|Volume 7, Issue 25 · Friday, June 26, 2009|
Electronic records: Parkland wireless 'second to none'
Hospital system hopes to roll out to 120 off-site clinics next year
Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas has taken another step in revolutionizing information technology (IT) in the medical industry.
The hospital recently went live with an electronic medical records system for all inpatient files within the main hospital campus. The electronic system is set to launch at Parkland's 120 off-site clinics throughout the next year.
Texas boasts a number of hospital systems utilizing advanced IT systems, according to Chief Information Officer Jack Kowitt (pictured), but Parkland's launch marks one of the first times a hospital has implemented a completely wireless network. In the photo at right, Dr. Ruben Amarasingham, Parkland's associate chief of medicine services, explains the system to hospital staff.
"I like to say we're second to none on that front," Kowitt said.
"Patients' information is now available at the stroke of a key from anywhere in the hospital," he said, adding Parkland's goal is to have electronic records for all of Parkland's clinics implemented by October 2010.
Kowitt said less than 4 percent of hospitals in the country have fully electronic records.[more]
Management, organizational review of TxDOT ordered
Transportation Commission selects private firm, outlines goals
An immediate top-down management and organizational review of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was approved Thursday by the Texas Transportation Commission. A private consulting firm was chosen to conduct the review, which is expected to take six months. Following the review, the firm will offer recommendations aimed at increasing efficiency and cutting costs.
Goals of the review include: optimizing the department's performance, improving transparency and accountability, promoting effective and efficient use of resources and helping identify future resource needs. The review will include input from TxDOT employees, members of the Texas Legislature, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and other stakeholders. The results of the survey are expected to be presented to the commission in early 2010.
"It is our expectation that this firm will report directly to the commission," said Ed Serna, TxDOT assistant executive director for support operations. "Neither the staff or administration will filter the recommendations. The staff's role will be to make sure this project stays on a specific timeline."
Governor calls special session for Wednesday, July 1
Legislation will address five agencies under sunset review
A special session of the Texas Legislature has been called by Gov. Rick Perry for Wednesday, July 1, beginning at 10 a.m. The session will address extending five state agencies that were subject to sunset review during the 81st Regular Session. Without legislative approval, those agencies will be abolished.
Only the governor can set the "call" for the session - the list of items that will be considered. Following are the items Perry included for the special session:
Although a special or "called" session of the legislature can last up to 30 days, Perry has indicated he is hopeful this first called session will be over quickly. "I think they’ll be in and out in three to four days," he said Thursday.
Les Butler, associate commissioner for business and regional services, Health and Human Services Commission
Career highlights and education: I have worked in heath and human services for Texas for 17 years. During that time, I have had the chance to work in several different program areas as well as different parts of the state. I began my human services career in Abilene in what is now eligibility services, Food Stamps, Medicaid, TANF and the Nursing Home Care and Community Based Alternatives programs. Later, I worked in administrative fair hearings and the administrative areas of business services, financial services and information technology, eventually becoming a regional administrator at the Texas Department of Human Services. In 2004, I came to Austin working in the Regional Administrative Services Division of the Heath and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and later was privileged to serve as the Chief Operating Officer for HHSC. Currently, I am the associate commissioner for business and regional services, giving me the opportunity to work in support of all Texas state government health and human services agencies. In addition to that duty, I also serve by appointment of Gov. Rick Perry to represent HHSC on the Texas Council on Purchasing from People with Disabilities. I have a bachelor's degree in management and a master's in financial planning.
What I like best about my job is: It gives me the opportunity to do what I like doing best, that is doing something different than the day before. There is a tremendous chance my day will present an opportunity to try something new, or do the same thing a new way. I am an active problem-solver. I enjoy pushing through to find a solution to a difficult situation. And I really like to get outside the box, finding an innovative way to resolve an issue, whether it is something new or something we have been doing for years. My goal is to create a customer-driven, solutions-oriented environment. Here I can do that.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Find out what your customer needs and try to be ready to provide it before you are asked.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Think about the impact of what you are doing. Everything we do in our work impacts someone we work with. Don't let doing your job make their job harder.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: playing golf, tennis, something with the sun on my face.
People would be surprised to know that I: am a music lover. Primarily jazz, and especially if I can see it live.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: Who Says Elephants Can't Dance. Probably out of print; I love buying used hardback books. It's written by Louis V. Gerstner about his tenure as CEO of IBM. With no background or experience in running a technology company, he led IBM back to prominence in the technology industry. A great read about taking bold steps against the tide.
