|Volume 7, Issue 31 · Friday, August 14, 2009|
DPS rolling out big guns for statewide recruiting effort
Seven vehicles will be graphically enhanced to attract attention
A "black and white" with a "bubble gum machine" on top.
That's what they used to call Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper cars. They are indeed painted two-tone black and white, although the lights that once looked like a bubble gum machine on the top were long ago replaced by light "bars" that span the width of the top of the vehicle.
DPS vehicles have come a long way...but the state's law enforcement agency's latest vehicle enhancement (pictured) is a real show-stopper...and a crowd-pleaser!
DPS is rolling out the first of its seven graphically enhanced vehicles as part of the agency's recruitment effort to enlist new trooper candidates. These vehicles will be used by DPS recruiters as they travel across the state.
The newly designed vehicles are the brain child of Trooper William Abel, a Corpus Christi-based recruiter. The unusual paint job for the new Chevy Tahoes is intended to assist in marketing DPS to would-be recruits.
"These vehicles will be rolling billboards for DPS," said David Baker, who oversees the Texas Highway Patrol. The vehicles feature photos of helicopters, the Dive Team, SWAT, K-9, Highway Patrol and Texas Rangers. They are designed to point out the many different opportunities that are available to those who choose a career with DPS.[more]
New state program offers grants, scholarships
To supplement job training, degree program in technical fields
A new two-year, $25 million initiative providing grants and scholarships for career and technical education to meet future workforce challenges has been announced by the State Comptroller's Office. Funding for the program was made available by the 81st Legislature. Every Chance Funds (ECF) will help supplement costs for job training and two-year degree programs in high-demand technical fields. Those high-demand degrees include: Computer, Information Sciences and Support Services; Engineering Technologies; Science Technologies; Construction Trades; Mechanical and Repair Technologies; Precision Production; and Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences.
Three categories of money will be made available through ECF: a $10 million Job Building Fund to help finance equipment purchases, a $10 million Launchpad Fund to support nonprofit programs with solid performance records and a $5 million Career and Technical Scholarship Fund that will supply money for approved training programs.
The ECF initiative arrives after a report released last December detailing a widening chasm between the skills required by today's job market and the number of graduates trained with those skills. The report, known as Texas Works, outlines how many Texas businesses have had a difficult time placing skilled technical workers. Dwindling enrollment in vocational programs has led to the worker shortage.
In response to recommendations listed in the report, the 81st Texas Legislature created and established the ECF. To view the report, click here.
The comptroller's office will award several ECF grants by the end of the year. Applications for those grants will be available early next month. For more information, click here.
Ken Levine, deputy director, Sunset Advisory Commission
Career highlights and education: I spent the first two years of my collegiate development at Rider University in New Jersey. After some time working and then moving to Texas, I attended The University of Texas, graduating with a B.A. in government. Shortly thereafter, I attended the LBJ School of Public Affairs, earning a master's in 1981. Later that year, Bill Wells hired me at the Sunset Commission, and I eventually became the deputy director in 1995. I never left. In terms of career highlights, in 1991, I was "borrowed" by Comptroller John Sharp to be one of the project directors for the first Texas Performance Review, a very interesting experience. I was elected three times to the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society Executive Committee and served as national chair for one year. I currently serve on the National Conference of State Legislatures Staff Coordinating Committee and chair the Committee on Technology and e-Learning. I also serve on the Government Technology Conference Advisory Board. The real career highlight has been none of those things. The highlight was having a group of elderly retired teachers seek me out the summer after the legislative session where they received significant retiree pay increases in the Sunset bill for TRS. They wanted to personally thank the folks involved in making that increase happen. Now that was rewarding.
What I like best about my job is: being able to have an impact on people's lives, like in the TRS situation. Over the years, working for Sunset has provided many opportunities to be involved in state policy development in several areas of state government.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: probably when Billy Hamilton told me to make sure I used interesting factoids when talking to Bob Bullock. This advice saved my rear several times. Not the broadest piece of advice and no longer useful, but it the first thing that came to mind.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Work hard, don't take the easy way out, and always keep the people of Texas in mind when doing your work.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: either playing guitar in my backyard or off somewhere shooting photographs.
People would be surprised to know that I: used to play and sing in a local bluegrass band many moons ago.
One thing I wish more people knew about the Sunset Commission: is that the process is rarely about discontinuing an agency. The process itself often causes agency staff to re-think how they go about their business and make positive changes that are not necessarily recognized through the Sunset Commission or by the legislature, but are recognized by the people that agency serves and the agency's employees.
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.
Doug Fox takes top award for IT excellence
Angelo State's associate vice president of IT, CIO earns honor
Doug Fox (pictured), associate vice president of information technology and chief information officer for Angelo State University, has been named the winner of the President's Excellence Award in Information Technology by the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communication, that promotes education and networking among public sector IT professionals. Members of the association are largely Texas state agencies and state institutions of higher education.
