|Volume 7, Issue 30 · Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009|
Newly created DMV to move customer service functions
Changes will allow TxDOT to focus on transportation system issues
In an era of bureaucratic merges and downsizing, the Texas Legislature has gone against the grain and created the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), an offshoot of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The product of House Bill 3097 during the recently completed 81st Legislature, the DMV will assume a host of responsibilities currently administered by TxDOT.
According to Ed Serna (pictured), assistant executive director for support operations at TxDOT, the new department will be charged with licensing auto dealers of new and used vehicles, handling vehicle titles and registration, issuing Advanced Technology Program (ATP) grants to local law enforcement entities and registering interstate carriers, among other duties.
The benefit of creating a new agency to handle these tasks is twofold, Serna said.
"The Legislature wanted to set up an organization dedicated exclusively to these functions that was independent of TxDOT. They also saw an opportunity to remove these functions from the debate concerning roads. TxDOT's primary product is transportation infrastructure."[more]
Lottery Commission teams with Dallas Cowboys
New scratch-off game to debut Aug. 17 as NFL season approaches
The Texas Lottery Commission has announced Aug. 17 as the official kickoff for the Dallas Cowboys scratch-off ticket, just weeks away from the start of the 2009 NFL season.
The $5 scratch-offs will offer prizes up to $100,000 and include an opportunity to win official Cowboys merchandise. Participants can even mail non-winning tickets to compete for awards that include gift certificates, signed jerseys, season tickets and "Wild Weekend" trip packages to attend Cowboy games.
Texas Lottery Commission Deputy Executive Director Gary Grief (pictured) said officials are "thrilled" to announce the partnership, adding the Cowboys team has "a strong history of working in their local community through organizations such as the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation, the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Dallas Cowboys Charities and numerous other non-profit organizations."
A majority of dollars spent on lottery sales are returned to the state in the form of contributions to education, prizes, retailer commissions and other programs. In fiscal year 2008, more than $983 million in lottery profits were applied directly to the Foundation School Fund, which helps pay for public education in the state.
Jerry Jones Jr., chief sales and marketing officer for the Dallas Cowboys, said the lottery partnership "will dramatically help the youth of Texas by supporting education."
Mel Mireles, chief information officer, Employees Retirement System of Texas
Career highlights and education: Mel Mireles is currently the Chief Information Officer for the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS). He has been in this role since October 2007. Prior to joining ERS, Mel served as the chief executive officer of HBMG, Inc., a technology consulting firm based in Austin with offices in Washington State, Oregon and California. As CEO, he oversaw all strategic and day-to-day business operations of the company with technical activities including application development, technical/network infrastructure, IT security, consulting/integration services, IVR/call center solutions, project management services and management of two data centers. Prior to joining HBMG, Mel served as director of the Enterprise Operations Division at the Texas Department of Information Resources. In this capacity he directed the Texas Information Technology Security Office, led the development of the state's Information Technology Strategic Plan and development of Texas' statewide technology standards and guidelines. In addition, Mel served as chief advisor to the Governor's Homeland Security Division concerning technology initiatives. He has also served as Information Resources Manager at the Texas Railroad Commission, manager of IT Security Operations at the State Treasury and IS Auditor in Charge at the State Auditor's Office. Overall, Mel has 25 years of management experience within Texas state government. Mel holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas State University in computer information systems. He graduated in 1985. He holds three certifications - Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Information Systems Manager (CISM) and certified in Homeland Security, Level III (CHSIII). He also was the past president of the FBI-sponsored organization, Infragard. Infragard is a consortium of IT and business leaders discussing and disseminating critical infrastructure information.
What I like best about my job is: I have the best job due to the environment and the great people at ERS.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Surround yourself with intelligent and dedicated people and always remember "Teamwork and empowerment are keys to success."
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Be like a sponge; learn as much as you can. Be "true" to yourself first and worry about the things you can control, not the things you cannot. This will carry a long way in your work and personal life.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: spending time with my wife, Celina, and two sons, Michael (8) and Marcus (7) doing anything or just doing nothing.
People would be surprised to know that I: can bake a pretty good batch of cupcakes.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: The Employees Retirement System of Texas is a self-funded agency. The agency operates as a $20 billion company - it is the "closest you get to the private sector in government." The staff is dedicated to the mission of the agency and cares about their jobs and the people they serve.
Each week, the Texas Government Insider profiles a key government executive or decision-maker. If you would like to suggest a "Lone Star," please email us at email@example.com.
Kelley chosen chief of DPS Driver License Division
Former Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) government relations liaison Michael Kelley (pictured) has been named chief of the Driver License Division of DPS, effective July 27.
Kelley has served in DPS government relations since 2000. Prior to his move to DPS, he served as a legislative aide and press secretary for three Texas state senators. He is a U.S. Army veteran officer who served on active duty from 1990 to 1992 during Operation Desert Storm. Kelley later served in the Texas Army National Guard as a battalion staff officer, tank company commander and senior instructor of the Officer Candidate School.
Kelley holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and a master of public affairs from The University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs. He is currently completing a master's degree at Texas State University-San Marcos.
DPS rolls out new Texan-flavored vehicle stickers
Texans will soon have one more way of identifying themselves as from the Lone Star State. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) this month is rolling out newly designed vehicle inspection stickers with a Texas flair.