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.
Addie Horn announces retirement from DADS
Commissioner ending three-decade public service career
After three decades of public service, Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) Commissioner Adelaide "Addie" Horn (pictured) has announced her retirement, effective Aug. 31. Horn began her career in government as a direct care worker to individuals with intellectual and other disabilities. That work included managing vocational rehabilitation, regulatory and quality assurance programs, policy initiatives and direct management of services.
Horn was named commissioner at DADS in February 2006, after having served as the director of long-term care services at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and then as first deputy commissioner at DADS. "Addie's tenure as DADS Commissioner has been one of strong leadership on behalf of individuals who need her agency's services, no matter the setting or disability," said HHSC Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins. "She has always placed their interest first in making decisions for DADS."
"It has been my privilege, and one that I have never taken for granted, to have served individuals who are aging and have disabilities," said Horn. "As commissioner, to have been able to work under the leadership of Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins, to work with such dedicated staff, the leadership of our state, our many partners and stakeholders, and to know the many families and individuals who receive our services, has been a great source of inspiration."
HHSC awards $6.77 million grant to TTUHSC Institute
Access, research program to study pediatric telemedicine
Future expansion of telemedicine for providing health care for children in rural communities in West Texas is getting a $6.77 million boost in funding from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The funding, spread over 26 months, will be used to establish 30 patient sites in West Texas to expand and study access to pediatric primary and specialty care for Medicaid-enrolled children.
Recipient of the funding - Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center's (TTUHSC) F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health - has already been working on advancing telemedicine in West Texas, according to TTUHSC President Dr. John C. Baldwin. He said the funding will be a "very positive program for communities lacking adequate connection to specialized pediatric care."
The money will fund Project CHART (Children's Healthcare Access for Rural Texas), according to Dr. Billy Phillips (pictured), vice president of the Institute. "We are extremely energized by the many potential opportunities it will bring to the region," he said. Members of the four TTHSC Schools of Medicine campuses are beginning to assess the needs of communities in the region to determine the best locations for the 30 sites.
In addition to many areas of West Texas being medically underserved, there is also a severe shortage of general pediatricians and pediatric specialists. That can lead to lengthy travel for pediatric care, said David Lefforge, COO of the Institute. That can be costly - both in money spent on travel and time lost from work and/or school - and those costs are more than some families can afford. "Project CHART may be the means by which communities can increase access to medical specialty care while reducing the demands on individuals and families," said Lefforge.
Governor announces Sullivan as new chief of staff
Ray Sullivan (pictured) has been named chief of staff for the governor's office, effective July 1. He replaces Jay Kimbrough, who will remain on staff as senior advisor to the governor.
Sullivan has operated an Austin-based public and government relations firm since 2002, when he left the public sector after 22 years of state government service. He previously worked as Gov. Rick Perry's deputy chief of staff, lieutenant governor's communications director and communications director.
Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree from San Diego State University.
Community, technical colleges form green collaborative
Five Texas community and technical colleges and systems along the I-35 corridor this week signed an agreement relating to regional job training for "green" economy careers. The group plans to share curriculum, eliminate duplication of programs and expand its training capabilities.
Calling itself the I-35 Green Corridor Collaborative (GCC), the five entities will seek federal economic stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for workforce training in green economy fields such as solar power technology, conservation and sustainability of existing resources and alternative energy development. Member of the coalition are the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), Alamo Colleges, Austin Community College District (ACC), Temple College and the Texas State Technical College System.
Austin Community College District has taken the lead in the endeavor and plans to seek stimulus money as well as funding from other federal organizations and the Texas Energy Conservation Office. The ARRA includes $42 billion for energy-related projects and $20 billion for green jobs. Because community colleges generally are the primary trainers of a region's workforce, it was only natural that the collaborative seek funds to become part of the training for high-demand green jobs.
Dr. Wright Lassiter (pictured), DCCCD's chancellor, said the DCCCD has been educating skilled workers for the emerging green industry. "Sharing resources will enhance each member college's ability to develop and expand expertise more quickly and to support this diverse industry," he said. Lassister said the collaborative will allow for training of this emerging industry's workforce and provide new jobs. The GCC may eventually add partners in industry and four-year colleges and universities to assist with research.
TCEQ ramps up dam inspection efforts after funding
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has announced considerable progress toward efforts to inspect all of the state's 1,735 high- and significant-hazard dams. Thanks to increased funding from the State Legislature and recent rules changes, agency officials will be able to hire more inspectors and ramp up education efforts. The agency so far has held nine dam safety workshops and six rules-related workshops this year.
