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  Volume 7, Issue 32 · Friday, August 21, 2009
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Local governments cut costs with cooperatives

Bullard, Whitehouse, Lindale, ETCOG piggy-back with Smith County

Joel Baker

Though the current economic recession appears to be tapering, Smith County officials are taking steps to increase purchasing power and lower costs through cooperative purchasing agreements.

The East Texas cities of Bullard, Lindale and Whitehouse, along with the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG), recently signed an interlocal agreement with Smith County, allowing each entity to save money by sharing the same (lower) purchasing rates the county receives.

Smith County Purchasing Director Kelli Davis spearheaded the effort.

Davis said she asked approval from Smith County commissioners, "so that all local government entities would have the ability to get the pricing that Smith County gets."

The coop venture offers cities and other entities an added procurement resource, affording each greater buying power, Davis said.

The program will likely appeal to taxpayers, too, giving elected officials more procurement options to review and added accountability.

"Cooperative purchasing...provides for transparent spending," said Smith County Judge Joel Baker (pictured).


New items added to state sales tax-free holiday

Three-day reprieve starts today, includes school supplies

Tax Free Holiday

Several new items such as backpacks and school supplies are now included in the three-day holiday from state sales tax that begins today, Friday, at retailers throughout Texas. As in past years, the three-day sales tax exemption includes clothing, shoes and belts priced under $100.

School Supplies

Legislators this past session expanded the list to include many school supplies and in 2007 changed the date of the sales tax holiday from the first weekend in August to the third weekend of August. The legislature changed the date so that the holiday would be closer to the start of the school year.

School supplies, if priced less than $100, included in the sales tax exemption are pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, scissors, writing tablets, legal pads, folders, glue, tape, markers and lunch boxes. Backpacks with wheels are included as long as they can be worn on the back like a traditional backpack. Shoppers may purchase up to 10 backbacks without providing an exemption certificate to the retailer.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

Doug Foster

Doug Foster, commissioner, Texas Department of Savings & Mortgage Lending

Career highlights and education: I spent all four of my college years in Austin evenly split between Concordia Lutheran College, where I was president of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and received an Associate of Arts degree and then The University of Texas, where I received a BBA concentrated in finance. I worked for a credit union as a management trainee and a small savings and loan as a branch manager and loan office. During my 24 years with the Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending, I spent just over half of that time in the field as an examiner, chief examiner and then director of examinations. While serving as deputy commissioner, I filled in as interim commissioner for four months in 2004 and then was appointed commissioner in March 2008. I have served as the chairman of the American Counsel of State Savings Supervisors - a national trade association for thrift regulators - for the past three years. I am one of five state commissioners nationwide, including Harold Feeney of the Texas Credit Union Department, who represent all states as part of the State Liaison Committee to the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC). The FFIEC was established by Congress to conduct training and promote uniformity among the five federal financial depository institution supervisory agencies: FDIC, Federal Reserve, OCC, OTS and NCUA.

What I like best about my job is: The opportunity to make connections or seek resolution between multiple parties including consumers, federal agencies and our regulated industries - which include state savings banks, mortgage brokers and mortgage bankers.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: to be sure and keep all parties as informed as possible as soon as possible.

Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Take full advantage of the extensive formal and on-the-job training benefits that are provided, particularly to our examination staff.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: leaving on a trip somewhere. Both my wife and I grew up as military brats and have compensated for living in the same house for 23 years by taking trips as frequently as we can.

People would be surprised to know that I: have spent two summers in Israel doing Biblical archaeology, spent 12 years as the director of youth ministry in my local church and that I am currently certified as a candidate for pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: is the consumer protection efforts we provide in the origination of mortgage loans through licensing, examination and enforcement. This includes individuals offering foreclosure prevention and loss mitigation services where many people are beginning to engage in this type of activity and are not properly licensed in Texas. Further, for the primarily government agency readers of this publication, under current Texas mortgage licensing laws, government agencies are exempt from licensing. But, Texas passed new legislation (House Bill 10) during the last legislative session that drastically changes licensing requirements to dovetail with the federally mandated Secure and Fair Enforcement Licensing Act of 2008 (SAFE). SAFE requires that EVERY loan originator must be either licensed or registered and there will no longer be exemptions for nonprofits or government agencies. If someone in your office is engaged in the origination of mortgage loans for affordable housing type programs, they will need to be licensed. We are still putting together the framework, but our planned implementation of bringing on new licensing types begins April 2010. This link to our Web site has some preliminary information as well as links to resources that can assist you in determining what might be required.

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

Zaragoza-Stone earns new title at TCEQ

Dorca Zaragoza Stone

Dorca Zaragoza-Stone (pictured) has been named deputy director for the Office of Administrative Services at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Zaragoza-Stone began her career as an investigator for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1983. Four years later she joined the Texas Department of Agriculture as an enforcement coordinator and director of programs. She began her tenure with TCEQ and its predecessor agencies in 1991 as a project manager on the West Dallas Superfund cleanup initiative.

Zaragoza-Stone holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, and a professional certificate from George Washington University.

Sands to retire as dean of UT-Austin Nursing School

Dolores Sands

After two decades at the helm of The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, Dean Dolores Sands (pictured) is calling it a career. Sands, who said she wants to spend more time with her family, will retire and move to The Woodlands. Her retirement is effective Aug. 31.

Sands has served as dean of the School of Nursing since 1989. She also holds the Laura Lee Blanton Chair in Nursing at UT and is the Joseph H. Blades Centennial Memorial Professor in Nursing. Under her supervision for the last 20 years, the UT Nursing School ranks 10th in National Institutes of Health funding among more than 650 nursing schools throughout the country.

The retiring dean earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from Wayne State University and her Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Before coming to UT, she served as director of Arizona State's Graduate Program in Nursing and was acting dean, assistant dean for research and resources and assistant dean for the baccalaureate program. She also was professor and director of the Center for Health Care Research and Evaluation at UT's School of Nursing from 1984-1989 before being appointed dean in 1989.

Cafferty new mandamus attorney for Supreme Court

Jennifer Lee Cafferty

Jennifer Lee Cafferty (pictured) has been named the new staff attorney for original proceedings at the Texas Supreme Court. She comes to the court after having been an associate in the trial division and handling appeals for Baker Botts L.L.P. in Austin. She spent two years as an investment banker with Goldman, Sachs & Co. in Houston and New York before attending The University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

Cafferty graduated cum laude from Rice University and then graduated with honors from the UT School of Law.

