
Texas Tech University officials recently selected Berhl Robertson Jr. (pictured) as the associate dean of the College of Outreach and Distance Education.
Robertson, who currently serves as superintendent of Roosevelt Independent School District, will oversee the Texas Tech University Independent School District, Special Projects, Student Services and Curriculum and Production. Robertson, who holds a bachelor's, master's and a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University, also served as a teacher at Roosevelt ISD and as a superintendent for Southland ISD.
Bastrop, other parks to host to National Trails Day
To commemorate National Trails Day on Saturday, June 6, Bastrop State Park is joining eight other Texas state parks in urging patrons to go take a hike. The park will host a trail work party that day with guided hikes along more than 10 miles of pine forest trails - one of the larger trail systems in Central Texas, according to Jennifer Bristol, Bastrop State Park's resource manager.
"Few realize that part of the frontier-era Gotier Trace ... exists within the park," Bristol said. The Gotier Trace connected several Texas colonies in the 1830s.
Other state parks participating in National Trails Day include: Brazos Bend, Caddo Lake, Daingerfield, Franklin Mountains, Lake Texana, Mother Neff, Seminole Canyon and Stephen F. Austin. For more information about planned activities at Bastrop State Park, call 512-321-1673.
Tech employees new for Outreach, Distance Education
Officials at the College of Outreach and Distance Education at Texas Tech University have announced the addition of two new administrators. Ethel Russell (right) has been selected to serve as high school principal of the Texas Tech Independent School District (TTUISD) and Cary Sallee (left) has been named director of student services for the college.
Russell, a TTUISD counselor since 2007, previously served as assistant principal and interim principal in San Angelo. She holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and a master's degree from Angelo State University.
Sallee previously managed a private sector call center for nine years. He earned his bachelor's degree form Texas Tech University.
Lone Star announces two new campus presidents
Lone Star College (LSC) System Chancellor Dr. Richard Carpenter has announced the selection of two campus presidents and the extension of the search to find LSC-Montgomery's next president. Dr. Susan Karr (left) has been selected to serve as the next president of LSC-CyFair, and Dr. Audre Levy (right) will serve as president of LSC-Tomball.
Karr has served as vice president of instruction at Ouachita Technical College, Malvern, Ark., since 1993. She has also served in various administrative and faculty positions at Indiana Technical College in Muncie, Ind., the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and North Arkansas Community College. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, a master's degree from Boston University and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Levy has served as president of Glendale Community College in Glendale, Calif., for three years. She has also served in various administrative and faculty posts at Los Angeles Southwest Community College, Edison Community College in Naples, Fla., and San Jose/Evergreen Community Colleges in California. She holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Michigan State University and a doctoral degree from Pepperdine University.
Willis City Council narrows city manager search to 10
The Willis City Council has pared down its list of city manager candidates to 10 semifinalists. City Manager Jim McAlister announced his retirement earlier this year.
The 10 semifinalists include:
Laredo Community College receives $196K grant
The Small Business Administration has allocated more than $196,000 to Laredo Community College to aid and develop its import-export program, which trains students for the international trade industry. The funds will be used for new equipment and technology.
LCC President Juan Maldonado (pictured) said the money "will play a vital role in training individuals interested in this field of study."
Touted as one of the best programs of its kind in the nation, the import-export program graduates about 20 students each year, enabling LLC to keep the trade industry, vital to the South Texas region, strong and sustaining.
Department of Transportation funds to DART expedited
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is set to receive $78.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation in an effort to expand the Northwest and Southeast Light Rail Transit corridors of its Green Line service.
The expedited funds, which were already committed by the federal government, will not increase the feds' role in the effort, but will speed up delivery for DART's Green Line, expanding service to commuters from areas as far flung as Carrollton and Pleasant Grove.
Texas Tech named partner in $28M DoE project
As part of President Obama's $9.9 billion Energy Department budget, Texas Tech University has been named a research partner on the Pantex Renewable Energy Project.
With a proposed budget of $28 million, the project includes the creation of a wind farm for the Pantex plant near Amarillo. The project also marks the nation's largest collaborative research wind farm, a joint venture between Texas Tech and the Department of Energy.
Andy Swift (pictured), director of the Wind Science and Engineering Center at Texas Tech, said the project indicates "a serious commitment by the administration to move our country forward in renewable energy." The President has outlined a policy goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.