TCEQ Executive Director Mark Vickery (pictured) said the added funding and changes in dam-safety rules "will allow us to increase our efforts in keeping vital infrastructure sound." Some 550 high- and significant-hazard dams have been inspected across the state so far this year, compared to 316 inspected last year.
August sales-tax holiday will include school supplies
The annual August sales-tax holiday will include school supplies this year for the first time since the event began in 1999. State Comptroller Susan Combs said more than two dozen school supply items will be sold tax free during the weekend of Aug. 21-23.
Per House Bill 1801, school supplies priced less than $100 - including pens, pencils, crayons, calculators and notebooks, among other items - will be exempt from state and local sales tax in addition to backpacks, clothing and shoes priced less than $100 during the weekend. Combs said a lot of families look forward to saving their money during the yearly event.
"Now they can make their back-to-school budgets stretch even further," she said.
TEA takes applications for employer excellence awards
Applications for the Texas Education Agency's (TEA) 2009 Employers For Education Excellence (EEE) Awards - created by the Texas Legislature in 2007 to recognize employers who encourage and support employees' participation in school activities - are being accepted through July 31. All public and private sector employers are eligible to receive awards at the bronze, silver or gold level.
Robert Scott, commissioner of education, said the awards represent a "small way to say thank you to companies and organizations that encourage employees to make such an important contribution to student achievement."
To submit an application, click here.
TxDOT partners with NTEMP for infrastructure
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials have executed a comprehensive development agreement (CDA) with the NTE Mobility Partners (NTEMP) to operate and maintain 13 miles of Northeast Loop Interstate 820 and SH 121/183 in Tarrant County. A $570 million state investment will provide needed infrastructure to the Fort Worth area in addition to operations and maintenance costs.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Bill Meadows (pictured) said the agreement will bring "the North Texas region one step closer to reduced congestion, improved air quality and speedier access to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport."
UT's Roberts resigns information technology post
Brian Roberts (pictured), vice president for information technology at The University of Texas at Austin since 2006, has resigned and will return to the faculty in the College of Liberal Arts, effective immediately. Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer, will oversee the Information Technology Services division.
According to UT President William Powers Jr., Hegarty will head up implementation of a new plan for information technology outlined by the Strategic Information Technology Advisory Committee. Powers had praise for Roberts, saying he "helped shape an ambitious agenda and a new framework for information technology services at the university."
Roberts previously was an associate dean in UT's College of Liberal Arts and has been involved in key information technology positions for the last 15 years. He joined UT in 1985 as a professor of government and economics in the Government Department. He holds a bachelor's degree from Trinity College and a doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis.
TxDOT to break ground on Burleson Co. upgrades
As one of 29 shovel-ready projects approved by the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC), Texas is set to break ground on its first major mobility project with funds made available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Texas Department of Transportation will break ground next week to launch the project just outside Bryan in Burleson County.
The $7.5 million initiative includes upgrading FM 60 from two lanes to four lanes, which will be divided by a grass median. Improvements to 2.8 miles of road between FM 50 and Old River Road are also slated as part of the project, which will take about two years to complete.
So far, Texas has received more than $2.25 billion in ARRA stimulus funds for transportation projects.
UTHSC-Tyler officials outline $100M expansion plans
Dr. Kirk Calhoun (pictured), president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSCT), has announced a $100 million expansion plan of the center's facilities over five years.
Calhoun said UTHSCT leaders are still awaiting final approval and funding for the expansion project, which would include an 85,000-square-foot academic center for physician training and an expansion of the cancer treatment center. He said officials will likely know the status of the project by fall. Meanwhile, UTHSCT regents have approved the donation of 20 acres of land for an $18 million veterans' extended care facility funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Texas Veterans Land Board.
Calhoun said these projects will likely attract more business growth along U.S. Highway 271 and Texas Highway 155.
Texas A&M looks to scale back $20M for FY 2010
Texas A&M University interim President R. Bowen Loftin plans to slash administrative costs by $20 million this year. His plan calls for scaling back the university's merit increase program, among other measures and solicitations. As officials look to merging functions between Texas A&M and its governing 11-university system, Loftin has set a deadline of July 9 for the 13 vice presidents to submit recommendations about where to cut back.
