|Volume 7, Issue 27 · Friday, July 17, 2009|
McCraw named director of Department of Public Safety
Public Safety Commission picks Homeland Security Director for job
Steve McCraw's (pictured) public safety career has come full circle. The El Paso native began his law enforcement career with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). Today, the members of the Public Safety Commission who have oversight of DPS named McCraw director of the state's law enforcement agency.
McCraw will replace Col. Stanley E. Clark, who served as director from September 2008 until he resigned in May amid allegations of harassment by at least two DPS employees. Col. Lamar Beckworth has been serving as interim director since then. Clark was the second DPS director to step down in a nine-month period. Col. Tommy Davis retired in June 2008.
McCraw has been serving as the state's Director of Homeland Security since August 2004. The position was created following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. He has been responsible for directing the day-to-day homeland security efforts of local, state and federal agencies. He also serves as the director of the Division of Emergency Management.
Prior to his service as Homeland Security Director, McCraw was the assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Inspection Division, overseeing evaluation of FBI operations, strategic planning and execution and internal investigations. He also served as assistant director of the FBI's Office of Intelligence and was special agent in charge of the San Antonio office. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft named McCraw director of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force in 2001.
Things heating up for firefighters, emergency personnel
TEEX boasts world's largest, live-fueled facility for fire training
Things are heating up this summer as thousands of firefighters and emergency responders from across the globe descend on College Station to participate in the nation's premiere fire training schools.
Brayton Fire Training Field - the world's largest, live-fueled fire training facility - plays host to a series of emergency response courses this month as the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) holds its 80th annual Summer Fire Training Schools at the Emergency Services Training Institute in College Station.
Firefighters will undergo training such as the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting at Brayton Field shown in the accompanying photo.
"We'll train 80,000 total worldwide this year; 40,000 in College Station," said Mike Wisby (pictured), public information officer for TEEK's Fire Services.
This week, the Brayton facility hosts the 47th annual Industrial Fire Training School which, according to Wisby, includes certification recognized internationally by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for firefighting, rescue and hazardous material control qualifications. To see a slideshow of 2008's Industrial School, click here.[more]
USDA OKs funds for Texas energy-saving measures
The U.S. Department of Energy has approved more than $218 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to help Texas state and local governments, strapped by tight budgets, increase energy-saving measures and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) will administer funds to school districts, public hospitals, public colleges and universities, state agencies and local governments to implement energy-saving upgrades.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said the ARRA funds will allow local governments to "move forward with projects that will save valuable taxpayer dollars through energy efficiency and help Texas meet clean air goals and reduce its energy use."
A majority of the funds ($158.2 million) will be used to install a revolving loan program similar to SECO's LoanSTAR initiative. SECO will accept applications for loans up to $10 million at a 2 percent interest rate for energy-saving projects. For more information about the revolving loan program, click here.
Another portion of the ARRA funds ($16.9 million) will be allocated to traffic-related measures, such as red-light signal synchronization and the purchase of alternative fuels. Another $30 million will be applied toward implementing renewable-energy sources, including solar panels and hydroelectric and geothermal technology.
SECO will partner with the Texas Workforce Commission to train workers for jobs in energy efficiency industries using $6 million in ARRA funds, and $5 million will be geared toward energy-saving education and outreach initiatives.
Jeff Fleece, deputy chief information officer, Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Career highlights and education: I currently serve as deputy chief information officer for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission. I joined HHSC directly from the private sector after spending nine years in a variety of leadership roles at Dell, Inc. My primary focus at Dell was leading global product development teams, and my responsibilities included extensive international business management, primarily in East Asia. I began my career serving our nation as a Cavalry officer in the U.S. Army after earning a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical (Aerospace) Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point. I also earned an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas. I currently reside in Austin, am active in the community and am married to the most amazing woman on Earth.
What I like best about my job is: I've enjoyed bringing technology and process best practices from the private sector into state government to promote efficiency and to better serve the needs of the citizens of the great state of Texas. I feel like the work that I do has an immediate positive impact on the lives of our citizens.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Always consider the impact of your decisions on the citizens who require our agency's services - if it doesn't improve services, then don't do it; if it does improve services, do it quickly.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Be willing to offer new, creative ideas for how to solve tough problems, find ways to improve efficiency and set challenging goals for yourself - you only improve by pushing yourself hard.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: running along Lady Bird Lake (my favorite distance is 26.2 miles), cycling throughout Central Texas (I ride the Houston-to-Austin MS150 annually) or riding horses with my wife.
People would be surprised to know that I: am an avid follower of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." This season I was pulling for rodeo star Ty Murray.
