|Volume 7, Issue 21 · Friday, May 29, 2009|
Could Texas A&M chancellor/president be one person?
Murano: Don't sacrifice academics, reputation for cost savings
In an effort to address the current economic climate, Texas A&M System officials have discussed various cost-cutting measures that could include merging the TAMU president position with the System chancellor's. The issue was raised last week in a meeting with System presidents and CEOs in attendance.
In an e-mail to Texas A&M faculty, staff and students, TAMU President Elsa Murano (left) said that while System leaders are concerned about the pressures of the economic downturn, they should also be mindful not to sacrifice academic quality or the school's national reputation in the interest of curbing costs.
Talks about merging the president and chancellor posts have arisen over the years, according to TAMU Systems Director of Communications Rod Davis. The positions were even combined at one point years ago, he said.
"We're looking at ways of saving money," he said. "We've put a tuition cap on System schools, but this (merger) issue comes up and goes away."
A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney (right) said it was not his idea to merge the positions. He declined to say who proposed the idea nor would he discuss Murano's job performance. (The merger could remove Murano from her post.)[more]
Make the 'Pipeline' part of your sales team
Contracting opportunities at all levels of government - state, city, county, public schools, higher education and health care - are being created throughout the country as a result of passage of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Businesses and vendors of all types and sizes should be getting positioned to tap into the billions of dollars worth of contracts that will result from the bill.
Strategic Partnerships, Inc.'s Information Services Division is tracking the specific opportunities resulting from the stimulus funding as it is being allocated to all 50 states. Much of that information can be found in our new national electronic newsletter, the State & Local Government Pipeline.
Like the stimulus bill itself, our newsletter is new. This week's edition marked just our sixth issue. But the response has been overwhelming. Each week, the State & Local Government Pipeline offers information on new allocations of stimulus funds, grant funds that are available, information on how other states are spending their funding and links to important stimulus-related documents. In this week's edition, SPI President and CEO Mary Scott Nabers addresses smart infrastructure projects.
The newsletter not only covers economic stimulus funding news, but other national news - from federal budget to federal agency news to new initiatives.
For those seeking to do business with government for the first time, or for veteran sales teams that simply want to increase their government contracts, the State & Local Government Pipeline is a great source to help identify funding and contracting opportunities.
81st Texas legislative session ends on Monday
Budget bill, top 10 percent, franchise tax break among top issues
Just three days are left of the 81st session of the Texas Legislature and it's been another session for the ages. Although no legislators skipped off to another state to avoid having to vote on a bill, House Democrats did manage a chub (a House maneuver in which members talk at length about a bill to keep other bills from being heard) long enough to kill the contentious Voter ID bill...and with it perhaps dozens more.
Stacked up behind that bill were hundreds of others facing certain death as legislative deadlines loomed.
There were some minor victories...
The state's $180 billion biennial budget bill - the only bill legislators MUST pass each session - was passed in both houses and then sent to conference committee. It includes $2 billion in bond money for transportation needs, $500 million for Medicaid costs and even $20 million ($11 million of which is federal economic stimulus funds) to help repair the historic Governor's Mansion, which was the victim of an arson fire last summer. The bill that came out of conference earned unanimous approval in the Senate late Thursday afternoon. The House is expected to pass the bill today, Friday, sending it to the governor's desk.[more]
Cathleen Parsley, Chief Administrative Law Judge, State Office of Administrative Hearings
Career highlights and education: I am a graduate of Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University School of Law. I worked in private practice in Dallas and Lubbock before moving to Austin in 1990 to work for former Sen. John Montford when he was chair of the Senate committees on State Affairs and Finance. I joined the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) at its inception as an Administrative Law Judge in the Central Hearings Panel in April 1992, and I became a team leader for the Licensing and Enforcement Team in September 1999. I became SOAH's general counsel in January 2003 and its third Chief Administrative Law Judge on July 1, 2008.
What I like best about my job is: I have the honor and privilege of leading and working with one of the smartest, most capable, most fun and kindest groups of people I could imagine. And there's not a better assemblage of lawyers anywhere.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: When I was growing up, my mother always advised handling things with humor, if possible. It was good advice then, and it's good advice now.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Be mindful that we are here to do the state's business with excellence, integrity and professionalism and courtesy. Anything else won't do.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: at my church practicing the organ or at home playing the piano.
People would be surprised to know that I: was in the Tech Band in college. My fondest college memories are of the band, and the friendships I made there endure to this day.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: I love to read, but in the last few months my reading has been mostly in a lighter vein. I did find the Sports Illustrated piece on the rehabilitation of the dogs rescued from the horror of Michael Vick's dog fighting kennel deeply moving. It's in large measure a success story, and those dogs will live good lives now, thanks to good and generous people who've worked with them and treated them with love and great kindness. To me, it illustrated the power of both the human and the canine spirits.
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.
McLeroy's appointment to SBOE chair rebuffed by Senate
The State Board of Education will get a new chairman after the Texas Senate this week blocked the appointment by Gov. Rick Perry of Don McLeroy (pictured) as chair. McLeroy was elected to the State Board of Education in 1998 and re-elected in 2002 and 2006. He was appointed chair by Perry in July 2007. However, his reappointment to the chair by Perry in February of this year was blocked by a 19-11 vote this week.