The new stickers will all feature a western cowboy motif with various images of cowboys on the different types of inspection stickers. Texas issues 10 different inspection certificate designs, depending on such things as age of the vehicle, if the vehicle is a commercial vehicle and whether emissions testing is required before a sticker is authorized. The sticker shown in the accompanying photo is a one-year safety sticker for counties without emissions testing.
"We wanted to present a new certificate design that was immediately identified as being Texan," said JoJo Heselmeyer, director of Vehicle Services for DPS.
The new stickers will be issued over the next several months throughout the state. Inspection stickers issued in previous years will remain valid until their listed expiration dates.
Texas State Guard 'change of command' observed
The "Change of Command" ceremony was celebrated recently at Camp Mabry in Austin as Lt. Gen. Christopher J. Powers relinquished command of the Texas State Guard to Major Gen. Raymond C. Peters. In the accompanying photo, Peters accepts the colors from Maj. Gen Jose Mayorga, symbolizing the change of command from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander. Powers had been in command since 2006. Mayorga, Adjutant General of the Texas Military Forces, presided over the ceremony.
The ceremony was highlighted by the actual change of command when the Texas State Guard Colors were handed by Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Chief Master Sgt. Harold L. Higgins to Powers, who in turn handed them to Mayorga. Mayorga, following custom, then handed the flag to Peters, who completed the circle of command by handing the flag back to Higgins.
"Forty-five years ago, I stood out here on this very same parade field and never imagined that I'd be back here promoted to the rank of Major General," said Peters. "I consider it an honor and a privilege to command the Texas State Guard and am blessed to take command of the finest volunteer organization in the nation."
Emerging Technology Funds give Halsa $750K boost
The state will invest $750,000 in Halsa Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Houston through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) following a $250,000 obligation last year. Halsa, a biotechnology company, researches and develops treatments for obesity and diabetes.
ETF Director Alan Kirchhoff said the initial investment was meant to allow Halsa "important technical achievements that would indicate appropriate progress in the development of this medicine," adding the company has shown "clear and convincing evidence" those achievements have been realized.
Halsa holds the patent for a material expected to immediately deplete body fat when injected by a physician into an obese patient. The drug may also have diabetes treatment applications.
New law could lead to arrests during disasters
A new law giving county judges and city mayors the authority to have people arrested if they fail to comply with mandatory disaster-evacuation orders goes into effect Sept. 1. The law also stipulates a county or municipality can bill the non-compliant individual for services rendered.
House Bill 1831 gives officials the right to authorize "use of reasonable force" to remove an individual from the disaster zone, holding them "civilly liable" for the case if the person has to be rescued by a governmental agency.
The bill takes effect at the height of the hurricane season but also applies to other disasters, such as fires and floods.
TWDB selected to become part of AWEP program
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has been selected to be a Texas partner for the NRCS Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). The program - which provides $7 million to the High Plains region - is aimed at promoting conservation of groundwater and surface-water resources by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities.
To become an AWEP partner, TWDB submitted an application for the entire 49-county Texas High Plains Ogallala Aquifer region. Program rules stipulate funds will only be allocated to non-federal entities that have been approved as an AWEP partner.
Texas High Plains-area irrigated agricultural producers can submit applications for fiscal year 2009 AWEP funds at their local USDA-NRCS office.
A&M center awarded $750,000 EPA grant
The Texas A&M Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM) has been awarded a $750,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to study the threat of chemical exposure to human health. The center, jointly operated by TAMU and the TAMU Health Science Center, will work with the University of Houston and Indiana University on the research. Collectively, the institutions received $3.2 million in grant funds.
The research will be combined with similar studies to help build a screening system that prioritizes chemicals for more risk study.
"This (grant) is our first opportunity to really demonstrate the vast potential of our TIGM mouse embryonic stem cell library in approaching difficult problems that affect human health," said Richard Finnell (pictured), executive director of TIGM, when the grant was announced.
TxDOT seeks $80 million for Austin-S.A. commuter rail
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is seeking $80 million in federal stimulus dollars to help fund the development of a commuter rail line between San Antonio and Austin, part of a $1.9 billion request for rail projects statewide.
The Austin-San Antonio rail is projected to cost $2.5 billion overall.
As TxDOT moves toward realizing the rail project, the agency is seeking its first director for the recently created Rail Division. Lawmakers this year also allocated funds to the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund, approved by voters in 2005, which will provide $182 million for state rail projects pending certification by the comptroller's office.
Lowe to lead orthopaedics at UT Med, hospital
Walter R. Lowe, M.D. (pictured), has been named chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at The University of Texas Health Medical School at Houston and the chief of Orthopedics at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. He is former team physician for the Houston Texans and Houston Rockets professional teams as well as the University of Houston, Strake Jesuit College Preparatory and North Shore Senior High School and is a graduate of the UT Medical School. He will assume his new job on Aug. 15.
Lowe has been a medical director of the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute since its opening in 2007. He specializes in the care of injured knees, shoulders and elbows. Lowe completed a fellowship at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, an internship at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth and a residency at Tarrant County Affiliated Hospitals in Fort Worth. He also was a team physician for the Houston Oilers before they moved to Tennessee in 1997 and for the Houston Comets, which suspended operations last year.