Book, magazine or newspaper article I've read recently that really influenced my thinking: I recently read a biography of President Dwight Eisenhower that really highlighted the importance of persistence and determination in the face of immense challenges. I believe that a good understanding of our nation's history can help us make the best possible decisions for the future.
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.
DPS names Rable new chief information officer
Brad Rable (pictured) has been named chief information officer of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Rable previously worked as senior vice president of program management for a private sector company serving more than 6 million military members and their families. Prior to that charge, he worked as senior vice president of information technology at the same firm. He has also served in various progressive leadership positions in the United States Air Force.
Rable holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University and a master's degree from Webster University.
Texas A&M names presidential search committee
A 15-member search committee has been named to look for the replacement for former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano, who resigned under pressure last month. The TAMU System regents Thursday said they are hopeful to have recommendations from the committee by January of next year. The committee includes three regents, five faculty members, two student members and five other stakeholders with interest in Texas A&M.
Regent Richard Box (pictured) will chair the committee. Other members include: Regents Ida Clement Steen and Lupe Fraga; faculty members Dr. John Junkins, Dr. Tim Hall, Dr. Robert Bednarz (also Faculty Senate Speaker, Dr. Mark Hussey and Dr. Antonio Cepeda-Benito (Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost); Student Body President Eric Beckham; Meredith Maloney, president, Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medicine Assn.; Shelley Potter, Chair of the Board, The Association of Former Students; Thomas Saylak, Chairman of Board of Trustees, Texas A&M Foundation; Neal Adams - Attorney, former vice chair and member, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Dr. Dave Parrott, executive associate vice president for student affairs and Dean of Student Life; and Dr. Frank Ashley, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, TAMU System.
The initial pool of applicants will be evaluated by the search committee and a short list of preliminary candidates will be interviewed off-site. From that group, the search committee will select three to four semi-finalists to be invited to College Station for on-campus interviews and feedback from members of key stakeholder groups. Following these on-site interviews, the committee will make its recommendations as to the top three candidates (unranked) to the board of regents for interviews and ultimately final selection and approval.
Five San Antonio companies garner ETF funds
Five San Antonio technology companies have garnered state investments of from $1 million to $2.5 million each from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. The funding was awarded to:
More than $99 million in ETF funds have been allocated to 78 companies since the fund was created in 2005 to expand the state's technology industry.
Sales tax revenues decline; figure down 11.2 percent
Texas collected $1.57 billion in sales tax revenue in June - down 11.2 percent compared to June 2008 - according to State Comptroller Susan Combs.
Combs recently sent $426.7 million in July sales tax allocations to Texas cities, counties and transit systems and special-purpose taxing districts, a decrease of 8.8 percent compared to July 2008. Combs sent $284.3 million to Texas cities (down 8.8 percent from last year), $26 million to Texas counties (a decrease of 10 percent compared to last year) and $16.6 million to 151 special-purpose taxing districts (a 5.5 percent decrease from last year). Ten local transit systems received $99.6 million in sales tax allocations. That figure represents an 8.9 percent decrease compared to a year ago.
Woodlands Township mulling $45M November bond
The executive committee of the Woodlands Township recently recommended a $45 million bond election in November to pay for several capital improvement projects and to refinance existing debt.
Don Norrell (pictured), president of the township, said the bond election is needed to fund capital projects for community growth and to lower the cost of existing debt. The bonds would cover a five-year planning period, would be spread over 20 years, be issued when better rates are available and only as the need arises, Norrell said.
Projects recommended for the bond package include a new $3.4 million Creekside fire station, a new $3.7 million Indian Springs fire station and $6.4 million to rebuild the Central Fire Station. The recommendation also includes up to $12 million to build new parks and pathways, $2.5 million to buy new fire trucks and equipment for the proposed new facilities, $8 million to refinance debt from the Woodlands Association and The Woodlands Fire Department and $11.6 million to refinance debt for Fire Station 6 and the Emergency Training Center.
Ag Commissioner announces Texas broadband group
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has announced the creation of the Texas Broadband Task Force to help usher in high speed Internet access to rural pockets of the state. The task force will team with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to maximize broadband programs created by the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. For a complete list of committee members, click on the Texas Broadband Task Force link here.
UTEP alumni to lead national medical organizations
Two alumni from The University of Texas at El Paso are set to lead national medical associations. Dr. J. James Rohack (left) has been inaugurated as president of the American Medical Association (AMA), and Dr. Willarda V. Edwards (right) will be installed as the 110th president of the National Medical Association (NMA) on July 28.
