|Volume 7, Issue 35 · Friday, September 11, 2009|
Governor orders review of higher ed spending
Instructs agency to review cost-cutting possibilities, efficiencies
A report due next year could have Texas institutions of higher education tightening their belts.
Gov. Rick Perry this week issued an executive order directing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), the agency charged with coordinating the effective and efficient delivery of higher education in Texas, to begin working with state-supported higher education institutions on a comprehensive review of system-wide areas where taxpayer dollars might be saved or used more efficiently.
The review will include an evaluation of state funding based on student course completion, restructuring of state financial aid programs, consolidation or elimination of academic programs having little success, faculty workload and transfer agreements between two- and four-year institutions. Also coming under scrutiny will be cost of instruction materials and possible ways to curb the necessity of creating new campuses - such as through the use of Internet classes and distance learning.
The goal, according to the governor, is to improve cost efficiencies in the state's higher education institutions.
Part of the THECB review will include analyzing and assessing cost-saving measures other states and other countries have implemented relative to providing avenues to higher education.
The report and its recommendations relative to cost-cutting and efficiencies are to be submitted to the governor, the Texas Legislature and public institutions of higher education by No. 1, 2010.
Justice Linda B. Thomas retiring after 31 years
First female chief justice in Appeals Court's 100-year history
The longest serving justice in Texas will hang up her robe on Oct. 31. That's when Linda B. Thomas (pictured), Chief Justice of the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas, will retire.
But don't expect Justice Thomas to let grass grown under her feet during her retirement. She plans to continue to be involved in both mediations and arbitrations and plans also to work with attorneys and their clients to ensure that individuals in crisis, particularly families, are able to resolve their conflicts outside a courtroom setting.
Justice Thomas sees her retirement from the bench after 31 years as "the next phase of my legal career," where she plans to "offer my assistance to help people move toward resolutions in a way that allows them to control their own destinies." She said she particularly is interested in assisting families with children "so they can avoid the litigation process."[more]
Scott Stover, ASLA, deputy director, Infrastructure Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Career highlights and education: I am a 1981 graduate of Texas A&M University with a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and have been a licensed landscape architect in the State of Texas since 1982. After working in private practice for over 10 years in Corpus Christi and San Antonio, I was hired by the City of San Antonio as the first Landscape Ordinance Coordinator to implement, initiate and oversee the newly adopted Landscape Ordinance in 1994. Later that year, I was hired by the Parks and Recreation Department as a project manager and worked my way up the department to the park projects manager overseeing the division of 24 employees and hundreds of capital improvement projects and land acquisitions mainly through three bond programs. I spent 14 years with the City of San Antonio. Last May, I began my current position in Austin as the deputy director of the Infrastructure Division at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Division oversees the implementation, design and construction of capital improvement projects at the agency properties - mainly for the state parks, coastal and inland fish hatcheries, wildlife management areas, law enforcement facilities and the agency headquarters. We also oversee the agency radio program, fleet program, safety program and the energy program. I am a long-time member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) and the Texas Recreation and Parks Association (TRAPS).
What I like best about my job is: My hard-working staff, peers and colleagues make my job fun, interesting and enjoyable every single day. I get to interact with colleagues from all across the agency with varying backgrounds, interests and specialties.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Do not let any job and the stresses of work get to you. Take time for yourself and enjoy your work AND your life. A balance of this sort is best for your mental and physical well-being.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Enjoy your work and love what you do.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: in my garden with my two dogs digging in the dirt.
People would be surprised to know that I: am a 20-year Stage 4 Hodgkin's Disease cancer survivor, at the time of diagnosis having been given a 50/50 chance of survival.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Staff from the agency do so much statewide that goes usually unnoticed and/or unrecognized. We have such a variety of folks at all levels working toward our mission on a daily basis. Whether it is a law enforcement game warden protecting our wildlife from poachers or rescuing hurricane-stricken citizens, a state parks employee attending to the needs of park visitors and leading a nature hike, a wildlife biologist taking deer counts to protect the species, a construction worker renovating a historic cabin or a biologist breeding and raising fish in a fish hatchery, we are all here for the same reason and mission...to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations!
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.
Evans will serve TYC as independent ombudsman
Former Texas Youth Commission (TYC) Advisory Board chair Catherine Evans (pictured) of Dallas has been named by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as independent ombudsman for the agency. Her term will expire Feb. 1, 2011. Evans replaces former Ombudsman Will Harrell, who resigned last May to begin serving TYC as director of special projects.
As ombudsman, Evans will report on individual facilities, problems within the agency and will review and evaluate TCY procedures to ensure the rights of the youth in the facility are observed.