The President's Award for IT Excellence recognizes an individual from a state agency or from higher education for leadership and excellence in information technology. Fox was honored for his outstanding information services leadership to the state over many years. Those who have played a major role in mentoring or sharing their IT experience and knowledge with others and who promote cooperation and collaboration among agencies or institutions of higher education are given special consideration in the naming of the award recipient.
Fox began his IT career in the private sector. In 1993, he joined Angelo State as an analyst for the university's Computer Center. He left again for the private sector after two years but returned to ASU in 1996 as director of technology. He was named to his current position in 2004. Fox is a 1985 graduate of ASU with a degree in computer science and has also been recognized by the American Association of University Administrators (AAUA) and its Foundation for providing creative solutions to common problems in higher education. He also is a past winner of the foundation's Blackburn Award for exemplary academic leadership, the highest honor bestowed by the AAUA.
State sales tax revenues continue to decline
Sales tax revenues across the state continue to decline, as the State Comptroller's Office today, Friday, reports sales tax receipts for July are down 11.6 percent compared to a year ago. The state collected $1.65 billion in sales tax revenue for July.
The State Comptroller has sent $544 million in August sales tax collections to local governments, down 6.8 percent from August 2008. Checks totaling $367.4 million were sent to Texas cities, down 6.5 percent compared to last August, with $33.8 million going to Texas counties, down 4.2 percent from last year. Some 151 special purpose taxing districts received a total of $21.2 million in tax revenue and 10 local transit systems got $121.5 million down 9 percent from a year ago.
To view the allocations by city, click here. To view the allocations by county, click here. Due to the Labor Day holiday, the Comptroller's next sales tax allocation will be delayed until Monday, Sept.14.
ORCA awards $46.2M in CDBG program funds
More than 170 rural communities in Texas will share funding of $46.2 million for community and economic development projects. The awards were announced by the Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA). Executive Director Charlie Stone (pictured) said ORCA received more than 600 applications for the current year's funding and that 90 percent of the projects are for water and sewer improvements. The funds are part of the Texas Community Development Block Grant program and will benefit some 228,000 persons in the various communities, including more than 141,000 of low to moderate income.
Most of the awards are in the $150,000 to $350,000 range. The largest award - $600,516 - went to Eagle Pass. The funds will be used to replace seven street culverts along the city's main arroyo. Escobares was awarded $420,000 for construction of a new fire station to house existing equipment and La Grulla was awarded $420,000 for water treatment plant improvements to bring the facility up to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards.
Rural cities with 50,000 population or less and counties that have a non-metropolitan population under 200,000 are eligible for ORCA's Texas CDBG program. This program serves approximately 1,017 rural communities, 245 rural counties and provides services to more than 375,000 low to moderate income residents each year. To view the award recipients, the amount funded and a description of the projects, click here and look under "Recent Reports."
New law addresses advocacy contingency fees
There could be a whole lot of head-scratching Sept. 1 when HB 3445, which requires registration for advocacy related to procurement, goes into effect. For the past two decades, no registration or reporting with the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) was required of individuals who lobbied for purchasing decisions at state agencies. In fact, TEC rules and opinions even allowed that an individual lobbying for purchasing decisions could be paid on a contingent fee, although state law prohibits contingency fees if lobbying is related to passage of legislation.
But while contingency fees are prohibited by state law, it is not illegal to pay a company employee a performance bonus if the bonus is paid either quarterly or annually and not based on securing a procurement contract. Those accepting such bonuses in the past have not been required to register. That could change for some employees in the future.
Here are some of the problematic issues:
Language in the new law requires registration if a lobbyist is hired by a company seeking a contract or contracts in excess of $10 million, and no contingent fee is allowed. For smaller contracts - if properly documented, a fee can be accepted based on the contract approval. Registration is not required.
There are many different scenarios that could arise as a result of the new statute that will take effect in September. It might all boil down to interpretation of the law. And who that interpreter might be is still up for discussion.
TDHCA awards $288M for weatherization projects
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) has awarded $288 million in federal stimulus dollars to Texas cities, counties and eligible nonprofit organizations to weatherize the homes of low-income residents. The one-time funds, administered through the TDHCA's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), arrive as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The figure represents a sizable portion of the total $326.9 million in weatherization funds to be made available to the state. TDHCA will award the balance of those funds next year. The homes of some 40,000 low-income Texans, who spend more than 12 percent of their income on home energy costs, will be weatherized with the funds. WAP-assisted households generally save more than $400 on utility costs per year.
TDHCA Executive Director Michael Gerber (pictured) said the funds will lower residents' energy consumption, create healthier surroundings and reduce the state's overall demand for energy.