Rohack, a cardiologist from Bryan and recipient of the 2008 UTEP Distinguished Alumni Award, said he plans to make health care equality his top priority as president of AMA.
Rohack graduated with a bachelor's degree from UTEP in 1972 and currently practices at the Scott & White Healthcare clinic in Temple in addition to his duties as professor at the Department of Medicine and the Department of Medical Humanities at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.
Edwards practices internal medicine in Baltimore, Md., and will preside as president of the NMA - the nation's largest organization representing African-American physicians - for one year.
Edwards, who graduated from UTEP in 1972, said she plans to address health care disparity for African-Americans and other minorities in her new role. She entered into private practice in 1984 and previously served as president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of American from 2004-2009.
Travis Co. to get more than $1.8M for healthcare district
The Travis County Healthcare District's CommUnityCare program has been awarded $1,882,855 in federal stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The funding will help facilitate health care access for some 5,720 underserved Travis County residents.
With the funds, both CommUnityCare facilities in East and South Austin will be renovated to pave the way for the capacity increase, allowing for the addition of four providers and 16 staff members. More than 20 percent of Travis County residents are without health coverage.
Travis County Healthcare District President and CEO Patricia Young Brown said the stimulus dollars, which will cover 100 percent of the renovations, will help address "a significant need to increase services to the medically underserved in our community in these tough economic times." She said the upgrade will also create construction jobs when renovations on the 17,000-square-foot space begin.
UTMB receives five-year, $21.5 million federal grant
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston recently received a five-year, $21.5 million grant to pay for a new program to accelerate the process of transforming basic biomedical research into clinically useful treatments and knowledge.
Dr. Allan Brasier (pictured) will head the effort as director of the newly created Institute for Translational Sciences at UTMB. Funding from the grant will pay for 12 key resources to support research teams in the program. These resources include a training program for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty interested in conducting translational investigation and an "academy of mentors" to help faculty develop the skills needed to guide research teams and junior members.
UTMB will collaborate on the bio-information component of the Clinical Translational Science Award with The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
EPA awards TWDB $179 million in stimulus funds
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded more than $179 million to the Texas Water Development Board as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The money, to be allocated to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, will help state and local governments finance overdue wastewater improvement projects.
As part of the ARRA, an unprecedented $4 billion dollars will be awarded to fund wastewater projects throughout the country in the form of low-interest loans, principal forgiveness and grants.
Former White House official to direct Energy Institute
Former U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary for Science Raymond Lee Orbach (pictured) has been appointed director of The University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute. He begins his tenure Aug. 1 at the newly implemented institute, which is designed to combine the strengths of the university's schools and colleges to advance solutions to energy-related challenges.
Orbach will also serve as tenured professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Department of Physics and the Jackson School of Geosciences.
Orbach was sworn in as the first Department of Energy undersecretary for science in June 2006.
Another coalition seeking stimulus training funds
Taking a page from a recently formed coalition of community colleges and trade schools along the I-35 corridor, four West Texas community and technical colleges are looking at a cooperative effort to obtain federal Recovery Act funds to provide workforce training in the region. The coalition will seek funding to train workers in the wind energy industry.
The participants are Cisco College, Western Texas College, Texas State Technical College-West Texas (TSTC) and Ranger College. Some of the colleges have multiple campuses. Wind energy training already is under way at the TSTC campuses, but officials of the other schools in the coalition are hopeful TSTC's success can be shared with them and increase the opportunities and locations for those interested in the training. TSTC President Michael Reeser said collaborating instead of competing "is a better use of public money."
Workforce Solutions has approximately $600,000 in Recovery Act funding that the coalition will seek to use for training. The group has a better chance of securing funding because it is a coalition that will together increase the availability of courses and locations for this developing industry.
UH-Victoria to offer three-year bachelor's program
The University of Houston-Victoria is set to offer a program to help students earn a bachelor's degree in three years, saving students about $12,000 compared to the cost of a traditional four-year degree. Other schools in the UH system, including UH-Clear Lake and UH-Downtown, are considering implementing similar programs.
Jeffrey Di Leo (pictured), dean of arts and sciences at UHV, said the Degree in Three program - set to begin in fall 2010 - is aimed at adventurous students drawn by the program's study-abroad feature, which will offer courses in England, Mexico, China and Spain for no additional cost. He said the university expects at least 200 freshmen that year with as many as 150 accepted into the three-year program.
Di Leo said UHV isn't compressing its curriculum just so students can get a degree faster. He said the university's aim is to offer "a different experience."
