|Volume 7, Issue 18 · Friday, May 8, 2009|
'Transfer 101' targets community college students
Goal is more job-seekers with college degrees in workforce
More job-seekers with college degrees entering the workforce in Texas is the goal of a new initiative involving higher education officials statewide. The program, Transfer 101: From Community College to University seeks to encourage more community college students to transfer to four-year institutions. It was developed by higher education officials from The University of Texas System and throughout the state.
The "Transfer 101" initiative is a collaborative partnership of the UT System, the Texas A&M University System and the Texas Association of Community Colleges, a nonprofit association that includes all 50 public community college districts in the state.
Helping create a strong identity for community college students is one of the goals, according to Martha Ellis (pictured), associate vice chancellor for community college partnerships at The UT System.
"We know that providing succinct, accurate and easily accessible information for academic planning is vital, and part of what this initiative aims to do is strengthen partnerships so that we increase transfer options for students," said Ellis. "Students explain that there is a lack of user-friendly, jargon-free, available information for themselves and their families. For this reason, a public awareness campaign is critical to ensure more students are informed about resources that could help them make a transition from a community college to a university."[more]
Lamar Beckworth named interim director of DPS
After Clark resigns amid allegations of sexual harassment
Col. Lamar Beckworth (left) has been named interim director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) after previous Director Col. Stanley E. Clark (right) resigned from that post amid allegations of sexual harassment from at least two DPS employees. Beckworth's appointment was effective immediately. He will serve as interim director of the state's law enforcement agency until a permanent director is named and has been advanced from lieutenant colonel to colonel.
Beckworth began his career with DPS as a driver license trooper in Irving 31 years ago. He served five years as a Highway Patrol trooper in Kilgore. He was promoted to Highway Patrol sergeant and was stationed in Brownfield for two years and served as lieutenant in Garland for two years. In 1993, he was promoted to major and was regional commander in Lubbock for nine years. He then served as assistant chief of the Highway Patrol for six years and was named lieutenant colonel and interim assistant director of DPS in 2008.
Allan B. Polunsky, chair of the Texas Public Safety Commission that has oversight over DPS, called Beckworth a "logical choice" for interim director. "He will be able to step immediately into the position and provide the leadership to take the agency through the end of the legislative session."[more]
Don't miss another issue of SPI's national newsletter
We're three weeks into publication of our free weekly national newsletter, the State & Local Government Pipeline, and the response has been overwhelming. We're adding subscribers daily from all over the country.
This week's edition features a column by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. President and CEO Mary Scott Nabers exploring the importance of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests as a means of gaining a competitive edge in government contracting. The newsletter also features links to documents outlining where different pools of money from the federal stimulus bill are going, an overview of how different states are using the funds, stimulus-related news briefs, links to stimulus Web sites of all 50 states, a calendar of events and more.
Our objective is to make this publication the premier source for state and local government news and contracting opportunities. It targets government contractors and government executives and is patterned after SPI's highly successful Texas Government Insider newsletter.
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 and to view archives of past issues.
Melinchuk new TPWD deputy executive director
Ross Melinchuk (pictured), who has more than 30 years experience in the natural resources field, has been named Deputy Executive Director for Natural Resources at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, effective June 8. Melinchuk, who most recently was director of policy for Ducks Unlimited (DU), will head up TPWD's natural resources divisions in his new role - including the department's Wildlife, Coastal and Inland Fisheries Divisions.
He will become a member of the executive management team along with Deputy Executive Director for Operations Scott Boruff and Deputy Executive Director for Administration Gene McCarty. Boruff's duties will now change to oversee the Law Enforcement, State Parks and Infrastructure Divisions, as well as the agency's land conservation branch and international liaison affairs with Mexico. Boruff will maintain a leadership role in department conservation endeavors and will continue to lead updates of TPWD's strategic Land and Water Conservation and Recreation Plan. McCarty will continue to oversee the Communications, Finance and Administrative Resources, Human Resources and Information Technology Divisions and Internal Affairs.