TDA releases broadband access survey
A preliminary look at communities that lack high-speed Internet service is available following completion of the Texas Agriculture Commission's Broadband Access Survey. Local governments were surveyed throughout the state to put together the information before the official mapping of the state for broadband availability. The survey is available online for those interested in applying for the federal broadband funding programs.
The survey is still active, and local government officials may continue to submit their input. Survey results will be posted as new information is available.
Texas gets $12M from DHS funds for border initiatives
Texas is set to receive $12,785,330 in additional Operation Stonegarden grants to support security initiatives along the Southwest border. The funds from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enhance coordination efforts with state, local and tribal law enforcement in their effort to deter violence and illegal trafficking, and enforce immigration laws.
The following Texas counties received a portion of the $30 million:
The grants - a supplement to the $60 million in Operation Stonegarden grants announced by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in June - are funded through the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 and will be directed to states along the U.S.-Mexico border, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Cell phone use in school zones law nets city warnings
A new state law gives cities, counties or other political subdivisions the option to choose whether to impose a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones in school zones. That law, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, has prompted cities such as West Orange, Martinsville, Sugar Land and Central Heights to post signs warning motorists that the ban on use of hand-held cell phones in active school zones law will be enforced beginning Sept. 1.
The new state law, HB 55, requires cities and other political subdivisions to post signs below the existing school speed limit sign warning of the new law. The warning signs use black text on white background to read "Cell Phone Use Prohibited - Up To $200 Fine." The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will pay for the warning signs on state highways, where most county school districts are located, but the city, county or police department where the school zone is located are required to contact TxDOT to notify the agency if they will enforce the ban. The law also provides for a fine of up to $200 to be levied on motorists who are caught using a hand-held cell phone in an active school zone.
The law does not ban all cell phone use in school zones. For instance, motorists in school zones may use a "hands-free device" with speakerphone capability or an attachment that allows the motorist to use the cell phone without using his or her hands. The new law also permits motorists to use their cell phone to contact an emergency response service such as police, medical, fire or a hazardous material event. Motorists in school zones also are permitted to use their handheld cell phone if the vehicle is pulled off of the road and fully stopped.
Legislature approves $6M for UTMB diabetes center
The 81st Texas Legislative Session has approved $6 million for the expansion of the Stark Diabetes Center (SDC) at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The center's community-based model aims at preventing and treating diabetes through lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise.
Dr. Manisha Chandalia (pictured), director of the Stark Diabetes Center, said the appropriation "provides an opportunity to invest in the prevention of a disease that costs millions more dollars each year to treat."
The Stark model delivers diabetes prevention at an annual cost of $21.50 per at-risk individual compared to an average cost of $12,000 per year to treat a person afflicted with the disease.
Angelo receives $600,000 gift for honors program
Regents of the Texas Tech University System recently accepted a $600,000 gift from Alvin and Patricia New to pay for renovating two classrooms into state-of-the-art learning centers at Angelo State University and to enhance the university's honors program.
The gift includes $250,000 for the ASU Honors Program and $350,000 to improve education and business facilities, said Joseph C. Rallo (pictured), president of ASU.
The $350,000 gift will be used to convert a classroom in the Carr Education-Fine Arts Building into the Innovative Teaching Center to permit faculty to help future teachers in the appropriate use of technology for teaching and to convert a room in the Rassman Building to become the "Boardroom," where students in advanced business courses can experience a typical corporate environment, including different types of communication technology. ASU officials also plan to use $250,000 of the donation to provide scholarships and program enhancements such as new faculty or more cultural events including field trips during the next five years.
24th Air Force to make new home at Lackland AFB
The 24th Air Force will make its headquarters at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, the U.S. Air Force announced this week. The 24th Air Force is designed to conduct cyber operations activities for the Air Force.
The announcement was made following an Environmental Impact Analysis Process required by the National Environmental Policy Act, which Air Force officials said showed no significant impact. Lackland was one of two locations considered for the 24th Air Force, the other being Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Maj. Gen. Richard Webber will assume command of the 24th Air Force later this month.
Kerrville to explore building new convention center
Following a recommendation by a blue ribbon committee, the Kerrville City Council recently authorized the city manager to explore options for a public-private partnership for the location, construction and operation of a new convention center. Councilman Scott Gross (pictured) echoed other council members when he said he supports more private than public participation by offering good incentives.
The 14-member Kerrville Convention Center Blue Ribbon Committee recommended the city needs at least a 45,000-square-foot convention center to accommodate 2,500 people. The committee also urged that the city maintain ownership and operation of the convention center and that it must be cost-neutral, maintain the quality of life for residents of the city and help revitalize downtown. They also estimated the convention center would cost between $11.25 million to $15 million to build and could have a $150 to $200 million economic impact to the city within four to five years.
The committee also urged city officials to seek funding through a public/private partnership, hotel occupancy tax, Economic Improvement Corporation and other city tax revenues. Committee members also urged that the new convention center be located in the historic district of downtown and within walking distance of the central city with visibility of the Guadalupe River.