Lowe brings 14 years of medical experience on the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine to his new post. He was director of the Baylor Sports Medicine Fellowship and chief of the Sports Medicine Section.
UT School of Nursing researchers awarded grants
Two researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing are the recipients of research grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Erica Yu, Ph.D., will receive a two-year, $210,000 grant to supplement her research studying the link between depression after an acute coronary event.
Nancy Bergstrom, Ph.D., will receive a two-year, $67,000 grant to train students in biomedical research. The funding supplements a large multi-site study on pressure ulcer prevention, which is led by Bergstrom and funded by the National Institute for Nursing Research. The grant will allow Bergstrom to fill four part-time positions through September of this year with four more available for summer 2010.
TCU announces executive leadership changes
Larry D. Lauer (left), former vice chancellor for marketing and communication, will assume the title vice chancellor for government affairs at Texas Christian University and Tracy Syler-Jones (right), former associate vice chancellor, will begin serving as vice chancellor for marketing and communication.
Lauer has been focusing his time on building TCU's presence in Washington among leaders in both higher education and government and creating collaborations. He is also actively involved in Texas legislative relations.
Syler-Jones has assumed overall responsibility for marketing and communication operations, overseeing TCU's media relations, publications, special projects, community and church relations and Web site management.
TCEQ accepting nominations for excellence awards
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is accepting nominations for the 2010 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards. The awards, presented by TCEQ and the Governor's Office, recognize achievements that significantly reduce waste, conserve natural resources and prevent pollution.
Any individual, community, company or organization is eligible for the award, as nominated by the public. Past recipients include a high school water-harvesting project, an initiative that uses landfill gas as an energy source and a green-building certification program.
The deadline for nominee applications is Oct. 16. Click here for more information.
Cameron County looking at proposed causeway routes
Cameron County officials are eyeing a list of five proposed routes for a second causeway in the northern stretch of South Padre Island. They are looking at environmental factors, cost estimates and public input to determine the new causeway's route. The $600 million venture, if approved, would create a projected 90,000 jobs in the next few decades.
David Allex (pictured), chairman of the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority, the agency overseeing the project, said planning for the future of the community is vital, adding the project "ought to be a self-sustaining operation."
According to Allex, bridge tolls would repay bonds issued to pay for the project, one of the largest infrastructure initiatives to be undertaken in the Rio Grande Valley.
TAMU-San Antonio welcomes two new administrators
Carolyn Wilson Green has been named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Kenneth E. Mitts has been named interim vice president of finance and administration and chief financial officer at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
Green joined the TAMU-SA faculty as assistant professor for computer information systems in 2001, when the institution was known as an extension of Texas A&M-Kingsville. She most recently served as dean of academic affairs at the university.
Mitts joined the staff of TAMU-SA in 2008, when he was instrumental in transitioning programs - ranging from accounting to information technology - as the institution made the switch to a stand-alone university.
Texas A&M Institute of Genomic Medicine earns grant
The Texas A&M Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM) ranks as one of three recipients of a $3.2 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program.
TIGM, a joint research institute of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Texas A&M University, will receive $750,000 over three years, along with the University of Houston and Indiana University, for research looking at human health risk from chemical exposures. Results from the research will be used to develop a large screening effort that will prioritize chemicals for further risk study.
Dr. Richard Finnell (pictured), TIGM executive director and Regents Professor at the HSC-Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston, said the collaboration between the universities "lays out a friendship as well as a working relationship, and together we will assess the impact of industrial chemicals on reproductive health and set priorities to protect and create healthy work and living environments."
Institute director at Lone Star College System retires
Cathy Owen has retired as director of the Community Leadership Institute (CLI) at the Lone Star College System (LSCS).
Early in her career, Owen worked in residential and commercial real estate. In 1987 she joined the Humble Area Chamber of Commerce staff as a project and special events coordinator. She has worked for LSCS since 1992. Owen began working for CLI when it was known as the Leadership North Houston program for adults in 1995. She said to have been part of something from the beginning "has just been awesome."
Owen attended Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State, and Texas A&M at Kingsville.
Hardin-Simmons names Williford interim vice president
Dr. Don Williford (pictured) has been named interim vice president for academic affairs at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. He replaces Dr. Bill Ellis, who will assume duties as president of Howard Payne University in Brownwood.
Williford serves as associate provost and professor of New Testament at HSU, where he began his tenure in 1992 as assistant professor of church ministry and director of church relations. He was named associate vice president for academic affairs in July 2002 and associate provost in 2006.
Williford holds a bachelor's degree from Howard Payne University, and both master's and doctoral degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Conroe donates land to Lone Star College-Montgomery
The City of Conroe has donated land to expand Lone Star College-Montgomery in the city's industrial park. The 85,000-square-foot satellite campus is set to open in the spring of 2011 and will offer core academic classes in addition to specialized programs.
Dean of Relations Steve Scheffler said the new campus will "give us a chance to provide more convenience for those that live on the north side," adding the county has experienced heavy growth in Willis and in Conroe.
LSC also plans to build a 67,000-square-foot satellite campus at the industrial park site to offer general education programs. The entire campus, expected to cost $19.7 million, will handle 3,000 students as part of a $420 million bond issue for the Lone Star College System that was approved by voters in May 2008.