"I am charging each vice president with preparing a proposal to reduce FY 2010 operating costs, beginning with a review of administrative salaries and operating costs," Loftin wrote in a memo titled Administrative Operating Expense Reductions.
The plan outlines a series of measures, including the elimination of merit increases for non-faculty employees who make more than $175,000. It also calls for reducing the pool set-aside for the merit program from 3 percent to 2 percent of total faculty and staff salaries.
Edinburg hospital helps endows chair at UTHSCSA
The Doctor Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg has endowed The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) with a $2 million chair in support of Dr. Dipen Parekh (pictured), a urologic oncologist who uses robotic technology to remove kidney, prostate and bladder cancers. The gift will help sponsor a Distinguished University Chair - the highest endowed faculty position at UTHSCSA.
Parekh practices at UTHSCSA in addition to traveling to the lower Rio Grande Valley twice a month to perform these highly advanced, minimally invasive procedures in which he extracts tumors through tiny incisions, reducing pain, blood loss and risk of infection.
Dr. Glenn A. Halff, acting dean of the School of Medicine at UTHSCSA, said endowed chairs help "attract and retain the best and brightest physician-scientists."
Texas bypasses national standards for public schools
State Education Commissioner Robert Scott has declined an invitation to work with 46 other states in adopting uniform standards for English and math instruction in public schools. The common core standards adopted by most other states outline what students at all grade levels should be taught in those subjects.
Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the commissioner and the Texas Education Agency, said Texas has not historically "been supportive of the idea of national standards for our schools."
Although the standards will be voluntary, Texas may be forgoing federal aid for not participating in the initiative, along with Alaska, Missouri and South Carolina. The U.S. Education Secretary has suggested federal funds might be attached to adopting the standards.
Most of Austin ISD superintendent's requests granted
Incoming Austin Independent School District Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's (pictured) proposal to eliminate 12 jobs and add six positions has been approved by school trustees. Board officials withheld support to eliminate a diversity director position, however. Trustees have delayed voting on Carstarphen's request to cut the post.
Carstarphen's proposal also nixes seven executive principal jobs, created to provide additional support at the district's highest-needs schools, and increases the number of chief officers from three to seven. Chief officers earn a salary range of $155,000 to $185,000.
The administrative shakeup of top personnel is projected to yield a net savings of $380,000.
Tarrant Co. approves up to $2 million for courthouse
Tarrant County commissioners recently approved spending from $1 million to $2 million to repair the top two square towers and the dome of the historic Tarrant County Courthouse after a cast-iron plate fell off the building. Commissioners previously budgeted about $300,000 for some minor repairs to the courthouse.
The vote to authorize the new repairs followed a report by the county facilities director who said the extent of damage became even more visible as county workers inspected the area in the process of bidding a project to replace bolts. The inspection, however, indicated that the top sections are leaky, need new paint and repairs to cast-iron and wooden decorative pieces, the facilities director said.
The repairs to the courthouse, which was built to resemble the Texas State Capitol, are expensive because the job requires scaffolding and replicating historic architecture, the facilities director said.
New chief of cardiology named at LBJ Hospital
Dr. John P. Higgins (pictured), assistant professor of medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, has been named chief of cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, part of the Harris County Hospital District.
Higgins, who is board-certified in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine, served as an instructor in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School before joining the UT medical school faculty in 2007. A principal investigator in the Houston Early Age Risk Testing and Screening Study (HEARTS) program, designed to reduce sudden cardiac death in Houston sixth graders, Higgins has authored or co-authored 22 published papers.
Higgins received his medical degree from the University of Queensland, Australia. He completed his residency at the University of Missouri-Columbia and a fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
UT-Arlington to establish nursing education center
Thanks to a $5 million infusion of state funds, The University of Texas at Arlington's School of Nursing is set to establish the UT Arlington Regional Nursing Education Center. The program, aimed at students earning their bachelor's degree in nursing who will become registered nurses, will double the number of undergraduate nursing students by 2012.
"UT Arlington will be able to play a major role in training the numbers of highly skilled, registered nurses that Texas needs to meet the health care demands in our communities," President James D. Spaniolo said.
The state funds will allow students to complete up to half of their clinical hours at a simulation-based teaching facility known as the Smart Hospital, reducing pressure on area hospitals to provide on-site clinical instruction. The money will also increase the number of faculty members graduating from the Master of Science Nurse Educator program.
Interim dean named to permanent post at UNT
Michael Monticino (pictured), interim Dean of the University of North Texas Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies, has been named to the position's permanent post effective July 1. He has served as interim dean since Jan. 1.