The vote was along party lines, with the 19 yea votes representing Republicans and the 11 no votes from Democrat members of the Senate. Sen. Eddie Lucio, a Democrat, was recorded as present but not voting. Perry will now be faced with appointing another chair of the education board. A two-thirds vote is required for confirmation.
State Library picks new State, Local Records director
Lynna (Jan) Ferrari (pictured) has been selected to serve as director of the State & Local Records division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). She replaces Michael Heskett.
Ferrari served as records analyst for the Lower Colorado River Authority since 2001 before her new charge. She has also worked as an electronic resources librarian at the Texas Natural Resources Information System (from 1995 to 2001) and as a Proposal Coordinator for a private sector employer. She has also held a variety of posts at The University of Texas at Austin, including as technology reference librarian at the Department of Engineering Sciences and as a reference geologist at the Bureau of Economic Geology.
Ferrari holds a bachelor's degree from UT-San Antonio and a master's degree from UT-Austin.
GDEM urging preparedness for hurricane season
The Governor's Division of Emergency Management (GDEM) is teaming with other agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to urge coastal residents to gather supplies and important documents for safekeeping before hurricane season sweeps in June 1.
GDEM is reminding residents to keep emergency supplies in portable containers, to check and refill hurricane supplies after every storm.
A checklist of some items to pack and secure includes:
Jefferson presented with honorary advanced degree
Wallace Jefferson (pictured), the first African-American justice named to the Supreme Court of Texas, has earned an honorary doctor of laws degree from his alma mater, Michigan State University.
Jefferson, now chief justice of Texas' highest court, has served on the Supreme Court of Texas Advisory Committee, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct and as chair of the host committee for the 2000 Fifth Circuit Judicial Conference. In 2010 he will steer national judicial policy as the Conference of Chief Justices, a seat he was elected to by his peers.
Journalist and former news anchor Dan Rather and Nobel Prize-winning, anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu were also honored with advanced degrees at the commencement.
Robot software firm to receive $250K from TETF
The state is set to invest $250,000 in Texas Emerging Technology Funds (ETF) for the commercialization of Agile Planet Inc.'s RobotLogix universal operating software.
RobotLogix, a software that allows for safe human-robot collaboration, streamlines the control process, minimizes integration and lifecycle costs and improves the performance of robots. The international robotics market is expected to grow to nearly $25 billion in 2010 and $65 billion in 2025.
To help develop and market the software, Agile Planet has teamed up with The University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business, Austin Technology Incubator and the Robotics chairman at Austin Community College.
New chairman, vice chairman appointed for A&M regents
Morris Foster (left) of Houston and James P. Wilson (right) of Sugar Land have been named to The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents as chairman and vice chairman, respectively. Both will serve two-year terms, replacing Bill Jones of Austin and John White of Houston.
Foster, former president of a major oil corporation in Houston, now serves as chairman of a resort. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, where he was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Graduates in 1993.
Wilson, who also graduated from A&M with a bachelor's degree, began his career as a certified public accountant in 1981. He serves as chairman and chief executive officer of a Houston-based publicly traded investment firm. He co-founded a private debt and equity firm in 1990.
UH-Downtown presidential candidate withdraws
Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of a Houston-based children's advocacy organization, has withdrawn his bid for the president's post at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Sanborn, the only local candidate, remained as one of four finalists for the position. He applied when President Max Castillo announced plans to resign this summer.
SFA in negotiations with energy company
In a bid to become a "green" campus, Stephen F. Austin State University is in negotiations with an energy services company to conduct a detailed energy audit. The survey will identify opportunities for greater sustainability, energy conservation and savings.
Bob Garrett (pictured), chairman of the building and grounds committee of the SFA Board of Regents, said the initiative is about more than saving money. "It's a new way to approach the marketing of SFA," he said, citing a figure from The Princeton Review that claims 60 percent of students consider campus' environmental efforts when deciding where to attend.
The energy services company will develop an energy conservation curriculum for SFA, which may include infrastructure renovation or replacement. The university plans to fund the initiative with savings recouped from current utility budgets.
Clemson selected director of N. Texas Tollway Authority
Officials of the North Texas Tollway Authority recently selected Allen Clemson as the agency's new director. Clemson will replace Jorge Figueredo, who resigned as the chief executive officer of NTTA in December.
Clemson, who holds a bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas, worked as an administrator for Dallas County for 24 years and recently served as an interim administrator at the University of North Texas Dallas campus.
The NTTA is still conducting a search for a new deputy executive director.
Construction on new Tarleton student housing approved
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has approved an amendment to its Fiscal Year 2009-2013 Capital Plan, allowing for the creation of new student housing at Tarleton State University. Construction is set to begin this summer on a $13.8 million project to replace Crockett Hall and Summit Apartments.
Dean of Students Rusty Jergins (pictured) said the university's goal is to have "300 beds and living and learning spaces such as study rooms, common areas, community development rooms and administrative offices."
The replacement facilities are slated to be completed and ready for students to move into by fall 2010.
San Angelo to receive $570,000 grant for revitalization
The San Angelo Health Foundation recently announced it has awarded the city of San Angelo $570,000 to pay for improvements to the Concho River in the downtown area.
The planned improvements to be made near the San Angelo Visitors Center include bank stabilization, lighting for two bridges, installing seating areas along the river, adding outdoor exercise equipment and building stone outlooks.
