|Volume 7, Issue 23 · Friday, June 12, 2009|
2010 Census: Texas can't afford another under-count
Millions in federal funding at risk if all residents not counted
Texas stands to lose Congressional representation and millions of dollars in federal funding with an inaccurate count of residents in the approaching 2010 census. Obtaining an accurate count has become increasingly arduous over the years.
"The difficulty is finding people in the first place," said Karl Eschbach (pictured), state demographer of Texas at The University of Texas at San Antonio.
With some state residents living in violation of their lease or settling in unincorporated subdivisions known as colonias in South Texas, officials have found that outreach is limited and trust of the government is minimal, especially among immigrant and minority communities.
"Although there is nothing on the census form that questions immigration status or even place of birth," Eschbach said, "there's still some fear in providing their name and their family members' names" among the undocumented population.
Eschbach said the Census Bureau also faces what he calls "a linear trend of increasing suspicion."
"There's a concern about privacy, about whether marketers are trying to get information or scam us in some way. That kind of trend increases difficulty every 10 years," he said.[more]
Lopez named TxDOT district engineer for Austin
Will serve 11 counties in his new role with transportation agency
Carlos Lopez (pictured), the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) statewide director of traffic operations, is set to become the new district engineer for the 11-county Austin district. He replaces Bob Daigh, who retired this year.
Lopez joined TxDOT's Laredo Area Office in 1979 and became a field engineer in Austin's Design Division in 1982. He became a licensed professional engineer in 1987 and was selected as special projects engineer in 1988, when he transferred to the Maintenance and Operations Division's Traffic Engineering Section. He was named director of traffic operations in May 1999.
Lopez earned his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Elisa J. Garza, director of CHIP and Enrollment Broker Operations, Office of Eligibility Services, Health and Human Services Commission
Career highlights and education: On July 1, 1993, I began my career in Region 8 as a clerk at the Jourdanton office. Four months later, I served as one of two Texas Works Advisors in the Nixon office. Four years later, I worked as an eligibility examiner for approximately two years. In December 1999, I joined Region 7 as a Texas Works supervisor. In February 2003, I joined the state office and worked as a policy specialist through October 2006. On Nov. 1, 2006, I joined the Office of Eligibility Services team where I now serve as the Director of CHIP and Enrollment Broker. I am a graduate of Southwest Texas State University where I earned a BBA.
What I like best about my job is: Implementing a new process or software application to better serve our Texas families. My team and I implemented an online application to renew CHIP services. We've also implemented an application to pay the CHIP enrollment fee online. Empowering my team members to make decisions promotes success and creativity resulting in efficient and improved business processes.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Don't just accept change, EMBRACE it! As a government agency, change is constant.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Have fun and like what you do.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: at the movies watching an action film such as Taken.
People would be surprised to know that I: took swimming lessons at the age of 25 and now at 45 am taking piano lessons.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: The hearts of HHSC staff are definitely with the clients receiving services - from the elderly and disabled to the working single parents. HHSC is an agency that cares.
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.
TPWD officials select Michael Jensen as new CFO
Michael J. Jensen (pictured) has been selected to serve as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) new chief financial officer. In his new role, he will oversee the Administrative Resources Division.
Jensen most recently served as deputy director of Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS), a subsidiary of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Prior to that charge, he served as Deputy Director for Administration and Finance at the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) from 2004 to 2007.
Jensen holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a Juris Doctorate from Texas Tech University.
Secretary Andrade welcomes Mexican company officials
Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade recently welcomed officials representing 24 Mexican technology companies who plan on investing in Texas through the TechBA Austin program. The initiative - hosted at the IC2 Institute's Global Commercialization Group at The University of Texas at Austin - aims to foster economic development on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border.
Andrade, addressing the long-standing relationship between the regions, said Texas and Mexico have "a common history, a common culture and a shared border of more than 1,200 miles," adding state officials are proud of the "thriving relationship we enjoy with Mexico, as we realize that this back-and-forth flow of commerce is beneficial for both partners."
Andrade went on to highlight the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF), a $200 million initiative designed to expedite the development and commercialization of new technologies by recruiting qualified international research talent.
High court names chair of Access to Justice Commission
The Supreme Court of Texas has named Harry M. Reasoner (pictured) to lead the Texas Access to Justice Commission as chairman. He succeeds James B. Sales, who had served on the commission since 2004.
