|Volume 7, Issue 32 · Friday, August 21, 2009|
Local governments cut costs with cooperatives
Bullard, Whitehouse, Lindale, ETCOG piggy-back with Smith County
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).[more]
New items added to state sales tax-free holiday
Three-day reprieve starts today, includes school supplies
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.
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.[more]
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zaragoza-Stone earns new title at TCEQ
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
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 (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.
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:
TWC: $90 million available for skills 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:
TxDOT officials appealing to Internet-savvy crowd
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
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
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
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 (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
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
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 (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 (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
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
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 (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
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
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 (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 (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 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
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
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
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:
Elgin wins $2.2 million grant for stabilizing housing
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.
'Pipeline' can help identify, increase opportunities
Keeping vendors abreast of information, updates and breaking news about where the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars are going and how they're being spent is Strategic Partnerships Inc.'s new free, weekly, electronic newsletter, the State & Local Government Pipeline. Now in its second month of publication, the State & Local Government Pipeline is drawing rave reviews from subscribers throughout the country. To subscribe for your free copy of the State & Local Government Pipeline, click here.
Get your free copy of the Texas Government Insider
The Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter. If you are not a subscriber, or if you would like to tell your friends or co-workers how to receive a free copy, click here.
Permission to reproduce, reprint
This newsletter may be reproduced, and all articles within may be reproduced and/or reprinted without permission when credit is given to the Texas Government Insider, a publication of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Note to media:
Need expert commentary on procurement issues relating to state government, city and county government, K-12 public schools, higher education or healthcare? Our consulting team has more than 300 years of high-level experience in decision-making among these government entities. Give us a call at 512-531-3900 and we'll arrange an interview for you with one of our experts.
Welcome to the education technology revolution
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.[more]
Arlington uses grant to continue commuter buses
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
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.