The improvements are part of the comprehensive river development project adopted by the city council that will be paid for with half-cent sales tax revenue, said Assistant City Manager Rick Weise. Construction on the improvements funded by the grant could begin in 2010 while a dredging project being coordinated by the Upper Colorado River Authority is scheduled to begin this fall, he said.
A&M System selects new provost, vice president
Dr. Gary Peer (pictured) will serve as Tarleton State University's provost and vice president of academic affairs beginning Aug. 1. He will replace interim Dr. Brad Chilton.
Peer, also approved for academic tenure by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, has spent more than 40 years in education, including posts ranging from professor to interim president at Central Michigan University, Adams State College and the University of Tulsa. He previously held the position of provost at Tarleton for six years before serving as interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Peer earned his bachelor's degree at Washburn University, a master's degree from Emporia State University and doctoral degree from Indiana University-Bloomington.
SB 629 allows three seed campuses stand-alone status
Texas A&M University-Central Texas, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and the University of North Texas at Dallas will stand as independent campuses thanks to Senate Bill (SB) 629, recently signed by Gov. Rick Perry. All three campuses reached the required enrollment benchmark of 1,000 full-time students to qualify for the distinction.
SB 629 will allow these campuses to expand their facilities and make college education more accessible to Texas' growing student population. The schools may now begin the accreditation process through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
WTAMU chooses Taylor associate vice president
Dr. Heidi Taylor (pictured) has been named associate vice president for learning assessment at West Texas A&M University. In her new charge, she will monitor the teaching efficacy of WTAMU's various professors and instructors.
Taylor, current dean of WTAMU's College of Nursing and Health Sciences, recently completed two three-year terms on the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) Accreditation Review Committee. She also helped establish national accreditation standards for baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs as part of the CCNE Standards Committee. She has served in her current role as dean since 2006.
Taylor holds a bachelor's degree from WTAMU, and master's and doctoral degrees from Texas Woman's University.
FEMA awards $2M in funding to Texas City
As part of an ongoing Hurricane Ike recovery initiative, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated more than $2 million in Public Assistance disaster funds to Texas City for debris removal. The funds support contractors in the cleanup, transport and removal of Ike-related debris and detritus.
The award covers 100 percent of operations and covers more than 210,000 cubic yards of cleanup, according to Federal Coordinating Officer Brad Harris. FEMA has allocated more than $964 million to Texas in disaster funds since September 2008.
Lee College Board of Regents restructures administration
Lee College Board of Regents recently approved an administrative restructure plan. President Dr. Michael Murphy (pictured) presented a plan to the board that would create a vice president for learning and discontinue two divisions.
The restructure would merge traditional and vocational/technical programs as well as combine continuing education and instructional services.
Steve Evans of financial services and Dr. Donnetta Suchon of the student services division will have their titles changed from dean to vice president as part of the transition.
Houston, other cities extend red-light camera contracts
Houston City Council has joined a host of other Texas councils in extending their red-light camera contracts. Other cities -- including Amarillo, Arlington, Baytown, Fort Worth and Irving - have extended their contractual ties for the next few years. Houston's new contract is set to expire in 2014.
"The number of people who are photographed running the red light goes down consistently over time," Houston Mayor Bill White said in defense of the provision, which was included as an amendment to a bill that has already passed the Texas House.
Meanwhile the hotly contested cameras are set to be implemented in five additional locations in College Station as Texas lawmakers weigh legislation that could ban the devices altogether.
Passenger-train transfer center may move from D/FW
A proposed transfer center for passenger trains from Tarrant and Dallas counties may be ushered onto undeveloped land east of Grapevine - away from the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport terminal area for which it was initially suggested. The plan originally called for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority's proposed Cotton Belt commuter-rail line to connect with Dallas Area Rapid Transit's proposed light-rail Orange Line at D/FW Airport. Both systems are tentatively scheduled to arrive in 2013.
Irving City Councilman Rick Stopfer (pictured) said the proposed switch to move the transfer center is "throwing us off-kilter." He said the City of Irving has already committed $60 million in funds, hired a consultant to prove passenger numbers and purchased the track and cars. Additionally, the airport has committed to build the terminal station, he said.
D/FW had tentatively offered to cover much of the cost of building the station between Terminals A and B in the original plan, but the airport will not fund a station that isn't situated on its property.
TAMU System given OK for permanent S.A. campus
The Texas A&M System has been given the go-ahead to draw down $40 million in tuition revenue bonds for the creation of a permanent Texas A&M-San Antonio campus. The system maintains a seed campus in the city under the auspices of Texas A&M-Kingsville.
In order to receive the funds, enrollment at the university had to reach 1,000 full-time students, thanks to a lower threshold short of the original 1,500 full-time students once required. The new law will allow officials to declare independence from A&M-Kingsville and create a permanent university campus in the city.
EDA awards Friendswood with $2M in grants
The City of Friendswood has secured $2 million in federal grant funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for stimulating local economic development. The funding will be used to create water and sewer infrastructure in the Harris County portion of the city.
Karen Capps, Friendswood economic development coordinator, said the improvements "will make this an ideal business location, especially given its proximity to I-45."
Friendswood Mayor David Smith (pictured) said the grant is the fruition of "preparedness and opportunity," adding city officials "are ecstatic about how this grant will improve and diversify the local economic base by aiding in the development of the panhandle area of Friendswood."
