|Volume 7, Issue 26 · Friday, July 10, 2009|
Some Texas kids can leave backpacks at home
HISD's virtual school program expands to students statewide
Some lucky Texas elementary and middle school students can leave their backpacks at home for the upcoming school year.
The Houston Independent School District has teamed with Texas Connections Academy to expand their successful virtual school program from 100 local students to 1,000 third- through eighth-graders across the state.
The Texas Connections Academy at Houston (TCA@H), as the program is now known, offers selected students a tuition-free, public education with certified teachers via the Internet. Eligible students receive a loaned computer and subsidy for Internet access.
Students enrolled in TCA@H, the only Texas Education Agency (TEA)-approved statewide virtual school program, are monitored by learning coaches, parents or guardians in the home who play an active role in assisting with day-to-day management of the student's schedule and learning delivery.
"Learning coaches mark the child's attendance and go through training," said LaMyrle Ituah (right), coordinator of HISD's Charter Schools Programs. "TCA keeps in close contact with them."[more]
Gail Lowe named chair of State Board of Education
Gail Lowe (pictured) of Lampasas has been named by Gov. Rick Perry as chair of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2011. She replaces Don McLeroy of College Station. The board and education commissioner oversee the state's public school system.
Lowe was first elected to the SBOE in 2002 and re-elected in 2004 and 2008. She currently serves on the Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund. She previously served as vice chair of the board's Committee on Planning and has also chaired the Committee on School Initiatives.
Lowe is co-publisher of the Lampasas Dispatch Record. and holds a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University.
Texas National Guard participates in radio test project
One of 14 entities chosen by DHS to evaluate multi-band radios
The Texas National Guard (TNG)- Austin ranks among 14 lead organizations selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate to run a pilot phase of testing and evaluation for the Multi-Band Radio project.
The radios tested in the pilot endeavor will allow police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel to communicate with partner agencies, regardless of the radio band on which they operate.
As part of the final pilot phase, which also includes laboratory testing, TNG-Austin will be able to access the multi-band technology and implement it in its daily operations. The final phase of development also incorporates feedback from local, state and federal agency personnel who have previously used the equipment.
The devices, comparable in size and weight to existing portable radios utilized by emergency respondents, provide much-improved communication capabilities. Current radios operate within a specified frequency band, hindering communication with agencies that operate on different frequencies.[more]
Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., president, Health Science Center and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, Texas A&M System
Career highlights and education: I graduated from Katy High School when it was a 2A school and then attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, graduating with a BA in psychology/sociology. I completed my medical education at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and my Family Medicine training at Memorial Herman in Houston. I enjoyed private practice in Richmond, Texas, for nearly 20 years and then moved to College Station to start a Family Medicine residency. In 2000, I moved to the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine as interim dean and from there in 2002 to become the second president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. I have been very active in medical organizations and was honored to serve as chair of the Board of Trustees and president of the American Medical Association as well as chair of the board for the Association of Academic Health Centers.
What I like best about my job is: I like the challenge of a growing, high-aspiration institution. We have a superb faculty, great students and high standards. Virtually every day brings new knowledge and new challenge. Having a leadership team that is able to effectively meet those challenges is great fun and very rewarding. Having a small hand in training the health care providers of tomorrow is very fulfilling.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Listen, listen, listen...understand or ask questions...THEN talk. There is a substantial number of individuals who know so much more than I about some aspect of the Health Science Center. Learning from them or at the very least hearing their perspective before making a decision is important to achieving the best possible outcomes. While I believe I have learned this lesson - I occasionally have to relearn it!
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Work hard, be willing to take a risk and find some mentors who have a step or two on you and learn from them.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: playing a (bad) round of golf, reading a book or taking a dip in the pool.
People would be surprised to know that I: was the president of my high school's Future Homemakers of America.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: John Maxwell's Developing the Leader Within You was an excellent treatise on leadership which helps put some of the HSC's priorities in perspective, reminded me of lessons learned along the way and emphasized the importance of integrity, communication and the willingness to change. I enjoy reading leadership materials as a reminder that there is always so much more to learn and apply in order to continue on the path to excellence, and Maxwell was easy to read - freeing time for thought and application of the ideas even as I read.
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Office of Rural Community Affairs set for name change
The Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) will have a new name beginning Sept. 1. The state agency dedicated to rural Texas communities will then be known as the Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA). The agency's new URL will become www.tdra.state.tx.us.
Charles S. Stone (pictured), ORCA executive director, said the agency's acronym often confused rural community residents and other state agencies whose members often "mistook us for a nonprofit organization."
Created by the 77th Legislature in 2001, ORCA has awarded more than 4,891 grants totaling more than $642 million to rural areas for economic development, disaster relief, infrastructure and healthcare measures.
Ag commissioner urges cities to apply for grants
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples recently announced that the agency is taking applications for grants from the $10 million Texas Capital Fund, which was created to help cities in rural areas pay for infrastructure improvements, real estate acquisitions and other activities to help recruit businesses and create jobs.