EPA awards nearly $7M for emission-reducing initiatives
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 has awarded $5.8 million to clean-diesel projects by the City of Houston and the Port of Houston Authority, and $1,013,719 to San Antonio's VIA Metropolitan Transit to upgrade its bus fleet. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, these moves stand to create jobs while curbing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.
The Port of Houston Authority will receive a total of $3,468,132 for projects, while the City of Houston will net $2,365,710 for its project to remove some of the city's oldest - and highest polluting - vehicles and equipment and replace them with newer, cleaner-running technology. The San Antonio project will replace engines in 83 transit buses with lower-emitting engines.
TxDOT applies for $1.9B from Railroad Administration
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials have submitted 17 pre-applications to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for rail-project funding offered as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Some $8 billion in federal appropriations are available through the program. TxDOT has pre-applied for $1.9 billion in four categories of aid (including Projects, Service Development Programs, Service Planning Activities and Appropriations-Funded Projects.) Phillip Russell (pictured), TxDOT assistant executive director for innovative project development, said the pre-application process wasn't arbitrary.
"TxDOT staff worked diligently with our partners in the railroad industry as well as local and regional organizations" to develop the requests, he said.
WTAMU names dean of Graduate School, Research
Dr. Angela Spaulding (pictured) has been named dean of Graduate School and Research at West Texas A&M University. Her appointment is subject to approval from the System board of regents. She replaces interim Dean Dr. Tim Atchison.
Spaulding previously served as associate dean of the College of Education and Social Sciences beginning March 2007. She joined the WTAMU faculty in September 1995 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 2005.
Spaulding holds both a bachelor's and master's degree from WTAMU and a doctoral degree from Texas Tech University.
City of Irving's financial condition remains strong
Unlike most other Texas cities forced to tighten reigns on budget spending in the face of a national recession, the City of Irving's financial condition remains strong.
Although not impervious to recession constraints - the city has experienced a revenue shortfall of $7.5 million from declines in property and sales tax collections - the current budget remains structurally balanced thanks to increases in other revenue sources and the combined effects of cost savings and process improvements city leaders have implemented over the last three years. The city has recouped more than $12.7 million in savings to date.
The city's 2009-2010 budget is also expected to be structurally balanced, with no use of reserve funds or tax rate increases expected. The new fiscal budget will be available for public review next month.
Ranger College expands to Brownwood area
Ranger College will soon expand into an unoccupied 16,872-square-foot area at Heartland Mall in Brownwood.
Ranger College President Bill Campion (pictured) said school officials scouted several locations, but knew "we wanted to be in the Brownwood/Early area, so we are very happy about the location."
All general education classes taught at the college's main campus will be available at the new location in addition to an R.N. associate's degree program, which will be offered in cooperation with Brownwood Regional Medical Center. Campion said most classes will be offered in the evening to accommodate working students.
Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD superintendent retires
After seven years at the helm, Superintendent Belinda Pustka (pictured) has announced she is leaving the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District to retire. She said she will remain at the district until a new superintendent is hired, likely at the beginning of next year.
During Pustka's tenure, enrollment nearly doubled and standardizes test scores also improved. In her first month on the job, Pustka laid off nearly 7 percent of the district's employees to avoid a projected $1.5 million deficit.
Pustka also served as superintendent in Shiner and as assistant superintendent in Killeen.
Port Aransas garners transportation grant for new ferry
Port Aransas in Nueces County commanded the single largest grant of a $60 million U.S. Department of Transportation measure designed to improve ferry service while saving and creating jobs. U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood this week announced the grants to 19 states and one U.S. territory as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The Port Aransas funds, totaling $7.2 million, will be used for the construction of a new ferry boat, a key solution in connecting surrounding communities while addressing the region's increasing traffic needs.
LaHood said the projects "will help put people back to work and at the same time offer more access to areas that lack transportation options."
Greenville agrees to seek $500,000 for park upgrades
The Greenville City Council recently agreed to apply for a $500,000 grant from the outdoor recreation grant program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. The grant will be used to pay for significant upgrades to Graham Park, said City Manager Steven Alexander (pictured).
The grant will require a matching $500,000 contribution from the city. City officials expect the grant to be announced in January 2010. If the grant is approved, construction on the new park could begin in spring 2010 and be completed in the spring of 2011, Alexander said.
Brownwood middle school students to receive laptops
Brownwood Independent School District has received a Texas Education Agency (TEA) Vision 2020 grant totaling $500,000, which will furnish a laptop computer for every Brownwood Middle School student. The district is one of 15 to receive the grant, Superintendent Reece Blincoe said.