Reasoner, a partner in a prominent Houston-based firm, was first appointed to the Texas Access to Justice Commission in 2006. A recipient of the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Fifth Circuit, Reasoner has served on a number of Supreme Court of Texas committees and commissions.
Gov. Clements donates $100M to UT Southwestern
The largest single gift in the history of the UT Southwestern Medical Center - $100 million - is being made by former Texas Gov. Bill Clements.
"My goal in supporting UT Southwestern," said Clements in a written statement announcing the unrestricted donation "is to help encourage and advance scientific discovery and innovation, prepare the next generation of physicians for Texas and the nation, and ensure the delivery of world-class medical care." The pledge will be paid over four years.
The gift to UT Southwestern is not Clements' first. He gave $10 million to complete a clinical and medical research building in 2006 and $1.25 million in 1998 to help fund the medical research of new and promising faculty members.
Hurtt among finalists for San Francisco chief
The City of San Francisco has named three finalists for chief of police - and Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt (pictured) is among them. The city's mayor, however, has said the selection of the final candidate has been made but has not committed to taking the job after the city's Board of Supervisors cut millions of dollars from city public safety agency budgets. All thee of the finalists are male police chiefs in other cities.
Hurtt has said previously that he would like to continue to serve in Houston until the end of Mayor Bill White's term at the end of this year. Apparently, San Francisco's choice is having second thoughts after $82 million was cut from the police, fire and sheriff's department budgets.
Texas disaster relief: $1B from FEMA, $3B from HUD
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently topped the $1 billion mark in public assistance grants awarded to Texas to help pay for expenses caused by Hurricane Ike.
The $1 billion in FEMA funding was awarded to state, local and tribal governments as well as several nonprofit groups. The grants paid for such activities as evacuating residents, operating shelters, cleaning up debris and repairs to infrastructure such as roads, bridges, public buildings and public recreational facilities.
Included in that $1 billion total are $103 million to The University of Texas Medical Branch complex in Galveston to remove debris, repair buildings and replace equipment, $10 million to the Trinity Bay Conservation District for debris removal and $35 million to the Sam Houston Electric Cooperative in East Texas for emergency protective measures and to restore power.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just yesterday announced another allocation from that agency totaling $1.74 billion to Texas for disaster aid in relation to Hurricanes Ike and Gustav.
Texas had already received $1.31 billion in disaster recovery funds this year. Thursday's allocation brings the total HUD funds in Texas to more than $3 billion. HUD officials also noted that nearly $312 million is available to states that spend their existing funding on programs that reduce potential damages from future disasters.
Texas schools to get $11 million in kitchen equipment
More than $11 million worth of new kitchen equipment in Texas public schools will be purchased through federal stimulus funding administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The new equipment is aimed at providing more energy efficiency and increasing the nutritional value of school meals by replacing deep-fryer cooking methods and encouraging the use of more fresh ingredients.
More than 3,000 schools in Texas responded when the funding announcement was made. The lunchroom equipment sought carried a price tag of $135 million statewide. Only 381 of the schools were chosen for funding, with the results being the purchase of 939 pieces of new kitchen equipment, including ovens, freezers, steam tables and food processors.
Eligible school districts were required to participate in the National School Lunch Program and priority was given to those districts with a significant number of students eligible for free or reduced-cost meals. Funds must be used to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of delivering school meals and can be used to replace, upgrade or update food service equipment. To view the list of recipients and equipment, click here.
Harris County creates port security district
Harris County commissioners recently approved the creation of the Houston Ship Channel Security District to help fund security enhancements along the Houston ship channel.
The new security district, which includes the Houston Port Authority, the East Harris County Manufacturers Association and more than 100 refining, chemical and marine facilities that operate along the Houston Ship Channel, will work to raise more funding for security technology and infrastructure. In addition to any funding raised by the security district, the port also has $30 million secured by Harris County in homeland security grants to install technology and infrastructure to enhance security and increase preparedness and response capabilities. Pat Bellamy, director of the University of Houston's Southwest Public Safety Technology Center, will lead the newly created security district.
New Texas Facilities Commission board member cited
Brant C. Ince (pictured), vice president of one of the nation's leading construction consulting organizations, has been appointed the newest board member of the Texas Facilities Commission. He replaces Commissioner Victor Leal of Canyon.