The Texas Capital Fund offers awards in four separate programs - infrastructure development, real estate development, main street improvements and downtown revitalization. Infrastructure Development awards may be used for projects that include water and sewer lines, road improvements, fiber optic lines and railroad spurs while Real Estate Development awards may be used to acquire, construct or rehabilitate buildings. Main Street Improvements and Downtown Revitalization programs provide grants to non-entitlement cities for the purpose of renovating or constructing sidewalks, lighting, drainage and other infrastructure elements in downtown areas.
The deadline for applying for the awards is Sept. 1. More information on the Texas Capital Fund may be found HERE.
Texas Youth Commission wins $2.9 million grant
The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded a $2.9 million grant to the Texas Youth Commission to help find jobs for young people involved in the juvenile justice system. The grant funding will pay for training and employment for youths in the juvenile justice system this past year.
Dallas offices shuttered Monday for employee furlough
Many city departments in Dallas closed for business on Monday after the city council agreed to shut down many city services such as libraries, recreation centers and pools for the first of two mandatory employee furlough days to help balance the city budget.
The furloughs did not include garbage pick-up or emergency services such as fire, police and emergency. The city's 311 service was operated over the weekend with a small crew, said City Manager Mary Suhm (pictured). The two employee furlough days are expected to save the city $2.8 million during this current fiscal year. Affected employees, however, lose eight hours of pay or the equivalent in salary. The next employee furlough day is scheduled for Sept. 4.
Suhm said she is considering requesting council to approve four more employee furlough days in the next fiscal year to ease the city's huge budget deficit.
TDHCA reaches milestone in home-rebuilding effort
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) as of July 5 completed work on 112 homes and started construction on 554 single-family houses in its efforts to assist in Hurricane Rita disaster relief. The repair and replacement work is funded through $222 million in TDHCA's Homeowner Assistance and Sabine Pass Restoration programs.
Previously some 475 homes were repaired or replaced with $74.5 million in hurricane disaster recovery funds, marking a total of 587 single-family units on which TDHCA has completed construction.
The department plans to rebuild or replace another 2,700 homes for residents impacted by the storm.
ETF funding investment goes to Amarillo company
Animal Innovations Inc. of Amarillo is the recipient of $250,000 from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. The company will use the funds for completion and commercialization of its automatic syringe filling and data collection system for animal medication. In making the award, Gov. Rick Perry said the innovations of the company will improve existing animal health care practices as well as having a significant impact on agriculture in the state and elsewhere.
Animal Innovations' technology allows the safe and efficient administration of drugs to animals through its patented, back filling syringe. The system's accurate measuring system can fill a syringe up to 10 milliliters in 10 seconds, ensuring that animals are not over- or under-medicated. The system also protects the quality of the medication by shielding it from heat and other external elements.
Animal Innovations will partner with Texas AM University and Ten X Technology to commercialize its product. The technology also could protect livestock and other animals from agro-terrorism.
Edinburg hospital helps endow 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."
City-County Cooperative Award winners announced
Dallas County and the City of Irving and Wise County and the cities of Bridgeport and Decatur were recently named winners of the 2009 City-County Cooperation Award by the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) and the Texas Municipal League (TML).
Dallas County and the City of Irving were chosen for their cooperative efforts relating to the Irving Health Center. The project eventually included those two entities as well as Parkland Health and Hospital System, Baylor Medical Center at Irving, Dental Health Programs, Irving Housing and Human Services Board and the U.S. Department of Housing. Indigent residents of Irving were found to either forgo medical treatment or seek expensive emergency room services. Working together, the entities were able to open the health center in 2007 to meet these needs. The result has been more services, less expensive primary care and provision of outpatient care that has prevented many hospitalizations - and a savings to taxpayers.
The Wise County, Bridgeport and Decatur partnership was honored for bringing a branch campus of Weatherford College to their county. As the need for college-level classes in the county grew, so did the need for larger facilities. A steering committee was formed and successfully engineered a branch campus maintenance tax referendum. The college obtained permission to build a Wise County branch, which now stands on property owned by the County, with a long-term lease with the college to cover debt repayment, operation and maintenance of the facilities.
The entities will all be formally honored at the TAC conference Aug. 26 in Austin, the Texas Association of Regional Councils annual conference Sept. 16 on S. Padre Island and the TML annual conference Oct. 21 in Fort Worth.
Donald Grose to retire as dean of UNT libraries
Dr. B. Donald Grose (pictured) retired July 1 from his position as dean of the University of North Texas Libraries and associate professor in the Department of Dance and Theater. Grose served in both positions since 1988. He served as associate chair of the department for one year and held a tenured teaching position while director of libraries. The director position became a dean position in 1988.