Campus technology infrastructure will also be upgraded with the funds, part of a long-range statewide TEA technology plan.
Students will be issued computers either in the spring or fall semester next year.
Killeen OKs purchase of online crime reporting software
Killeen City Council members recently voted to spend up to $25,699 to allow the police department to purchase software to allow residents to report crimes through the Internet.
The software program will not replace officers, said Deputy Police Chief Larry Longwell, but could give officers more time on the street instead of taking minor reports. Funding for the new software came from a 2008 grant from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance program. Police departments in Amarillo, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Fort Worth, Odessa and San Angelo currently use the software program developed by a California-based company.
Council members also authorized police officials to apply for a $70,686 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to purchase approximately 60 tasers.
Pearland eyes $28.5M bond for UH campus, natatorium
Pearland city officials recently discussed the schedule for the sale of $28.5 million in bonds and certificates of obligation. The sale includes $11.5 million in certificates of obligation to pay for construction of the University of Houston Clear Lake Pearland Campus, scheduled for completion in August 2010.
The construction and operating costs for the new Pearland campus will be paid for by a lease agreement with the University of Houston Clear Lake and the Pearland Economic Development Corporation, said City Manager Bill Eisen (pictured).
City officials also plan to sell $17 million in general obligation bonds in September. Voters approved the bonds in May 2007 to build a recreation center and natatorium as well as pay for several other capital improvement projects, Eisen said.
Abilene leaders rally for school bond election
Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald and a group of area business leaders are asking Abilene Independent School District trustees to call a single-issue bond election Nov. 3 for a career tech high school. The group is currently collecting signatures on a letter of support from businesses.
Supporters of the proposition say the timing is right for a new career tech high school, despite the present economic climate, because construction costs are cheaper and the bond vote would not be clouded by other issues.
Voters rejected a four-proposition, $83 million bond package in May 2008, which included funds for a career tech high school.
UT-Austin picks new vice provost for special projects
Dr. Bruce Walker (pictured), vice provost and director of admissions at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named the university's vice provost for special projects.
Walker has served as director of admissions at UT-Austin since 1996.
Dr. Kedra Ishop will fill Walker's spot as interim vice provost and director of admissions. The search for a permanent replacement is under way.
Council chooses 14 Houston-area projects for funding
The Transportation Policy Council (TPC) - a 24-member body comprising elected officials, appointed engineers and representatives from the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Texas Department of Corrections and Port of Houston Authority - has chosen 14 major new "shovel-ready" projects on which to spend stimulus funds. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has proposed another four projects for the Houston region, but the council must approve those as well.
The proposed projects include "Segment E," a road project covering 14 miles of the Grand Parkway, which will demand $181 million of the area's stimulus money, and the $50 million addition of direct connector ramps between the Eastex Freeway and Beltway 8. The decision to fund Segment E has drawn some critics, who want some of the money to go toward other bridge and road projects.
Alan Clark, a transportation adviser to the TPC, said he was somewhat surprised since the initiative "is a little less nailed down than some of the projects."
UTEP selects Barrios new public information officer
The University of Texas at El Paso has named Arleene Barrios (pictured) as its public information officer.
Barrios, who earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Florida in 2004, worked three years as a reporter for an El Paso news affiliate.She has been recognized by both the Texas and New Mexico Associated Press and was nominated twice for the Lonestar Emmy Award.
Texas, two other states to vie for high-speed rail funds
Texas is teaming with New Mexico and Colorado to apply for federal support of a high-speed rail system viability study. The system would travel at speeds between 110 mph and 200 mph from El Paso to Albuquerque to Denver. The three states have submitted a joint pre-application for up to $5 million to pay for the study.
So far, Congress has authorized 10 of 11 high-speed rail corridors nationwide. The three western states hope to become home to the 11th authorized system. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will decide which region gets the next high-speed rail corridor based on the strength of its application, FRA spokesman Rob Kulat said.
Grant applications are due Aug. 24.
Humble OKs $117,600 drainage study, police upgrades
Using money left over from recent street improvement projects, Humble city officials recently approved a $117,600 study of Jordan's Gully drainage in an effort to reduce flooding in downtown and several residential areas.
The drainage study will include a complete look at the drainage area that includes the downtown area and several large subdivisions that experience street flooding during heavy rains, said City Manager Darrell Boeske (pictured). The study's purpose is to evaluate the drainage capacity of Jordan's Gully and make recommendations for improvements to reduce the risk of structural flooding along the channel. Boeske said the study should be completed by October.
Council members also approved an application for a $14,167 grant to the Justice Assistance Grant Program to buy new video and audio equipment for the detective division of the police department.