Melinchuk's career with Ducks Unlimited began in 1992 and before becoming Director of Public Policy, he served as Director of State and Federal Coordination. He also previously served as the liaison to state agencies involved in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). Before joining DU, he served as NAWMP coordinator for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. He began his professional career at the Saskatchewan Environment Agency as a wildlife biologist and was later named NAWMP coordinator. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Guelph and a master's degree from Lakehead University.
Pat Pringle, Ph.D., executive director, Education Service Center Region XIII
Career highlights and education: Education: Ph.D. and B.S. from UT Austin and a master's degree from the University of Houston. Highlights: Being named as superintendent of schools in Poth ISD in South Texas at age 35 is surpassed only by the board of directors selecting me as the executive director of Region XIII in 2000. Working under Commissioner Mike Moses and Julian Shaddix at the Texas Education Agency taught me a great deal about leadership and how to lead through collaboration.
What I like best about my job is: Region XIII is an amazing collection of innovative and energized team members who keep their eye on the ball - serving and caring for kids and their learning. This is true across the entire organization from the print shop and beyond. I am fortunate and honored to have the opportunity to work with each one of them.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: If you do one thing well, hire good people in every position and create an environment that facilitates success. Part of that facilitation is to encourage responsible risk-taking with accountability.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Value and protect the culture that the team at Region XIII has developed and proven to be successful. Further, always remember our middle name, education service center. Finally, never lose sight while working with and serving school superintendents on a daily basis of how difficult and important that job is.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: In town, at the Lady Bird Lake running trail. Out of town, fishing on the Texas coast.
People would be surprised to know that I: participated (you could hardly call it running) in 20 consecutive Capitol 10,000 races from 1983 to 2003. In those 20 years, on occasion one or more of my sons joined me to run in the heat, rain, sleet (really) and perfect weather. Also, I am a fifth generation Austinite - my great-grandfather was in his 20s when he was a worker who helped build the State Capitol in the mid to late 1880s.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Many people think that education service centers only serve smaller schools. While Region XIII values each district and charter school regardless of size, we have been very successful in forming working relationships with our largest districts as well. The importance of forming relationships with all school districts, charters and their boards is crucial to having an opportunity to serve.
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.
Audit report: TYC still facing some deficiencies
A follow-up audit of the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) released this week shows that although TYC has improved its investigation into alleged abuse and mistreatment of some of its residents and has strengthened security and monitoring regarding those youth, the agency still needs to strengthen its management of state resources, including contracts, staffing levels and facilities and its intake and investigation processes.
The report also noted that the agency has implemented 34 of the 47 recommendations of a prior State Auditor's report. The audit report took issue with the agency for not having competitively bid several contracts it awarded, not increasing the number of certified sex offender counselors in its treatment programs and not ensuring that its Office of Inspector General received and investigated all reported allegations of mistreatment or initiated and completed investigations of alleged mistreatment within the agency's set timeline.
In a memo to agency staff, TYC Executive Commissioner Cherie Townsend (pictured) said that the agency has made "significant and positive changes" in many area, including safety of residents and staff, better accountability and others. She said the TYC has taken "aggressive measures to ensure compliance with our mission and with the expectation of lawmakers and the public," and said additional adjustments will be required.
TxDOT officiallly opens SH 45 Southeast toll road
The State Highway 45 Southeast toll road, designed to allow drivers to avoid traffic through central Austin, is officially open. Drivers now may travel nonstop from north of Georgetown to the Buda/Creedmoor area on the 55-mile toll road east of I-35. The newly opened portion links SH 130 to I-35, starting at U.S. 183 near Mustang Ridge and ending at the intersection of I-35 and FM 1327 north of Buda.
Motorists can drive free on the new toll road through June 1. TxTag users can travel the roadway free until July 1. The new roadway uses all-electronic tolling with no cash toll booths. A driver using the roadway without a TxTAG will have his car license plate photographed and the owner of the vehicle will be billed for the amount of the toll. The toll rates for passenger vehicles and pickup trucks with a TxTag will be $1 at the mainline gantry and 66 cents at the tolled ramps on SH 45 SE.