Monticino previously served as associate dean for administrative affairs at UNT's College of Arts and Sciences and as a mathematics professor. He joined the UNT faculty in 1990 and was appointed associate dean in 2004. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth.
Monticino earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and a doctoral degree from the University of Miami.
UTSA names vice provost for information technology
Kenneth R. Pierce (pictured) has been named vice provost for information technology and chief information officer at The University of Texas at San Antonio, effective July 27.
Pierce previously served as chief information officer at UT-El Paso, where he supervised a staff of more than 115 employees.
Pierce holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston and a master's degree from Capella University.
UT-Arlington School of Social Work dean announced
Dr. Scott Ryan (pictured), the Jeanene M. Janes Endowed Professor in Child Welfare at Florida State University, has been named dean of The University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work. He also serves as associate dean for research at FSU's College of Social Work. He begins his new charge Sept. 1.
Ryan directs the Institute for Social Work Research. He is a senior research fellow at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York City and edits the journal, Adoption Quarterly.
Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, UT Arlington provost and vice president for academic affairs, said Ryan's position was filled after an extensive national search of "many exceptional candidates."
UT-Brownsville/Texas Southmost names alumni director
Marisa Campirano (pictured) has been named The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College's first full-time director of alumni relations. She will work with the university's 150,000-plus graduates and former students in her new role.
Campirano, who is enrolled in the master of public policy and management degree program at UTB/TSC, holds a bachelor's degree from Southwestern University in Georgetown.
Medical College expansion draws additional funds
The Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) is set to receive more state funds for the expansion of the TAMHSC-College of Medicine at campuses in Bryan-College Station, Temple and Round Rock. The funds totaling $16 million (part of a $45 million initiative) will be appropriated to sustain the college's projected growth rate over the next biennium and supplement a $33 million infusion approved in 2007.
The legislature has also slated $1 million in funds for the creation of a biosecurity initiative in the Rio Grande Valley known as the Biosecurity and Import Safety project, which will be be operated from the TAMHSC-South Texas Center in McAllen. The measure will address public health concerns along the biosecurity-sensitive region of the Texas-Mexico border.
Dr. Scott Lillibridge (pictured), executive director of the A&M System National Center for Emergency Medical Preparedness and Response (NCEMPR) and assistant dean of the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health, said the border region faces an array of public health challenges, including drug-resistant strains of influenza and tuberculosis.
UTEP partners with agencies for security-prep program
The University of Texas at El Paso has teamed with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute to form a new cooperative education program allowing students future careers in intelligence and national security workforce. The Information Operations Workforce of the 21st Century program will train students in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other fields for careers in the executive branch. Both master's and bachelor's degrees will be offered.
Ricardo Pineda (pictured), director of UTEP's Research Institute for Materials and Engineering Systems (RIMES), said the 21st century has brought with it "a knowledge-based society, where multi-disciplinary efforts are critical for the future workforce." He said he foresees participation from a broad range of majors at UTEP.
Six to eight students will be selected for the first funded co-op internships, beginning this fall, in which they will spend six months of the program studying specialized coursework and the second six months working for Intelligence Community agencies.
Denton ISD planning for new $43 million middle school
Denton Independent School District officials recently began design plans for a new $43.3 million middle school adjacent to the elementary school in Shady Shores. Voters approved funding for the new middle school in a $282 million bond election.
The district is finalizing design plans for the new middle school currently being designed to accommodate 1,000 students, said Sharon Cox, the director of communications and community relations for the district. School officials also plan to build two new elementary schools and renovate Denton and Ryan high schools along with several middle and elementary schools and to improve technology and add security measures with proceeds from the bonds approved in 2007, she said.
Tarrant County College chancellor resigns after 12 years
Leonardo de la Garza (pictured), longtime chancellor of Tarrant County College, has announced he is resigning after 12 years.
De la Garza leaves with a board-approved $700,000 compensation package amid spiraling costs for a new downtown campus. (The 132,000-square-foot bluff buildings for the downtown campus are expected to cost $203 million.) Board Vice President Bobby McGee said the deferred compensation issue and criticism resulting from the downtown projects "worked to make this a good time to part company" with de la Garza.
De la Garza leaves TCC on what he calls a high note. When he joined the TCC ranks as chancellor in 1997, the institution had a debt of $147 million. As he prepares to leave office, that deficit has shrunk to $49 million.