As dean of the UNT Libraries, Grose oversaw the creation of the nation's only CyberCemetery in 1977 as a means of preserving accumulated information from defunct government agency Web sites. It now includes some 50 Web sites from United States executive and legislative branches and independent commissions. During his tenure, the libraries also created the Digital Projects Unit to support the libraries with digital imaging, archival storage of electronic files, metadata development and more.
Grose holds a bachelor's degree from Missouri State University, a master's from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
TWDB gets $160M in stimulus funds
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded more than $160 million in stimulus funds to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to assist state and local governments finance overdue water-improvement projects.
EPA Acting Regional Administrator Lawrence E. Starfield called the investment "win-win," saying the funds "will not only help our economic recovery, but they will help provide safe, clean drinking water for communities throughout Texas."
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will be allocated to the state's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program, which provides low-interest loans for water systems to finance infrastructure upgrades.
Law requires Comptroller to review appraisal districts
A new law in the Legislature's House Bill 8 will charge Texas Comptroller Susan Combs with reviewing the performance of each county appraisal district at least once every other year. In off years, the Comptroller's Office will perform a property value study for each school district to determine its taxable value. The new law goes into effect in January 2010.
Combs said she looks forward to working with districts "to ensure fair and accurate appraisals," adding "Texas taxpayers expect and deserve efficient service and uniform appraisals."
The reviews will include each appraisal district's governance, taxpayer assistance and operating and appraisal standards as well as the procedures and methods involved. If a district fails to comply with Combs' recommendations within one year, the Board of Tax Professional Examiners or a successor agency is required to ensure compliance by taking necessary action.
UTHSC-Houston gets first federal stimulus funds grant
Rowen Chang (left), a Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM) professor of protein chemistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and Chuantao Jiang, M.D. (right), an assistant professor at the IMM, will be the principal investigators on a $412,500 federal economic stimulus grant. The grant addresses Parkinson's disease research and is the university's first federal grant from stimulus funds.
The two-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke will support efforts by researchers in the university's IMM to develop a therapeutic vaccine. The grant extends through April 30, 2011.
Chang believes he may be able to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease and possibly even prevent it by targeting a protein associated with the disease.
UTEP awarded grant for migrant worker program
The University of Texas at El Paso's UTEP-High School Equivalency Program got a $2.3 million shot in the arm recently in the form of a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The funds will be used to help migrant and seasonal farm workers and their children earn high school equivalency diplomas. The UTEP program serves students in 23 counties in far West Texas and southern New Mexico as they prepare for the GED (General Educational Development) exam.
Seventy students will participate in three 10-week sessions where they will get classroom instruction, tutorial assistance and academic, personal and career counseling. The students are, after graduation, expected to be ready to transition to college, vocational school, the workforce or the military. They will receive financial support such as weekly stipends and housing and 25 will live on campus.
Norma O. Chacon (pictured), director of the program, said the goal is to break the cycle of migrant students dropping out of school during agricultural seasons. She said the program will show them other options and that obtaining a college education is possible. The grant is likely to be spread over five years.
Pritchard named as dean of UH pharmacy school
University of Houston officials recently named Dr. F. Lamar Pritchard as the dean of the College of Pharmacy there. Pritchard, who currently serves as dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, will succeed Mustafa F. Lokhandwala, who has served as interim dean at the pharmacy school since September 2008.
Pritchard previously served as a medical science manager at a pharmaceutical firm. He has a bachelor's degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.
Hospital will be revamped for WTAMU research facility
The former Palo Duro Hospital will be renovated for a West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) research facility thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. The funds will be matched by WTAMU funds.
The former hospital building will be the new home for research facilities for Dr. Guy Loneragan (left), associate professor of animal science, and his work on food safety. Dr. Robert DeOtte (right), associate professor of environmental engineering, will also study air quality and airborne pathogens there. Office space in the building will also be provided for the university's Alternative Energy Institute and University Research Alliance as well as Class 4 Winds, a nonprofit group that works to promote wind energy in the Panhandle region.
WTAMU applied for the grant more than a year ago and hopes to have the facility open within a year. Because the facility is large, it will lend itself to additional space for research and office facilities not in the original plan. Officials say some of the space could even be rented or leased.
UTMB - Phoenix preparing to rise once again
With funding approved by the Texas Legislature and other funds coming in from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), The University of Texas System and the Sealy & Smith charitable foundation, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is preparing to rise from the ashes of Hurricane Ike.
Devastated by damages from the hurricane of nearly a year ago, UTMB is now about to embark on a $1.4 billion project to repair those damages. Some $500 million of the costs will be to restore the Jennie Sealy and John Sealy Hospitals. Another $2 million will be used for repairs on non-clinical buildings such as the child care center and the Mary Moody Northern Pavilion.
If damages from the storm weren't enough, the facility then faced the loss of employees and beds and revenues that were in the red. However, when the 81st Regular Session ended, Texas lawmakers approved $566.5 million to UTMB for the upcoming biennium. Threats to cut beds and thus the number of indigent patients the facility could treat fell by the wayside. FEMA funds, insurance money and public and private donations netted the facility $1.4 billion to try to return to prominence.