Texas Senate confirms new TCEQ commissioner
The Texas Senate has confirmed Bryan Shaw (pictured), an associate professor in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department of Texas A&M University, as commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). His term expires Aug. 31, 2013.
A majority of Shaw's courses at TAMU focused on air pollution engineering, and his research projects there concentrated on a variety of related topics: from air pollution abatement to emission factor development.
Shaw, a native of Bryan, holds a bachelor's and master's degree from TAMU and a doctoral degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He serves as a member of several committees for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board.
State streamlines copier contracts for savings
State Comptroller Susan Combs said Texas stands to save $33.5 million over the next three years "by negotiating the best possible deals on (photo)copiers."
As procedure stands, state agencies can choose from more than 950 copier models, most of which have similar functions. State officials plan to bargain with contractors and limit those choices to 11 standardized models, saving a projected 36 percent compared to what agencies currently spend.
The copier initiative is the latest in a series of Texas Smart Buys (TSB), a program launched last December designed to save money and leverage Texas' buying power. The photocopier contract, which takes effect this month, stands to boost TSB's estimated savings of $28 million a year to $39 million a year. For more information, click here.
New Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney appointed
John Malcolm Bales (pictured) has been appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The Nacogdoches native has previously served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney and most recently as Chief of the Criminal Division for the District. Bales replaces Rebecca Gregory, who left the Department of Justice on April 1.
In his new role, Bales will oversee an $8 million budget this year and maintain a 43-county area, directing thousands of prosecutions and civil cases.
Bales holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from UT School of Law.
Comptroller: Texas positioned for speedy recovery
The fifth in a series of reports by the State Comptroller, Texas in Focus: Central Texas provides information regarding a detailed economic outlook for the 20-county region of Central Texas. The report addresses such issues as health care, higher education and the military.
The report predicts that the Central Texas region's jobs will increase slightly in 2009 and job growth of 21 percent is expected by 2013. It examines the region's economic development, demographics, infrastructure, health care and education - key issues that present both opportunities and challenges for the Texas economy.
The report is designed to equip local decision-makers and business leaders with vital information to help plan for economic growth.
TxDOT to transform Texas 255 to automated toll road
In a move to streamline and usher traffic more quickly, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will transform the Camino Columbia Toll Road, or Texas 255, to a fully automated system. Cash and swipe cards will no longer be accepted once the system is in place, meaning motorists will be required to display TxTag windshield stickers.
The new system will allow traffic to maneuver freely without stopping at the toll device to pay or swipe prepaid cards. To register for a TxTag account, click here, or call toll free 800-468-9824.
Schreiner selects new provost and vice president
Charlie McCormick, dean of academic affairs at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania, has been selected to serve as the new provost and vice president for academic affairs at Schreiner University. He replaces Michael Looney, who left to become president of Pikeville College in Kentucky.
In his new role, McCormick will oversee the liberal arts college's academic programs and faculty proceedings. He will also assume leadership of the campus when the president is absent.
Texas Tech names interim dean of engineering college
Jon C. Strauss (pictured) has been selected to serve as interim dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering at Texas Tech University, effective June 15.
Strauss, president emeritus of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., since 1997, has held teaching and administrative positions at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Southern California, the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University. He is a member of the National Science Board.
Strauss holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin, a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctoral degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology.
Bill would allow local entities to use GSA schedules
Legislation expected to be filed soon in the U.S. House would, if passed, allow state and local governments to use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to purchase products and services through the General Service Administration's (GSA) multiple award schedules.
Thus, local entities would be able to purchase the same products and services that federal agencies buy from contractors. The cooperative purchasing allowed through GSA would be a boon for both local government entities as well as contractors, who could cast a wider net for purchasers. There are already some GSA schedules that allow non-federal entities to purchase off them, such as for law enforcement, firefighting and security products and for IT equipment.
At the federal level, GSA officials say they have already identified $40 billion to $50 billion in funding appropriated to federal agencies for which contract vehicles such as GSA schedules can be used. That amount could increase significantly if the program were opened up to local government entities as well.