Ince, who holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, also serves as director of the Texas A&M 12th Man Foundation and as area representative for the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students.
TDA teams up to map state for broadband availability
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is teaming with the Public Utility Commission to map the state of Texas for broadband availability. The TDA is accepting proposals from telecommunications companies to assist with the effort, which will help provide service to those areas lacking high-speed Internet connectivity. The benefits of broadband service are multifold, according to Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.
Staples said broadband service, while often taken for granted, "gives Texans access to services like health care and education, and can provide agricultural producers high-speed access to real time market information, which can help them maximize profits."
TDA began collecting information from contractors last April to determine how to map the state to identify broadband access.
Game Warden Academy graduates largest class ever
Some 51 cadets graduated this week from the Texas Game Warden Academy at the Capitol building in Austin. The service marked the single largest graduating class in the academy's history.
After 1,400 hours of training in areas ranging from firearm use to public speaking, the 54th graduating class was the first to be trained at the academy's new $20 million training complex in Hamilton County. The nonprofit Police Activities League donated the facility.
The graduating game wardens are set to report for duty in various counties across the state next week.
Five Houston-based companies to receive ETF awards
A number of Houston-area companies are set to receive $250,000 each from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a $203.5 million initiative designed to augment start-up technological companies.
The companies receiving the awards include:
Comptroller certifies state budget for 2010-11
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has certified the state's two-year, $182-billion budget. She said there is enough revenue to support the 2010-11 spending cycle, which lawmakers approved June 1.
It initially appeared as though Texas would face a difficult revenue year, but the state was aided in part by several billion in federal stimulus dollars.
The budget incorporates $12.1 billion in stimulus funds with most of that money dedicated to education and health care. The budget leaves $9 billion in the state's Rainy Day Fund.
TWC distributes more than $100M in stimulus benefits
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has distributed more than $100 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act unemployment funds since enacting a $25 weekly increase on February 22. The increase is effective for all claims filed through December 26.
TWC Chairman Tom Pauken said the increased benefits are "being pumped back into the Texas economy."
The increase is being funded with federal stimulus dollars; Texas employers do not contribute to the additional benefits.
Commander of 24th Air Force named at Lackland AFB
Maj. Gen. Richard E. Webber (pictured) has been tapped to serve as commander of the 24th Air Force, the new Cyber Command set to take off this fall at Lackland Air Force Base.
Webber currently assists the assistant deputy chief for air, space and information operations, plans and requirements at the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In his new role, Webber - a command space and missile operator with numerous qualifications - will determine the operational necessities, capabilities and training needs required to support national security objectives and military strategies.
TSU regents approve $1.8M plans for dual-trail bike path
The Texas State University System Board of Regents has approved design documents for a dual-trail bike path project costing approximately $1.8 million. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has awarded the university $1.5 million for the initiative.
Construction on the Campus Bike Path-Spring Lake project - part of the Campus Master Plan approved by regents in 2005 - is set to be under way by early winter. Contracts will be awarded this fall.
When completed, the project will feature improved trail sections, two pre-manufactured pedestrian/bicycle bridges, an elevated boardwalk, drainage improvements and seating and rest areas along the trail.
UTEP receives National Science Foundation grant
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has allocated $987,000 to The University of Texas at El Paso in an effort to help minority students pursue doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (otherwise known as STEM disciplines).
The Bridge to the Doctorate initiative, part of the university System's Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, provides 12 students each with $32,000 stipends to help fund research projects. This marks the second consecutive year the university has received the grant.
Dr. Benjamin Flores (pictured), an electrical and computer engineering professor at UTEP, said one of every five Hispanic students who earns a doctorate in STEM fields within the UT System is from UTEP. The NSF grant, he said, "bodes well for the future of our program."
UTHSC-San Antonio, Laredo Medical Center team up
The University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio (UTHSC) is teaming with Laredo Medical Center to generate interest among students in allied health careers.
The medical center has donated $45,000 to UTHSC to help fund a full-time recruiter at the Laredo Campus extension. The recruiter will work to bring more qualified, local students into the School of Health Professionals at the campus.
School of Health Professions Dean Marilyn Harrington said the school already has programs in place "and others in mind for our Laredo Campus Extension that will empower Laredo young people and those who wish to change their careers."
Director of UTEP entrepreneurial research center named
Dr. Gary E. Williams (pictured) has been appointed director of the new Center for Research Entrepreneurship and Innovative Enterprises (CREIE) at The University of Texas at El Paso.