Tyler reviews long-range master plan for Lake Bellwood
Tyler city council members recently reviewed the first draft of a long-range master plan for Lake Bellwood that calls for the city to develop the area in a "state park style." The lake, which was formed in 1894 by the city and served as a source of water supply until the 1950s, is located on 160 acres of property that is mostly in its natural state, city officials said.
The study, which was authorized by council in April 2007, recommends that the park at Lake Bellwood feature walking trails, an improved swimming area, a playground and spray ground, a boardwalk area across the water, large pavilions, restrooms and a flagstone patio to hold events. The master plan also recommends that powerboats and personal watercraft be banned from the lake, but would permit boats such as canoes and kayaks.
Residents will have 30 days to comment on the proposed master plan before council members take a vote on it at their July 22 scheduled meeting.
Temple may be not ready to apply for stimulus funding
Temple Mayor Bill Jones III (pictured) has warned that local high-speed rail efforts may not meet required guidelines to apply for federal stimulus funds by the July 10 deadline. The impending railway known as the Texas T-Bone, connecting Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, would create a transportation hub that would t-bone in Temple. Jones has been a strong proponent of the railway, but said it doesn't look likely the city will be able to meet the required deadline.
"It doesn't look like we're going to be able to meet the required environmental and feasibility studies for the pre-application process," Jones said, adding city officials are trying to acquire funds to have the studies conducted.
"Once you apply for those (stimulus) funds, you have to be able to show that you will use them in a fairly short period of time - and we're just not prepared for that," Jones said.
Amarillo to use $1.7M in stimulus funds for traffic lights
Amarillo city commissioners plan to use about $1.7 million in federal stimulus dollars to update traffic lights.
Approximately $733,000 will be geared to replacing traffic lights with LED lights, which use less energy and last longer than incandescent models, according to Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey. The switch will save the city a projected $220,000 a year.
City staff members have also proposed allocating $588,000 in stimulus funds to outfit sewer lift stations with variable frequency drives to reduce wear on motors. That move stands to save the city $13,000 a year.
Mansfield backtracks, approves $38,000 grant allocation
Less than 24 hours after voting to reject a $38,000 federal stimulus grant for the police department, Mansfield city council members held an emergency meeting to backtrack on that vote and accept the grant to pay for a part-time crime analyst.
After a warning from Public Safety Director Bill Lane that rejecting one grant could cost the city approval of two other related grants of $300,000 to upgrade communications, Councilman Cory Hoffman (pictured), who led the charge to send a message to Washington by rejecting the grant, said he changed his mind because the city could not afford to lose the larger grants.
The $38,000 grant requires no local matching funds and does not require the position to be funded locally after four years, Lane said.
Greenville approves grant application for new fire station
Greenville city council members recently authorized the Greenville Fire-Rescue Department to apply for a Fire Station Construction grant from federal stimulus funds to pay for a combined fire station and administration building and for a grant to pay for additional equipment.
The combined fire station and administration building is estimated to cost about $5 million and stimulus funding could pay 100 percent of the construction-related cost, said Fire Chief Doug Caison (pictured).
Council members also approved matching funding for two other grants for which the fire department applied. The two grants are an Assistance to Firefighters Communication grant to purchase an updated communications system and a grant to pay for a diesel exhaust removal system to improve safety for firefighters at fire stations, Caison said.
Dallas ISD to add 75 recent college grads to teaching
Dallas Independent School District is set to welcome 75 recent college grads to its faculty as part of the Teach for America program, an initiative designed to deploy new teachers to needy urban-area schools around the nation. DISD is the third district in Texas to take part in the program; the others are in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. The new teachers are currently participating in a five-week training course and student teaching in Houston as they prepare to embark on their new careers.
DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said almost half of the teachers recruited as part of the program will be assigned to the district's most challenging and hard-to-staff campuses.
"I think they can handle it," Hinojosa said, adding he feels "very confident" about the recent grads' track records.
HHS grant provides TAMUI nursing program assistance
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted $152,031 to Texas A&M International University's Disadvantaged Nursing Student Scholarships program. The funding will allow TAMIU to financially assist as many as 30 full-time, economically disadvantaged students from underrepresented backgrounds who are already enrolled in the university's nursing program.
TAMIU President Ray Keck (pictured) said the grant will allow the university to invest in Laredo and surrounding communities as the school's "well-prepared, culturally sensitive nurses enter the workforce."
Recipients of the scholarship may receive full financial assistance as determined by TAMIU's Office of Financial Aid.