Lone Star College System purchases former HP campus
Lone Star College System (LSCS) has purchased the core of the Hewlett Packard North Campus in northwest Harris County, marking one of the largest such acquisitions in higher education history. The system acquired 1.2 million square feet of space in eight major buildings with parking garages and supporting infrastructure.
Chancellor Richard Carpenter (pictured) said the purchase of the "storied facility" will help LSCS fulfill its promise to the community, adding the system enjoys "a solid reputation for delivering what we promise."
LSCS, which includes five colleges and six satellite campuses, enrolled more than 52,000 regular students and 14,000 students in non-credit or informal courses last fall. Plans call for instructional classes to begin at the new site by spring 2010.
FEMA allocates more than $18M for GLO debris removal
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has distributed more than $18 million to the state of Texas to pay for debris removal operations managed by the Texas General Land Office.
FEMA is covering 100 percent of debris removal costs in relation to Hurricane Ike damages incurred last year. The funds, part of the agency's Public Assistance grant program, comprise $826 million sent to the state since September. The state disburses and is charged with overseeing the funds.
Texas A&M-Commerce selects three new administrators
Officials for Texas A&M University-Commerce recently selected a new provost and vice president for academic affairs, a new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a new vice president of intuitional advancement to round out the administrative team of the university.
President Dan Jones announced the selection of Dr. Larry Lemanski (left) as the new provost and vice president for academic affairs. He currently serves as senior vice president for research and strategic initiatives at Temple University and a professor of anatomy and cell biology in the College of Medicine. He has a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Dr. Christine Evans (middle) will be the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Evans, who currently serves as chair of the geosciences department at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, has a Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming. Both are expected to begin their new duties on July 1.
Randy Van Deven (right) is expected to begin his new duties as vice president of institutional advancement at Texas A&M-Commerce in mid-summer. Van Deven, an engineer, currently serves as director of major gifts for Tennessee Technological University.
Pasadena City Council approves fire stations
The Pasadena City Council has given the go-ahead for construction of two new fire stations serving Districts 3 and 4. Each station will cost a projected $1.8 million.
Fire Station 3 will be reconstructed at the same location, whereas the station that services District 4 will be relocated a few blocks away from the current facility.
The council has also approved construction of a new fire truck facility at the city's fair grounds. A contract for library shelving and displays has been deferred, however.
New A&M vice president to be recommended
Dr. Jeffrey R. Seemann (pictured) will be recommended to the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents as vice president for research at Texas A&M University. If confirmed, he will succeed interim Vice President Dr. Theresa A. Maldonado.
Seemann has served as dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences at the University of Rhode Island and as director of the Rhode Island Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service since 2001. He has also held administrative and faculty positions at the University of Nevada System and the University of Nevada at Reno.
Seemann holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a doctoral degree from Stanford University.
Tri-State Summit to Focus on High-Speed Rail
Officials from Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas will gather Saturday in Marshall for "National Train Day" to discuss how the three states might be linked by higher-speed rail. The event is hosted by the East Texas Council of Governments, East Texas Corridor Council, Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments, Ouachita (Louisiana) Council of Governments and North Central Texas Council of Governments. Elected officials and transportation partners from the three states have been invited to attend. The summit will be at the courthouse in Marshall.
The Ark-La-Tex Rail Summit will focus on recent progress made to bring higher-speed rail to the region and short- and long-term goals related to the South Central Higher Speed Rail Corridor. The summit will conclude with the signing of a tri-state memorandum of understanding that will establish agreements in principle to actively pursue federal funds for higher-speed passenger rail in the corridor.
The Ark-La-Tex MOU that will be signed Saturday will be in addition to previous RTC commitments to interregional transportation cooperation and memorandums of understanding with the Heart of Texas region (Waco, Texas area), Metroplan (Little Rock, Arkansas area) and East Texas Council of Governments and East Texas Corridor Council (Northeast Texas).