Alamo Area COG announces new program directors
Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) officials recently announced two new program directors. Dr. Martha Spinks (left) has been named director of the AACOG's Bexar Area Agency on Aging (Bexar AAA) and Anthony Jalomo (right) has been tapped to serve as director of AACOG's Bexar Mental Retardation Authority (BMRA).
Spinks previously served nine years as executive director of Saint Barnabas Senior Services, a social service agency servicing low-income seniors residents in downtown Los Angeles. She retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Army in 2000 after 24 years of service. She holds master's degrees from the University of Northern Colorado and Our Lady of the Lake University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Jalomo most recently worked as the data and utilization manager at BMRA, where he began working in 1997 providing case management services. He has also served as BMRA's service coordination manager. He holds a bachelor's degree from Sul Ross State University.
Texas to receive $549,300 in stimulus funds for facilities
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded $549.830 in federal stimulus funds to help rural communities build or upgrade public facilities. The nine grants and loans are the third phase of community awards through the USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities program. Facilities qualified for grants include childcare centers, clinics, hospitals, assisted living facilities, fire and rescue stations, police stations community centers, public buildings and transportation.
Under the most recent award, the city of Edna will receive a $219,850 loan and grant to buy a new pumper truck while the city of Olney garnered a $40,000 grant to help buy a rescue truck for the volunteer fire department. Other awards included:
College Station OKs finance plan for convention center
College Station city council members recently approved a finance plan for a proposed $40 million convention center.
After reviewing three financing options developed by city staff, council members opted for a plan that calls for the hotel occupancy tax to provide 86 percent of the funding for the convention center and will allow construction to begin in fiscal year 2012, later than originally discussed. The adopted plan recommends reducing current hotel occupancy tax expenditures by 50 percent while continuing full funding for the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau. Funds saved by reduced spending on projects such as the George Bush Library and the Veteran's Memorial would be placed in a fund for the convention center that is expected to accumulate $2.5 million to $2.6 million a year for the first 20 years, said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Kersten.
The plan also calls for the convention center to be financed through a designated increase in the hotel occupancy tax. It should provide an additional $400,000 per year while remaining costs can be funded through revenues generated from current and future tenants at the site, parking fees and a tax increment finance reinvestment zone.
UT-Brownsville chooses new associate VP
Ken Turpen (pictured) has been named associate vice president for Development in the Division of Institutional Advancement at The University of Texas at Brownsville. His goal is to see annual gifts to the university reach $3 million with a "focus on communicating and building relationships with 150,000 alumni who live throughout the world," he said.
Turpen is also looking to get the business community involved through philanthropic efforts such as UT-Brownsville's Distinguished Lecture Series, the President's Circle Fund and The Arts Center capital campaign. He said local businesses and corporations benefit from an educated community from which to recruit employees.
Turpen most recently worked as executive director of Philanthropic Services for institutions in Maryland. He served in the same capacity at North Carolina-based University Health Systems Foundation and the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation. He holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas-Pan American and a master's degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Michael E. DeBakey VA Center receives $5M grant
The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development has granted the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center a five-year, $5 million award for the creation of a new research center. The Neurorehabilitation: Neurons to Networks Center of Excellence will offer a specialized focus on mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injuries under the direction of Baylor College of Medicine professors Harvey Levin and Kimberly Arlinghaus.
An estimated 300,000 veterans have suffered traumatic brain injuries sustained from blasts in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Michael E. DeBakey Center provides care to about 10 returning veterans daily.
UTB/TSC selects vice president for new position
Irv Downing (pictured) has joined The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC) faculty as vice president for Economic Development and Community Services. The newly created position is geared toward the academic and economic development needs of the university by developing relationships between UTB/TSC capabilities in workforce training, education and academic research.
Downing previously served as planner for the City of Brownsville and as founding executive director of the Brownsville Economic Development Foundation.
TASB cites nominees for Superintendent of the Year
The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has announced superintendents from 16 public school districts have been nominated for the annual Superintendent of the Year award.
Regional superintendents of the year and nominating education services centers (ESCs) include: Oscar Rodriguez Jr., Mission CISD, ESC 1; Charley McMath, London ISD, ESC 2; Michael Lanier, Rice CISD, ESC 3; Mark Henry, Galena Park ISD, ESC 4; Clay Webb, New Waverly ISD, ESC 6; James Wilcox, Longview ISD, ESC 7; Linda Henrie, Mesquite ISD, ESC 10; Ray Braswell, Denton ISD, ESC 11; Rose Cameron, Copperas Cove ISD, ESC 12; Jesús Chávez, Round Rock ISD, ESC 13; Guy Nelson, Highland ISD, ESC 14; Robert Gibson, Miles ISD, ESC 15; Bill Mayfield, Highland Park ISD, ESC 16; Larry McClenny, Patton Springs ISD, ESC 17; Paul Vranish, Tornillo ISD, ESC 19; and Thomas Harvey, Jr., La Vernia ISD, ESC 20.