CTRC earns NCI designation as cancer center
The Cancer Therapy and Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has been named by the National Cancer Institute as one of its designated Cancer Centers for three years. In addition to the designation is $5.4 million in new federal funding through 2012 to help the center expand its research programs. The center currently boasts 140 scientists working on numerous cancer-related projects.
Tyler Curiel, M.D. (pictured), executive director of the center, said the designation is like "the Good Housekeeping seal of approval from the NCI."
Texas has three NCI-designated Cancer Centers. The renewal of designation follows 10 months of review by a 16-member NCI review panel of directors and scientists from cancer centers throughout the country. The CTRC is the only approved Cancer Center in South Texas and serves 4.4 million people in Central and South Texas. The center offers both treatment and access to clinical trials and one of its goals is to improve the health of the community.
Organizations, others vie for vacated Memorial Coliseum
Four organizations and two local residents have submitted proposals for reusing Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi. The organizations include: the National Swimming Center of Corpus Christi, based in Austin; Leisure Horizons Inc., Long Beach, Calif.; NRP Group, LLC, San Antonio; and BRASS Real Estate Funds, San Antonio. Two Corpus Christi residents, Teresa Perez and Kathleen Huffmeyer, have also submitted proposals, details of which have not been made public.
The National Swimming Center of Corpus Christi, a nonprofit, has proposed transforming the facility into an Olympic swim center, while Leisure Horizons has submitted plans to develop a nine-acre entertainment complex at the site. The NRP Group LLC has expressed an interest in building apartments where the coliseum stands, and BRASS Real Estate officials have not publicly stated their plans for the facility.
Corpus Christi City Council is slated to decide on the finalists by Sept. 15 and vote whether or not to issue a contract by Oct. 27.
Lubbock finalizes land purchase for animal shelter
Lubbock officials have confirmed a contract for 15 acres of land in far Southeast Lubbock to be used for a $3.5 million animal shelter, which would replace the existing facility.
The council finalized the purchase of the property this week. Based on rates provided by Mayor Tom Martin (pictured), the city paid $220,000 for the property. The existing facility will be demolished. City officials have spent years looking for a location to house a modern animal adoption center, which would help reduce the approximately 50 animals euthanized at the shelter daily.
Martin said officials "didn't just throw a dart and look at it" to find the new location. Previous potential sites, including one in far West Lubbock and one in K.C. Clapp Municipal Park, proved either too far or too close to residents.
FEMA obligates more than $27M to Texas entities
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has obligated more than $10.7 million in federal grants to the State of Texas and the City of Houston to recoup costs incurred when Hurricane Ike swept ashore last September.
FEMA has also awarded $16.7 million to Hardin and Galveston counties for debris cleanup.
The awards include:
Sebesta will lead new department at Lamar
Judy Sebesta (pictured) has been chosen as chair of the newly formed Department of Theatre and Dance at Lamar University. The new department becomes official on Sept. 1. She has been a professor of theater for more than a dozen years and previously taught at the University of Missouri, the University of Arizona and the University of Evansville.
Sebesta earned her Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. As chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, Sebesta will continue to explore accreditation for the department through the National Association of Schools of Theatre and the National Association of Schools of Dance.
Texas State to offer doctoral degree in criminal justice
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has granted approval for Texas State University at San Marcos to offer a doctoral degree in criminal justice. Classes are set to begin in the fall.
There are only about 35 criminal justice doctorate programs in the nation, according to Mark Stafford, a professor in the criminal justice department at TSU-SM who will supervise the program. The degree is aimed at state agency employees and law enforcement personnel interested in conducting original research and applying that research to the criminal justice field, Stafford said.
Enrollment will likely be made up of traditional graduate students and working professionals, according to Stafford.
UTEP Engineering welcomes renowned scientist
Dr. Thomas Boland (pictured) has been named professor in the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso's College of Engineering.
Prior to his new charge, which begins this month, Boland served as associate professor at Clemson University, where he was instrumental in developing the institution's bioengineering program. At Clemson, he also worked as director of a summer institute funded by the National Science Foundation/National Institute of Health.
Boland's groundbreaking research using inkjet printers to assemble cells and biomaterials into viable, functioning structures has been featured on national television networks, including CNN. His work has been cited more than 800 times.
UTB/TSC receives $164K stimulus grant
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College is set to receive $164,171 in federal stimulus funds for its Minority Biomedical Research Support, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program, designed to help underrepresented students with biomedical research.
The funds from the National Institutes of Health, which are aimed at increasing the number of minority students completing bachelor's degrees, have been divided among 3,000 research projects nationwide.
Students enrolled in the program travel to scientific conferences and visit other research institutions throughout the country.
UT-Tyler announces new chair of communications
Dr. Dennis D. Cali (pictured) has been named chair of the Department of Communication at The University of Texas at Tyler. He replaces interim Chair Dr. Marsha Matthews, assistant professor of journalism.
Cali previously taught communication, mass media and other courses at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md. He has also taught at East Carolina University, Creighton University and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. His areas of expertise include speech communication, mass communication and communication theory.
Cali holds a doctorate from Louisiana State University.
Chambers, Liberty navigation district awarded $1.99M
The Trinity River Project of the Chambers-Liberty County Navigation District recently received $1.996 million in funding in the federal Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for FY2010 for port improvements.