In addition to her work with TYC, Evans is a former state district judge and a former commissioner of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. She holds a bachelor's degree and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.
Charles Bacarisse, Richard Moore appointed to DIR
Former Harris County District Clerk Charles Bacarisse of Houston has been named by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as presiding officer of the Texas Department of Information Resources. Perry also appointed Richard Moore of Goliad to the department.
Bacarisse currently serves as vice president for advancement at Houston Baptist University and is a past chair of the Texas Online Authority. Moore is retired vice president of business and administration for the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He is a former member of the University of Texas System Information Technology Strategic Leadership Council and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Formula Advisory Committee.
Kizer leaves SOS office for retirement system
After more than 25 years with the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, Kim Kizer is leaving that post to become Employer Services Director for the Texas County and District Retirement System (TCDRS). Kizer served as director of special projects at the Secretary of State's Office and was responsible for the design and implementation of education and outreach programs to nearly 3,300 election officials throughout the state.
At TCDRS, Kizer will be responsible for ensuring high quality service for participating employers and will be in charge of a team responsible for developing education and outreach programs while developing relationships with key stakeholders. She also will help implement new processes and technologies to better deliver services to employers.
TCDRS partners with counties and districts to provide retirement, disability and death benefits to more than 200,000 Texans.
HHS awards Texas HHSC more than $9 million
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has allocated $9,513,413 to the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (THHSC) to help expand healthcare coverage to the state's uninsured population.
The funds arrive as part of a $70.9 million, 13-state national initiative under the new State Health Access Program (SHAP), an outgrowth of the agency's State Planning Grant program.
The grants will be made over a five-year period and require a 20 percent match, unless a state demonstrates financial hardship. States must also be able to maintain the program after federal funding has expired.
TSLAC joins in grant program for high-speed Internet
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is set to take part in the Opportunity Online broadband grant program, designed to sustain free, quality Internet in the state's public libraries. The program, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will help provide access to Texas' 217 public libraries unequipped with high-speed Internet connections.
The Opportunity Online program is designed to support the telecommunication needs of Texas public libraries, specifically to give patrons access to online education, e-government services and job applications, among other applications.
Peggy D. Rudd, TSLAC director and state librarian, said that as connectivity needs escalate in communities, it is essential for Texas public libraries to keep up with the needs of the people they serve.
TxDOT enters into agreement for LBJ-635 corridor
Officials at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have entered into a development agreement with the LBJ Infrastructure Group to design, construct, finance, operate and maintain the LBJ-635 corridor, a 13-mile stretch of highway in Dallas County.
The improvements will total $4 billion in infrastructure upgrades to the Dallas area, as well as operations and maintenance over the next 52 years. That figure includes $445 million in state investments.
The Texas Legislative Budget Board approved the expenditure, and the Texas Office of the Attorney General determined the contract's legal adequacy before reaching the development agreement.
'Recon Rangers' being deployed along border
"Recon Rangers" - special teams of the state's elite law enforcement group, the Texas Rangers - are being deployed along areas of the Texas-Mexico border where drug cartels and human smugglers are known to be operating, according to Gov. Rick Perry. The Rangers will join some 200 Texas National Guard members to help keep border areas safe and reduce criminal activities resulting from neighboring Mexico's drug-related violence.
Tech Health Sciences Center celebrates 40 years
From humble beginnings four decades ago, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is today meeting the health care needs of more than 2.5 million people in a 108-county area, with its health care providers seeing approximately 200,000 patients annually. It is probably more than then-Gov. Preston Smith (seated in accompanying photo) had in mind when on May 27, 1969, he signed legislation creating the Texas Tech University School of Medicine with Lubbock at the center of the multi-campus institution and satellite campuses in Amarillo, El Paso and Odessa.
When the original legislation was signed, 19 surrounding counties had no physicians and 23 had no hospitals. Steven Berk, M.D. (right), dean of the School of Medicine, said the school has set a goal to become "a symbol of excellence and achievement for the region, state and nation."
The School of Medicine has almost doubled the National Institutes of Health funding and research expenditures, with dozens of projects that include research in cancer treatment and prevention, healthy aging, infectious disease, addiction and alcoholism and pain management. "We have achieved much and served many during the past 40 years," said Berk.
"As we look to the next 40 years, we should build on the strengths evident in our mission and values," said TTUHSC President John C. Baldwin, M.D. If that happens, he said, the School of Medicine "will not only compete successfully but lead nationally and internationally."