ETF to invest $250,000 in Austin company

Texas will invest $250,000 from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund in Smooth-Stone, Inc. in Austin for the development of low-power, energy conserving computer server technology. The company's technology provides a solution for companies that operate energy consuming computer servers and data centers by increasing the density of computer resources while significantly conserving energy and saving money. Because computer usage, and thus energy usage, is increasing, Smooth-Stone's technology provides an energy saving solution without sacrificing productivity.

Funds awarded for career, technical education

Texas community, state and technical colleges will welcome the addition of millions of dollars in Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act funds approved recently by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The allocations are divided into either Title I or Title II funding.

Career Technical Funds

Title I funding of more than $26.3 million will go to support academic and career technical education standards, industry standards, applied learning strategies and instructional programs and to improve both the access and success of special populations, including students entering non-traditional occupations.

The Perkins grants help students explore careers, provide them opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school and develop and enhance career and technical programs leading to skilled, high-wage or high-demand careers. Tier I money will be distributed as either Basic Grants, Reserve Grants or Leadership Projects. The big winners in the Basic Grants division were the Alamo Community College District with an allocation of $2,105,977, the Dallas County Community College District with an allocation of $1,311,131 and the Houston Community College System, which was granted $1,180,985.

Title II funding of more than $7.9 million was awarded for Tech Prep Grants. These programs are geared toward creating a pathway to postsecondary education that will lead to an associate degree and that allows students to earn college credits while still in high school. To view the complete list of allocations by funding type and institution, click here and look under "Recent Reports."

Library, Archives Commission to award $100K in grants

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has issued grants totaling $100,000 to six libraries for the digitization of special and unique collections, including photographs, oral history interviews and other documents. The collections will then be available on the Internet, allowing a broader range of access.

Projects slated to receive funding for fiscal year 2010 include:

  • "Houston Oral History Project" - $25,000 - The Houston Public Library
  • "The Bexar Archives" - $19,930 - The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
  • "Marion Butts Photography Negatives Project" - $17,571 - The Dallas Public Library
  • "Lady Bird Johnson Photo Collection Project" - $16,610 - The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin
  • "Itinerant Photographer Collection" - $14,389 - The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin
  • "Tejano Voices Project" - $6,500 - University of Texas at Arlington Library

TWC: $90 million available for skills training

Job Training

There's $90 million available in Texas for employers to train workers with new skills. Officials of the Texas Workforce Commission say the funds, appropriated by the Texas Legislature for the 2010-2011 biennium, are part of the Skills Development Fund that is used to provide customized training programs by partnering private sector employees with public community and technical colleges.

The Skills Development Fund focuses on creating skilled workers for industries that hold the best promise for future job growth, such as energy and health care. The program focuses on businesses or industries in need of trained workers that then partner with a public community or technical college or the Texas Engineering Extension Service to create a training program to teach workers the skills needed in that industry. The funds are administered by the colleges, which also either provide the training or contract with another provider to meet the training needs.

For more information on how to apply for the funds, or for technical assistance in preparing a grant proposal, click here.

TWDB announces $13.8M for water-related projects

Financial assistance totaling more than $13.8 million for water-related projects in Texas communities has been announced by the Texas Water Development Board. The financial assistance includes the following:

  • $3.975 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Sherman to construct 9,000 linear feet of 10- to 21-inch linear pipe and rehabilitate various units at its existing 16 Wastewater Treatment Plant;
  • $1.4 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program to finance wastewater and water system improvements to the City of Melissa to construct 12,500 linear feet of gravity sewer lines to improve its sewer system;
  • $44,000 grant from the Colonia Self-Help Program to finance first-time wastewater services to the Rensselaerville Institute in Hidalgo County, including 2,983 linear feet of wastewater lines; and
  • $7.326 million increase in funding from the Economically Distressed Areas Program to finance first-time wastewater services to the City of Los Fresnos to construct nine new lift stations, add 32,496 feet of force mains and 60,753 feet of gravity lines to facilitate 950 first-time connections to the sewer system.

TxDOT officials appealing to Internet-savvy crowd

TxDOT Twitter

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has adopted a means to better inform and engage the public on transportation-related matters: Internet social networking via popular Twitter, Facebook and YouTube Web sites.

TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz said the agency is continually "looking for new ways to interact and communicate with the public, and participating in social networking allows us to accomplish this mission."

To join in the conversation, visit TxDOT's social media page.

Air Force officials announce Texas assignments

James Whitmore

Charles Shugg

Richard Devereaux

Two Air Force officials have been promoted to higher ranks at Texas bases while another previously stationed in Texas has been assigned to another state.

Maj. Gen. James A. Whitmore (left), deputy commander for the U.S. Strategic Command at Bolling Air Force Base, Md., has been assigned to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, while Brig. Gen. Charles K. Shugg (middle), vice commander of Air Force Cyber Command (Provisional) at Lackland Air Force Base has been named vice commander of the 24th Air Force, Air Force Space Command there.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Richard T. Devereaux (right), who has been selected for the rank of major general, director, intelligence, operations and nuclear integration at Headquarters Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, has been assigned to the role of commander at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, Air Mobility Command in Fort Dix, N.J.

Lone Star College System names new Harris Co. campus

Richard Carpenter

Lone Star College System's (LSCS) newest facility in northwest Harris County has an official new moniker: the Lone Star College-University Park. LSCS purchased the land for the campus at State Highway 249 and Louetta Road last April.

LSCS Chancellor Richard Carpenter (pictured) said that with the excitement of the land purchase for the 1.2 million-square-foot facility, "The naming of it naturally has received a lot of attention."

As contenders for the new facility name, University Park ranked with Cypress Creek and Champions, but was chosen by visitors at the campus' open house two-and-one-half more times, a decision Carpenter said System officials feel good about. The name stands as a "great reflection of the intended purpose of the campus and its uniqueness," he said.

$70-per-child increase in back-to-school subsidies cited

Albert Hawkins

To help with back-to-school costs, the 81st Texas Legislature has approved a $70-per-child increase in the amount of annual subsidies for families enrolled in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The increase raises the payment to $105 per child using about $6 million in federal funds.

Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins (pictured) said the increase allows low-income families to "make sure their kids are better prepared to learn when school starts."