The federal funding is the first step in a proposed dredging project to re-opening the Port of Liberty to barge traffic, said Dennis Beasley, president of the Port of Liberty Commission. The district, in partnership with the city, owns the Port of Liberty that has been closed to barge traffic for several years because of silt deposits. The funding will be sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to add funding to their budget for dredging the Trinity River, Beasley said.
The commission will ask the Corps of Engineers to perform a survey to determine which parts of the river need to be dug and to clearly define the work needed for the project, he said. Once that information is available, the commission can find contractors to perform the work and obtain permits to pump and remove the sand from the river.
A&M dean selected as finalist for WVU chancellor
Christopher Colenda (pictured), dean of medicine at Texas A&M University, has been selected as one of three finalists for the chancellor of health sciences post at West Virginia University.
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.
Colenda holds a bachelor's degree from Wittenburg University and a medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. He completed his training in psychiatry at the University of Virginia Hospitals and at Emory University.
FEMA allocates more than $4M to Bridge City ISD
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has granted nearly $4.2 million to the Bridge City Independent School District to replace Hatton Elementary School, ravaged by Hurricane Ike last year. The FEMA grant will cover 90 percent of replacement costs since figures to repair the school would have exceeded 50 percent of the replacement value.
FEMA recently awarded a $3.6 million grant for replacement costs for Sims Elementary, another Bridge City ISD school.
Once FEMA reimburses the state, the burden lies on the state to manage and disburse the funds to local jurisdictions. The funds are part of nearly $1.3 billion in Public Assistance disaster funds sent to Texas since September.
Anahuac to seek grants for new $2.5M marina
With a goal of spurring economic growth, Anahuac city officials, along with the Chambers-Liberty County Navigation District (CLCND) and the city's municipal development district, recently agreed to contribute $5,000 each to hire a consultant to help find some $2.5 million in grants to build a commercial marina on the Trinity River.
The proposed multi-slipped marina is to be located at the Port of Anahuac on 20 acres of river-front property owned by the CLCND. Mayor Guy Jackson said the goal of the proposed marina is to make the area more attractive to restaurants and businesses.
If the grant applications are approved, Jackson said the next step will be to hire engineers to conduct a study of the site to determine how the marina should take shape. City and district officials also will consider factors such as the number of jobs the marina is expected to attract to the city, he said.
Galveston law enforcement gets $3.48M to hire officers
Galveston County and the City of Galveston recently received notice they will receive a total of $3.48 million in stimulus funds to hire eight Galveston police officers and nine sheriff's deputies. Galveston County Sheriff Freddie Poor (pictured) also asked commissioners for authority to house 144 prisoners from Harris County to generate $1.7 million in annual revenue to augment the budget of the sheriff's department.
The contract with Harris County calls for housing 144 prisons from Harris County at the Galveston County jail at a cost of $45 per day for each transferred prisoner, Cook said. The Galveston County Jail, which is configured to house 1,250 prisoners, had fewer than 1,000 prisoners in the jail during a recent week, he said. Commissioners took no vote on the recommendation, but the county judge said he had heard no opposition to the proposal and would like to use money earned from the prisoner transfer to increase jail capacity. The jail is designed so that it can be expanded to house 2,500 inmates without additional design work to enlarge the laundry, kitchen and booking areas.
Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will provide Galveston police with $1.67 million to pay the base salaries of eight police officers assigned to the patrol division for three years. The county will use its $1.81 million to fill vacancies of officers assigned to patrol the Clear Creek School District and for three officers to be assigned to special crime investigations to probe narcotics trafficking and illegal gambling operations, said Captain Barry Cook of the sheriff's office.
City of Sealy likely to net grant to rebuild lift stations
The City of Sealy will likely receive $350,000 in grant funds from the Office of Rural Community Affairs to rebuild lift stations on Third and Garland Streets. City Manager Chris Coffman said he is 99 percent certain the city will receive the funds.
Coffman said the current lift stations are "historically old and in bad shape." Local match dollars totaling $130,000 to $160,000 would have to be contributed to see the project through.
The city would not receive grant funds until next summer, with the project slated to begin next fall or possibly in spring 2011.
A&M International University names new nursing dean
Dr. Regina C. Aune (pictured) has been announced as the new dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M International University after a nationwide search.
Aune previously served as dean of Gallen College of Nursing in San Antonio and as chair of the International Expeditionary Education and Training Department at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine in Brooks City-Base.
Aune holds a bachelor's degree from St. John College of Cleveland, a master's degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and a doctorate from the University of Utah.
Kerrville leaders begin fundraising efforts for library
Now that concept plans have been approved for Kerrville's Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library upgrade, city officials are having blueprints drafted and raising funds for the $6 million project.
Planned upgrades to the library include adding a new roof, enclosing exterior porches, creating a community meeting room and technical support center, adding wireless Internet capability and installing energy-efficient windows and lights. The improvements are expected to be completed by 2014.
Former library Director Victoria Wilson, head of the fundraising drive, said officials are already in the process of writing grant applications and contacting private foundations. Grocer Charles Butt, whose mother helped found the library, kicked off the effort last year with a $1 million pledge.
Prairie View A&M to offer online MBA degree
Prairie View A&M University's College of Business is set to begin offering a 36-credit hour master of business administration (MBA) degree online beginning in the fall.