Superintendents from Texas' 1,036 school districts are eligible for nomination by their school boards. Candidates are selected based on student performance, leadership skills, commitment to public involvement in education and other criteria. The winner of the Superintendent of the Year award will be honored Oct. 3 at the TASB Convention in Houston.
Kettering to lead institutional advancement at OLLU
Paul T. "Rocky" Kettering III (pictured) has been appointed vice president for Institutional Advancement at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, effective July 21. Kettering currently serves as executive director of Development at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, a position he has held since 2007. In his new position, Kettering will be responsible for enhancing the division's ability to grow professionally and fund strategic initiatives. He also will help conduct a capital campaign, expand the major gifts program and strengthen alumni programs.
Prior to joining St. Mary's, Kettering was associate executive director for the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation. He also previously served at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta and Cathedral Catholic School in Natchez, Mississippi.
Kettering holds a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University, a master's from St. Mary's University in Minnesota and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
El Paso to spend $1.4 million to lease undercover vehicles
El Paso city council members recently approved $1.4 million to lease 80 unmarked vehicles during the next three years to increase safety for undercover police officers by switching vehicles more frequently.
Leasing vehicles for undercover use is more cost effective than purchasing vehicles, said Assistant Police Chief Eric Sullivan. The cost of the leases will be paid for primarily with state and federal grant funds, he said.
Missouri City agrees to seek grant for new fire stations
Missouri City council members recently voted to permit city staff to apply for a grant from the Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant program to build two new fire stations.
While the grant has no cost-sharing requirements, the application from the city proposes a 15 percent local match, said City Manager Frank Simpson. The city also will be responsible for paying for furnishings, personnel and equipment, including new fire trucks.
Dyer to head OLLU College of Arts, Sciences
Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) has appointed Christopher L. Dyer (pictured) dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dyer joins OLLU after having served as dean of Arts and Sciences at Mount Olive College in North Carolina since 2004, also serving there as professor of anthropology. He also was dean of Strategic Initiatives, associate professor and director of the Center for Public Policy at Rhode Island College and has held positions at the University of Rhode Island, the University of South Alabama, Luther College, International University-Mexico City and Arizona State University.
Dyer holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of Arizona, master's degrees from the University of Alabama and the University of Arizona and a doctorate from Arizona State University.
Ector Co. approves $6.2 million for electronic records
The board of directors for the Ector County Hospital District recently approved $6.2 million for a computerized physicians order entry system, the last major step in converting to electronic medical records.
The new system will require five new full-time employees and is designed to improve patient safety, quality and efficiency, said Bill Webster, the chief executive officer for Medical Center Hospital. The project includes installation of hardware, training physicians, nurses and clinical staff, integrating the new software with existing equipment and installing new computer equipment. The work is expected to begin in October and be completed in about one year, Webster said.
The new computerized order entry system could qualify for up to $5.4 million in federal stimulus funds to help the hospital district pay for the new system, said Gary Barnes, chief information officer for the hospital. The $6.2 million cost of the new system brings the total cost for converting to electronic records to close to $30 million since the effort began several years ago, hospital officials said.
Sul Ross presidential hopefuls to tour campus
As Sul Ross State University's 10th President Dr. R. Vic Morgan prepares to retire, four finalists for the university's highest post have been invited to tour the campus in Alpine. Interviews and meetings with Sul Ross-Alpine and Rio Grande College students, faculty, staff and community members are slated to begin Tuesday, Aug. 11. The lone finalist for the post is expected to be announced the following week. Candidates for the position include: Dr. T. Jaime Chahin (top left), Dr. William R. Fannin (top right), Dr. Cheri A. Jimeno (bottom left) and Dr. Ricardo Maestas (bottom right).
Chahin has served as dean of the College of Applied Arts at Texas State University-San Marcos since 1999. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and a master's degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Fannin has served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and as professor at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa since 1996. He holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.
Jimeno has served as president of New Mexico State University, Alamogordo, since May 2007. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Montana, a master's degree from Montana State University, Bozeman, and a Ph.D. from Utah State University, Logan.
Maestas has served as vice president for Student and University Relations and as dean of students at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, since 2005. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
Lufkin OKs $2.21 million for capital improvement projects
Lufkin city council members recently approved $2.21 million for seven capital improvement projects. The council also approved $500,000 for unspecified improvements to the Pines Theater.
The seven projects are upgrades to Fire Station No. 1, improvements to the Kit McConnico parking lot, Zoo Circle Drive, reconstruction of Denman Avenue, renovation of Locomotive No. 110 and replacement of bridges on White Oak Drive and Groesbeck Avenue.
City officials said the additional $500,000 will remain unspent until a citizen's committee decides for what purpose the theater should be moved.