Texas gets Brownfields cleanup, revitalization grants
Texas stands to receive $2.2 million in grants to help revitalize brownfields (former industrial or commercial areas that may be contaminated by hazardous materials), transforming the areas from problem properties to areas of productive community use. The grants include $432,200 in stimulus dollars, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and a $1.86 million in Brownfields General Program funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said revitalized brownfields "reduces threats to human health and the environment, creates green jobs, promotes community involvement and attracts investment in local neighborhoods."
Applicants set to receive ARRA funds include the City of Corpus Christi ($400,000) and Throckmorton County ($32,200). Applicants selected to receive Brownfields General Program funds from the EPA include: Ark-Tex Council of Governments ($400,000), City of Bryan ($200,000), City of Denton ($63,000), City of Fort Worth ($400,000), City of Lewisville ($400,000), City of Paris ($200,000) and the City of Waco ($200,000).
Angelo State's Eoff to head university's Honors Program
Dr. Shirley Eoff (pictured), professor of history at Angelo State University, has been selected to head the university's Honors Program as its new director, beginning June 2. She will replace founding director Dr. Nick Fynn.
Eoff, a faculty member at ASU since 1981, has written extensively on West Texas history and has served as a peer reviewer for academic journals and as a textbook reader for university and commercial publishers.
Eoff holds a bachelor's degree from Howard Payne University, a master's degree from Hardin-Simmons University and a doctoral degree from Texas Tech University.
FEMA readies $9M in Hurricane Ike disaster loans
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced $9 million in Community Disaster Loans have been made available to Texas to provide Hurricane Ike-related recovery services.
FEMA has approved loans for: the City of Galveston ($5,000,000), the Park Board of Trustees for Galveston ($2,290,726), the Sabine Pass Port Authority ($175,974), the Chambers-Liberty Navigation District ($301,517) and the Galveston Area Ambulance Authority/Health District ($1,282,048).
SHSU center director retires; replacement named
Sam Houston State University Visitor Center Director Joey Chandler (left), a member of the SHSU faculty since 1984, is set to retire from her post at the end of this month. Clint Lockwood (right) will replace her.
Chandler became director of Undergraduate Admissions in 1992 and was named to her current post in 2005, the year SHSU enrollment reached a milestone of 15,000 students.
Lockwood began working at SHSU in 2006 as an undergraduate admissions counselor. He began his current charge as manager of SHSU's Go Kats Go Center in 2007. A Bearkat alumnus, he graduated from SHSU in 2005.
Longview ISD to sell $65M in bonds to improve facilities
Trustees for the Longview Independent School District recently authorized the sale of $65 million in bonds to renovate several schools and build new additions to some existing schools.
Board members have scheduled the sale for June 8 and hope to have the money in the bank by July 9. The money will be used to consolidate most elementary schools into five new campuses, with additions planned for Doris McQueen Primary School and South Ward Elementary School. The money also will pay to rebuild all three middle schools and to add new tennis courts, a fine arts center and expand the Career and Technology Education at Longview High School.
Voters in May 2008 authorized the sale of $266.9 million in bonds to pay for capital improvements. Trustees sold $130 million in bonds about a year ago and plan to sell the final installment of the bonds, $71.9 million, in about a year.
UT-Austin's Blanton Museum picks new director
Dr. Ned Rifkin (pictured), former undersecretary for art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been named director of the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin. He succeeds Jessie Otto Hite, who retired last year. (Ann Wilson has since served as interim director.) He will also serve as professor in the Department of Art and Art History in the university's College of Fine Arts.
Rifkin previously directed the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Menil Collection and Foundation in Houston and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta before his charge as undersecretary at the Smithsonian. He also served as an assistant professor in the Department of Art at The University of Texas at Arlington from 1977-1980.
Rifkin holds a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University, and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Tarleton expedites new student housing complex
Tarleton State University is readying for the construction of a new student housing complex. The university will demolish Crockett Hall and the Summit Apartments to make way for the facilities. The project has been expedited due to deteriorating conditions at Crockett Hall, which include a severely hail-damaged roof.
Dr. Wanda Mercer (pictured), vice president of student life, said the university was hoping "to get another year out of the (Crockett Hall) roof before any extensive repairs had to be done."
School officials say it would become cost-prohibitive for students to continue living in the dormitory. Mercer said everything is being done "to make the transition as easy as possible" for students living in the housing complexes that are set to be demolished.