Dr. John Dyck, director of the graduate programs in business at PVAMU, said students have responded well to online courses, an extension of the school's already flexible schedule. Students will be able to select core, elective courses and prerequisite courses to fulfill their degree requirements.
The college is now accepting applications for the fall semester. For more information, click here.
Rusk ISD to receive $500,000 technology grant
A half-million-dollar Technology Immersion Grant will provide laptops for students and teachers at Rusk Independent School District. Superintendent James Largent (pictured) said the purchase will take Rusk Intermediate School to the next level and transform the facilities into a virtually paperless campus.
Teachers will send each of the 300 fourth- and fifth-graders assignments via wireless Internet, Largent said, allowing the students "to leave Rusk and go into a Smithsonian Institute presentation, or somewhere in Egypt an archeologist is doing some presentation."
The district will receive the computers this fall, and students will begin using them after teachers have been trained in spring 2010.
Grapevine-Colleyville administration building repairs set
Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District officials recently agreed to use almost $3 million the district received from the Texas Department of Transportation for devaluation of property to repair its aging administration building. The district also plans to use more than $800,000 in surplus funds from a 1998 bond package to pay for the repairing leaking windows and drainage problems at the administration building.
Voters in 2005 approved a $107.9 million bond package with $1.45 million set aside to upgrade the administration building, but the project was placed on hold so the district could upgrade academic facilities, said Paula Barbaroux, chief operations officer for the district. Because the new highway easement will be within six feet of the northwest corner of the administration, offices in that area will be relocated and the building reconfigured, she said.
The upgrades also will include a new, secure entrance and 1,200 square feet of additional offices and storage space across the back when two buildings are connected. The renovations should be completed in December.
Nixon-Smiley ISD hires design firm for upgrades
Trustees for the Nixon-Smiley Independent School District recently hired a San Antonio-based group to design renovations and additions to the district's elementary, middle and high school campuses. Voters approved a $13 million bond package to pay for the renovations, said Superintendent Cathy Booth.
Included in the projects are repairing leaking roofs, demolishing the auditorium, replacing the cafeteria, upgrading technology infrastructure and building new classrooms, a new library and kitchen at Nixon-Smiley Middle School to support the future Nixon-Smiley Elementary School. The district also is renovating and updating the current Nixon-Smiley Elementary School to accommodate the future middle school by upgrading technology and building new classrooms, restrooms and a new multi-purpose room.
Trustees also approved the replacement of the high school library building with a new library that includes appropriate technology and space to implement required educational programs and to build a new high school field house.
Federal funds bolster Port of Galveston upgrades
The Economic Development Administration, a federal agency, has awarded the Port of Galveston a $10 million grant to repair damage and make improvements to docks that suffered damaged from Hurricane Ike.
The port will use the grant, supplemented with state loans, to make repairs to piers 14-18, according to Port Director Steve Cernak (pictured). Those piers, built in 1948, play a significant role in the port's long-term development, but can't handle large vessels.
The port also plans to create a new, 1,100-foot deepwater channel side berth, allowing for more ship calls and eventually more jobs for longshoremen, Cernak said.
Borger will get new hospital from stimulus funds
The Great Plains Community Hospital in Borger recently learned the rural division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $27 million in federal stimulus funds to pay for a new 25-bed hospital building to replace the current hospital built in 1938.
Under an agreement reached with a private company in October 2007, the Hutchinson County Hospital District continues to provide about $2.3 million a year in tax revenue to the company to operate the hospital. In return, the hospital district gave the company one-third of the seats on the hospital board. The private company assumed about $400,000 in debt and committed to building a replacement facility under terms of the 2007 agreement.
The new hospital will be located on 20 acres of donated land next to Frank Phillips College and will be equipped to provide more specialty treatments and a larger waiting room for patients seeking treatment in the emergency room, said Dennis Jack, the hospital's chief executive officer.
Tech wins $5.7M grant for rural health technology
The F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health of Texas Tech University recently received a $6.7 million grant to establish 30 sites to use telecommunications to connect urban physicians with rural patients.
Stratford, the first of several Panhandle cities to be a site to receive telemedicine services, should be in operation by the end of August said Debbie Voyles, director of telemedicine at Texas Tech. All 30 of the proposed telemedicine sites should be equipped and offering services within the next 12 to 18 months, she said. Using the telecommunications equipment, physicians in large cities can listen to the heart, view the medical history, X-Rays and order tests for patients in rural communities, Voyles said.
Tech officials are looking for rural counties with a high number of children enrolled in Medicaid but have limited or no pediatric health services, she said. In 2006, 139 of the 254 counties in Texas had no general pediatrician practicing in those counties. Of those 139 counties, 119 are considered rural counties. The 30 future sites will be chosen from 105 counties in West Texas ranging from Amarillo to El Paso. Each site costs from $35,000 to $40,000, she said.
East Texas group gets funds to rehab housing
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (THDCA) recently awarded $5.9 million in disaster recovery funds to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETOG) to help repair or rebuild 125 single-family homes damaged by Hurricane Ike. Of the 125 homes to be repaired or rebuilt, 91 of the homes must belong to homeowners with low to moderate incomes.
DETOG is an voluntary association of counties, cities, schools and special districts that serves Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties with regional planning and development activities. Under regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 50 percent of federal disaster recovery funds targeting the rebuilding of homes damaged by Hurricane Ike must benefit low- to moderate-income households.