Waxahachie to apply for stimulus funds for fire station
Waxahachie City Council members recently agreed to apply for stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to pay for a new fire station. The new station will be located in east Waxahachie if the grant application is approved, city officials said.
Former Attorney General Gonzales to join Texas Tech
Former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (pictured) is set to join the Texas Tech University System on Aug. 1. In his new role, he will assist TTU and Angelo State University with recruiting and retaining first-generation and underrepresented minority college students as part of the university's Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement.
Gonzales transferred to Rice University, where he earned his bachelor's degree, after an appointment to the Air Force Academy. He graduated from Harvard Law School and worked for a time at a Houston law firm before then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush recruited him as an advisor on border issues and relations with Mexico. He was then appointed Texas Secretary of State and elected to the Texas Supreme Court. He later served as U.S. Attorney General in the Bush administration.
FEMA awards $22 million in grants to Galveston groups
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently awarded $22 million in grants to several Galveston County cities and a school district to aid in recovery from Hurricane Ike.
The grants include:
So far, Texas has received more than $1.1 billion from FEMA since September 2008 to help with recovery from Hurricane Ike.
Cleveland airport to receive $120K in upgrades
The Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) has approved approximately $120,000 for improvements at Cleveland Municipal Airport. A new fuel system is slated to be installed as part of the upgrade.
The funds arrive as part of the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) Aviation Facilities Grant Program, a $60 million initiative geared toward the planning, construction and maintenance of community airports.
A contract for the project is set to be awarded this fall.
Montgomery Co. receives $418,000 for vehicle cameras
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office has received $418,000 in grant money to equip about one-third of its patrol fleet with new video cameras. The dashboard-mounted devices - which provide clearer, digitally produced images - will replace existing cameras on 65 patrol vehicles. Images from the new cameras can be reviewed remotely and are automatically saved one minute before deputies turn on emergency lights to respond to calls.
Each of the "newest, greatest" camera systems, according to Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel (pictured), costs about $6,400.
The grant arrives as part of $2 billion set aside from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 through the Edward Byrnes Justice Assistance Grant program. The monies are aimed at helping state and local law enforcement combat crime.
Texas Bar Foundation issues grant to scan, post orders
The Texas Bar Foundation has approved a $7,500 one-year grant for the scanning and posting of all Texas Supreme Court local-rules orders issued since 1984 and administrative orders issued from 1990 to 2001 on the court's Web site. The Office of Court Administration is funding the grant.
Internet users will be able verify online versions of a particular set of local rules to ensure they conform to applicable approval orders.
In 2002, Texas' highest court began posting copies of all administrative orders on its Web site, but did not include orders issued before then. Administrative orders issued before 1990 were entered in oversized bound volumes, which would have proven too expensive to copy and scan.
West Galveston Bay marshes to be rebuilt with grant
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has selected the restoration of West Galveston Bay's fast-dying marshes as part of a $167 million effort to rebuild damaged wetlands and create jobs in the process.
The administration plans to allocate more than $5 million in funds to rebuild the marshes with dredged sand in what stands as NOAA's single largest restoration measure. The project is expected to create 100 jobs, according to officials.
Construction on the two-year venture begins in November at Jumbile Cove and Galveston Island State Park.
Transportation Commission awards $4M to airports
The Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) has awarded two Rio Grande Valley airports $4 million for pavement improvements and general upgrade costs.
Cameron County Airport is slated to receive $1.6 million in funds, while the South Texas International Airport in Edinburg has been approved to receive $2.4 million. The funds are allocated through the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) Aviation Facilities Grant program.
TxDOT plans to provide nearly $60 million in funding for the planning, construction and maintenance of community airports this year.
Klein ISD's associate superintendent Johnson retires
Liz Johnson (pictured) has retired from Klein Independent School District after 36 years. She most recently served as the district's first associate superintendent for community relations, a post she held since 2001.
Johnson began her tenure at Klein ISD as a kindergarten teacher in 1973 before serving as an instructional officer in 1976. She went on to become an assistant principal and later was named associate director for student services.
Johnson holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in addition to a number of teaching certifications.
Brazos COG awards $75K for mobile data program
The Brazos Valley Council of Governments has awarded $75,000 to the Washington County Sheriff's Office to initiate a mobile data capability program. The funds, part of the Criminal Justice Division Grants from the Governor's Office, will help outfit 17 patrol cars with computer mounting, chargers and four laptop computers. If county commissioners vote to allocate the funds to the sheriff's office, the department will receive the money at the end of July.
Washington County Patrol Deputy William Berry said it is the department's goal to get every deputy his or her own laptop. For now, he said, "We will have to switch out the units after each shift."
Officers will be able to research information related to licenses, car registration and outstanding warrants with the new technology.
Mercedes ISD to receive $6 million in federal grants
The Mercedes Independent School District recently received notice that it will receive $6 million in grants during the next five years from the 21st Century CLC Grant program.