Williams previously served as senior vice president and vice chairman of a private firm that capitalized on intensive research conducted in UTEP laboratories. Today, the business holds exclusive worldwide license rights to the patents, technology and intellectual property developed at UTEP.
Williams holds a bachelor's degree from the Indiana Institute of Technology and master's and doctoral degrees from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
Two added to short list for Lone Star presidency
Dr. Christal Albrecht and Dr. Austin Lane have been added to the shortlist of finalists for the position of president at Lone Star College-Montgomery. Dr. Julie Leidig was previously selected as a finalist. The chancellor is expected to announce a lone finalist for the post in the coming weeks.
Leidig, vice president for instruction at LSC-Montgomery, previously worked for eight years at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Division of Community and Technical Colleges. There she served as director of instructional programs, assistant director of instructional programs and program director. She holds a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University in addition to two master's degrees and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Albrecht, president of Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus in Tucson, Ariz., since January 2008, previously served as vice president for student learning from 2001 to 2007 and as associate dean for college planning from 2000 to 2001 at Lone Star College-CyFair. She holds a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University, a master's degree from Norwich University and a doctoral degree from the University of Houston.
Lane, vice president for student affairs at Tyler Junior College since November 2005, has served as dean of students, assistant dean of students, director of student judicial affairs and counseling specialist at The University of Texas at Arlington from 1996 to 2005. He holds a bachelor's degree from Langston University, a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma and doctoral degrees from Walden University and the University of Alabama.
SFA picks James Standley as dean of graduate studies
Dr. James Standley (pictured) has been named dean of graduate studies at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Standley joined the SFA faculty in 1979 as founding dean of the College of Applied Arts and Sciences. The department merged with the College of Liberal Arts in 2006, whereupon Standley was named the inaugural dean of the College of Liberal and Applied Arts. He returned to teaching in 2007. At the time, he stood as the longest serving dean of any public university in the state.
Standley earned his bachelor's degree from SFA in 1965. He holds a master's degree from Sam Houston State University and a doctoral degree from Texas A&M University.
Sul Ross presidential search committee narrows list
The Presidential Search Committee at Sul Ross State University has narrowed its search to eight candidates from a pool of 34 applicants. The university's 10th president, Dr. R. Vic Morgan, is set to retire Aug. 31. Interviews with applicants will take place later this summer.
UT College of Pharmacy selects associate dean
Dr. William J. McIntyre (pictured) has been named associate dean for clinical programs and clinical professor at The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. He replaces Dr. M. Lynn Crimson, who now serves as dean of the UT College of Pharmacy.
McIntyre is the former director of the Area Health Education Center-Southwest at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Texarkana, Ark. Prior to that charge, he served as first assistant dean for the UT Cooperative Pharmacy Program at UT-Pan American, where he went on to serve as dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services.
McIntyre holds a bachelor's degree and doctorate from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. He completed his pharmacy residency at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich., and his clinical residency at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.
Dallas approves $29M to study levees, toll road
The Dallas City Council has approved $29 million to study the city's battered levee system and continue preliminary measures on the proposed Trinity River toll road.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently rated the city's levee system "unacceptable." The approved study - which is set to include 1,500 boring samples of the 23-mile levee system at a cost of $8,800 per drilling sample - will determine the extent of the repairs and address major issues affecting the floodway, including levee height, stability and seepage, according to Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan.
By a slimmer margin, the council also approved $1.3 million for continued work on an environmental-impact study for the Trinity River toll road plan.
Austin, Travis Co. choose medical director
Dr. Paul Hinchey (pictured), deputy medical director of the Wake County EMS in Raleigh, N.C., has been selected to serve as medical director by City of Austin and Travis County officials. He replaces Dr. Edward Racht.
In his new role, Hinchey will supervise the office that certifies and credentials personnel for Austin/Travis County EMS, the Austin Fire Department and 14 Emergency Services Districts in Travis County. Both the county and city fund the medical director's office, each contributing 30 percent and 70 percent, respectively.
Hinchey, who holds an MBA from the State University of New York-Buffalo, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He completed his residency at the University of North Carolina.
New USDA housing administrator named
Tammye Trevino of Uvalde has been selected to serve as administrator for housing and community facilities programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development Agency.