Austin approves grant for regional intelligence center
The Austin City Council has approved up to $200,000 in federal grant money to renovate part of a Texas Department of Public Safety building to house the Austin Regional Intelligence Center. The center will house a central databank of information shared by local law enforcement agencies to help with investigations.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo (pictured) said an outline on the scope of operations would probably be drafted in September and will include input from critics from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Civil libertarians have urged the city council to delay a final vote until after a public discussion about what information the fusion center would gather and how it would be used.
Harris Co. Hospital District could buy hospital
Officials from the Harris County Hospital District have confirmed they are in negotiations with Memorial Hermann Healthcare Systems to purchase the system's Southwest Hospital. No financial details have been disclosed.
Southwest Hospital includes a main hospital unit, four medical office buildings, a heart and vascular institute, an accredited cancer center, a surgery center, an outpatient imaging center and programs in orthopedics, maternity care and neonatology. Memorial Hermann will provide certain operational services to the district in support of the campus per the agreement.
The deal is expected to be completed in November.
A&M-Kingsville names interim vice president
D. Scott Gines (pictured) has been named interim vice president for institutional advancement at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Gines served as athletic director at TAMU-Kingsville since August 2007. Prior to that charge, he served as athletic director at Fairmont State University in West Virginia and as head baseball coach at Virginia Military Institute and Radford University.
Gines holds a bachelor's degree from Virginia Military Institute and a master's degree from the University of Virginia.
Tech regents approve Angelo State construction
Texas Tech University regents have approved an annual budget of $97,998,558 and two major building projects for Angelo State University. The budget represents a 4.7 percent increase from last year.
Officials can now begin work on a $7 million renovation and expansion of the Center for Human Performance, a recreation facility for students.
Regents also approved $4.38 million to renovate ASU's Porter Henderson Library to provide an information commons for students.
UTEP names College of Engineering chair
Dr. Eunice E. Santos (pictured) is set to lead the Department of Computer Science as professor and chair at the College of Engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso.
Santos currently serves as a senior research fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy in the Department of Defense, and as director of the Laboratory for Computation, Information and Distributed Processing. She is also an associate professor in the computer science department at Virginia Tech.
Santos earned her doctoral degree at the University of California at Berkeley
Corpus Christi looking again at proposals for coliseum
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adame recently appointed a group to decide within 30 days which two of five proposals for redevelopment of Memorial Coliseum will be considered by city council. The five proposals include an entertainment complex, a retail and residential development, a boardwalk, hotel and plaza area for a hockey team and a competitive swim center. The group will recommend two proposals, with city council scheduled to choose the winning proposal in mid-September or to demolish the aging coliseum in mid-September. The proposals include:
UT-Dallas names assistant vice president-development
Dwight D. Clasby (pictured) has been named assistant vice president for development at The University of Texas at Dallas. In his new role, he will oversee the university's major gifts operations.
Clasby previously held senior management posts with nonprofit organizations in Connecticut, Florida and Oklahoma. He has served as vice president for external affairs at the Communities Foundation of Texas since 2006. From 1988 to 1992, he served as director of development for St. Mark's School of Texas.
Bandera receives $250K to replace wastewater system
The City of Bandera is set to receive $250,000 in federal stimulus dollars to replace an aging wastewater system. The project did not rank highly enough to be funded by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA).
"We've had grants on a pretty consistent basis, so we didn't get points for first-time applicant and so on," said City Administrator Gene Foerster, explaining missing out on the award from TDRA.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds must be used for the same project for which the city originally applied. Foerster said the city expects the contract in the next 30-60 days, followed by a 120-day engineering period before the project is ready to go to bid.
HUD allocates more than $92K to New Braunfels
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $92,170 in federal stimulus dollars to the City of New Braunfels, part of a $74.7 million package for community development in Texas cities. The funds will help fund municipal programs and home repairs for seniors and low-income residents in addition to providing a boon for local contractors.
"We are hiring people from New Braunfels," said Laurie Hawkins, a member of the Community Development Advisory Committee. "We are giving local people the jobs."
Anyone with moderate to low income who owns and occupies a home within the city limits is eligible to apply for project services. Senior citizens, disabled residents and individuals with HIV/AIDS are given preference.
Three UNT faculty members awarded TEA grants
Three University of North Texas faculty members in the Department of Learning Technologies have been granted $1.2 million from the Texas Education Agency's Career and Technical Education State Leadership Projects Grant Program. The funds are to be used to evaluate and increase the effectiveness of curriculum instruction in 11 of the 16 career clusters in career and technical education as classified by the U.S. Department of Education. They will develop career-related course guides for schools focusing on career and technical education. The funds also will support education of career and technical education teachers on revision to the TEKS curriculum for career and technical education.