The grant funds will be used to hire about 250 tutors, offer college readiness and workforce readiness activities, deter gangs and drugs, provide workshops and parental improvement activities, offer summer school activities for about 500 students in June and establish partnerships with police, firefighters and colleges, district officials said.
Alice city officials to apply for $7M in TWDB funds
Alice City Manager Ray De Los Santos Jr. (pictured) and his staff have secured an invitation to apply for nearly $7 million in funding from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for two water/wastewater projects. The funding would save the city $7 million in 2007 series bond funding, allowing greater latitude for additional wastewater projects.
The two projects up for funding consideration include new 24-inch and 21-inch trunk lines for the Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant (totaling $4.8 million) and new sewer lines on Texas Boulevard (totaling $2 million).
Mayor Rito Silva Jr. said the inclusion of the two initiatives places the city on the verge of its single largest infrastructure upgrade in history.
Montgomery County to build forensic mental hospital
An appropriation in the Texas Health and Human Services budget during the recently completed 81st Regular Session of the Texas Legislature means a 120-bed forensic mental hospital may open its doors in Montgomery County by 2011. The Montgomery County commissioner's court recently announced the facility will be built near the Joe Corley Detention Facility in north Conroe. The local facility will mean the county no longer has to transport psychiatric cases to facilities in Rusk, which proved to be an expense of $50,000 in 2006 each time two deputies escorted one prisoner.
The new facility is expected to be situated on a four- to five-acre site and carry a price tag of $30 million to $35 million. County Judge Alan Sadler said because of the increasing number of inmates requiring mental health assistance, he expects the facility to be full within six months of opening.
The facility will be paid for through revenue bonds. No company has been named to design and build the facility, but a company has been hired to operate it.
HGAC weighs contingency plans for transportation
Houston-Galveston Area Council members are compiling a list of contingency projects that could be funded with leftover transportation project monies. Bids on the projects have come in lower than expected.
About $150 million was originally earmarked in federal stimulus funds for transportation projects in Harris and surrounding counties, but bids came in about $30 million less than anticipated, according to Pat Waskowiak, the council's transportation planning, programming and public outreach manager. The council has asked city and county officials to submit new projects to the contingency list.
"We are analyzing our current needs to see what projects meet the restrictions for the funds," said Bob Leiper (pictured), Baytown deputy city manager.
Galveston school district benefits from $500K grant
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Galveston ISD a $500,000 grant - the largest in the state - to help improve libraries. Damages from Hurricane Ike last year completely destroyed an entire collection of 10,000 books at one Galveston elementary school and another elementary lost 1,500 of its 9,500 books. GISD will also receive some funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the grant funds helping bridge the gap for replacement of the books.
Some of the funding also will be used to purchase SMART boards, laptops and iPods to be loaded with electronic readers to view books and other reading materials.
Port Freeport to seek grants for railcar storage initiative
Port Freeport officials are planning to apply for funding in support of a 1,300-acre railcar storage yard where crews would load trains with 140-foot windmill blades destined for the nation's outlying regions.
The $40-$50 million initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's $1.5 billion Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, would move trucks off the nation's highways, improving safety conditions and lessening the need for truck repairs.
"If we can load up a complete train with nothing but windmill components, those trucks are off the highway," Port Freeport Executive Director A.J. "Pete" Reixach (pictured) said. "It's also a big money-saver for our customers," he said.
Montgomery County approves bond sale for roads
Work will continue on five major road projects in Montgomery County after the commissioner's court's recent approval of the sale of $58.3 million in bonds. As part of the state's "pass through" toll program, the bond amount is expected to be paid for by the state as the county is reimbursed for the number of vehicles using the new roads.
Montgomery County became the first county in the state to use the pass through program, and the five projects were funded by a 2005 road bond issue. The county pays the up-front costs for the projects and then is reimbursed by the state at a rate of seven cents per mile per vehicle that uses the roadways within a year from the time they open. The county is expected to sell more bonds in July, as it needs approximately $88 million to complete the projects. Another $38 million in revenue bonds could be sold as early as 2010.
Stratta serving as president of international clerks group
Bryan City Secretary Mary Lynne Stratta (pictured) recently began her term as president of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC) and in her new role will be representing not only Texas, but the United States.
Stratta was named city secretary in Bryan in 1990 and has nearly three decades of experience. She has been a member of the IIMC for 16 years and served on the organization's Board of Directors from 2003-2006. She also served as chair of the IIMC Education/Professional Growth Committee and was a member of the IIMC Records Management, Program Review/Certification and Retiree Task Force committees. Stratta is also a former IIMC Education Summit participant and was an Instructor/ Presenter for the IIMC Annual Conferences from 2001-2006.
In Texas, Stratta is a Texas Registered Municipal Clerk and served as president of the Texas Municipal Clerks Association in 2005. She was chosen Texas Municipal Clerk of the Year in 2002. Stratta has also served on the Texas Municipal League Board of Directors.