El Paso to buy land for new annex in Vinton
El Paso County commissioners recently agreed to spend $200,000 to buy a 6-acre lot in Vinton to build a new county annex to serve northwestern residents.
The county has about $4 million from a bond issue to buy the land and construct the building, which may be used to house the county clerk's office, a sheriff's substation, justice of the peace offices and adult probation offices, said County Judge Anthony Cobos (pictured). The land, which is currently valued at $350,000, is located across the street from the village's municipal offices.
Currently, the county pays about $75,000 on leases for a substation for the sheriff, justice of the peace offices and adult probation offices for the northwestern area of the county.
Friendswood/Galveston district may team up for study
The Friendswood City Council and officials of the Galveston County Consolidated Drainage District recently began discussion on whether to split the cost of an engineering study for the final phase of a drainage project.
The city, drainage district and the Texas Department of Transportation began work on the project to widen a drainage ditch from FM 2351 to the western city limits to improve drainage in order to widen FM 2351. TxDOT, however, is no longer helping pay for the project because of reduced funding available to the agency, said Harold Whitaker, president of the GCCDD.
While neither the city nor the drainage district has the estimated $3.67 million needed to complete the last phase of the drainage project, Whitaker said he would like the city and drainage district to partner in completing the engineering and design studies at an estimated cost of about $55,000 each so that the project would be considered shovel ready and qualify for federal stimulus funding.
Grayson County planning to privatize county jail
Grayson County commissioners recently agreed to hire a private correctional company to build and operate a new private jail for Grayson County.
The turnover will take place within the next three months, said County Judge Drue Bynum (pictured). The county judge also said the county had reached an agreement with the private correctional company to pay the current jail staff what they are paid now in addition to benefits.
While negotiations are still under way with the private correctional company, the county judge said he expects construction on the new jail could begin this quarter. Bynum predicted the county could save $2 million to $5 million a year over a 20-year period.
Ingram officials mull new city revitalization plan
Ingram city officials recently got their first look at a planning study by the Texas Community Development Block Grant program that centered on improving the city's housing and land use, water infrastructure, streets, drainage, economic development and recreation. The study defined problems and recommended some solutions to those problems.
While Ingram currently has no public water system and depends primarily on a private water company for its water, the study recommended that the city replace a 2-inch water line to conform to state standards, increase water capacity at a cost of about $125,000 to Ingram Oaks and to install fire hydrants to enhance firefighting capabilities.
The study also urged city officials to include $40,000 in funding for routine maintenance on ditches to prevent deterioration of area streets and roads and to build a $38,000 concrete channel from a culvert on Main Street and a new $81,000 channel and outfall at the Guadalupe River. Consultants also recommended the city spend a little more than $100,000 per year to repave damaged streets, consider developing a city Web site and create an annual festival and "shop local" campaign to encourage economic development.
Montgomery proposes $335M bond election for roads
Montgomery County commissioners recently proposed a $335 million road bond election to repair or replace dozens of roads in the county. Commissioners are expected to schedule the bond election, the largest in the county's history, in November of this year or May 2010.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Ed Chance (pictured) strongly supported a bond election in May, saying that many roads have reached their lifespan. The list of targeted projects includes a new road to an executive airport and upgrades and improvements to other roads. In their preliminary estimates, commissioners identified $100 million in projects for Precinct 3. They also proposed $75 million in projects for Precinct 4, $50 million for Precinct 1 and $50 million to Precinct 2.
While County Judge Alan Sadler noted that asking voters to approve bonds in a bad economy is risky, other commissioners argued that the bond election and road improvements should be scheduled as soon as possible to take advantage of lower construction costs and to reduce traffic congestion. Commissioners have scheduled public hearings in each precinct in early August.
Wichita Falls ISD may use stimulus for computers
Officials of the Wichita Falls Independent School District are considering standardizing with federal stimulus funding the distribution of computers in all 25 schools and three alternative campuses. The goal is to improve the district's computer-to-student ratio, said Ted Turner, the district's chief financial officer.
District officials are trying to make sure that the district has one computer per five students. Currently, the district has some schools in which there is a computer for each student while at other campuses, one computer must be shared by as many as seven students.
Superintendent George Kazanas noted that buying new technology is a good way to spend stimulus money because that practice applies one-time funds to one-time needs.
Hutto approves plans for $1.2 million Hutto Lake Park
The Hutto City Council recently approved plans to complete the Hutto Lake Park, a 76-acre park near FM 685 and Toll 130. The park is centered on a natural lake that can be used for boating and fishing as well as bird watching and picnicking, said Mike Hemker, director of the city's parks and recreation department.