Tarleton picks executive director of enrollment division

Kelli Styron has been selected to serve as executive director of Compliance, Evaluation and Institutional Reporting at Tarleton State University's Division of Enrollment and Information Management. In her new role, she will oversee and coordinate the university's rules and procedures.

Styron joined the Tarleton faculty in 1995 in the Division of Institutional Advancement. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Young Lawyers Association.

Styron holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from Baylor's School of Law.

Michaelis to serve as Tech director of external relations

Dennis Michaelis

Dennis Michaelis (pictured) has been selected to serve as director of external college and community relations at Texas Tech University's College of Outreach and Distance Education. In his new role, he will oversee the McLennan Community College/Texas Tech partnership in Waco beginning September 1.

Michaelis previously served as president of Paris Junior College and as president of Lake Region Community College in Devils Lake, N.D. He began a 21-year tenure at McLennan Community College (MCC) in 1988.

Michaelis earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Kansas and his master's from Fort Hays State University. He holds a doctoral degree from Kansas State University.

UT-Tyler selects director of performing arts school

Michael Thrasher

Dr. Michael Thrasher (pictured) has been named the new director for The University of Texas at Tyler School of Performing Arts, where he will oversee the music and theater programs.

As an associate professor of music at North Dakota State University, Thrasher served as director of recruitment and admissions for the music department in addition to his teaching duties. He has also taught at North Central Texas College, Dallas Baptist University and Bridgeport Independent School District.

Thrasher holds a bachelor's degree from Northwestern State University, and a master's and Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas.

UT-Pan Am cites new associate VP/dean of students

Calvin Phillips

Dr. Calvin D. Phillips (pictured) has been named associate vice president and dean of students at The University of Texas-Pan American's Division of Enrollment and Student Services.

Phillips most recently served as associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he oversaw the university's counseling center, student health services, housing and residence life and judicial affairs.

Phillips holds a bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University, a master's degree from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and a doctoral degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

UT System approves UTIMCO compensation plan

Incentive pay for The University of Texas Investment Management Co. (UTIMCO) employees would be limited during times of extraordinary market conditions under a new compensation plan approved Thursday by the UT System Board of Regents. Investment return calculations will continue to be based on trailing three year results, however, up to 50 percent of incentive pay earned by senior staff would be deferred for three years. Those amounts would either increase or decrease according to the endowments' investment performance.

In times of extraordinary circumstance, if losses of 5 percent or more at the end of the year earned incentives would be decreased so that if the losses exceeded 14 percent, they would be eliminated. On the other hand, if endowments gain 20 percent or more at the end of the year, incentive compensation would be no more than doubled. If endowments post losses at the end of the year, that not already deferred for three years would be deferred for one year and would increase or decrease based on the endowments' performance over that period. If endowments lose 10 percent or more after the compensation period but before payment calculations are final, the compensation will be based on the trailing three-year period. The portion not already deferred for three years would be deferred for one year.

Lamar chooses communications department chair

Mary Evelyn Collins

Mary Evelyn Collins (pictured) has been named chair of the Department of Communication at Lamar University.

Collins most recently taught at Sam Houston State University and has held teaching posts at Hardin-Simmons University, Wingate College and the University of Houston-Downtown.

Collins earned her bachelor's degree from Texas Christian University, a master's degree from San Jose State University and doctorate from Florida State University.

West Texas A&M selects Calvi as associate dean

Jim Calvi

Jim Calvi (pictured) has been named associate dean for the College of Education and Social Sciences at West Texas A&M University. He replaces Dr. Angela Spaulding, who has been named dean of Graduate School and Research at WTAMU.

Calvi joined the WTAMU faculty in 1982. From 1994 until 2001, he headed the Department of History and Political Science as director. He has since served as professor in the department.

Calvi holds both a bachelor's and master's degree from Oklahoma State University and a doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

DISD considers new campus to replace Adamson

Plans to renovate the Dallas ISD's Adamson High School have been replaced by plans to build a new campus adjacent to the structure. The original Adamson school was built in 1915 and has been enlarged over the years. The most recent DISD bond election includes $48 million to replace the school in 2012. Alumni have repeatedly asked the school district to preserve the building, but DISD officials say the costs to upgrade the building to current educational standards would cost $15 million. The alumni group has also asked the city council to declare the structure a landmark, which would limit changes to the exterior of the building and require approval from the city before demolition.

Manvel City Council approves $2.5 million bond issue

Tommy Pollard

The Manvel City Council has approved a $2.5 million bond issue for the construction of a new library and city offices. The proposal calls for a new 8,000-square-foot city hall to be constructed on property adjacent to the current building. The new library would be housed in the old city hall and expanded by 4,000 feet.

If passed, the bond would increase the city's tax rate by 1.5 cents per $100 of appraised property value.

While some residents have said the timing is wrong for the proposal, Councilman Tommy Pollard (pictured) maintains the city hall offices should be larger. He said he has heard many residents complain about the facility's cramped conditions, adding "something has to be done."

CAPCOG gets $442K to help develop smart-energy grid

The U.S. Commerce Department has awarded $442,854 to the Capital Area Council of Governments to help develop the region's first large-scale smart-energy grid, which will make electric power systems more efficient.

The grids employ devices such as the so-called smart-meters, which allow consumers better power-use management.

The project calls for the council to partner with private companies, universities and other stakeholders to bring the grid to fruition.

UT Southwestern Center cites dean of internal medicine

Gregory Fitz

Dr. J. Gregory Fitz (pictured) has been named dean of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and provost of the medical center. He begins his new roles Oct. 1.

Fitz, a hepatologist who currently serves as chairman of internal medicine at the Center, will also act as executive vice president for academic affairs at UT Southwestern. He joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2003.

Fitz has served as head of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and as professor of medicine and director of the gastroenterology fellowship program at Duke University Medical Center.

Plano ISD to use stimulus funds to buy high-tech van

Officials of the Plano Independent School District recently announced plans to use part of the $13.5 million in federal stimulus funding the district will receive in the next two years to buy a computer-equipped van to travel to apartments and mobile homes to help teach parents how to speak English and use a computer.

District officials hope the van will attract more parents to participate in English classes and computer classes than the current program of holding those classes in district facilities, said Cathy Galloway, the director of student and family services for the district.

Because the stimulus funding is from two sources, Title I, federal aid for low-income students, and IDEA funds for special needs, much of the money will be used for new programs rather than existing programs because of current regulations, Galloway said. Aid targeting low-income students will be used to train staff to help at-risk students at the district's Title I campuses and to boost contact with parents of poor and limited-English-speaking students, she said.