Interim director appointed for Tech's Burkhart Center
Janice Magness (pictured) has been announced as interim director for the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research in the College of Education at Texas Tech University. She will continue in her current charge as program director of the Burkhart Center's Collin Burkhart Transition Academy. The center, established in 2005, provides services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families and the professionals who work with them.
Magness, a Tech graduate whose career spans 30 years of classroom experience, spent 18 of those years as a content mastery teacher for the Lubbock Independent School District, working primarily with autistic students.
El Centro College addressing nursing shortage
As a nursing shortage continues throughout the country, El Centro College and NursesNow this week signed an agreement that will help nurses educated in Mexico prepare to practice nursing in the United States.
Sondra Flemming, Vice President of Health and Economic Development at ECC, said this week's ceremony "signifies a special agreement in which El Centro will provide the final six weeks of NNI's intensive, seven-month training program that prepares degreed nurses from Mexico to practice in the United States." Students who have passed the nursing licensure exam are eligible to sit for the exam when they enter into the six-week transition course.
That course combines classroom work and clinical experience to prepare nurses from Mexico for assignments in Texas and throughout the United States. To work in the United States, they must be licensed by the Texas Board of Nursing. Nurses who enter the program must pass a rigorous selection process and are trained to provide superior patient care at the international level. The screening process includes an evaluation of core language skills, clinical knowledge base, practical clinical skills, critical thinking abilities and interviews with experienced nursing professionals.
UNT-Dallas designated free-standing university status
The University of North Texas at Dallas has officially been granted status as a free-standing university by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), having reached its goal of more than 1,000 full-time students enrolled. The distinction marks UNTD as the first and only public university in the city.
UNTD Vice Chancellor John Ellis Price (pictured) said that since the university has met this key goal, "We can continue to plow forward in our efforts to open the doors of UNT Dallas as a four-year university in 2010."
University officials must still also hire faculty and staff and oversee construction of facilities before the school begins its track as an independent, four-year institution.
Round Rock plans to build new indoor sports facility
In an ongoing effort to brand Round Rock the Sports Capital of Texas, the city plans to build an estimated 60,000-square-foot indoor sports facility near McNeil Park. Real estate negotiations are under way, according to City Manager Jim Nuse (pictured).
Nuse said the location "provides real advantages for the special events center project," adding if negotiations are successful, the results could yield "significant economic development opportunities for the whole community."
The complex is expected to cost $38 million, although the facility's size and design have not been finalized. If the city council approves, a majority of funding will be provided by the city's hotel occupancy tax revenue, otherwise known as HOT funds.
Fort Bend moves on emergency services building
Fort Bend County commissioners recently OK'd construction of a new building for the county's Emergency Medical Services Department. Commissioners authorized staff to negotiate with a contractor to determine the cost of designing and constructing it.
Voters in 2006 approved funding for several new county facilities, including the new EMS facility to house administrative offices and EMS staff for Medic 1 region. The budget for the new building is $1.5 million, said Don Brady, the facilities and planning manager for the county.
The county's goal is to ensure the new building complements the extension agency offices, which are located nearby and that the building provide more room for the EMS administrative staff and give greater protection from storm conditions, Brady said.
Boerne faces shortfall, implements hiring freeze
As the City of Boerne faces a $1 million revenue shortfall, officials have decided to place plans to augment the city's volunteer fire department on the back burner.
Factors including decreased earnings on city investments, lower-than-expected fees from development permits and stagnant property values have all contributed to the hiring freeze currently imposed. Otherwise an additional nine full-time firefighters would have been brought on board, according to Fire Chief Doug Meckel (pictured).
The hiring freeze - projected to save more than $442,000 this fiscal year - also affects other budgeted positions currently unfilled in the police, library, streets and utility departments.
State grant pays for wind turbines for colonias
A group of 15 Science Academy of South Texas students recently designed and built 30-foot wind turbines at a cost of about $5,000 each that may be used as prototypes of turbines to power homes in colonias. The students built a 30-foot turbine at their school to power security lights and another turbine to operate a greenhouse in a park operated by Hidalgo County. The second part of the project now requires the students to create a set of plans, including a list of materials found at the hardware store so that a person with no engineering background could build a wind turbine in a backyard with little assistance.