Conroe mulling parking meters for downtown
The Conroe City Council recently began exploring options for installing parking meters in the downtown area. A committee comprised of Assistant City Manager Paul Virgadamo Jr., Rigby Owen Jr. and Downtown Director Larry Calhoun were appointed to research options for downtown parking meters.
Council members also heard a representative from a parking meter manufacturer outline the pros and cons of pay-by-space meters and pay-and-display meters. The advantages of pay-by-space parking meter systems are that customers do not have to return to their vehicles to display a parking receipt and revenues increase because the system offers multiple payment options for customers. However, pay-and-display parking systems that use only one or two meters per city block have a larger share of the market, he said.
Both systems can be solar-powered and wireless, which reduces installation costs, the representative said. Using wireless systems allows drivers to set up accounts, pay in advance by cell phone and notify motorists by text message when their time on the meter is about to expire, he said. A new parking system should pay for itself in a few years and increase revenues to the city, he said.
Lamar awarded $190,000 grant to train science teachers
Lamar University recently received a $190,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The grant will be used for a two-year enrichment program for 20 middle school science teachers. Two Lamar University professors, Dorothy Sisk (left) and Jim Westgate (right), applied for the grant and will oversee the program.
The program is aimed at non-certified science teachers with fewer than 24 hours in science courses, said Sisk. The teachers will attend classes during the summer and participate in outdoor field experiences to improve their science technology. The teachers also will meet bimonthly during the school year.
Lone Star College accepts donation for Conroe Center
Regents for the Lone Star College System recently accepted the donation of 15.7 acres of land from the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council to build the system's Conroe Center. Two buildings, totaling 83,000 square feet, will be located on the land on FM 3082, about 2.5 miles east of Interstate 45.
The largest building, at 65,000 square feet, will feature 12 general classrooms, a biology lab, a bookstore, library, eight computer labs and other areas for specialized programs and support services. The smaller building, 16,000-square feet, will house the center's industrial programs such as welding and machining. The Conroe Center is designed to accommodate as many as 3,000 students and will serve as a satellite campus for Lone Star College-Montgomery. The new center is scheduled to open in spring 2011.
A&M president recommends dean of faculties choice
Psychology professor Antonio Cepeda-Benito (pictured) could be the next dean of faculties and associate provost of Texas A&M University. A&M President Elsa Murano and System Chancellor Mike McKinney have recommended Cepeda-Benito to the Board of Regents, who will meet to decide his confirmation.
Cepeda-Benito joined the A&M faculty in 1994 as assistant professor of psychology. He has served as associate dean of faculties and faculty ombudsman since February 2006. Cepeda-Benito holds a master's and doctoral degree from Purdue University.
UTEP housing proposal approved by regents
Renovation of two older apartment buildings near The University of Texas at El Paso to be used for student housing units was approved this week by The University of Texas System Board of Regents. The $6.5 million renovation is expected t begin this year and be completed by the fall 2010 semester. It will house some 205 students. The cost to renovate the buildings will be recovered through rental income.
Three administrators to leave Copperas Cove ISD
Three administrators for the Copperas Cove Independent School district recently announced they are leaving the district.
Sonny Monroe (left), the assistant superintendent for finance and support services, announced his retirement from the district effective in November after a 38-year career in education. George Wiley (center), director of student programs, is resigning to accept the position of assistant superintendent at Cameron ISD.
Wiley's last day at Copperas Cove ISD will be June 22. Bobby Ott (right), deputy superintendent, resigned to take a position as deputy superintendent for the Killeen ISD.
TWU gift to assist graduate nursing students
A gift of more than $330,000 from the Austin W. Roberts Charitable Trust to Texas Woman's University will ensure that more TWU graduate nursing students have financial assistance to complete their degrees and become faculty.
The endowment will be used for fellowships and scholarships to master's or doctoral-level nursing students who will eventually become TWU nursing faculty. "In order to solve the nursing shortage, we must increase the supply of nursing faculty," said Dr. Patricia Holden-Huchton (pictured), dean of the TWU College of Nursing. She said the funding will allow graduate students seeking to become faculty to reach that goal with less of a financial burden.
Roberts' daughter, Dr. Diane Benson, received her bachelorıs and masterıs degrees in nursing from TWU.
Brownwood ISD considers private firm for transit
Brownwood Independent School District trustees are looking into a measure that would contract student transport services to a private firm. Discussions were tabled after the trustees' May meeting in order to gather more information.