Texas Tech picks Hughes for assistant dean

Patrick Hughes

Patrick Hughes (pictured), chairman of the Department of Communication Studies at Texas Tech University, has been selected to serve as assistant dean for college programs for the College of Outreach and Distance Education. In his new role, he will oversee operations and advising for the Bachelor of General Studies program.

Hughes began his tenure at Tech in 2000 as assistant professor in the Communications Department. He has served as department chairman since 2007.

Hughes holds a bachelor's degree from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., and a master's degree from Illinois State University. He went on to earn his doctorate at the University of Denver.

Merger talks stall for San Antonio-area colleges

Talks of a merger between five colleges in the San Antonio area have slowed amid vocal concerns and criticism from faculty and students. A merger would mean a single accreditation for the five colleges and would save money, but according to students and faculty, the move would likely dampen each campus' unique culture and compromise the quality of programs offered there.

Trustee Gary Beitzel said there is no "foregone conclusion" regarding the board's plans.

Meanwhile, the board has decided to delay talks of a $275 million budget until a special meeting next week. The budget does not include any raises and calls for higher taxes among other cost-saving measures for the district.

Artibise chosen for UT-Brownsville provost post

Alan Artibise

Dr. Alan F. J. Artibise (pictured), executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, has been named provost of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC).

Artibise, a certified planner and expert in North American urban development, also serves as executive director of ASU's Institute for Social Science Research and as a professor in the School of Government, Politics and Global Studies. He has also taught at the University of New Orleans, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Universities of British Columbia, Winnipeg, Victoria and Manitoba.

He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Manitoba and a doctoral degree from the University of British Columbia.

Copperas Cove agrees to sell $7 million in bonds

The Copperas Cove City Council recently authorized the sale of $7 million in bonds and limited tax notes to pay for upgrades to several city facilities, including a new police facility.

The city plans to use $4.77 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a new police facility, road construction and drainage projects and $3.5 million in limited tax notes to buy fire apparatus, renovate a city swimming pool and civic center and for several water, sewer and solid waste projects, said City Manager Andrea Gardner.

UT-Brownsville picks dean of science, math college

Mikhail Bouniaev

Dr. Mikhail M. Bouniaev (pictured) has been named dean of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College's (UTB/TSC) College of Science, Mathematics and Technology. He replaces Dr. Peter B. Gawenda, who now serves as dean of UTB/TSC's College of Applied Technology and General Studies.

Bouniaev previously served as founding dean of the College of Computing, Integrated Engineering and Technology at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, where he also worked as a professor and faculty chair in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department.

Bouniaev, who was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, holds a master's degree in mathematics and a doctor of science degree from Moscow Pedagogical State University in addition to a doctoral degree in mathematics from the Moscow Institute of Electrical Engineering.

NTTA awards contract for SH 161 toll road

The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) has awarded a $416 million contract for building the final stages of the State Highway 161 toll road in Dallas County. The winning bidder team is led by Fluor Corp. of Irving, which has agreed that at least 16 percent of its subcontractors will be minority- or women-owned firms. A contract for the road was awarded last year.

The project was originally awarded to the NTTA by the state last year. However, NTTA has until later this year to decide if it wants to accept it. If it does, the NTTA will be faced with borrowing some $1.4 billion to add to its current debt of $6 billion. If the NTTA does not accept the road, all of its costs related to the road will be reimbursed by the Texas Department of Transportation. When the new 6.5-mile segment is opened, the toll road will include 11.5 miles from State Highway 183 to Interstate 20.

Grier announced as HISD lone superintendent finalist

Terry Grier

Terry Grier (pictured) has been named the lone finalist for superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. Grier currently serves as superintendent of the San Diego (CA) Unified School District, where he has served for the last 18 months. He will replace Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, who has announced his resignation effective Aug. 31. HISD trustees, after announcing their selection of Grier Thursday, also named HISD Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett to serve as interim superintendent when Saavedra leaves at the end of the month.

The San Diego district is the second largest school district in California, with more than 135,000 students and 24,000 employees. The district includes more than 200 square miles and 221 educational facilities. Prior to his taking the superintendent's job in San Diego, Grier served as superintendent of the Guilford County School District in Greensboro, North Carolina, from 2000 to 2008.

Grier holds undergraduate degrees from East Carolina University and the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. He earned his doctoral degree in education from Vanderbilt as well.

A&M's Christopher Colenda headed to West Virginia

Texas A&M University's Dean of Medicine Christopher Colenda is headed west. Colenda has accepted the position of chancellor for health sciences at West Virginia University. He will start Oct. 30.

Colenda previously served as professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and as associate dean for Programs and Projects at Michigan State University. He also served as a faculty member and administrator at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and at the Medical College of Virginia of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Tayebi named graduate dean, associate VP

Kandi Tayebi

Kandi Tayebi (pictured), English professor and associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Sam Houston State University, has been named dean of Graduate Studies and associate vice president for Academic Affairs. She replaces Mitchell Muehsam, who recently was named dean of the College of Business Administration.

Tayebi began her career at SHSU in 1999 after serving as an assistant professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado. She was named full professor at SHSU this year. She has served as associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences since 2004. In her new job, Tayebi will oversee curriculum and revising graduate catalogs. She will also oversee all of the university's 59 graduate programs, complete reports for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and work closely with the provost and the associate provost in reporting the university's accountability measures.

Tayebi holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Northern Colorado and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver.

Crowley approves design contract for rec center

The Crowley City Council recently approved a contract with a Fort Worth-based architecture firm for design services for a new $6 million recreation center. Council members also authorized City Manager Truitt Gilbreath to conduct final negotiations of the design contract for the new center.

Comal County hopes to reapply for courthouse funds

Comal Courthouse

Comal County commissioners have reinstated a committee charged with asking for up to $9 million in state dollars to restore the courthouse to its original 1898 condition. After more than fives years of planning, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) denied the county funding for the restoration last year.

County Engineer Tom Hornseth said his goal on the preservation committee is to help coordinate and provide technical guidance. "Our main focus is the grant application and to highlight why the courthouse is historically significant," he said.

Comal was one of 47 Texas counties to apply for courthouse renovation money from THC. The commission's Texas program awarded state dollars to 14 of those counties based on a merit-point system.