TxDOT Aviation Division honors Hondo Municipal Airport
The Hondo Municipal Airport (HMA) has been recognized as the General Aviation Airport of the Year for 2009 thanks to City Manager Robert Herrera's recent efforts to redevelop the facility's 3,000-plus acres and transform it into a profitable sector of the city. To oversee the airport's economic overhaul, Herrera hired Tim Fousse, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Aviation Division Small Airport Manager of the Year for 2006. A crowd looks on at the airport (in accompanying photo) as the award is displayed.
TxDOT Aviation Division officials honored Herrera and Fousse with HMA's airport of the year distinction at the 27th annual Texas Aviation Conference in Austin. TxDOT Director of Planning and Programming Linda Howard said Hondo won the award because agency leaders were impressed with the progress HMA staff had made toward attractiveness, profitability and functionality and usefulness for pilots and businesses.
While accepting the award, Herrera said he hopes the prestigious honor will bring "an opportunity to solicit and receive some grants from the Federal Aviation Administration."
Gainesville ISD approves new turf, track for high school
Trustees for the Gainesville Independent School District recently approved the installation of synthetic field turf and construction of a track on the campus of the new Gainesville High School. Trustees, however, took no vote on a proposal by Superintendent Bill Gravitt to build a new football stadium at an estimated cost of $1.695.220 as opposed to repairing and renovating the current stadium at a cost of $1,536,000.
Problems at Leeper Stadium include inadequate drainage, dilapidated seating, a concession stand with holes in the walls and public restrooms that must be renovated or replaced, Gravitt said. The superintendent also noted the old football stadium will need extensive renovations to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act and also needs two new light poles. Trustees took no action on the recommendation by the superintendent to build a new stadium.
Beaumont ISD eyes new multi-event center for athletics
Despite objections from a co-chair of the bond committee and parents, trustees for the Beaumont Independent School District recently reached an informal agreement to add a new auditorium at the new athletic complex while downsizing the size of auditoriums proposed for two schools.
Superintendent Carrol Thomas (pictured) said the changes to the $389 million bond maintain what was recommended to voters and approved in the bond election.
The co-chair of the bond committee, Dr. David Teuscher, disagreed that downsizing the auditoriums at West Brook to 1,000 seats and reducing the Ozen High School to 750 seats while approving a new multi-event center from money saved by cutting the size of the two auditoriums is not what voters approved. Approving the new multi-event center could cause voters to lose trust of school district officials, he said.
Willis ISD approves $1.6 million purchase of land
Trustees for Willis Independent School District recently authorized the purchase of 56.5 acres of land next to Willis High School at a total cost of $1.667 million.
The land will be used for a new ninth grade center, which may be included in a future bond issue, and expansion of athletic fields that will be used by students at the high school and the proposed ninth grade center, said Superintendent Brian Zemlicka (pictured). Voters in 2006 approved $1.248 million in bond funding for the district to purchase land for expansion.
Sugar Land authorizes $1.375 million for improvements
The Sugar Land City Council recently authorized $1.375 million to fund part of a joint drainage project with the Fort Bend County Drainage District to extend Ditch H, a major drainage channel located in that city.
The ditch runs about 4.5 miles south of U.S. 90A to the Brazos River, beneath U.S. 59. The plan calls for extending Ditch H from U.S. 90A to Oyster Creek to divert additional flow and lower the 100-year water surface elevations in the creek. The $1.375 million from Sugar Land will be used for construction of a bridge during the first phase of the Ditch H project. The first phase is expected to cost about $2.75 million while the estimated cost of both phases of the project is $6 million.
Longview leader reassigned to lead dropout program
Jeff Dozier, who formerly served as the deputy superintendent for the Longview Independent School District, was recently reassigned to head the district's alternative education programs.
Dozier, who joined Longview ISD as deputy superintendent in 2008, was reassigned to oversee Dade Center and the LEAD Academy to help improve the district's dropout rate and develop programs to keep at-risk students in the classroom, said a spokesman for the district. Dozier previously served as superintendent of Shepherd ISD and Big Sandy ISD. Superintendent James E. Wilcox said he plans to fill the position of deputy superintendent as quickly as possible and will act as deputy superintendent until a new deputy is selected.
MD Anderson scientists receive part of $15 million grant
A group of scientists at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston were recently named as part of the "dream team" of cancer fighters who will receive a portion of a $15 million national grant to find faster treatments for cancer.
The grant was awarded by the Stand Up to Cancer campaign, which last year staged a nationwide telethon hosted by three network news anchors and featuring many entertainers to raise money to fight cancer, said Dr. Gordon Mills (pictured), co-leader of the MD Anderson group.
Scientists from the Sloan Kettering Center Institute in New York and Harvard University in Boston will share in the grant, Mills said. The cancer researchers will use grant funding to explore the pathways and abnormalities of the cancer cells of 10,000 patients. The team will focus its first efforts on breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.
Amarillo College receives $69,000 grant for wind energy
The Dumas Economic Development Corporation recently awarded $69,000 to the Amarillo College Moore County campus to begin a program to train students studying wind energy.
The grant funding will be used to provide equipment, supplies and salaries to expand the wind energy program at the Amarillo College Moore County campus. Amarillo College currently has 150 students majoring in wind energy in Amarillo and offering the program at the campus located in Dumas could double enrollment, said Paul Matney, acting president of Amarillo College.