"We still need a little bit more time to make some clarifications," Superintendent Dr. Reece Blincoe said. He recommended the board take more time before making a decision.
The private firm would cost the district about $7,000 more for the 2009-2010 school year than the projected amount it would cost the district to provide bus services (about $564,000). If contracted, the firm would hire and train the district's drivers and maintain use of the schools' fleet of yellow buses. Advantages to contracting would likely be seen through shared service agreements with private schools and churches.
West University Place OKs design for Colonial Park pool
The West University Place City Council recently approved the design for a new pool at Colonial Park. Voters in November approved a $13.8 million park bond issue to pay for the new Colonial Park pool and construction of the West University Fitness Center, which also will have an indoor pool.
The new Colonial Park pool design features two shade structures instead of one as originally planned and the depth of the three lap lanes increases from one lane to the next rather than from one end of each lane to the other end. The new pool also will have a one-meter diving board, a slide and a climbing wall and feature areas targeted to toddlers, teenagers and adults. Originally the design called for a separate pool for toddlers.
Both the pool at Colonial Park and the pool at the fitness center should be open for the summer of 2010, said City Manager Michael Ross.
Waco health center to fund expansion, new facility
Family Health Center in Waco plans to use $1.9 million in federal stimulus dollars to fund the expansion of one clinic and construct a new one, according to Chief Financial and Operating Officer Allen Patterson.
The new clinic will be located at the intersection of Herring Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in east Waco, where Patterson said officials have wanted a facility "for a while." The clinic will serve thousands of patients, most of whom are poor or uninsured, with a staff of nine, including four medical providers, three physicians and one nurse practitioner.
The center also plans to add 5,000 to 6,000 square feet to its Elm Avenue clinic with the stimulus dollars.
Group pushes private funds for new Fort Bend center
A proposed $26 million science center for the Fort Bend Independent School District should draw enough private support to cause little financial impact on taxpayers, according to a recent committee report to Fort Bend school board members.
The proposed science center is planned to be built adjacent to the district's administration building and will include high-tech laboratories, grade-appropriate interactive learning stations, a planetarium, a "sci-max" theater and a conference room, said Superintendent Tim Jenney (pictured). The facility is designed to stimulate interest in science and provide better teacher training to help improve science education, he said.
The committee headed by former Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace told trustees at a workshop meeting that private funding from corporations and organizations could total at least $400,000, half of the building's operating cost. The committee also has agreed to seek at least $3.9 million in funds for construction, which would total about 15 percent of the $36 million cost. The remaining funds could come from the district's savings allotted for capital improvements and from federal and state funding and grants the district may obtain, he said. Trustees are expected to vote on the recommendation by the committee at their scheduled meeting on May 18.
No internal personnel apply for Abilene ISD post
No internal applicants have applied for the Abilene Independent School District's superintendent position. About a dozen AISD employees have proper certification for the position, which was posted internally April 28.
Superintendent David Polnick announced he will retire June 30, 2010. The school board has begun researching firms to aid in the search once an external hunt begins.
Cathy Ashby, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the board should not have trouble finding a replacement for Polnick because of AISD's reputation, including "the strong community support for our schools, the committed teachers, principals and staff and our outstanding students."
Corpus weighs contract options for Memorial Coliseum
Corpus Christi City Council takes office next week to decide whether to contract a nonprofit group to build an Olympic swimming center inside Memorial Coliseum. Meanwhile the council has voted to end negotiations with a California-based company that wanted to transform the coliseum into an entertainment complex.
Councilman John Marez (pictured) said the Olympic swim center could propel other development in the area and said he is "very encouraged" by what the center could bring to the city.
The council has also authorized staff to begin talks with other companies interested in using the vacated facility. Other plans for the landmark include converting it into an ice skating rink and developing it into office spaces with a park, shops and apartments. The council will decide which of the three proposals to pursue and set a negotiation timeline soon.
Sherman ISD approves site plan for new building
Sherman Independent School District trustees recently approved a site plan for construction of a new $10 million administration complex. The plan is comprised of three buildings to house the administrative staff along with the transportation and support services departments, said Scott Conrad, director of facilities.
The project will be completed in three phases, with phase one consisting of site excavation, storm sewer installations, concrete pavement work, asphalt pavement work and site utilities such as electrical, sanitary sewer and water. Phase two will include exterior construction of the support services building and phase three will involve finishing the interior of the buildings, landscaping and the transportation building, he said.