Cleveland wins $2.2M in grants for generators, drainage

The City of Cleveland recently won two grants totaling $2.2 million to buy new generators for city facilities and to improve drainage in the downtown area.

The State Office of Rural Community Affairs provided a $1.9 million grant from the Supplemental Disaster Recover Fund to buy three generators to be used at two fire stations and the water plant and for drainage improvements in the downtown area, said City Manager Philip Cook.

A $496,600 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Governor's Division of Emergency Management will provide 75 percent of the funding to buy a generator for the city hall and one for the civic center. The city is required to contribute 25 percent, or about $100,000 to $150,000, toward the purchase of the two generators bought with the FEMA grant, Cook said.

Odessa may become home to solar-power collector

Gary Vest

The City of Odessa may be home to a new solar-power collector, according to Gary Vest (pictured), economic development director for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce. The project, which would be built in phases, may include $100 million in capital investments. Vest announced the prospect at a meeting of the Odessa Development Corp. (ODC).

The solar company's name is being withheld at the moment for competitive reasons, Vest said, adding the company has projects established in Spain, Italy and Germany.

Meanwhile, the ODC has approved a budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 for $12,395,567 subject to city council approval.

Aransas County approves courthouse land purchase

The Aransas County Commissioners Court has approved a resolution to authorize the purchase of land for a new county courthouse.

Deemed a "public necessity and convenience" by the court, the resolution calls for County Judge C.H. "Burt" Mills and County Attorney Richard Bianchi to begin negotiations with the land's 14 owners. The plot is located one block east of the courthouse between Mimosa and Concho streets.

The land will be purchased with $4.475 million in funds from certificates of obligation issued in January. About $1.25 million of the funds was designated for purchase of the land.

Kemah city officials hold strategic-planning workshops

Matt Wiggins

Members of the Kemah City Council and the Kemah Community Development Corp. are holding a series of workshops aimed at preventing future damages similar to those suffered during Hurricane Ike and pushing forward with recovery from that storm.

A workshop held Saturday was devoted to mounting concerns about the city's drainage system. Kemah Mayor Matt Wiggins (pictured) said the city stands to receive more than $2 million from the county, "and the first thing we're going to do is solve our drainage issues."

Other issues taking precedence at the workshop included emergency medical services contracts with private companies, which are set to expire at the end of next year, and city advertising.

DART gets a jumpstart on federal funds for Green Line

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has received $78.4 million in federal stimulus funding to speed up construction of the light-rail corridor known as Green Line, extending from Carrollton-Farmer's Branch to Pleasant Grove. The award arrives as an advance on the federal grant reimbursements the agency was slated to receive in 2013 as part of a $700 million commitment from the Federal Transit Administration to DART.

DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said that with a jumpstart on the funds, "we can shift funds and do other things more quickly."

Lufkin gains jobs with grant for industrial park project

Keith Wright

A $4 million federal grant awarded to Lufkin for the development of an industrial park stands to create more jobs than originally projected, according to city officials. The project was reported to create about 175 jobs, a number that will substantially increase as the development ensues, said Director of Economic Development Jim Wehmeier.

Wehmeier said the number of estimated jobs created by the venture will increase as the city prepares more shovel-ready acres to offer businesses - about 90 acres in total.

The funds from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) - awarded through the U.S. Department of Commerce - were awarded after Hurricane Ike ravaged the area last year. Lufkin Assistant City Manager Keith Wright (pictured) said the funds represent a "win-win" for the city, "particularly because the grant is not part of what citizens provide through taxes."

Howard College nets $80,000 wind energy grant

Howard College recently received an $80,000 grant from the Concho Valley Workforce Development Board to pay for hydraulic and electrical training stations for the college's campus in San Angelo. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided the funding.

The grant will pay for Howard College, in its partnership with Texas State Technical College, to train residents interested in wind energy and turbine technology to begin their education at Howard College rather than traveling where towers and equipment are located, said LeAnne Byrd, provost of Howard College. Workers who were laid off or who meet certain state guidelines may be eligible for an education grant through the workforce development board, she added.

The contract requires at least 20 people to be enrolled in each class, with the workforce development board given priority for 10 of the 20 slots. The training in San Angelo will take from six to eight weeks and students will then go to another city for hands-on training on wind turbines to complete the degree or certification plan. The program should be in place in two months, she added.

N. Texas company wants to install smart meters

A North Texas company - AEP North Texas - is looking to speed up the installation of so-called smart meters throughout the Concho Valley and parts of West Texas up to the Panhandle in hopes of being eligible for federal stimulus funding. The company has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to fund up to half the $65 million needed to install about 196,000 meters. If the company secures the award, it could have the project completed in three years as opposed to four.

Smart meters measure when electricity is used on a particular day at a particular time, allowing users a chance to control periods of peak usage. Traditional electrical meters only measure total consumption for the month.

The DOE expects to make a decision about the funding by Nov. 1.

Sugar Land to build new $3.2 million fire station

Sugar Land City Council members recently approved the design contract for a new $3.2 million fire station to serve two new subdivisions.

The proposed 8,000-square-foot fire station will feature two drive-through equipment bays and accommodate up to five crew members with an option for expansion. It also will have sustainable and environmentally friendly design elements that may qualify for LEED certification, said Acting Fire Chief Juan Adame. The design phase is estimated to take about eight to 10 months with construction tentatively scheduled to begin in August 2010.

A municipal utility district will contribute 40 percent of the cost of the station and Sugar Land city officials have applied for fire station recovery funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which requires projects to meet LEED certification requirements.

Hutto approves $22.8 million bond election in November

Hutto City Council members recently agreed to schedule a city bond election on Nov. 3 to ask voters to approve $22.8 million in bonds to pay for improvements to streets, parks, recreation and drainage.

The bond election will include four propositions:

  • Proposition 1 asks for approval of $8.5 million in bonds for street improvements, including installation of underground drainage, sidewalks and landscaping to several downtown streets;
  • Proposition 2 asks for $3.3 million for Fritz Park and acquisition of open space for more parks;
  • Proposition 3 is for $6 million to pay for a sports complex facility to include soccer, baseball and softball fields; and
  • Proposition 4 ask voters to approve $5 million for a city/YMCA Recreation Center, including an indoor swimming pool for the proposed 25,000-foot facility.