Using a two-year grant from the State Energy Conservation Office, the students designed the wind turbines that can operate in low, 12 and 14 mph wind speeds experienced in the Rio Grande Valley, said Karmal Sarkar, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas-Pan American. Along with Subhash Bose, a mechanical engineering professor, Sarkar is seeking a $5 million grant that would allow the construction of 400 wind turbines to power colonia homes to lower or eliminate electricity costs and improve the lives of colonia residents, who often cannot afford electricity for their homes.
Killeen ISD stimulus funds may go for security, tech
Officials of the Killeen Independent School District are mulling the use of some of its $5.7 million in federal stimulus funding to increase security at all district schools and to purchase new technology to improve communication between schools and expand broadband service throughout the district.
Superintendent Robert Muller (pictured) recommends that all schools in the district have a security vestibule where visitors must sign-in before entering classroom areas, cafeterias or gymnasiums, explaining that some older schools have been retrofitted, but that visitors to some schools in the district can proceed directly to classrooms without registering with school officials.
While improving technology is not a highly visible improvement, upgrading the district's technology should provide more efficient communication and improve the educational experience for students, said John Evans, the district's chief technology officer.
Ore City ISD approves more projects for new school
Citing costs for a new elementary school that came in more than $1 million less than budgeted, trustees for the Ore City Independent School District recently authorized six new projects. Construction on the new projects should begin this month, with completion of the school expected in time for the opening of the 2010-2011 school year.
Ore City residents approved $8.5 million to build a new elementary school to house pre-kindergarten through third grade. District officials also budgeted an additional $1 million to build the new 52,239-square-foot elementary school along with a new 6,600-square-foot gym at the school. After accepting a $7.3 million bid for the project, trustees approved the following additions to the project.
Denison to create park on historic church property
The Denison City Council recently approved the creation of a park on the historic Hopewell Church property to honor three men who were connected to the church.
City Manager Larry Cruise and Councilman Obie Greenleaf (pictured) recommended creation of the park to honor Augustus Terrell, the namesake for a Denison elementary school; Alan Griggs, a Baptist minister who established the North Texas Baptist College; and Thurgood Marshall, a justice on the U.S. Supreme court, all of whom are connected to the church. They proposed that the new park be named the Terrell Griggs Marshall Park and suggested placing a gazebo on the property, along with the bell from the old church.
Council members will discuss options for the park and estimated costs at a later meeting, city officials said.
Sugar Land moving toward new recreation center
After studying an alternative site on a University of Houston campus, Sugar Land city officials recently recommended building the new Sugar Land Recreation Center on Matlage Way, near Sugar Land Memorial Park. Using the Matlage Way site could save as much as $600,00 in costs because it does not require a detention pond, has better soils and the city already has an existing design contract for the building.
The Matlage site allows the recreation center, community center and senior center to be located in one area, within walking distance of the others. Other benefits are that it has an existing customer base with the senior center already located there, it is near the city's hike and bike trails and the recreation center can be open nights and weekends because supervision is already available at the community center during those times. The final design would require two months and with two months for permitting and bidding, construction is expected to take 14 months with a target opening date of January 2011.
UH one of six universities selected for DOE funds
The University of Houston has been selected to receive a share of $13 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The agency has announced six such recipients as part of the University Advanced Combustion and Emissions Controls research and development initiative, the aim of which is to improve fuel economies by helping develop high-efficiency internal combustion engines.
UH has been selected for negotiation of an award for a project that will enable a high conversion of nitrogen oxide under conditions commonly found in diesel or lean-burn gasoline engines.
Other colleges selected to receive DOE support include: the University of Connecticut, Michigan Technological University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin.
Harris County approves inmate tracking system
Plans for the Harris County Sheriff's Department to spend $7.6 million in federal stimulus dollars include the purchase of a new computer system to track inmates and jailers and a proposed helicopter unit to augment law enforcement on the ground.