Tarrant County may expand medical examiner building
After approving a $26.3 million budget for a new two-story building adjacent to the existing medical examiner facilities, Tarrant County officials are now seeking bids for construction of a three-story building that would expand the space from 43,278 square feet to 60,034 square feet.
Preliminary estimates indicate that adding the third floor will add about $2.2 million to the cost of the project, slightly above the $26.3 million in bond funding. County Judge Glen Whitley (pictured) said more funding would have to be obtained through the issue of certificates of obligation or reserves. But, Whitley said he believes that the construction costs for the proposed three-story building could come in lower than originally planned based on the lower bids submitted on other construction projects. Commissioners also would be required to approve the additional space, he said.
Construction on the new building is expected to begin in November 2009 and it should be completed in 2011.
Clifton ISD approves upgrades to cafeteria, classrooms
Trustees for the Clifton Independent School District recently authorized spending a total of $83,500 to pay for three capital improvement projects this summer.
The approved projects are $40,000 to abate asbestos and renovate four classrooms at an elementary school, $30,000 for three science labs in the middle school and $13,500 to remove asbestos from the old floor and install a new floor at the elementary school cafeteria, said Superintendent Rhoda White.
Brazos County entities mull employee health clinic
Officials of Brazos County, the City of Bryan and the Bryan Independent School District recently began discussions on the feasibility of opening a medical clinic to provide basic health care for employees of the county, city and school district.
As discussed at a seminar presented by a consulting firm, the medical clinic would focus on preventive medicine, receive funding from all three entities and all employees could use the clinic. The seminar also featured representatives from other government agencies and from insurance and health care companies. The wellness clinic can save employers money because the clinic usually is operated independently of the health care plan and it gives employees greater access to low-cost or free preventative care, the consultant said.
Brazos County Judge Randy Sims (pictured) said he believes that a cooperative clinic would save money while giving employees greater access to less expensive preventative care. Bryan ISD officials have been mulling the idea of establishing a clinic for several years. Bryan Deputy City Manager Hugh Walker said some city officials have studied for two years to learn more about how such a clinic would work. The city is not interested in competing with the private sector in providing medical care, but sees the clinic as the first stop for employees who often delay seeking medical treatment until their condition is more threatening and expensive to treat, Walker said.
Waco airport to test new explosive detection system
The Waco Regional Airport recently became one of two airports nationwide to participate in a pilot program testing a new $360,000 explosive detection system.
The new detection system makes use of computer tomography that allows security officers to virtually unpack luggage without physically removing items, said a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration. When using the system, images appear on a screen and the security officer can rotate any suspicious object and view it from all directions without touching the bag.
The new detection system uses a 44-foot-long conveyor belt to examine carry-on bags and provides better image quality than the X-ray machines currently in use, said Joel Martinez, the airport manager. The Department of Homeland Security provided the new explosive detection system. The airport in Hyannis Port, Mass., is the other regional airport selected for the pilot program, Martinez said. If the test is successful, the TSA could recommend the new detection system for use in other small- to mid-size airports.
San Antonio Spurs seeking $10M to update arena
Officials of the San Antonio Spurs recently requested Bexar County officials to release $10 million in bond funds approved in 1999 for improvements to the county-owned arena. The request is in addition to the $75 million in bonds to renovate the arena voters approved in 2008 at the request of the Spurs organization.
The new request for funding was contained in a new contract that is an extension of the original contract with the county signed in 1999, said Commissioner Paul Elizondo (pictured), who asked commissioners to approve the request. The new contract will keep the Spurs in San Antonio until 2032, five years past the date of the original contract, he said. Commissioners took no action on the request after two other parties to the contract, the San Antonio Livestock and Exposition Inc. and the Community Arenas Board, indicated they had not seen the proposed changes and requested they review it before commissioners sign the contract, Elizondo said.
The Spurs organization agreed they will not use the $75 million in bond funds before 2012. They also said they wanted the new contract before they began laying out plans for changes to the arena, which the commissioners must approve before work can begin. Officials of the Spurs originally requested the county seek $110 million from the 2008 bond election to renovate and improve the Spurs arena, but later agreed to the $75 million bond issue.
EPA recognizes Air North Texas for clean air award
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has honored Air North Texas, an initiative that encourages environmental responsibility, for its outreach and educational efforts with a Clean Air Excellence Award. Four other categories were recognized with awards: clean air technology, community action, regulatory policy innovations and outstanding individual achievement.
Air North Texas seeks to help residents learn about clean air choices and offers outreach materials ranging from brochures to crayons and bracelets.
For more information about Air North Texas, including tips on energy-efficient appliances and economical fuel-saving measures, click here.
Conroe ISD wins $85,000 for parent education program
The Conroe Independent School District recently received an $85,000 grant to pay for a parent education program for students who are soon to be parents or students who are already parents.
The Life Skills for Student Parents Grant program of the Texas Education Agency and Workforce Solutions awarded the grants which offer students counseling, job training and job readiness, transportation, child care and parenting instruction, including child development and help in obtaining social services.
Trustee Ann Snyder (pictured) praised the parenting program that helps junior high and high school students who are parents by reducing dropouts and enhancing parental skills. During the last four years, an average of 335 student each year have participated in the parenting education program, district officials said, and about 36 children of students at Conroe ISD are enrolled in local day care centers.