Elgin wins $2.2 million grant for stabilizing housing

Jeff Coffee

Elgin recently received a $2,204,000 grant from the Texas Neighborhood Stabilization program to acquire foreclosed, abandoned or vacant properties and develop those properties into affordable housing.

The grant is on a two-year fast track to completion and will require no matching funds from the city, said City Manager Jeff Coffee (pictured). The Neighborhood Stabilization Program has five categories in which the funds may be used, including financial mechanisms, purchase and rehabilitation, land banking, demolition and acquisition and redevelopment, Coffee said.

The purchase and rehabilitation program permits the city to take part in acquisition, rehabilitation, disposition, relocation homeownership assistance and housing counseling. The financial program requires abandoned or foreclosed properties be used and gives credit for housing low-income households earning 50 percent of the area's median income. Homebuyers will be required to complete at least eight hours of homebuyer counseling before receiving a mortgage. Homeowner assistance also is available for households below 120 percent of the average median income with 50 percent of the down payment up to $30,000 on a deferred forgivable loan. The program calls for properties to be in use in two years and all rehabilitation, reconstruction and new construction completed in two years.

Grey Forest moving forward with new Madla Park

Grey Forest city officials are proceeding with plans to create a new 42-acre conservation park to honor a former state senator from San Antonio. The park will be named the Senator Frank L. Madla Jr. Natural Area and will be dedicated to protecting the region's natural beauty, said Jeff Waldrop, the mayor pro tem of Grey Forest.

City officials are awaiting confirmation of a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife's Local Park Grant Program, but are confident of its approval, Waldrop said. Madla represented the northwest area of Bexar County in the Texas House of Representatives and an area stretching from San Antonio to El Paso while serving in the Texas Senate.

Waldrop said the first step after receiving official notice of the grant approval is to create a governing body structured similar to organizations such as "Friends of Big Bend National Park" that seeks input from naturalists and the community while monitoring maintenance, security and contributions to the natural area. The next step is to design an entrance gate and decide hours of operation, he said.

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Welcome to the education technology revolution

Mary Scott Nabers

By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

Probably no other segment of government has been more impacted by technology than education. And, technology spending in the future is going to be rampant.

Many students in classrooms this year will be issued school-owned laptops. Even more students won't worry about forgetting lunch money because their meals have been paid for in advance through online programs. Parents will track grades, check schedules, plan around events and communicate with school officials via the Web.

Most school buses this year will be equipped with cameras and GPS tracking systems so school officials can monitor both the buses and the safety of students. Surveillance cameras throughout school campuses will be monitored through technology and reports will be generated on a regular basis as software provides all kinds of customized options. In some cases, new school employees will have been hired after electronic background checks were completed. School campuses from elementary schools to universities today are using technology that would have seemed completely foreign a few years ago.

Students enrolled in community colleges and/or four-year institutions in Texas this year will most likely be offered the convenience of some Internet-based courses. One in six higher education students today are enrolled in online curriculum and the U.S. Department of Education, after a study, stated that online students out-perform those receiving face-to-face instruction. Most students enrolling in colleges this year will also register for classes and pay fees online.


Arlington uses grant to continue commuter buses

Fional Allen

Arlington city officials recently received a $71,506 grant to continue a limited daily commuter bus service between Arlington and Fort Worth through September 2010. The Sue Pope Fund, whose mission is to reduce ozone emissions in North Texas, awarded the grant to pay for the commuter service, said Deputy City Manager Fiona Allen (pictured).

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority runs the commuter service that picks up riders from two Arlington locations and takes them to the transportation center in downtown Fort Worth. This is the second year the Sue Pope Fund provided the grant that permits the service to continue at no cost to Arlington taxpayers, Allen said. The 25-passenger buses run on clean-burning natural gas, she said. The commuter service has averaged more than 2,300 trips per month.

Parkland cutting jobs to
deal with tax revenue loss

Nearly 100 employees of Parkland Memorial Hospital were notified that their jobs will end later this month as Dallas County's charity hospital is eliminating 200 jobs this week in an attempt to balance its $1.1 billion budget for 2010. Those whose jobs are cut will be allowed to apply for vacant positions within the hospital system, according to COO John Haupert. However, most of the vacant jobs are said to be clerical.

A decline in the county's tax base is one of the key reasons for the cuts. With 40 percent of the hospital's funding coming from tax revenues, the 3.1 percent decline in values would result in a loss of approximately $14 million for the hospital.

Kilgore uses $50,000 grant for Meadowbrook Park

The Kilgore City Council recently approved using a $50,000 state grant originally intended to help pay for a new city park to improve an existing park.

Following concerns that the large amount of truck traffic in the area of the new Synergy Park, members decided to use the grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to upgrade playground equipment and buy new goals for fields at 52-year-old Meadowbrook Park. Council then decided to postpone any action on the proposed new Synergy Park that was to be built on a former landfill east of U.S. 259.

Ector County approves
$42K for colisuem repairs

Susan Redford

Ector County Commissioners recently approved $42,224 to repair a large crack in the floor of the Ector County Coliseum. Funding to repair the cracks should take about two weeks to repair. The crack was caused when the space between four sections surrounding the hockey rink expanded and contracted, said County Judge Susan Redford (pictured).

El Paso to purchase new computers, equipment

El Paso City Council members recently agreed to spend approximately $300,000 to buy about 350 new computers to replace older computers now in use by city departments.

Council members also authorized the use of a $118,000 federal grant to buy about 240 chemical suits and gas masks to protect police officers during chemical spills or a terrorist attack and using a $81,000 federal grant to update the police department's automated fingerprinting system to accept full palm prints.

China Spring ISD picks McCullough as new leader

Jason McCullough

China Spring Independent School District officials recently chose Jason McCullough as the new superintendent. McCullough replaces Dr. George Kazanas, who resigned to serve as superintendent for Wichita Falls ISD.

McCullough previously served as superintendent of the Hubbard ISD, deputy superintendent for Mt. Pleasant ISD and as a principal at Harts Bluff ISD. He holds degrees from Ouachita Baptist University, Texas A&M Commerce and Stephen F. Austin State University.

Henderson Co. approves headquarters land purchase

Henderson County commissioners recently approved $75,894 to buy 16 acres of land for a new Precinct 1 commissioner's headquarters. The precinct headquarters are being moved to respond to complaints from nearby landowners who said too many materials are being stored at the current location in Malakoff.

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.