NE Texas Public Health District seeks renovation loan
Officials of the Northeast Texas Public Health District recently agreed to seek a $600,000 loan to help pay for a proposed $12 million project to renovate the WIC office in Tyler. The Tyler City Council, which owns the building and established the health district, recently authorized public health district officials to apply for the loan.
George Roberts, CEO of the health district, said the loan does not obligate the city or county and will be repaid within five years. Local funding was needed, he said, to secure a matching grant from the state's WIC program. WIC also will contribute up to $830,000 once the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves. The local WIC program also will pay $100,000 toward the renovation project from surplus funds, Roberts said. The WIC Valentine office is relocating from a 2,500-square-foot space to the North Broadway location with 13,000 square feet of space. After renovations are complete, the new facility will offer more privacy and efficiency for the current 4,000 monthly visits by WIC clients at the facility and support the ongoing growth of the program.
Board members also approved a new $10,000 telephone system expected to save about $1,000 monthly. The renovations, which already have begun, should be completed in November 2009.
CSISD OKs plans for new schools, transportation center
Only three months after voters approved $144.2 million in bonds, officials of College Station Independent School District recently approved preliminary plans for a new high school, a new elementary school and a transportation center.
Superintendent Eddie Coulson (pictured) said he hopes to open the new $7.4 million transportation center by next August. The new center will be located on a 45-acre site considered the gateway to College Station, Coulson said. The new facility will accommodate 175 vehicles while the old facility had spaces for only 79 buses.
The new $19 million elementary school will hold 640 students and should be open in fall 2011, Coulson said. District officials are still meeting with designers on plans for the first phase of the new high school to be funded with $111 million in bond funds. The new high school, which will house 2,400 students, is set to open in fall 2012. Preliminary plans call for a dumbbell-shaped facility with classrooms in the upper part of the facility and athletics, career, technology and arts courses in the other side of the facility, connected by a library and auditorium. The new high school will have three practice fields, a full-size football stadium, a baseball field and eight tennis courts.
Henderson group supports initiative with Kilgore College
The board of the Henderson Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) recently approved a resolution to support efforts to bring technical and industrial training programs from Kilgore College to the city in a partnership with the Henderson Independent School District.
HEDC plans to conduct a survey to identify the needs for welders, auto mechanics and other technical employees to determine if demand exists for the classes, said Sue Henderson, general manager. School district officials are considering allowing the college to use Central Elementary School as a campus. Even with the agreement, schools would need to be equipped with adult-size desks and technical equipment such as welding machines and tools, Henderson noted.
Kilgore College officials also have indicated they are interested in using gyms at both Central and Chamberlain for technical training classes. Representatives from the college and school district are continuing to meet to discuss the initiative, she said.
San Marcos receives $525K grant to revitalize homes
The City of San Marcos has received a $525,000 grant from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) to buy three foreclosed properties and renovate the structures for affordable housing. The grant will also allow the city to demolish eight other blighted structures in town.
TDHCA is administering the funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, part of last year's stimulus package designed to stymie the blight caused by foreclosures. The homes, which range in price from $120,000 to $125,000, should be resold by the end of August 2010.
El Paso city officials to create central call center
El Paso city officials are moving forward with plans to establish a single call center to handle all non-emergency calls and requests for service.
City Manager Joyce Wilson (pictured) said a consolidated call center should reduce non-emergency calls to 911. These non-emergency calls about garbage or noise complaints often interrupt dispatchers busy with real emergency situations. A consolidated call center also should provide more convenience to residents who now must find separate telephone numbers for the correct office to handle a complaint or request for service, Wilson added. Although Wilson considered using a 311 service for citizens to call for graffiti removal, garbage pickup, noise complaints and other requests, she said the 5 cent-per-call charge the phone company proposes the city pay for each of the 30,000 calls a month is cost-prohibitive.
The center, which will cost about $127,000 to establish and run for the last three months of the budget year, should be open in June 2010. Ten employees will be transferred from other city departments to staff the call center. Wilson said she continues to negotiate a flat rate with the telephone company or request a fee waiver so that the city can use the 311 service at the call center.
Consultant urges Carthage ISD to replace two schools
A facilities consultant recently urged Carthage Independent School District trustees to replace an elementary and a junior high school because classrooms at the two facilities fail to meet the state's minimum size standards.
Libby Elementary School and Carthage Junior High School also have limited handicapped accessibility and should be replaced or renovated in the next five to eight years, the facilities specialist said. The elementary school should be the first priority, he said, noting that while Libby has a capacity of 286 students, 459 students were enrolled last year. The building is educationally and economically obsolete, he said.
Superintendent J. Glenn Hambrick said architects are working to determine if it will be cost effective to remodel or rebuild Libby Elementary. Many of the upgrades to the two campuses can be done using general revenue funds, he said. Hambrick said he is unsure whether board members will consider calling a bond election to pay to upgrade the two campuses.
'Pipeline' can help identify, increase opportunities
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There are many funding programs...pick a project, find a program, get started!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Some public entities with shovel-ready construction, renovation and improvement projects found that local initiatives were not going to qualify for stimulus funding. However, the Recovery Act, offering numerous options, will offer assistance in other ways. The alternative options may free up as much as $1.6 billion for Texas projects that might otherwise have not qualified for federal funding.