Odessa to vote on allocating additional CDBG funds
The Odessa City Council votes this week to allocate an additional $303, 715 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The stimulus funds, distributed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are geared toward assisting communities with economic recovery, with priority given to projects that can be started 120 calendar days - or sooner - from receipt of the grant.
The Odessa Community Development Department is recommending funds be awarded to the city's Housing Rehabilitation and Reconstruction program, as four of their projects are set for bid.
In total, the council has awarded $1,228,305 in CDBG grants to community agencies.
UTHSCSA names president, CEO of UT Medicine
Dr. Thomas C. Mayes (pictured), chairman of pediatrics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), will serve a second stint as president and chief executive officer of UT Medicine San Antonio, a multispecialty practice group comprised of UTHSCSA faculty.
Mayes, one of San Antonio's leading pediatricians who joined the UTHSCSA faculty in 1994, served as interim dean of the School of Medicine in 2005-2006. He previously led UT Medicine as president and CEO in 2001-2002 before his appointment as chairman of pediatrics. He also serves as physician-in-chief of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children's Hospital.
Mayes holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and a medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Austin airport to receive $9.5M for new runway aprons
The Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program recently awarded a $9.6 million grant to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to help build 13 new runway aprons around the terminal.
The new aprons will allow aircraft to remain overnight and be ready for departure earlier the next morning. The airport currently has 26 spaces for aircraft to park overnight, said Jim Smith, executive director of the city's aviation department. Construction on the runway apron project should begin in fall 2009 and be completed in 2011, Smith said.
UTSA selects Murphy new College of Architecture dean
John D. Murphy Jr. (pictured), professor and director of international education of Auburn University's McWhorter School of Building Science, has been named dean of The University of Texas at San Antonio's College of Architecture. He will join the UTSA faculty in August, replacing interim Dean Robert Baron.
Murphy began his academic career as a teaching assistant and lecturer at Texas A&M University in 1990. He also served as a researcher at Colorado State University before joining the faculty of Auburn University in 2000.
Murphy received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University.
Navarro County, Corsicana seek $5M in stimulus money
While already approved for $29 million in federal stimulus funds, the City of Corsicana, Corsicana ISD and Navarro County officials are asking for another $5 million in stimulus funding to pay for upgrading technology in the sheriff's office, the Corsicana police department and the school district.
The majority of stimulus funding already approved is coming through the Texas Department of Transportation, including $10.2 million to resurface FM 639 and FM 1126 and $15.5 million for two new rest stops on Interstate 45. The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Navarro County will receive $3.3 million to repair three earthen dams on Chambers and Richland creeks.
Corsicana ISD expects to receive about $2.3 million for Title 1 and special education programs, and hopes to receive more funding for technology in the fall, said a spokeswoman for Corsicana ISD. The Corsicana Police Department and the school district also have applied for a $240,000 grant to pay for an officer to be assigned to the school for five years. The sheriff's office has received tentative approval for $14,957 to buy laptop computers while Corsicana police are applying for a $38,000 grant to purchase an evidence tracking system and narcotics equipment such as night vision goggles, said Police Chief Randy Bratton.
Athens ISD announces faculty shifts, promotions
Administrative changes and promotions are afoot at Athens Independent School District. Beginning June 1, Jackie Cunningham (left) will serve as executive director of curriculum and instruction; Karen McAtee (right) will head Staff Development as its new director; and Meg Johns will serve as a teacher mentor specialist.
Cunningham previously worked as director of elementary education at the district. In her new role, she will implement curriculum and instructional strategies.
McAtee, who previously served as the director of secondary education for the district, will manage the PINNACLE early college high school program in addition to the district's data related to student/campus success rates.
Johns, associate principal at Athens High School for the past three years, will develop intervention methods to address students' academic needs. The position was created from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
ASU provost Donald Coers returns to teaching
Dr. Donald V. Coers, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Angelo State University, has returned to his tenured position as an English professor at the school. He served nine years as the university's highest academic affairs official. A search for his replacement will begin immediately in addition to a search for the next vice president for student affairs.
Prior to his tenure at ASU, Coers spent 30 years as an English professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.
Coers earned his bachelor's degree at The University of Texas at Austin, and his master's and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University.
Waco in talks with school district for 2.2 acres of land
Waco City Manager Larry Groth (pictured) has asked the Waco Independent School District board of trustees for a long-term lease of 2.2 acres at North Fourth Street to make way for additional city parking. He said the city was hoping to acquire the land for 20 years for no cost.
City Planning Director Bill Falco said there is more than enough parking available downtown, but "around the convention center, particularly, things are starting to get a little tight." Groth maintains WISD's property could service the convention center in addition to meeting the parking needs of future downtown development.
The board plans to have made a decision regarding the request by this week.
Lone Star College approves purchase of 17 acres
The Lone Star College Board of Trustees has approved the purchase of more than 17 acres of land in Houston for its forthcoming campus, the LSC-Aldine Center.
The land, located about a mile west of LSC's Carver Center, is currently leased by LSC from the Aldine Independent School District with a 15-year lease term set to expire in August. The property was assessed at a fair-market value of $2.028 million and was purchased for $1.8 million.
LSC-Aldine is expected to offset some of the demand for college preparatory courses, adult education and trade programs at LSC-North Harris.