Trevino, the former economic development director for LaSalle County, has most recently served as chief executive officer of a Uvalde-based nonprofit that provides housing, business and community development assistance to rural residents.
Trevino holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio and a master's degree from Sul Ross State University's Rio Grande College in Del Rio.
San Antonio College to receive $683,365 in state grants
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently selected San Antonio College to receive three grants totaling $683,365 to fund several outreach programs for low-income students from several school districts in San Antonio.
The three-year grants will pay for a summer bridge program for 11th and 12th grade students from San Antonio ISD, a senior summer program that enrolls recent graduates from five high schools in San Antonio ISD, two high schools in Edgewood ISD, two high schools in Northside ISD, Lee High School in Northeast ISD and Alamo Heights High School and a full-year transition program for low-income students in partnership with Edgewood ISD.
The summer bridge program is aimed at San Antonio ISD students who are not college-ready to make the transition from high school to college, said President Robert E. Zeigler (pictured) of San Antonio College. The summer senior program allows students from 11 high schools to earn up to seven college credits while the third grant will allow the college to provide students of Edgewood ISD with college-readiness coursework in English and math, receive one-on-one counseling and tutoring and participate in field trips, Ziegler said. Dean Ruben Flores of the Division of Evening, Weekend and Distance Education will oversee all of the grant programs, Ziegler said.
Fort Bend seeks grants for science, technology center
Fort Bend ISD recently agreed to seek grants and other external funding to help pay for construction and operation of the proposed $22 million Global Center for Science and Technology.
The new facility, to be built next to the district's central administration building, will include high-tech laboratories, grade-appropriate interactive learning stations, a planetarium, a "sci-max" theater and a conference room. The council will appoint a grant-search committee to look for funding from corporations, nonprofit agencies and public agencies. Council members also will name a program and design committee to seek partnerships with science organizations to develop educational programs to be offered at the center.
District officials hope to raise 20 percent of the $22 million construction costs from contributions and for corporations and other outside sources to pay half of the cost of operation, maintenance, transportation and staffing of the facility. It is designed to spark interest in science and provide more effective training for science teachers.
Texas entities to address PV industry advances
Two Texas universities and one state agency have been awarded up to $150,000 each over a 12-month period to evaluate or test and assess ideas that can impact the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry. The money is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds aimed at helping develop alternative energy sources.
The reasoning behind the awards is that non-solar companies have technologies and practices that could benefit the PV industry. These Texas entities and other award recipients will use the funding to assess these technologies and ideas.
The Texas Engineering Experiment Station was awarded $147,000, the University of Houston garnered funding of $150,000 and The University of Texas at Arlington was awarded $120,000.
Blinn trustees select vice president of applied sciences
The Blinn College Board of Trustees has appointed Bob Brick (pictured) vice president of applied sciences. In his new role, newly created to encourage technical and workforce educational programs, Brick will explore new areas and decide which programs should be expanded.
Brick previously served as a natural sciences division chair at the college's Bryan campus.
Port of Corpus Christi moves on rail interchange yard
The commissioner of the Port of Corpus Christi recently authorized up to $275,000 to pay a design firm to produce detailed design drawings and bidding documents for a new rail interchange yard.
The new interchange yard is part of the port's $23 million to $29 million Northside Rail Master Plan. The design documents for the new rail interchange yard will take about 60 to 90 days to be completed.
Port officials plan to request funding for the project from the Texas Department of Transportation, which is expected to distribute about $1.5 billion in stimulus funds soon. Port officials also plan to replace the old interchange yard near the Tule Lake Lift Bridge with a new Viola Channel Rail Interchange Yard in early 2010, along with improvements to the Suntide Rail and two railroad bridges between Corpus Christi and Houston as part of the Rail Master Plan.
UTMB to reopen full-service emergency room
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston will reopen its full-service emergency room on Aug. 1, albeit on a smaller scale than it operated before being ravaged by Hurricane Ike eight months ago. Prior to Hurricane Ike, UTMB's Level One trauma center was known nationwide as one of the best in the country. More than $700 million in damages from the storm forced closure of the ER and calls for the downsizing of the facility sent some of the ER personnel in search of jobs elsewhere. UTMB now plans to contract with a Dallas-based emergency room management services company for providing physicians.
Although UTMB will have the same services of a Level One trauma center, that designation will not be forthcoming until application is made to the American College of Surgeons. It could take as long as two years before the program resumes training emergency room doctors.