Two options for public entities, the Build America Bonds (BABs) and the School Bonds program, offer relief for public entities. The programs allow governmental entities to fund long-needed infrastructure projects that otherwise might not be affordable.
The funding offers many attractive attributes including lower borrowing costs than traditional tax-exempt bonds. And, the goal is for the federal government to provide a subsidy for more of the borrowing costs for capital projects. Most qualifying projects will involve public buildings, courthouses, schools, roads, transportation infrastructure, government hospitals, infrastructure and environmental projects, public housing projects, public utilities and more.[more]
Today's moving day for SPI
Our last official action from our home on Courtyard Drive is sending you today's edition of The Texas Government Insider. The movers are here and Strategic Partnerships Inc. is on its way to its new home at Barton Oaks Plaza One, Suite 100 at 901 S. MoPac Expressway.
The caravan of vehicles of SPI employees is headed south. There may be a little down time for our Web site and perhaps our phones and e-mails, but we're trying very hard to keep that to a minimum. We hope to have everything back up and running within 24 hours. Our phone and fax numbers and our e-mail addresses will remain the same. The only thing that's changing is our address.
We're looking forward to serving you from our beautiful and spacious new offices. Please bear with us as we try to make the move as seamless as possible! The Texas Government Insider will resume its regular Friday publication date next week on Friday, Aug. 14.
Harker Heights FD wins $541,900 firefighter grant
The Harker Heights Fire Department recently received notice that the city will receive a $541,900 federal grant to hire or retain five firefighters.
City Manager Steve Carpenter (pictured) said the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program of the Department of Homeland Security awarded the grant. The grant pays 100 percent, or $39,000 per firefighter, the first year and reduces the payment each year until the fifth year when the city must pay all of the salary, said Carpenter. The city also will need to spend between $50,000 and $75,000 next year for uniforms, equipment, overtime, training and Social Security payments.
Pasadena ISD to use timulus funds for special education
The Pasadena Independent School district received notice the district will receive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that it will use to pay for 49 new and current positions for the 2009-2010 school year.
Board members discussed 39 new positions for campus ARD and transitional liaisons similar to the 39 special education facilitator positions eliminated because of budget cuts. Board members also created 10 new positions for three special education teachers, two licensed school speech pathologists, two diagnosticians, two speech/language pathologists and an education program manager, said Candace Ahlfinger, associate superintendent for communications and community relations.
Cleburne selects Miller, King for administrative positions
Trustees for the Cleburne Independent School District recently selected Tom Miller to serve as the assistant superintendent for education programs. Board members also selected Lyla King as the executive director of curriculum and instruction.
Miller, an educator for 16 years with a Ph.D. from The University of Texas, will oversee curriculum and operations for the district. He previously was employed by Northeast ISD in San Antonio, where he oversaw instructional and curriculum technology. King has a Ph.D. from Baylor University.
Pine Tree ISD picks Strauss as interim superintendent
Trustees for the Pine Tree Independent School District recently appointed Marian Strauss as the interim superintendent. Strauss, who retired as superintendent for Wimberley ISD, also served as superintendent for Somerville ISD, Sweet Home ISD and River Road ISD. She replaces former Superintendent Lynn Whitaker, who submitted his resignation on July 14.
Modisette returning as
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 meet will be Friday, Oct. 23. Among the many topics for the concurrent sessions are: State-of-the-Art Technology for Small Cities, Successful Economic Development in a Difficult Economy and Protecting City Accounts from Identity Theft. There will be an interactive session on dealing with difficult personalities. Other topics will be federal issues of importance to cities, community policing, preparing critical IT structure systems for disaster, maximizing retail opportunities, strategic planning and more. Among the keynote speakers will be Craig Karges, who combines magic with psychology and intuition to explore the potential of the human mind. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.
Freedom of Information Foundation plans conference
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas' 2009 Bernard and Audre Rapoport State Conference is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21, at the Renaissance Hotel, 9721 Arboretum Blvd. in Austin. The conference begins with registration at 8:15 a.m. "Opening Tomorrow's Doors: Meeting Tomorrow's Challenges" will be the theme for the one-day event, which features Sen. Rodney Ellis as the keynote speaker for the noon Henry Faulk Awards Luncheon. Topics for the morning and afternoon sessions include social media and key Texas Freedom of Information Act rulings. To view the agenda, click here. To register, click here.
Public Funds Investment Act workshop set in August
The Alamo Area Council of Governments and the University of North Texas will host the annual Public Funds Investment Act Workshop on Aug. 24 and 25 at the Al J. Notzon III Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100, San Antonio. The workshop provides 10 hours of PFIA training and CEP credits. Early bird discounts apply. For more information and to register online, click here.
Emergency Management Association plans symposium
"Make It Happen," the 3rd Annual Emergency Management Association of Texas (EMAT) symposium is slated for Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel Bayfront Tower in Corpus Christi. A limited number of rooms have been secured for $85 per night, so attendees are urged to make reservations early. Attendees will have the opportunity to attend a refresher course and take the exam for Texas Floodplain Mangers Certification. The general membership meeting will include board elections, 2009 EMAT awards and recognition of Texas Emergency Manager certification recipients. For more information, click here. Online registration will be available soon.