Dr. Jeff Allen (right), interim chair of the Department of Learning Technologies, was granted $300,000 to conduct research on and enhance programs in architecture and construction; manufacturing; and science, technology, engineering and mathematics and $300,000 to focus on programs in business management and administration, finance and marketing. Dr. Jerry Wircenski (center), Regents Professor of learning technologies, received $300,000 to conduct research on and enhance programs in government and public administration, health science and public safety, corrections and security. Dr. Michelle Wircenski (left), professor of learning technologies, received $300,000 to focus on programs in the arts, audio/visual technology and communications and information technology.
TDHCA awards Corpus, Nueces County $3 million
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) on Tuesday awarded $3 million in grants to the city of Corpus Christi and the Nueces County Community Action Agency for low-income home weatherization.
The awards, part of $288 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will be divided equally among projects for existing homes and an initiative to establish a local home weatherization program.
TDHCA awards $2.5M to Hill Country Community Action
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has awarded the Hill Country Community Action Association (HCCAA) $2.5 million to weatherize homes of low-income residents. The service area includes homes in Bell, Burnet, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, Lampasas, Llano, Mason, Milam, Mills, San Saba, Somervell and Williamson counties.
The funds arrive as part a $288 million award in a bid to weatherize the homes of a projected 40,000 low-income residents.
Applications for the federal stimulus dollars will be accepted at the Temple HELP Center and at the Senior Center in Belton. Residents may also apply at the Hill Country centers within each county. Appointments are encouraged prior to applying.
Midland hospital district OKs bond issue for new facility
The board of directors of the Midland Hospital District recently authorized the issuance of $115 million in bonds to pay for a $175 million hospital tower and improvements to the hospital. The board expects to raise the remaining $60 million through private donations.
Board President Russell Meyers (pictured) said the bond will be a combination of 75 percent Build America Bonds that are part of the federal stimulus package and 25 percent tax-exempt bonds, an arrangement which will provide about $12 million in interest savings over the life of the bonds.
The board expects to begin construction on the central utility plant and street realignment in September and to start construction on the tower project in January or February with completion targeted for May 2012.
Howard Payne names new dean of science, mathematics
Dr. Lynn Little of Plano has been named dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at Howard Payne University.
Little has served more than 25 years in academia, both in teaching and administrative positions. She has served as professor and chair of the Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (UTSMC-Dallas) for the last 18 years.
Little's five degrees include a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Arlington, master's degrees from the University of North Texas, UT-Dallas and The University of Texas School of Public Health, and a doctoral degree from UTSMC-Dallas
TCEQ to begin air quality tests in state this week
Beginning this week, helicopters will begin swarming over Corpus Christi and areas of Beaumont-Port Arthur and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria as part of an airborne study conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The study, which utilizes infrared cameras to snap images of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air, is set to conclude by Aug. 21.
By advancing the study of ozone formation and VOC sources, researchers will be able to identify emissions and improve regional air quality.
TCEQ so far has administered similar tests in the Texas Gulf Coast, Dallas-Fort Worth and Tyler-Longview-Marshall areas.
FAA allocates $1.4M to Easterwood Airport
A federal grant totaling $1.4 million from the Federal Aviation Administration will help fund improvements at Easterwood Airport. John Happ (pictured), the Texas A&M-owned airport's director of aviation, said the funds bring with them a sigh of relief for airport officials.
In the current economic climate, "anyone applying for a grant holds their breath until they know they have that money in hand," he said.
The funds will be used to rehabilitate the airport's general aviation ramp, built in 1940 and in need of an overhaul. The money also will be used to complete construction of the east side apron and to build an underground drainage system.
NIH awards UTSA with $940K stimulus grant
The National Institutes of Health has allocated $940,000 to The University of Texas at San Antonio. The awards, aimed at improving schools and investing in renewable energy sources, arrive as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Robert Renthal, professor of biochemistry, received $390,000 to study insect pheromone receptors. The research will be applied to protecting the nation's food supply by controlling insect-borne diseases.
Microbiology professor Jose Lopez-Ribot netted $550,000 to study ways to combat and prevent a film of fungus that forms on catheters and other implanted medical devices, causing infection in patients.
Mansfield staff urges use of $24M savings for auditorium
Administrators for the Mansfield Independent School District recently urged trustees to use more than $24 million in bond money saved because of reduced construction costs to add a 142,000-square-foot auditorium and professional development center.
The funding would come from the savings realized from the projected $84.5 million cost originally estimated to build a fifth high school and the lower-than-projected $60 million cost of the project, said Superintendent Bob Morrison (pictured). The new high school is expected to open in 2012.
Plans call for an auditorium to seat 6,000, including 500 on the stage. It would be built behind the Ben Barber Career Tech Academy, Morrison said, and would be multi-purpose to accommodate graduations, regional band contests and other competitions. The district currently divides use of its 1,000-seat Willie Pigg Auditorium among four high schools, five middle schools and five intermediate schools, the superintendent added.