Conroe may build eco-friendly park on city hall roof
With the help of a $539,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Conroe city officials are considering building a $700,000 eco-friendly park on the roof of the first-floor wing of the City Hall.
The proposed rooftop park would generate energy savings and well as provide a potential revenue source for the city, said City Planner Luis Nunez. Preliminary plans call for spreading a soil mixture 8 inches deep on top of a waterproof membrane covering the 12,000-square-foot roof. Growing vegetation in the soil will insulate the roof and result in about $50,000 a year in energy savings, he said.
The city also could install benches, tables and a water feature to the park and use the rooftop to host outdoor functions such as tours by school children and other city events, Nunez said.
Amarillo College acting president named to post
Amarillo College acting President Paul Matney (pictured) is set to become the school's 13th official head.
Matney was named acting president in May 2008, replacing Steven Jones, who stepped down due to illness.
Matney joined the AC faculty in 1980 as division chairman and professor of language, communications and fine arts. He has also served as vice president, dean of instruction and associate vice president of instruction throughout his tenure at AC.
Corpus Christi goes green with new energy plan
The Corpus Christi City Council has approved a resolution that sets a goal to reduce the city's energy consumption by 5 percent every year.
The City Green program will begin by asking employees who drive city vehicles to combine driving routes and by replacing old or broken equipment with renewable counterparts. Major green initiatives including the installation of wind turbines and solar-powered panels will also be considered. The city has received $2.7 million in federal stimulus dollars to implement the measures. A request for an additional $500,000 in federal grants is pending.
Councilman Larry Elizondo (pictured) said the comprehensive plan to go green will spark a tremendous transition. "It's the thing to do now," he said.
Victoria approves $962,300 grant application for radios
The Victoria City Council recently authorized city staff to apply for a $982,300 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy approximately 375 new radios for city, county and volunteer fire departments.
The grant will help the city meet the requirement to switch from analog to digital by 2012, said David Yates, who oversees the city's radio system. The city will be required to match about $192,500 if the grant application is approved. The city and county plan to split the match based on the number of radio each entity purchases, Yates said.
The total cost to replace the current radio system is expected to be from $4.2 million to $6.7 million, depending on which options are selected, said Captain Jesse Turner of the Victoria Police Department. No date has been set for the complete conversion.
Harris Co. approves ship channel district for security
The Harris County Commissioners Court has approved the creation of the Houston Ship Channel Security District, a public-private joint effort that will increase and enhance security technology and infrastructure. The initiative will work to deter terrorism as well as theft and other security and safety issues.
The district's servicing area will include the Port of Houston and more than 100 refinery, chemical and marine facilities in the area, which will pay operations and maintenance assessments to the district as a supplement to $31 million in Homeland Security Grants.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia (pictured) said the measure will "facilitate communication and cooperation among local law enforcement jurisdictions and the private sector to better protect this vital area of our community."
Rockwall announces bond sales for justice center, roads
Rockwall County commissioners recently approved the sale of $24.7 million in limited tax refunding bonds to cover issuance of short-term bonds approved earlier to pay for a new Justice Center. Commissioners also approved $10.62 million in road bonds to pay for several roadway improvements.
The $24.7 million in bonds will cover all but $5 million of the original issue of short-term debt totaling $30 million that commissioners authorized in May to fund a proposed new Justice Center, said County Treasurer Bill Sinclair. Commissioners agreed to leave $5 million at the variable interest rate bonds until final cost estimates for the new Justice Center come in later this year.
The $10 million in bonds, which are part of two bond proposals totaling $117.5 million voters approved in 2004 and 2008, will pay for planning and engineering for interchanges with Interstate 30 from FM 549, FM 551 and FM 740, the county's $5 million commitment to the city of Rockwall for improvements to John King Boulevard and for planning and engineering on SH 66, SH 276 and FM 549.
Fort Worth moves ahead with plan for joint facilities
Fort Worth city council members recently authorized city staff to begin negotiations with the Fort Worth Independent School District to build a joint community center and elementary school in Rosemont Park.
Despite objections from some residents that they will have less park space for youth sports, the cooperative agreement will allow the city and school district to construct a larger building with more amenities than either could afford separately, said Councilman Joel Burns (pictured).
The plan calls for the city abandoning 1.5 acres of Rosemont Park on the north side of Seminary Drive and the school district to lease 6.7 acres of open land on the south side of Seminary Drive to the city for use as a park, he said.