The city received a $400,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2008 to help pay for the park, which is partially located on land donated by a developer and on adjoining property purchased by the city. City leaders also are planning to ask voters to approve a bond issue to pay for about a third of the cost of the new park.
Design plans for the park include a bird-watching pavilion, a pier, ball courts, picnic tables, trails and playgrounds, Hemker said. All of the improvements will be made of materials that enhance the park's natural beauty, he said. Construction should begin on the new park in early 2010 and the park should be completed by 2011.
Abilene OKs improvements, delays red-light cameras
The Abilene City Council recently agreed to publish notice of intent to issue up to $10.65 million in certificates of obligation to pay for improvements to streets, the airport, parks, the water and sewer system and a $1.9 million human resources and finance software system. Council members also approved $8.1 million in general obligation bond projects for the sale.
After proposing last year that the city study the possibility of installing red-light cameras, Mayor Norm Archibald (pictured) said he supports the idea of continuing with other measures such as increased public awareness efforts and heightened enforcement efforts to reduce the number of motorists running red lights after receiving results of the study conducted by the city.
But, Archibald also said he plans to continue monitoring statistics on accidents at red lights and may recommend the installation of red-light cameras in the future.
South Texas medical clinics gain $3.8M in stimulus funds
Three South Texas clinics recently received notice of an award of $3.8 million in funding from the Recovery Act Capital Improvement Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Su Clinic Familiar, based in Harlingen, will receive $1.2 million to upgrade the clinic's information technology systems and to renovate its clinic in Raymondville. The clinic will purchase information technology equipment, including servers, power switches, patient-friendly registry access and new pharmacy software that will benefit clinic locations in Brownsville and Raymondville in addition to the Harlingen clinic. Clinic officials also plan to use some of the funding to build a new 5,000-square-foot pharmacy at their Raymondville clinic. Once the new pharmacy building is completed, the area used by the pharmacy inside the facility will be converted to patient examination rooms, said Christina Perez, chief of operations for Su Clinic Familiar.
The Nuestra Clinica Del Valle in Pharr also will receive about $1.5 million and the Community Action Corporation in Alice will receive about $770,000 in federal stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
'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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Community colleges in Texas working overtime
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Texas community colleges bear watching in the months to come. As federal lawmakers consider allocating $12 billion to community colleges throughout the country, there will be scrutiny of all campuses, programs being offered and overall quality. Texas community colleges should fare well in the competition for funding.
The state's institutions educate 600,000 students each year and enrollment has increased by more than 31 percent since 2000. More important, however, the Texas schools have initiated some of the most cutting edge and innovative programs in the nation.
There are 50 state community college districts that serve urban, suburban and rural areas of Texas from El Paso to Galveston and from Laredo to Texarkana. These institutions are a significant part of the foundation of Texas' higher education system. The colleges are also tremendous assets to the state of Texas.[more]
Hooker resigns from Bexar charter school district
Superintendent Ricky Hooker (pictured) recently resigned as superintendent of the School of Excellence in Education Charter School District, the largest charter school district in Bexar County. Hooker had served as superintendent of the charter school district for six years.
The School of Excellence in Education, an open-enrollment charter school district featuring eight campuses in the San Antonio area, received about $19 million in state funding last year.
Cameron wins $250,000 grant for new water intake
Cameron recently received confirmation of the award of a $250,000 grant to repair the city's single water intake system on Little River. The city loses about 18 million gallons of water each year from the leaking intake system, said City Manager Ricky Tow. The city will be required to match $50,000 to qualify for the grant, Tow said.
Alvin approves $500,000 hike-and-bike trail upgrade
The Alvin City Council recently approved a $575,000 project to extend the city's hike-and-bike trail from the aquatic center to South Street, along the west side of Mustang Bayou.
A grant is available from the Texas Department of Transportation through the Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act of 1991 and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. The 5.5-mile extension will be 10-feet wide with a 2-foot border on each side and will feature signage, benches and water fountains, said the project engineer.
Sabine ISD trustees approve $675K for land acquisition
The Sabine Independent School District board of trustees has decided to move forward with land acquisition for future school growth, approving $675,000 for 45 acres of land. The acquisition will be funded by the district's general fund, according to board President James Gray.
The land will most likely be used to build a new elementary school, among other developments, Gray said. District voters rejected a bond proposal for construction of the elementary school last May.
Irving ISD trustees deliberate on search firm
Trustees at Irving Independent School District are deliberating a search firm for the district's new superintendent. The list has been narrowed to four search firms. Two firms are based in Texas while the other two are headquartered in Georgia and Illinois.