The proposal, which would require $1.7 million to lease the helicopter, has so far faced opposition from Commissioner Steve Radack (pictured), who said he didn't think leasing the 'copter constituted "an effective use of the stimulus money."
The Commissioners Court is slated to hear pitches from other agencies seeking a share of the funds from the U.S. Department of Justice. The plan also calls for $2.5 million for new computer systems and $1.7 million to implement an electronic medical record system for inmates. The deadline for the grant application is May 18.
Missouri City, Sugar Land to partner for SH 6 upgrade
Missouri and Sugar Land city officials recently agreed to pay $474,420 for design costs for the 23-mile section of State Highway 6 between Interstate 10 and FM 521 to improve mobility and safety along the busy stretch of highway.
Fort Bend and Harris counties, the city of Houston, the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Texas Department of Transportation also participated in developing an access management plan to study both short- and long-term improvements along SH6. Recommendations in the plan include the addition of raised medians, right-turn lanes, cross-access improvements, driveway consolidation and eventually implementing long-term strategies such as pedestrian, transit and landscape improvements. The estimated total cost for all the recommendations is $27.5 million.
The agreement between Missouri City and Sugar Land focuses only on raised medians and encompasses only the 10-mile segment of SH 6 located between Voss Road and FM 521. Missouri City agreed to pay up to $376,000 from its capital improvement program, while Sugar Land agreed to contribute up to $98,604.
Royce City ISD studying expansion of high school
Trustees for the Royce City Independent School District recently prioritized four projects to expand the high school out of eight proposed projects costing about $6 million.
Board members identified the addition of three new science labs and an art lab at an estimated cost of almost $1.7 million as the highest priority item, followed by additions and renovations to locker rooms in the multi-purpose building and increasing locker room space for the girl's athletics department at a cost of about $2.07 million. The fourth priority was a new sub-varsity gymnasium with an estimated price tag of $1.4 million. The group rated as non-priority items a new black box theatre for the existing auditorium, fixed seating in the sub-varsity gymnasium and renovations to the visitor's locker room at the stadium.
The district has $4.7 million remaining in bond funds approved earlier by voters available without asking voters to approve additional bonds, said Jimmy Butler, the district's chief financial officer. Superintendent Randy Hancock (pictured) told trustees he is not recommending another bond election because of current economic conditions. The cost estimates provided to trustees may be as much as 30 percent more than actual costs now that construction costs have fallen, two construction managers advised.
Central Texas officials implement warning system
Officials of the Heart of Texas Council of Government and six area counties are urging residents and business owners to sign up for a new emergency notification system that can deliver messages to area residents via telephone, cell phone, e-mail and text message. The emergency messages can target areas geographically and may range from weather alerts to a notification of a broken waterline in a neighborhood, said Harold Ferguson, homeland security coordinator for HOTCOG.
Up to four contact methods may be selected by each home and business that registers for the service. Landline telephone numbers for six counties already are loaded into the system and residents may call HOTCOG, city or county officials to remove their landline telephone numbers from the system if they prefer not to receive emergency alerts.
A federal grant paid for the notification system and implementation for the first year. Clifton, Crawford, Mexia, Bruceville-Eddy and Meridian are among the 17 municipalities participating in the new emergency warning system.
Chad Park named to Parkland board of managers
Chad Park (pictured) has been named to Parkland Health and Hospital System's board of managers. He fills the vacancy left when Dr. Allan Shulkin resigned his position. Park is a doctor of dental surgery.
He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and his doctor of dental surgery degree from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He will graduate with an executive degree from Harvard Business School next year.
Texas military bases would benefit from Obama budget
Military installations in Texas would benefit from the $1.1 billion in military construction projects outlined in President Barack Obama's $3.4 trillion budget proposal.