Tech School of Medicine ranked in national poll
The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education has ranked Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center's School of Medicine 12th in its annual list of Top 25 Medical Schools Enrolling Hispanics. Texas leads the number of states enrolling Hispanic students at seven top medical schools.
Dr. Steven Berk (pictured), dean of the TTUHSC School of Medicine, said having a significant number of Hispanic physicians is key to resolving many of the issues the minority group faces, including language barriers, cultural beliefs and lack of health insurance.
Hispanic patients represent the largest minority group in the U.S. at 13 percent of the total population. Berk said TTUHSC officials are proud the school has been recognized as "a national leader in enrolling outstanding Hispanic physicians."
Energy system, efficiency grants cited by USDA
Loan guarantees and grants to agriculture producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements are being made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Office. The loans can be used for purchase of renewable energy systems that use wind, solar, renewable biomass, geothermal, ocean, small hydropower or hydrogen sources. Energy efficiency projects can include retrofitting lighting or insulation, irrigation systems and grain dryers or the purchase or replacement of equipment with more energy efficient units.
The grant request cannot exceed 25 percent of the eligible project cost. Renewable energy grants can range from $2,500 to $500,000 while energy efficiency grants can range from $1,500 to $250,000. Maximum loan guarantees are $25 million per project and can be for up to 75 percent of total eligible project costs. There are other qualifiers.
Applications must be received by the Texas USDA Rural Development Office, 101 South Main, Suite 102, Temple, Texas 76501 no later than 4:30 p.m. CST July 31. For more information, click here.
University Health System to seek additional funding
Funding for the $900 million expansion of the tax-supported University Health System will be sought from the Bexar County Commissioner's Court. Officials with the hospital system will ask the court to authorize the sale of up to $290 million in certificates of obligation, the second such sale with a third expected in 2011.
The first round of financing included a 9.9 percent increase in the system's tax rate. The system is contributing some $120 million cash from its reserves to the project, while cutting its operating budget by $6.6 million.
The court is likely to seek taxable Build America Bonds, which are part of the federal Recovery Act and include a 35 percent federal rebate. With approval by the court, the bonds could be sold in August with construction then getting under way next year.
Cone to be new Fort Hood commanding general
Army Maj. Gen. Robert W. Cone (pictured) has been nominated by the President to appointment of the rank of lieutenant general. He will be assigned commanding general, III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas. Cone currently serves as special assistant to the commanding general at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command in Fort Monroe, Virginia, after having commanded the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan in 2007. He is also the previous Commanding General of the U.S. Army National Training Center and Fort Irwin, California.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Cone was first commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Armor Branch. He has served in operational assignments in the United States, Germany and Southwest Asia. He has previously served as Executive Officer, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fulda, Germany; Operations Officer, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood; Director, Joint Advanced Warfighting Program, Institute for Defense Analyses, Alexandria, Virginia; and, Director, Joint Center for Operational Analysis, U.S. Joint Forces Command, Operation Iraqi Freedom. His commands include 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, III Corps, Fort Bliss, later Fort Carson, Colorado, and 2d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Hood.
In addition to his bachelor's degree from West Point, Cone holds a master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a master's degree from the Naval War College in Rhode Island.
Dallas to study bond sale for public hotel
Dallas City Council is preparing to authorize selling of bonds to fund a Dallas Convention Center hotel, with the decision to come as early as next week. The estimated cost for such a project is approximately $500 million. Many see a convention center hotel as the boost needed to turn around the city's sagging convention industry.
The hotel project survived a May referendum which would have outlawed publicly owned hotels in the city.
Stimulus funds to be used for S.A. public housing
Repairs and upgrades to the Lewis Chatham senior apartment complex in San Antonio and security, elevator and fire safety upgrades to 21 other San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHS) properties will be paid for by $14.5 million in federal stimulus funds. Fencing, window, roof and heater and air conditioner upgrades at other SAHA-operated public housing facilities are also in the works. SAHS officials noted that the money coming to San Antonio is the largest amount being distributed among the nation's nearly 350 such authorities.
New software goes online in Nacogdoches County
A new law enforcement software package went online this week in Nacogdoches County. The upgrade, which replaces a 15-year-old antiquated system, arrived after months of deliberation and training for city and county officials.