Northwest ISD high school students to get new laptops
Students at both high schools in the Northwest Independent School District will be issued mini-laptop computers to access software, documents and the Internet.
The students will be issued the new laptop computers early in the fall semester to use for homework and in classrooms, said Kitty Poehler, executive director of personnel services. Because the laptops are portable, students will be able to work on homework, papers and projects on the laptops between practices for athletics or band or during other breaks, she said. The district plans to issue the laptop computers to middle school students in 2010.
District officials still have not decided how much to assess students for an annual usage fee. The computers will remain school property and families will be charged a fair-market replacement cost if the unit is lost or damaged. An optional insurance program will be offered, she said. Funding for the laptop computers was provided by a bond proposal approved by voters in 2008.
Williamson County names new director of infrastructure
Robert "Bob" Daigh (pictured) has been named director of infrastructure for Williamson County, effective Sept. 1. In his new job, he will direct administrative work related to county infrastructure issues.
As former Austin district engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Daigh oversaw administration, planning, environmental clearance and right-of-way acquisition, as well as the construction and operation of state and federal highways in 11 Central Texas counties.
Daigh holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Hutto seeks citizens for bond election committee
Hutto City Council members are looking for several citizens to serve on a bond election committee to consider capital projects to include in a possible Nov. 3 bond proposal. The committee will meet several times in July to review potential projects including parks, open spaces, facilities, streets and drainage to recommend to council members for addition to a possible Nov. 3 bond election. Those interested in serving on the committee must submit an application to the city secretary's office 5 p.m. on July 1. The council will announce appointments to the bond committee on July 2, said Finance Manager Micah Grau.
Arlington adds four temporary Title I schools
Trustees for the Arlington Independent School District recently designated four additional schools as Title I campuses for the next two years as a way to maximize $10.8 million in federal stimulus funding. Title 1 schools receive extra federal funding based on the percentage of students on free and reduced-price lunches. Arlington ISD receives about $12.6 million in Title 1 funds annually and already has 37 schools designated as Title 1. The additional $10.8 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act will be used over the next two years.
The funding can be used to buy computers and other equipment and to provide additional services such as tutoring and staff development that will benefit students in the Title 1 schools, said Superintendent Jerry McCullough (pictured). Of the four schools that received temporary designation as Title 1 schools, Sam Houston High School will receive an additional $2 million over the two-year period, the largest share of the additional funding. The other schools to be temporarily designated as Title I schools are Gunn Junior High School and Bryant and Starrett Elementary schools, which will each receive between $110,000 and $160,000 a year.
Several other school districts in Texas also are temporarily designating as Title I schools to maximize the federal stimulus funding. More than 4,000 public and charter schools in Texas, or about half of the schools in the state, are currently designated as Title 1 schools, according to the Texas Education Agency. TEA officials will not know how many more Title I schools will be added until September, when school districts must apply for the stimulus and Title I funds.
'Pipeline' can help identify, increase opportunities
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Stimulus results in creative energy efficiency solutions
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Sometimes solutions to problems are so simple they get overlooked. Here's an example. With summer temperatures climbing to triple digits, an individual could get relief simply by standing in the shade of a tree. And, some governmental entities are seeking solutions to high energy costs in just the same way...by creating more shade from trees.
Cities in at least two states will spend federal stimulus funds on trees - with the objective of increasing energy efficiency. Nurseries and tree farmers should love this concept. Environmentalists and beautification experts will also be happy.
One city in Idaho hopes to purchase 250 trees for planting, noting the city's current tree population provides $14.26 per tree per year in energy savings, from shade, of course! And in Wisconsin, officials in one city hope to use federal funds to plant trees downtown to replace ones that have died because officials can point to significant energy savings that will occur.
Other requests for funding from the Recovery Act are more conventional, with millions of stimulus dollars dedicated to energy efficiency programs, rebates for energy efficient appliance purchases and home weatherization projects. Almost every city is targeting energy efficiency projects in subsidized housing units.[more]
Marion ISD to buy four
Emergency Management Association plans symposium
"Make It Happen," the 3rd Annual Emergency Management Association of Texas (EMAT) symposium is slated for Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel Bayfront Tower in Corpus Christi. A limited number of rooms have been secured for $85 per night, so attendees are urged to make reservations early. Attendees will have the opportunity to attend a refresher course and take the exam for Texas Floodplain Mangers Certification. The general membership meeting will include board elections, 2009 EMAT awards and recognition of Texas Emergency Manager certification recipients. For more information, click here. Online registration will be available soon.
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.