Conroe mulling 10-year, $145M development plan
Conroe City Council members recently reviewed a study that is expected to serve as a blueprint for a 10-year, $145 million plan for long-term economic development and public transportation. Prepared by a consultant and costing $123,000, the Conroe Mobility and Economic Development Strategy plan focused on three target areas - the area near the airport and industrial park, the city's northwest corridor near Interstate 45 and FM 3083 and the downtown area.
The plan recommended spending $71.4 million for improvements around the airport/industrial park area, including additional roads to improve mobility, upgrade runways, an additional terminal, hangars, drainage and parking. Planners urged spending $62 million in the northwest corridor, including widening and adding sidewalks and medians along FM 3083. The proposed plan also recommended adding an historic, artistic feel to the downtown area by spending $11.4 million on a trolley line, an amphitheater and a city bus line linking downtown to the Conroe Medical Center. The consultants told council members that most of the proposed projects would qualify for federal and state funding.
Francisco Valentin appointed state director for USDA
Francisco Valentin Jr. has been named Texas state director for rural development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Valentin has worked for the USDA Farmers Home Administration for nearly 30 years in a variety of positions.
In announcing the appointment, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Valentin would advocate for rural communities and administer programs and services of the USDA. USDA Rural Development oversees more than $114 billion in loans and loan guarantees as well as housing, business and community infrastructure programs.
Valentin has worked for the USDA in Caldwell, Bryan, Georgetown and Gilmer. He holds a bachelor's degree from Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University at San Marcos.
Bryan's old police building to become City Hall Annex
With a price tag of $2.5 million, the city of Bryan is planning on converting its old police department building into a City Hall Annex that could also house a gym, a health clinic and a pharmacy for city workers. Because the police building is available and empty, City Manager David Watkins (pictured) said expanding the building into an annex would save the city money.
Watkins said nearly three dozen employees could be housed in the new facility, freeing up more space for approximately 70 others in existing buildings. City officials say the costs would be paid from a city account that has a surplus. Officials have ensured that the building is structurally sound and worth the cost of renovating. Building a new facility the same size would cost approximately double the cost of the proposed renovations.
Officials say plans for the renovation should be completed by January, with construction to start in late March, with an 18-month completion period.
Study suggests $64M in rec facility upgrades in Arlington
Following a two-year study, recommendations for upgrades and improvements for Arlington recreational facilities total $64 million. Among the recommendations is the razing of the city's recreational facility and replacement by expanding the New York Senior Center for use by all ages. Also recommended in the study are additional indoor pools, building a southeast Arlington recreation center and upgrades and expansions of other centers to serve all age groups.
Officials note the expansion of the New York Center would carry a price tag of $7.6 million and would include an upgraded gym, pool and fitness rooms. The study also recommends funding options that include community partnerships and providing scholarships to make the facilities accessible to the city's poor families. The city council is expected to review the study in August and vote on whether they should be included in the parks department master plan. The study included various projects for all parts of the city, from swimming pool additions to gyms to kitchen upgrades at the golf club.
'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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Stimulus funding is now flowing briskly, on schedule!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Although it may seem slow to some, the $787 billion headed to state and local governments in the form of stimulus funding is flowing at a pace that is actually a little ahead of schedule. By the middle of last month, $29 billion had been distributed to the states. The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week reported that this amount represents 60 percent of the $49 billion that should be allocated by Sept. 30, the end of the federal government's fiscal year.
Interestingly enough, 90 percent of the released funds have been dedicated to projects involving health care and education. If the federal government continues to meet deadlines, another $20 billion will be allocated in the next three months.
The GAO recently conducted a survey of 16 states and the District of Columbia, which together represent 65 percent of the nation's population and two-thirds of the funding allocations. By mid-June, in those states and D.C., the U.S. Department of Transportation had already obligated $9.2 billion of funding for more than 2,500 highway infrastructure projects.[more]
Hadley to serve TCC
State cooperative program subject of workshop
A free workshop to introduce local government representatives and purchasers to the State of Texas Cooperative Purchasing Program is set for Thursday, July 23, from 9 to 11 a.m. Sponsored by the Alamo Area Council of Government (AACOG), the event will be at AACOG's Al J. Notzon III Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. Those attending will learn the benefits and resources available to program members and how this program can save them time and money. A presentation of the state's new TXSmartBuy online purchasing system will be presented by Charlene Rendon, coordinator of the state's Co-Op program and a certified Texas purchaser. For more information, contact Rendon at 512-463-3336 or email@example.com.
Public Funds Investment Act workshop set in August
The Alamo Area Council of Governments and the University of North Texas will host the annual Public Funds Investment Act Workshop on Aug. 24 and 25 at the Al J. Notzon III Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100, San Antonio. The workshop provides 10 hours of PFIA training and CEP credits. Early bird discounts apply. For more information and to register online, click here.
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.