The new system will "help bridge the gap with other local law enforcement," Sheriff Thomas Kerss (pictured) said. The software will let police, sheriff's and constable's offices pass information back and forth in addition to allowing each entity a chance to review statistics in each area "so we have more informed officers," according to Kerss.
City and county commissioners approved the $700,000 purchase last year. Nacogdoches County contributed the bulk of the upgrade fee - about $532,000 - and the city covered the remainder.
Crowley approves public notice of $11M in certificates
Crowley City Council members have approved public notice of the city's intent to issue $11 million in certificates of obligation. Money raised from the funds would be geared toward the construction of a new community center, public works facility and animal shelter in addition to street, curb, gutter and sidewalk improvements.
The certificates will not likely raise the city's tax rate, but instead will be funded through increased property values and the retirement of existing debt.
The council has also approved allowing the city manager to apply for an Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant to fund three projects. The initiatives to be funded include a security system for the municipal courtroom and the city hall, the purchase of a van to transport community service youths and the purchase of command-center equipment for the Emergency Operations Management Center.
Keane new Eden economic development director
City leaders in Eden selected Kathy Keane, who recently retired as the executive director of the San Angelo Development Corporation, to serve as the director of economic development in Eden. Keane begins her new duties in Eden in July.
San Marcos approves $527,130 for parks, housing
The San Marcos City Council recently approved $425,130 in federal community development block grant funding to upgrade two parks and rehabilitate housing.
Projects to be funded are:
Presidio County to move inmates to other counties
The Presidio County Commissioners Court has ruled to move seven remaining inmates out of the Presidio County Jail since repairs to bring the facility to meet state standards are not fiscally possible at this time. The jail has water leaks and a broken water heater, according to County Judge Jerry Agan (pictured).
Officials are hoping for a temporary closure. Commissioners have applied for a grant from the Governor's Office they hope will allow them to make the necessary repairs.
The inmates will be moved to Culberson and Brewster county facilities in the interim.
Central Texas transportation projects approved
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has approved $29 million in Central Texas transportation projects in addition to $107 million previously distributed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Projects include adding a center turn lane to Texas 71 near Austin and constructing an overpass in Buda, among other initiatives. Overall, Texas is set to receive about $2.25 billion in federal stimulus dollars.
The Texas Transportation Commission awarded the initial set of funds three months ago, the greatest portion of which will be allocated to the planned U.S. 290 tollway in Austin.
Capital Metro also stands to receive an additional $26.1 million in stimulus grants from the Federal Transit Administration to buy buses and add track for commuter rail trains.
Amarillo board urges award of $3.1 million in grants
An advisory board to the Amarillo City Commission recently recommended the allocation of nearly $3.1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to several community development projects. Included in the recommendation for funding was $150,000 to repair the Downtown Women's Center ABBA House, $97,500 to renovate the restrooms and stairway of the Maverick Boys and Girls Club and $80,000 to renovate the childcare restrooms at the YMCA-North Branch. The committee also recommended $110,000 for childcare assistance for lower-income families, $25,000 to provide meals to low-income or disabled seniors and $225,000 to acquire and renovate multi-family rental units to use as affordable housing units.
The Amarillo City Council, which must approve the recommendations before they are final, is expected to vote on the recommendations in July.
Hidalgo County receives more than $887K from DHS
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted Hidalgo County $887,560 through its Operation Stonegarden initiative, designed to enhance local law enforcement border security operations.
The funds are allocated to designated localities to foster coordination among federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to secure United States land borders.
Uvalde CISD receives $350,000 state grant for dropouts
The Texas Education Agency recently selected the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District to receive a $350,000 grant from the Dropout Recovery Pilot Program to pay for programs to stem dropouts and provide services to some students who already dropped out of school.
Superintendent Wendell Brown (pictured) said $150,000 of the grant funds will be used to pay salaries for employees to provide services and $200,000 will be used to provide incentives for students. The grant will allow the Technology and Resource Center to expand programs and to offer a General Educational Development, or GED, high school alternative diploma.
The grant also will be used to pay for tutorials for students who have not yet passed TAKS tests, and to serve students up to the age of 24. District leaders will decide on which incentives to offer students, but said no incentives will be offered until the student has completed requirements for a high school diploma.
Plano approves application for grant to upgrade parks
Plano city council members recently authorized city staff to apply to a county program for a $435,000 grant to help pay for extending the Bluebonnet Trail and to build a new multi-use recreation park trail.