The administration building is the last phase of the construction projects approved when voters in 2005 approved a $77 million bond issue. The project should be completed in July 2010.
Smith County to try to save facades of burned buildings
Officials of Smith County and several historical groups recently agreed to protect and preserve as much as possible of the several historic buildings damaged by a fire in February. The owners of the damaged buildings announced last week that they were donating the properties to the county.
Some county officials and structural engineers, however, are concerned that some of the buildings, including the facades, received structural damage from the fire. Two consultants have found that the structures at 113 through 117 N. Spring Street are unstable and unsafe, but could not enter the interior for a closer inspection because of safety concerns.
County Judge Joel Baker said the county plans to work with all entities involved with the development of the project as the county supports the Tyler 21 plan and development of the arts and culture district in downtown Tyler.
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Texas has 1,459 emergency management coordinators - important to know them all
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
People who live and work along the Texas Gulf Coast are already preparing for the Atlantic hurricane season which officially begins in a little over two weeks. This year's season starts June 1 and does not end until Nov. 30.
Hurricane experts have predicted an "above average" season. They forecast 12 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean, with six expected to become hurricanes. The annual forecast also predicts that two of the six hurricanes will develop into intense or major storms of Category 3 or higher status - meaning sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour. The experts say there is a 54 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the United States in 2009. Firms that provide services that would be needed should be registered with emergency management coordinators statewide. To view a list of statewide emergency management coordinators, click here and go to "Recent Reports."
This is not good news for people in Galveston and other areas along the Texas coast, where residents and government officials are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Ike. Last year's destruction topped $20 billion in damages. Even today, debris removal is continuing in those areas.[more]
Concordia receives $1.5M gift toward baseball field
Concordia University Texas has received a $1.5 million gift to build the school's new baseball field. The gift's donors wish to remain anonymous.
The gift, which gives the school about half the funds it needs for the design and construction of the field, marks the single largest donation in the history of the university. CU-Texas President Dr. Tom Cedel (pictured) said the gift "allows Concordia to continue on its transformational journey that began with the campus relocation."
Marble Falls studies new $7.2 million lakeside center
Following a presentation by an area architect, the board of directors of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation is mulling a proposed 4,000- square-foot event center with expanded parking and improvements to the pavilion at Lakeside Park costing an estimated $7.198 million.
The plan includes $4.85 million for the center, about $1 million for landscaping and approximately $300,000 for parking expansion. The proposed project would house the offices of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation, the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce and the parks and recreation department. Interim City Manager Ralph Hendricks, the executive director of the chamber of commerce and Robert Moss, the director of the parks and recreation department, all spoke in support of building the event center.
Garland ISD to pay off
Aging in Place workshop slated in June
An "Aging in Place" workshop, co-hosted by the Alamo Area Council of Government's Alamo and Bexar Area Agencies on Aging, the city of San Antonio and the WellMed Charitable Foundation, will be held Thursday, June 11, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in San Antonio. The workshop will be at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, 1300 Guadalupe Street. The local discussion will be part of a national conversation taking place on aging and will highlight the work already occurring in the region to enhance the area for all age groups. Workshop speakers and panelists will focus on assets already in place and how they can be improved, social integration, planning and mobility. For more information, contact Debbie Billa at 210-362-5240 or click here.
Texas Citizens Corps Conference dates announced
The Texas Citizens Corps Conference will be held June 30-July 1 at the Omni Houston Hotel, Four Riverway, in Houston. Dr. David H. McIntyre, director, Integrative Center for Homeland Security at Texas A&M University, is the invited speaker for the first day's luncheon. Some of the conference topics will include starting and maintaining a CERT program, using technology to recruit and maintain volunteers, neighborhood watch and fire corps. To view the draft agenda, click here. For more information and to download a registration form, click here.
TPPA hosts June Summer Conference Momentum 2009
The Texas Public Purchasing Association will host its Summer Conference Momentum 2009 Wednesday through Friday, June 24-26, at the Suites at Sunchase Conference Center on South Padre Island. The governmental purchasing seminar is designed for public purchasing professionals with special interest in the latest developments that are essential in governmental purchasing. The event will include approximately 20 speakers who will address issues that include purchasing law, green purchasing, supplier contracts, evaluating RFPs, cooperative purchasing and more. There will be both educational and group sessions. For more information, click here.
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.
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 email@example.com.