School board secretary Nancy Jones said it's important the district extend its search nationally and diversify the applicant pool to include women and minority candidates. Interim Superintendent Neil Dugger has not said if he plans to apply for the position. Dugger has worked for the district for 30 years.
USDA releases stimulus funds to rural communities
The Unites States Department of Agriculture has released $66.4 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds through its Rural Development Program. Overall, Texas garnered $549,830 in funds to be distributed among nine communities, including Olton, which received $46,678 to improve its emergency communication system.
Olton officials will use the money to purchase digital radios and pagers for emergency fire and ambulance personnel and the Police and Public Works departments. Each of those entities plans to match the federal funds.
To view the complete list of funding for Texas and other states by city, click HERE and look for USDA essential community facilities projects under "Recent Reports."
Where are they now?
Where do folks go when they leave state government? Some go to work in the private sector or for nonprofits. Some transition to executive-level positions in higher education while others may seek elected local government positions. And some just retire and spend a lot of time with their grandkids at the fishin' hole. This column focuses on where former state government officials and employees are now.
Dan Bartlett worked in the policy office for then-Gov. George W. Bush. He later followed President Bush to Washington as communications advisor with responsibility for the White House Office of Communications. Today, Bartlett is president and CEO of a high-profile Austin-based public relations-public affairs firm.
R.D. Burck joined The University of Texas System in 1988 as vice chancellor of business affairs, rising in the ranks to executive vice chancellor for business affairs and interim chancellor. In late 2000, he was named chancellor of the UT System. He has since served as CEO of an Austin holding company and is currently the independent chairman of the board of an Austin real estate investment trust.
Roberto Garcia resigns as superintendent of Robstown
Superintendent Roberto Garcia recently resigned as superintendent of the Robstown Independent School District. An agreement with the board, however, calls for Garcia to continue employment as a consultant to the district for a year. He began his position as superintendent in Robstown in 2002, resigned in 2004 and returned to the job in February 2005.
Board members are expected to name an interim superintendent at their next meeting. Assistant Superintendent Roel Lara has served as superintendent since board members suspended Garcia with pay in February.
Dallas County delays $5.2M emergency dispatch center
Confronted with budget shortfalls, Dallas County commissioners recently agreed to delay plans for a new $5.2 million emergency dispatch center until the economy shows improvement. The funding set aside for the center will now be used for jail improvements, commissioners said.
Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield (pictured) suggested that county officials explore the possibility of partnering with the city of Dallas to build an emergency operations center to house both county and city emergency staff. Sharing an emergency dispatch center with the city could save the county money, he said. Mayfield, however, estimated that the city may not find funding for a new emergency operations center for two to three years. Mayfield also noted that the cost of upgrading radio equipment to permit law enforcement agencies to communicate directly is expected to cost even more than the new building.
Public Transit Service receives $1.2 million
The Public Transit Service, based in Jack, Palo Pinto and Parker counties, recently received $1.2 million in federal stimulus funds to pay for a new fleet of passenger vehicles, shop equipment, scheduling software and upgrades to its maintenance facilities.
In addition to providing funds for the transit service to replace all of its current fleet of 23 buses, the transit service also will receive funding for seven additional vehicles, said Reta Brooks, executive director for PTS. The transit service carries passengers daily from Palo Pinto County, with stops in Mineral Wells and Weatherford, on its route to Texas Christian University and downtown Fort Worth in addition to scheduling routes in all three of the counties it serves, she said.
FEMA awards $3.6M to Bridge City ISD for school
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently awarded a $3.6 million grant to the Bridge City Independent School District to help build a new elementary school to replace one destroyed by Hurricane Ike. The district may qualify for even more grant funds now that Congress approved legislation to raise the federal cost-share from 75 percent to 90 percent for this type of project, said a spokesman for the FEMA office in Texas City.
District officials estimate it will cost about $19 million to build a new school to replace the flooded elementary school and plan to ask for bids on the project in September. The district will use funding from insurance, the state and from the district's "rainy day" fund to pay for the new school, said Superintendent Jamey Harrison (pictured).
Rusk ISD receives $500,000 grant for laptop computers
Officials of the Rusk Independent School District recently received notice the district will receive a $500,000, Vision 20-20 grant to purchase new laptop computers for the intermediate campus. While the final amount of the grant has not yet been announced, the director of finance for the district said the grant should total at least $500,000.
District officials also plan to apply for a similar grant to purchase laptop computers for junior high students, she said.
Kampher resigns from
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.