FEMA allocates more than $21M to Texas entities
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded $21,048,139 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program to Texas fire departments and medical service organizations. The award comes as part of a $500 million nationwide AFG initiative.
Glenn A. Gaines, acting administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration, said the funds will be used "to train and equip our first responders who protect lives and property against all hazards in our communities each day."
This week's allocations, totaling $173,865, include:
Hospital ditrict gives $250K to Tech pediatric clinics
The board of managers for the Amarillo Hospital District recently approved a gift of $250,000 to help pay for consolidation of pediatric clinics operated in Amarillo by Texas Tech University.
Texas Tech officials plan to renovate space in the School of Medicine building to relocate its special-needs clinic on Coulter Street and permit all pediatricians to practice together, said Richard Jordan (pictured), dean of the Amarillo campus of Texas Tech.
College officials had requested $845,000 from the hospital board, but the chairman of the hospital board noted that the district's investments are expected to earn nearly $450,000 less than the previous year and could not pay the additional costs. The college plans to search for more grants and private donations to pay for consolidating the clinics, Jordan said.
Arlington OKs $8.86M for terminal, energy upgrades
The Arlington City Council recently approved the issue of $8.86 million in certificates of obligation, part of which will be used to pay for a new $4.5 million terminal building at the Arlington Municipal Airport. The remaining funding will be used to finance a telephone system and energy-efficiency upgrades in city buildings.
The proposed two-story, 11,000-square foot airport terminal building will replace the 7,700-square-foot, one-story terminal building built in 1982. The new terminal, which will be located closer to Collin Street, will have a larger community room, a larger lobby for passengers and more expensive office space for rent. A $600,000 state grant will pay for a portion of the terminal improvements that are a part of a 20-year, $83 million airport master plan approved by council earlier this year. City officials expect the architectural design for the new terminal building to be available in September.
The proposed $3 million in energy upgrades will include new chillers and lighting and are expected to pay for themselves through cost savings to the city, officials said.
Council urged to implement redevelopment plan
Representing the board of directors of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, Holly Williamson (pictured), justice of peace in Precinct 8, recently urged city council members to support implementation of recommendations in a recent study of redevelopment North Pasadena. The Second Century Corp., the city's economic development entity, funded the $260,000 study released in February. The city's north side is home to two-thirds of the city's 150,000 residents and serves as a major gateway to the city, especially to those traveling west to Houston, Williamson noted.
The study concluded the city's north side has a low level of home ownership and contains obsolete single-family homes and apartment complexes with high crime rates. The study recommended developing a home ownership program and assisting citizens with home improvements. Williamson urged the mayor and council members to instruct the Second Century Corporation board to implement the plan to build a city center around the Corrigan Center and Capitan Theater so citizens can conduct business and attend special events in the area. She also recommended improvements to the northern gateway to the city and stronger enforcement of building and housing codes.
Aransas County buying land for new courthouse
Aransas County commissioners recently agreed to buy land in downtown Rockport for a new $25 million county courthouse. Earlier this year, commissioners allocated $1.25 million of a $4.475 million bond package to pay for land for a new courthouse. The property is located east of the current courthouse on Live Oak Street. County officials also plan to build a parking lot near the new courthouse.
County officials had planned to ask voters to approve bonds to pay for the new courthouse this fall, but County Judge Burt Mills said he is concerned that voters may be reluctant to approve the bonds because of the current economic situation. Mills said he is looking for other grants and federal stimulus funds to help pay for the new courthouse. A new facility is badly needed because the current 53-year-old courthouse has a bad roof, asbestos and mold problems, is energy inefficient and overcrowded, he said.
Mills said he urged proceeding with the land purchase because real estate values in the county, especially in Rockport, continue to rise and with revitalization of the downtown area in process, the price for the land will continue to go up and cost the county more.
New Braunfels moves forward with $35M justice center
The New Braunfels City Council recently approved an agreement with Comal County to set aside mandatory parking requirements to hasten construction of the 90,000-square-foot, three-story, $36-million Comal County Justice Center.
Citing the need for improving inadequate security at the old courthouse, County Judge Danny Scheel (pictured), the county engineer and several sheriff's deputies asked that a mandate for a parking garage to serve the new center be waived until five years after the center's completion. The waiver will allow construction on the justice center to begin sooner and improve security for all who use the justice center, Scheel said.
Council members agreed to postpone the parking garage for four years, rather than five. The city also stipulated that county officials deposit a little more than $2 million into a "county facility parking fund" when it receives the initial construction funds for the center. The fund will be dedicated to providing the required 203 parking spaces if the parking garage is not built within four years. County officials expect construction on the justice center to begin in January 2010 and be completed in about two years.