The grant, if approved, will pay for extending the Bluebonnet Trail from Alma Road to the east and the north, said Renee Jordan, a trail systems planner. The trail will connect to seven proposed on-street bike routes and to Chisholm Trail and has more than 20 connection points to streets and parks in the north-central area of the city, she said. The trail will eventually cross the city of Plano and connect to Allen.
The city also has $870,000 in bond funds for development of Bluebonnet Trail East, which would be shifted to other projects if the grant is approved. The city will be required to match the grant if approved, Jordan said. Construction on the trail will not begin until mid-fall.
Burleson leaders debate use of red-light revenues
After approving an extended 15-year contract for red-light cameras, Burleson city leaders recently debated how to use the revenue generated by the cameras.
When Deputy City Manager Paul Cain told the council that the red-light cameras provided the city with about $46,000 net revenue and proposed spending the revenue for police items such as electronic ticket-writing devices and new vehicles for resource officers, Councilman Jim Wadlow noted that the report lent credence to criticism that the cameras are big revenue generators for the city. Council members, however, agreed the revenue should be used to increase safety throughout the city and asked city staff to bring back a proposal to the council.
City Manager Curtis Hawk agreed to identify safety issues that could be addressed through the use of the funds from the red-light cameras and to consider items that would not ordinarily be considered budget items. Staff will bring a proposal for use of the funds at a later council meeting, Hawk said.
Webb County receives $2.5M in funds from DHS
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Operation Stonegarden has allocated $2.5 million to Webb County for local law enforcement measures. The funds will allow personnel to do their jobs more effectively and provide better security, Sheriff Martin Cuellar (pictured) said.
Operation Stonegarden, an initiative that funds the enhancement of localized law enforcement border security operations, granted $1.9 million to the county last year, which the county has yet to spend. The funds were tied up in an audit of the previous administration. Cuellar said the funds were recently made available, and the administration plans to start using them "within the month" on a fleet of new vehicles for the department.
The Laredo Police Department stands to receive close to $1 million of the new funds.
El Paso, seven other districts to add low-emission buses
As part of a grant program recently finalized by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, eight school districts in the far West Texas region will add ultra-low emission propane school buses to their fleets. The districts plan to purchase 16 buses at a cost of $164,000 each.
The Anthony, Canutillo, Clint, El Paso, Fabens, San Elizario, Socorro and Ysleta school districts each will buy two buses. The federal government, in turn, will reimburse the districts with $1.3 million in funds from the Transportation Improvement Program.
The districts will also receive a 50-cent reimbursement from the Internal Revenue Service for every gallon of propane purchased, according to Oscar Anchondo, director of transportation for the El Paso Independent School District.
Austin approves $20.7 in stimulus funds for jobs
Using federal stimulus dollars meant for low-income schools, the Austin school board has created about 18 new jobs - the first step in a $20.7 million plan. The measure could save a projected 166 jobs while adding 63 more.
Most of the funds will be geared toward staffing new employees in enhanced English language instruction, adding dropout prevention and social services, and creating a twilight school and pre-school literacy program.
The remainder of the funds will be awarded to service contracts with outside groups to help implement the plan.
'Pipeline' can help identify, increase opportunities
Keeping vendors abreast of information, updates and breaking news about where the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars are going and how they're being spent is Strategic Partnerships Inc.'s new free, weekly, electronic newsletter, the State & Local Government Pipeline. Now in its second month of publication, the State & Local Government Pipeline is drawing rave reviews from subscribers throughout the country. To subscribe for your free copy of the State & Local Government Pipeline, click here.
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Push on for electronic health records systems nationwide
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
A nationwide push is on to expand the use of electronic health records in the United States, but medical professionals and medical facilities have been slow to embrace the practice.
According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, only a small number of hospitals in the United States have comprehensive electronic health records systems in place. The study showed that 1.5 percent of the more than 3,000 hospitals surveyed had electronic health systems at their facilities. Because there has been no way to recoup the financial investment, hospitals have been reluctant to make a financial investment of this type.
There is controversy, of course, about privacy and security, but most of the slowness has resulted from cost factors. That obstacle has been lessened significantly by the stimulus funding. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designates $19 billion for the installation of electronic health records systems and most states are in a heated race to capture the funds.[more]
Spring Hill ISD approves
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.