Athens ISD votes to refinance maintenance tax note
To bolster facility upgrade funds, the Athens Independent School District Board of Trustees has voted to refinance an existing maintenance tax note. The decision comes after a multi-million-dollar bond election aimed at making improvements and constructing a new elementary campus failed to pass for a third time in as many elections. A $3.75 million bond is the only proposed measure that passed last November.
The current maintenance tax note for $2.15 million (a seven-year note) will be refinanced for an additional $2.2 million over 20 years. Assistant Superintendent Mike Green (pictured) said the district cannot construct new buildings with the tax maintenance note - only fund repairs. The bond money, conversely, can be used to construct, acquire or equip school buildings.
"We have already been using some of the bond money...to do improvements and renovations at some of the schools," Green said.
Sugar Land City Council approves $1.3M toward project
In an effort to improve drainage along Oyster Creek and surrounding areas, the Sugar Land City Council has approved $1.3 million of a $2.7 million joint project with the Fort Bend County Drainage District.
The first phase of the project will see a railroad bridge constructed over Ditch H, which conveys stormwater to the Brazos River, to divert water from Oyster Creek. The second phase will focus on the construction of a drainage control structure. The effort is projected to cost $6 million with the city agreeing to cover half of the expenses. Construction on Phase I is slated to begin this fall.
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Cloud computing - changing how we use technology
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Cloud computing - some say it could change the way we use technology forever. Others say it is an abstract idea that won't ever be satisfactory. Whichever camp one sides with, cloud computing has become one of the latest buzz phrases in the computer world.
So what is cloud computing? Actually, the "cloud" represents a computer network, whether a local intranet or the ubiquitous Internet. And in the cloud are all of the resources a computer user needs - including software, hardware, document storage and more. Individuals using cloud computing do not require software on their individual computers - they just turn to the "cloud" for the applications they need.
Why is it called "cloud" computing? The term comes from cloud symbols often used to represent the Internet in diagrams and charts.[more]
Brazoria County to ask for $2 million in stimulus funds
Brazoria County officials plan to apply for about $2 million in stimulus funding to improve energy efficiency in county buildings, said County Judge Joe King (pictured). The funding will be used in facilities to reduce the amount of electricity and other fuels used by the county, King said.
Among the improvements to facilities being considered are installing a more efficient air conditioning system, energy saving windows and new light fixtures. The air conditioning system at the courthouse is old, King said. Improvements also would be made at the adult detention center and the courthouse east annex if the county receives the stimulus funds, county officials said.
Aransas Pass fires city manager, names interim
The Aransas Pass City Council has ousted City Manager Kandi Hubert and named municipal judge and consultant Mike Sullinger as the position's interim. The announcement marks the third time Sullinger has been named to the post. He will command an $85,000 annual salary, the same Hubert made before she was terminated.
Aransas Pass has named four city managers in as many years. Mayor Tommy Knight said city leaders are going to "try to get it right this time." He said a search for Sullinger's permanent replacement will begin immediately with intensive background checks.
Frenship trustees name lone superintendent finalist
David Vroonland (pictured), assistant superintendent of Allen Independent School District, stands as lone finalist for the position of superintendent at Frenship ISD.
Vroonland has served as head of Allen ISD for the past three years, overseeing a district with 18,000 students and 18 campuses. He has also served as principal of Allen High School and Erickson Middle School. Per state law, Vroonland must wait 21 days from his selection as lone finalist while his new contract is finalized.
Lockhart council approves issuing $6.1M in certificates
The Lockhart City Council has decided to issue $6.1 million in certificate-of-obligation bonds for municipal upgrades. City Finance Director Jeff Hinson said the bids' interest rates were considerably lower than he initially estimated, which will save the city during the life of the bonds.
The bond package will likely fund street and drainage repair, the construction of an animal shelter, upgrades to the Dr. Eugene Clark Library complex, sidewalk improvements and the purchase of a new fire truck. The funds are expected to be delivered in mid-June.
Marshall ISD sets June deadline for applications
Marshall Independent School District board members have set a June 26 deadline for superintendent applications in a meeting with an educational service, which will assist in the search. The first round of interviews is set to begin July 6-10.
Trustees have listed on questionnaires their personal comments, requirements and preferences regarding the future superintendent. Forms for the public requesting the same information will be available for download on the school's Web site in the coming weeks. School Board President Rick McMinn said they would like to get as many people as possible involved with the initiative. "[We] are looking forward to any input the public wants to share," McMinn said.
Hedley board reaches agreement with Hill
Hedley school district Superintendent Bryan Hill (pictured) is set to leave his post after reaching a settlement with the school board. After a 30-year tenure with the district, his last day is set for the end of June. Nearly 15 of those years were spent as principal.
Hill said his agreement to leave includes a year's salary for pension. According to the Texas Education Agency, Hill earned $71,611 annually. James Lee Potts, school board president, said the agreement will allow "Mr. Hill the ability to pursue other interests and permits the board to pursue hiring another superintendent."
Calhoun County seeking $166,666 state grant
A Calhoun County commissioner recently applied for a $166,666 grant to help pay for a project to mitigate flooding caused by erosion at the intersection of Ocean Drive and Magnolia Beach. County commissioners also hired an engineer to develop specifications for improvements to Ocean Drive.
The Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) is administering the grant, said County Judge Michael Pfeifer. The project qualifies for the grant administered by ORCA because flooding makes the road impassable during high tides and heavy rainfall. Commissioners said work to raise about 2,000 feet of the road could begin within 90 days after the grant is awarded.
Where are they now?
Where do folks go when they leave state government? Some go to work in the private sector or for nonprofits. Some transition to executive-level positions in higher education while others may seek elected local government positions. And some just retire and spend a lot of time with their grandkids at the fishin' hole. This column focuses on where former state government officials and employees are now.
Steve Carriker served as a member of the Texas House from 1983 to 1988. He was then elected to the Texas Senate, where he served from 1988 to 1995. After leaving the Senate, he was named executive vice president and COO of the Corporation for the Development of Community Health Centers. Today, he is executive director of the Texas Association of Community Development Corporations.
Bill Haley served as a member of the Texas House from 1979 to 1989 and then as a member of the Texas Senate from 1989 to 1995. Upon leaving the Senate, he was hired as executive director of a statewide association. He currently is a lobbyist and is a student in the Master of Arts program in Political Science at Texas State University-San Marcos.
FEMA awards Orange Co. nearly $5M for recovery
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded nearly $5 million for Orange County to pay for cleaning up debris left from Hurricane Ike and to reimburse the county for other storm-related expenses.
Public health and safety were the primary reasons to award nearly $3.2 million for debris removal, said Brad Harris, a federal coordinating officer for FEMA. Orange County also received a $1.7 million grant to reimburse the county for taking such emergency measures as relocating prisoners and evidence, evacuating residents and opening roads following the storm, Harris said. FEMA is reimbursing the total cost of both the protective measures and debris removal because the projects were performed during the eligibility period. Once FEMA reimburses the State of Texas, further management of the grant funds, including payments to organizations performing the services, is the obligation of the state, he said.
Gladewater plans to begin dam rehab in late summer
Gladewater officials expect to begin renovations on the Lake Gladewater Dam by late summer, said City Manager James Stokes (pictured) recently reported.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, however, must approve some changes to the project's original specifications recently submitted by the engineering firm designing the dam repair project. The engineering firm found four additional leaks that must be repaired, said Stokes, who said he hopes to award bids for the project by the end of July.
Round Rock ISD delays action on $8M rec center
Following many speakers who objected to building a new $8 million recreation center near Round Rock High School, trustees for the Round Rock Independent School District postponed a planned vote to build the facility planned as a joint project with the City of Round Rock.
School officials said they plan to obtain more detailed information, especially about the security concerns raised by those who addressed the board, before giving final approval for the recreation center. Officials had planned to begin construction on the 50,000-square-foot recreation center in September with proceeds from bonds approved by voters in 2001. The facility is designed to house a large indoor turf field, an 8,000-square-foot cardio/weight training area, an elevated walking track and rooms for aerobics and childcare.
Central Texas College approves nursing facility
Trustees for Central Texas College (CTC) recently approved an $11 million construction contract for an 85,000-square-foot nursing facility. Construction on the new nursing building is expected to begin in early July, CTC officials said.
The new nursing building, which is to be located next to Tarleton State University-Central Texas in Killeen, is scheduled to be open for classes in spring 2011 and will cost nearly $23 million once fully completed, said Chancellor Jim Anderson. Once completed, the new facility will double the space now available to the CTDC nursing program, Anderson said. Tarleton State University and Metroplex Hospital will share the facility with CTC, he said.
FEMA awards $3.7 million for Baytown debris removal
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently approved a $3.7 million grant for the City of Baytown to pay for the removal of debris left from Hurricane Ike and monitoring the removal of the debris.
Baytown is eligible for the grant because the monitoring work was performed from September through December 2008 and completed before the April 24 deadline required for 100 percent federal reimbursement, said a representative from FEMA. The grant is a portion of the more than $958 million in Public Assistance disaster funds obligated to Texas since Hurricane Ike hit the coast in September 2008.
League City council terminates city attorney
League City council members recently voted to fire Dick Gregg Jr. as the city attorney. Council members also selected former city attorney Arnold Polanco as the interim city attorney. Polanco formerly served as city manager in League City until 2007.
City leaders are now in the process of drafting a request for qualifications to select a new city attorney.
Uvalde CISD seeking federal funds to upgrade facilities
The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District recently applied for $1.191 million in funding from the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, according to Superintendent Wendell Brown (pictured). The superintendent proposed two projects that could be paid for if the district is approved for the funding. The first project is a district-wide facility upgrade of heating and cooling systems and roofing. The district currently has budgeted $50,000 to upgrade HVAC systems and roofing renovations and repairs, but the estimated cost to upgrade the infrastructure is $1.1 million, Brown said. The district has no funding budgeted for the Head Start project.
The second project would be to spend $1.3 million to improve and develop Head Start facilities. Current facilities for Head Start are fragmented and inconsistent, Brown said. The new congressional act provides $6 million in federal funds to upgrade school facilities to make the buildings more energy efficient and more reliant on renewable sources of energy.
Midland to ask for state grant to build new ATV park
Midland city council members recently authorized parks and recreation staff to apply for a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to build a new park for riders of ATVs and dirt bikes.
The grant, if approved, will pay for 80 percent of the cost of the new park and the city will pay 20 percent of the cost. Work on the park could begin next year if the city is approved for the grant.
Orange begins planning
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.