Among the proposals are $76 million for construction projects at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis. Included in the Fort Sam Houston projects is a $21 million burn rehabilitation facility, while an urban assault course is slated for Camp Bullis. Lackland Air Force Base's allocation of nearly $230 million would include a new $5.2 million student center and library and a new hospital and dental center. Corpus Christi Army Depot would get an $11.2 million helicopter facility. Construction projects totaling $348 million would go to For Bliss and Fort Hood would get $211.7 million for new projects. Another $38.2 million is set aside for an Army Reserve Center and Navy aviation training facility in Houston.
Freeport police cruisers to get new cameras
A $31,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant will be used by the City of Freeport to purchase new cameras for police cruisers. The cameras are capable of sending video footage to the police station using a wireless Internet connection, according to acting City Manager Jeff Pynes. The system should arrive in less than two weeks and will be installed in all police cruisers.
SPI wins 'Best of Local Business' award
For the second consecutive year, Strategic Partnerships, Inc. has been selected by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA) to receive the 2009 Austin Award in the Business Management Consultants category. The USLBA "Best of Local Business" Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA honors companies that it identifies as having exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These companies enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.
Nationwide, only 1 in 70 (1.4%) 2008 Award recipients qualified as 2009 Award Winners. Thus SPI joins some elite company as a two-time winner. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USLBA and data provided by third parties.
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Technology continues to change school classrooms
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Want to get a teenager's attention? Send a text message.
The "Thumbs Generation," as teenagers are called today, has grown up with technology that fits into their hands, requires thumbs to operate and has significant captivating features. Most of them are addicted to instant messaging, electronic games and snapping photos with cell phones. They love technology and are comfortable with it.
Because of this, it makes perfect sense to argue that technology should be intertwined with successful and memorable educational experiences. With every passing year, technology advances are becoming a significant part of K-12 classroom teaching success.
Some schools are making mass purchases of laptop computers. Others have plans in the works to do the same. The object is to provide every student with a computer.
One of the newest technologies being tested by some schools is electronic textbooks. For the last couple of years, the Forney, Plano and Midland school districts have moved away from standard hardbound textbooks and their students use electronic textbooks.[more]
Hidalgo levee project described as economic boon
Levee rehabilitation in Hidalgo County is expected to create nearly 5,000 jobs and make a $508 million economic impact on the area, according to a report recently provided to the county.
The barriers along the Rio Grande include nearly 20 miles of "levee wall," a compromise made by county officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that allows the reinforced levees to become part of the agency's border fence and avert the necessity to use private land to build the border fence. The Hidalgo County levee project to repair 153 miles of levee is being paid for with $343 million in federal appropriations, stimulus money and local funds, said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas (pictured).
Joshua to prioritize capital improvement projects
A Joshua citizen group is scheduled to present a list of prioritized capital improvement projects to city council members on July 16 to decide how many and which projects to pursue during the next two years.
The Citizen Capital Projects Study Committee currently is studying drainage improvements, street improvements and a new fire station among the projects to include in its report on project priorities and costs. The city can fund projects costing up to about $3.35 million without a tax increase, the city's financial consultant advised the study group. Adding 10 cents to the tax rate would allow the city to spend about $5.25 million while adding 15 cents would generate about $6.75 million, he said. A bond election could be called as early as Nov. 3.
Early approves agreement to finance $6M water line
The Early City Council recently authorized an agreement with the Texas Water Development Board to build a $6 million, eight-mile pipeline to bring treated water to the city.
The pipeline will connect the Brown County Water Improvement District's water treatment plant to Salt Creek, where it will connect to a two-million-gallon ground storage tank which is to be built. City officials then plan to build a second line from the storage tank to tie into the city's water line at Early Blvd., said City Administrator Ken Thomas.
Fairfield selects Looney
Tandberg, SPI plan videoconferencing seminar
Tandberg and Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) will sponsor a free half-day seminar, ConnecTexas, on Tuesday, May 12, from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at the Texas Hospital Association, 1108 Lavaca, in Austin. Agency attendees will learn how leaders in the public sector are using videoconferencing to reduce costs and work more effectively. The seminar will feature firsthand the latest innovations in visual communication with customer case studies, implementation of best practices and real-time demonstrations. For more information and to view the agenda, 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.