Earl Pearson

Earl Pearson began his public service career as a Trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1976. He spent 13 years as a Trooper before joining the ranks of the Texas Rangers. In 1992, Pearson was named a lieutenant in the Rangers organization and rose to captain in 1966 and assistant chief in 2001. He was named chief of the Texas Ranger Division in 2004 and retired in 2005 to start a private sector security services company. He returned to public service this year to his current position as chief of staff of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Scott Brister

Scott Brister, Texas Supreme Court Justice, will soon rejoin an Austin law firm as head of its appellate section. Brister announced his resignation on Monday, with a Sept. 7 effective date. He began his public service career in 1980-81 as a briefing attorney for a Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice. After a stint at a Houston law firm, Brister was appointed judge of the 234th District Court in Harris County in 1989 and re-elected in 1990, 1994 and 1998. In 2000, he was elected to the First District Court of Appeals in Houston, serving until 2001, when he was appointed chief justice of the 14th Court of Appeals. He was appointed Justice on the Texas Supreme Court in 2003 and elected to a six-year term in 2004.

Harker Heights issues $5 million in debt for projects

The Harker Heights City Council recently accepted a $5 million utility certificate of obligation to expand a pumping station, create a new 1.2-million-gallon water tank and extend and expand water lines.

Although city officials had estimated the bonds would sell at about 5 percent, the bonds sold at 4.11 percent, which will save the city about $500,000 over the 20-year span on the loan, said Alberta Barrett, the city's financial director. Engineering on the water projects should begin in September or October, she said.

S. Padre Island city manager resigns

Dewey Cashwell

South Padre Island City Manager Dewey Cashwell (pictured) has resigned. City officials, who were slated to evaluate the city manager during an executive session Wednesday, have confirmed that Cashwell resigned, but offered no explanation as to why.

Hallsville seeking new city secretary to replace Worrell

Hallsville city officials are looking for a new city secretary to replace Darlene Worrell, who recently left that position. Mayor Jerri Medrano declined to comment on why Worrell left the city secretary position.

Anna Campitiello, a municipal clerk, will handle some of the city secretary's duties until a new city secretary is hired, Medrano said.

Little Cypress-Mauriceville will buy digital recorders

Trustees for the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Consolidated Independent School District recently approved $55,228 to buy 35 digital recording units for the district's fleet of school buses. The new digital recorders will replace the cassette recording systems currently in use, said the director of transportation. The new system uses a flash card that allows staff to download the information to a laptop rather than removing the hard drive to obtain information from the bus, he said.

Dickinson looking into installing red-light cameras

Ron Morales

Dickinson city officials recently began negotiations with an Arizona-based company to install red-light cameras at three busy intersections. Council members, however, have not yet approved a contract and have said a public meeting will be held in October to give residents an opportunity to comment on the red-light camera proposal before a contract is signed.

Police Chief Ron Morales (pictured) said the three intersections under consideration for red-light cameras have accounted for 539 traffic accidents during the past four years. The three intersections are along FM 527 at intersections with FM 646, IH 45 and SH3, he said.

Lake Dallas approves $1.3 million for improvements

Lake Dallas city officials recently issued $1.3 million in certificates of obligation to pay for improvements to downtown and two city parks. The city's Community Development Corporation will repay the 20-year loan with revenue from a half-cent city sales tax.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi group to refit buses

The Pollution Prevention Partnership at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi recently began retrofitting more than 150 school buses from area school districts to reduce harmful emissions. The Clean School Bus Project is part of a Supplemental Environmental Project grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The program is designed to reduce children's exposure to diesel exhaust from buses by equipping the buses with diesel oxidation catalysts and closed crank case filtration systems that reduce emission of pollutants.

North Richland Hills council interviews manager finalists

North Richland Hills City Council members recently interviewed three finalists for city manager to replace City Manager Larry Cunningham, who is soon retiring. The three finalists are Kent Cagle, city manager in Duncanville; David Ellison, an assistant city manager in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Mark Hindman, assistant city manager in Mesquite. City officials do not expect to announce their decision until later this month, said Mayor Oscar Trevino.

VanSteenberg to return as Shenandoah city consultant

Chip VanSteenberg

The Shenandoah City Council recently approved a contract with former City Administrator Chip VanSteenberg (pictured) to return as an independent consultant for at least three months. Under terms of the contract, VanSteenberg will work on the 2009-2010 budget, property tax rate, general obligation bonds and certificates of obligation, creating an economic impact analysis of a proposed natatorium, and developing financial, ethical and leave of absence policies for the city.

City officials are continuing their search for a new city administrator to replace VanSteenberg, whose resignation was effective earlier this month.

Burnet County cities receive $750,000 in federal grants

The Office of Rural Community Affairs recently awarded three Community Development Block Grants totaling $750,000 to Marble Falls, Granite Shoals and Bertram, all located in Burnet county.

Marble Falls city officials plan to use two partial awards from the CDBG program, $156,622 in 2009 funding and $93,378 in 2010 funding, to repair aging wastewater line on Avenue U. Granite Shoals officials plan to double the city's water storage capacity at its treatment plant using the $250,000 grant. Bertram city officials said they are waiting for a full description of how the funds are to be used before making a decision on which project to fund.

Richmond approves $4 million road bond sale

Richmond city commissioners recently approved the sale of $4 million in bonds to pay for expansion of Lamar Drive. Voters in 2003 approved $4 million in bonds to pay for the project. City officials expect bids for the project to go out before the anticipated funding. The sale is scheduled for Sept. 21, with funding available on Oct. 15, the city's bond adviser said.

South Houston council
hires director of finance

The South Houston City Council has hired a new director of finance and treasurer. Following a favorable vote on his appointment, the council named Paul Nelson to fill the position.

McKinney superintendent
to retire at end of year

Tom Crowe

McKinney Independent School District Superintendent Tom Crowe (pictured) has announced plans to retire at the end of the year.

McKinney has spent the past 38 years steeped in education. He began his stint as superintendent of McKinney schools in 2004. Prior to that charge, he served as deputy superintendent in Katy and as superintendent of Willis schools. He worked as principal in Texas City and as associate principal and math teacher in the Spring school district. The McKinney school board is expected to plan a search for a new superintendent this week.

Huntsville approves $3.5M bond election in November

The Huntsville City Council recently approved a resolution scheduling a bond election on Nov. 3 to pay for improvements to the Huntsville Public Library. If voters approve the bonds, city officials plan to enlarge the current library by 20,000 feet, expand parking and rehabilitate the facility.