Potter County Courthouse restoration moving forward
Potter County commissioners recently agreed to move forward with $16 million in renovations to the county's historical courthouse built in 1932.
The Texas Historical Commission is contributing $5 million for the renovations and recently donated an additional $5,000 to pay for moving an old Marine tank on display on the courthouse grounds since 1993. The tank is being removed because it is inconsistent with the historic nature of the courthouse building, said the county's facility director. No decision has been made on where to relocate the tank, which is deteriorating.
County officials expect to open bids for the courthouse renovation in October to name a general contractor for the courthouse renovation project.
Fort Worth approves $23M for class whiteboards
Officials of the Fort Worth Independent School District recently agreed to spend $23 million to install whiteboards in every classroom in the district. The whiteboard system uses a projector to display computer images onto an interactive board that responds to the touch of a stylus. Voters in 2007 approved funding for the new technology.
Although originally estimated to cost $4,175 each, the district paid $4,739 for each whiteboard for high schools and $4,434 each for whiteboards installed in middle and elementary schools. The cost includes the board, projector, accessories, teacher training and installation, said Kyle Davie (pictured), the chief technology officer for the district. The whiteboard technology is key to retaining the attention of students who connect with video games, cell phones and laptop computers, Davie said. The new whiteboards all should be installed in each of the district's 5,110 classrooms in December, a year ahead of schedule, he added.
Freeport to seek grant for sidewalk project
Freeport city officials are applying for funding from the Livable Centers Initiative of the Houston-Galveston Area Council to build and repair sidewalks throughout the city to encourage strong pedestrian networks served by public transportation.
City Manager Jeff Pynes said funding provided by the Livable Center Initiative does not require matching taxpayer funding. Some areas of the city, such as Ward C, have no sidewalks in 95 percent of the area, causing residents, including young children and the elderly, to walk on the road. Pynes estimated he would propose a sidewalk project costing no more than $1 million, but does not have an estimate of cost for the project.
Pynes said that pending any unforeseen circumstances, he plans to proceed with sidewalk improvements even if the city does not receive funding from the Livable Centers Initiatives. The city manager's proposed spending plan includes $70,000 to pay for one-quarter mile of sidewalk construction for each of the city's four wards.
Galveston ISD mulling bonds for new $20 million stadium
After learning the district may qualify for as much as $8.6 million in no- or low-interest federal loans, Galveston Independent School District trustees are mulling a recommendation to issue additional bonds to pay for construction of a new $20 million stadium.
Superintendent Lynne Cleveland (pictured) said that using a loan from the Qualified School Construction Bond Program would leverage district funds to replace the 75-year-old football stadium heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike. The superintendent also noted that the federal stimulus bill specifically set aside $100 million in low- or no-interest loans for school districts in counties hit hard by Hurricane Ike. This should limit the number of applications placed for the federal stimulus funds and increase Galveston's chance of an award, Cleveland said.
Trustees asked district staff to provide more data on how much it would cost to renovate the existing stadium while they continue discussion on the proposed bond election. The last day trustees can call a November bond election is Sept. 2.
TxDOT to spend $2.4 million to improve US Highway 84
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plans to use $2.4 million in federal stimulus funding to improve U.S. 84. The improvements include maintenance and rehabilitation of the highway between SH 31 in McLennan County and SH 14 in Limestone County. TxDOT added the SH 84 project to the list of maintenance and rehabilitation projects to begin this fall after several of the awarded projects came in under budget.
Four S.A. attorneys selected for court-at-law judges
Four local attorneys have been named by the Bexar County Commissioners Court to serve as county court-at-law judges. Three of the court spots are newly created while a fourth is an existing court.
Named to fill the positions were Monica Gonzalez in County Court 13, Ernest Acevedo Jr. in County Court 14 and Michael La Hood in County Court 15. The new courts were created by the 81st Texas Legislature. Named to serve in County Court 5 was Linda Penn. She will replace Tim Johnson, who is giving up his post to become the county's director of judicial support services. The three new courts will open Sept. 1. Penn's term will begin Sept. 8. All of the appointees will face election in 2010.
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By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
When a Texas Government Insider reader inquired recently about whether it would be possible to place a job posting in either the newsletter or on the SPI Web site, we thought "Why not?"
So, with this issue of TGI, we are launching yet another service - a Public Sector Job Board. And, we're inviting all public sector entities to list job postings at no cost.
Below this column is a box with a link to the new Job Board. SPI invites all public sector entities and nonprofits to send job postings, which will be listed on the Job Board each week. TGI will provide a link to job description documents.
Job postings should be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on the Wednesday prior to a Friday publication date. All postings should be Microsoft Word documents and submissions will be screened by the editor of TGI.[more]
San Antonio approves $2M for Alamodome scoreboards
San Antonio city council members recently approved $2 million for six full-color LED scoreboards covering 600 feet of the Alamodome. Each scoreboard will be 100 feet long and three feet tall with the capability of providing scores and statistical information as well as video replays and animation to enhance crowd participation.