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Lindale VFD to build new four-story training tower

Following approval of a 50-year lease by Lindale city officials, Lindale Volunteer Fire Department officials said they plan to begin construction soon on a new four-story, state-of-the-art training tower. The tower, which is expected to cost about $276,000, will feature interior and exterior stairways, a sprinkler system, rooftop and working deck, said Fire Chief Jerry Garner. Construction on the tower should be completed within 70 days after construction begins, he said.

Ard to work with SPI on
Fla. procurement projects

Lisa Ard

A recognized expert in state and local government procurement strategies, Lisa Ard (pictured) will be working with the Strategic Partnerships, Inc. procurement consulting team on Florida projects. Based in Florida, Ard has worked with clientele from Fortune 500 companies to start-up firms to help them develop and implement strategic business plans for selling to government.

Ard brings a wealth of experience in working with the public sector. She has nearly a decade of public sector experience in state and local government. Are held several positions in former Gov. Jeb Bush's administration, worked in the Florida House of Representatives and was a senior aide to an Orange County, Florida, commissioner.

Fort Bend ISD wins $998,029 federal grant

The Fort Bend Independent School District recently won a $998,029 federal grant to help improve the teaching of American History. The U.S. Department of Education awarded the grant, one of a total of $116 million awarded to 123 school districts in 38 states.

Fort Bend ISD will partner with Spring Branch ISD and Rice University to provide high-impact professional development to teachers in grades five and eight as well as high school teachers who teach United States history, said Susan Voradakis, secondary social studies coordinator for Fort Bend ISD. The grant will provide interactions with history scholars and field study trips for teachers, she said.

Universal City wins state grant to build new trails

Universal City recently secured a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help pay for building walking trails in Northview Park and in Summit Park. The 1,700-foot trail at Northview Park and the 2,200-foot trail at Summit Park will be comprised of decomposed granite and include trailhead facilities, including parking.

Recent Reports

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Texas Government Insider Archives

Volume 1 - 7 Archives · 8/21/09 - 8/14/09

Demi-John residents will vote on wastewater plant

Demi-John voters will get the chance to give Fresh Water Supply District No. 2 permission to build a wastewater treatment plant during a special election Sept. 12. Septic systems in the current treatment facility are failing. The district will need voter permission - and money - to make the new facility a reality, however. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has once denied the district's application for $6.8 million in grants because the project was not considered shovel-ready, meaning the district lacked the authority, permits and necessary environmental documentation to build the new plant.

If the district is blocked from building a treatment plant by a failed ballot measure, more than half of Demi-John residents could be barred from living in their homes due to defective septic systems.

Governor's appointments

Gov. Rick Perry has made the following appointments:

  • Lance Bruun of Corpus Christi, Recreational Boating Safety Advisory Panel
  • Will Kirkpatrick of Broaddus, Recreational Boating Safety Advisory Panel
  • Rod Malone of Austin, Recreational Boating Safety Advisory Panel
  • Katie Stavinoha of The Woodlands, Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Grant Program Advisory Board
  • Robert G. Marbut of San Antonio, chair, OneStar National Service Commission
  • Connie Roberts of Cedar Park, OneStar National Service Commission
  • Dolores Schwertner of Miles, OneStar National Service Commission
  • Art Serna Jr. of Kyle, OneStar National Service Commission
  • Reymundo Torres of Lubbock, OneStar National Service Commission
  • Gary D. Newsom of Austin, Aging and Disability Services Council
  • David Gutierrez of Lubbock, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
  • Nandita Berry of Houston, University of Houston System Board of Regents
  • Tilman Fertitta of Houston, University of Houston System Board of Regents
  • Jarvis V. Hollingsworth of Sugar Land, University of Houston System Board of Regents
  • Durga D. Agrawal of Houston, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
  • Dennis Golden of Carthage, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
  • Wallace Hall Jr. of Dallas, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Denton awarded funds
to clean Brownfields

The City of Denton has been awarded funding of $63,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean a Brownfields site at the site of a potential Transit Park. The site, previously used for light industrial, commercial and automotive repairs, will be cleaned in two phases - removal of asbestos floor tiles from one of the three buildings to be demolished and development of a Municipal Setting Designation to address groundwater contaminants arsenic and lead. The city will be responsible for informing citizens and area communities regarding the progress on the site.

Texas State Technical College gets $1.5M grant

Elton Stuckly

The Waco campus of Texas State Technical College recently garnered a $1.5 million federal grant to promote job opportunities in aviation and aerospace. The Economic Development Administration division of the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the grant aimed at attracting more aviation business to the Waco area.

The grant will be used to establish grant scholarships to students interested in aerospace and aviation careers, said Elton Stuckly Jr. (pictured), president of TSTC-Waco. The school also is looking to add new programs such as air traffic controller training and aerospace composites programs with some of the grant funding, Stuckly said.

Ector County ISD to buy
new special ed technology

Trustees for the Ector County Independent School District recently approved spending $5.3 million in federal stimulus funding for new educational technology. All of the hardware, software and teacher training paid for by the grant will be used in the district's special education programs, school officials said.

The new technology will range from smart boards sensitive to student's touch to interactive video game consoles that help physically challenged students to exercise. The funding also will pay for three consultants to evaluate and then coach the district's special education programs. Another $700,000 is allocated for continuing educational development and professional training to help teachers effectively use the new equipment and software.

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Plano ISD picked for federal construction bond program

Richard Matkin

The Plano Independent School District recently received notice of its approval for a bond program in the federal stimulus legislation that allows the district to sell $31.9 million in interest-free construction bonds, said Richard Matkin (pictured), associate superintendent for business services. The bond program is available only to the nation's 100 largest school districts, he added.

Longview approves $5.6M for flooding, extend lines

Longview City Council members recently approved six capital improvement projects totaling $5.6 million for 2009-2010. Council members approved:

  • $1.88 million for an extension of the wastewater extension system to serve recently annexed areas;
  • $1.5 million for extending water line along George Richey Road;
  • A $765,000 drainage improvement project to ease residential flooding;
  • $700,000 for bridge and culvert improvements;
  • $590,000 for Improvements to the aeration system at the wastewater treatment plant; and
  • $160,000 for extension of wastewater distribution system to serve newly annexed areas.

The Texas Government Insider is a free weekly e-newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.

Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers

The Insider is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1994 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.

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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.

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, 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.