Council member Ivy Taylor (pictured), who represents the district where the stadium is located, noted the new scoreboards are twice as large as the old single-colored scoreboards and will make it easier to attract future entertainment and sports events to the Alamodome. Phase 1 of the plan to install six 60-foot displays, which should be completed by October 31 for the Notre Dame-Washington State football game. The remaining 40-foot sections will be installed in time for the women's NCAA Final Four basketball tournament next April, city officials said.
San Marcos to spend $262K on new air control tower
The San Marcos City Council recently agreed to spend $262,809 toward construction of 100-foot air control tower at the San Marcos Municipal Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration is providing a grant that will fund 90 percent of the tower's cost, up to $1.5 million. The city previously contributed $230,033 to the Texas Department of Transportation for engineering, design and placing the project out for bids. The FAA last March awarded another $2.45 million to the city for a "front door" project for the municipal airport that will bring it closer to SH 21 than the current airport.
Carthage trustees urge bond election for schools
Two trustees for the Carthage Independent School District recently recommended a November bond election to replace two aging schools. Citing a report from the Texas Association of School Administrators, the president and vice president of the board of trustees said a bond election should be called to address aging facilities. The report noted that at least three district facilities, Carthage High School, Carthage Junior High School and Libby Elementary, are overcrowded or soon to be overcrowded and may not meet current state standards.
The report concluded that Libby Elementary, built in 1959, and Carthage Junior High School, built in 1950, may need to be replaced in the next five to eight years, said Ken Andrus, vice president of the board. The intermediate school, the newest in the district, already is at capacity and may need to be expanded to address classroom overcrowding, he said.
Richardson ISD selects interim superintendent
Trustees for the Richardson Independent School District recently selected Carolyn Bukhair (pictured) as the interim superintendent. She will replace David Simmons, who resigned earlier this month. Bukhair previously served as superintendent for Richardson ISD, and is currently the coordinator for the Superintendent's Academy at the Region 10 Education Center. Bukhair said she has no plans to pursue the permanent position of superintendent.
Gregg County grant will provide upgrades for EOC
Gregg County commissioners recently received a $14,085 grant to update the technology in its Emergency Operation Center. The funding will be used to upgrade computer programs and Internet access to the center to allow center personnel to maintain contact with more East Texas counties, said Fred Salyer, the county's emergency management coordinator. Currently, the emergency center maintains contact only with the state operation center in Austin and the Smith County Center.
The goal is for the Longview/Gregg County Emergency Operations Center, which is operated jointly by the city of Longview and Gregg County, to eventually serve as the hub of emergency operations for all 14 counties in the East Texas Council of Government.
Bickett to retire from
Texas Conference on Regionalism slated in September
The 2009 Texas Conference on Regionalism: A Bridge Across Texas will be held Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 16-18, on South Padre Island. The event is co-hosted by the Texas Association of Regional Councils and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. Some of the topics for staff development and training workshops include economic development, criminal justice, 9-1-1, homeland security, solid waste and aging. Some topics for concurrent sessions include Economic Development ABCs, Planning for Aging Communities, Interoperable Communications, Technology Trends in Public Safety and Managing Grants and Subgrants Under the Recovery Act. Some exhibit hall and sponsorship opportunities are still available. To view the draft agenda for the event, click here. To register, click here.
TML getting ready for October annual conference
The Texas Municipal League will host its 97th Annual Conference and Exhibition Tuesday through Friday, Oct. 20-23, at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Each day of the conference will feature concurrent sessions and keynote speakers. The TML Board of Directors meeting will be Friday, Oct. 23. Among the many topics for the concurrent sessions are: State-of-the-Art Technology for Small Cities, Successful Economic Development in a Difficult Economy and Protecting City Accounts from Identity Theft. There will be an interactive session on dealing with difficult personalities. Other topics will be federal issues of importance to cities, community policing, preparing critical IT structure systems for disaster, maximizing retail opportunities, strategic planning and more. Among the keynote speakers will be Craig Karges, who combines magic with psychology and intuition to explore the potential of the human mind. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.
Freedom of Information Foundation plans conference
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas' 2009 Bernard and Audre Rapoport State Conference is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21, at the Renaissance Hotel, 9721 Arboretum Blvd. in Austin. The conference begins with registration at 8:15 a.m. "Opening Tomorrow's Doors: Meeting Tomorrow's Challenges" will be the theme for the one-day event, which features Sen. Rodney Ellis as the keynote speaker for the noon Henry Faulk Awards Luncheon. Topics for the morning and afternoon sessions include social media and key Texas Freedom of Information Act rulings. To view the agenda, click here. To register, click here.
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.