Barnes named to Travis Co. Housing Authority board
Former State Insurance Commissioner Philip W. Barnes has been named a member of the Housing Authority of Travis County board of directors. His appointment is effective immediately.
Barnes, who has been doing private consulting since leaving the Insurance Commission, will replace Ofelia Elizondo, whose term expired Aug. 31.
Barnes comes on board as the Housing Authority is preparing a plan to be submitted by the end of the month to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding recommendations from an audit report of the local agency that revealed it could not account for millions of dollars in federal funds.
Stuifbergen new interim dean of nursing at UT
Dr. Alexa Stuifbergen (pictured), director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research in Underserved Populations in The University of Texas at Austin's School of Nursing, has been named interim dean of the School of Nursing. She replaces Dr. Dolores Sands, dean for the last 20 years, who recently retired. A national search is under way to find Sands' permanent replacement.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health over the last 15 years for more than $9.6 million, Stuifbergen has studied health promotion in adults with chronic disabling conditions such as multiple sclerosis, post-polio syndrome and fibromyalgia. She is the James R. Dougherty Jr. Centennial Professor in Nursing.
Stuifbergen holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from Creighton University School of Nursing in Omaha, Nebraska, a master of science in nursing from The University of Texas at El Paso College of Nursing and a doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.
Thomas will fill new post for City of Huntsville
Huntsville's Director of Tourism, Kimm Thomas, has been named to the newly created position of Director of Tourism and Cultural Arts, according to City Manager Bill Baine. Thomas will now have oversight of the Wynne Home, the Main Street Program, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Sam Houston statue visitor center and gift shop.
One of Thomas' first duties will be to hire a replacement for Main Street Program Manager Harold Hutcheson, who resigned recently to accept the position of Convention and Visitors Bureau manager for the City of Conroe, effective Sept. 18. He had served in his post since 2004.
Thomas served as Director of Tourism since mid-June as a contract worker and now will become a full-time city employee.
ASU Nursing Department gets $90,000 award
Angelo State University's Department of Nursing will benefit from a $90,000 award from the Texas Legislature, based on efforts to increase enrollment among first-year nursing students. The funds are awarded through the Professional Nursing Shortage Reduction Program - Over 70 Program, which funds nursing schools whose graduation rates were more than 70 percent last year. How much the schools get is based on how many more students it would take for them to reach the state goal of a 12 percent increase among first-year registered nurse programs.
ASU's number to reach that goal was to enroll 87 new students this year. The necessary increase was nine students to bring the figure up to the 12 percent increase. Thus, ASU was awarded $90,000 to pay for the faculty and equipment to teach those nine additional students. Because ASU exceeded its goal by enrolling 98 students, the Nursing Department gets to keep the entire grant and may also be eligible for additional money in the spring. The money can be used to hire additional faculty and clinical lab staff to meet the needs of the increased student load, to retain staff to keep nursing students in school and for some teaching and lab equipment.
One of those new positions will be a lab position, according to Dr. Susan Wilkinson (pictured) head of the ASU Nursing Department. "I may need additional part-time faculty in the spring when we add our spring enrollment because that will be extra students who we may not be able to cover with the faculty we have," she said. The school is also exploring purchasing some new equipment for its Simulation Lab.
Jasper County to charge for housing inmates
Jasper County's coffers could start to fill - but perhaps at the expense of the cities of Jasper and Kirbyville. At a special meeting of the commissioners court this week, the county adopted a new policy that will result in both cities paying the county $40 per day for each inmate they house in the county jail. The new policy goes into effect Nov. 1.
Jasper County Judge Mark Allen said the county's plan is fashioned after Jefferson County's, where other government entities are charged $52 per day to house their inmates.
City officials are concerned that some residents of the cities already pay dual taxes, to the city and county. They also express their inability to pay the amounts set by the county. City of Jasper officials noted that their monthly fee for housing inmates could be as much as $72,000 and fear those costs could directly impact other city services.
Rice Provost Eugene Levy will step down
After a decade of service to Rice University, Howard Hughes Provost Eugene Levy (pictured) has announced he is stepping down. The new BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) embodies the "bold mark" that Levy has left on Rice, according to Rice President David Leebron. The BRC is still in the process of opening.
Levy plans to take a one-year sabbatical to write a book aimed at a general readership, but also usable as a textbook for a general education science course. Formerly the dean of the College of Science at the University of Arizona, Levy has spent most of his career in university leadership roles. He will then return to Rice to teach in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and serve as a senior fellow for science policy and education at the Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Levy received his bachelor's degree in physics from Rutgers University and his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago.
Grayson County, Sherman approve another jail study
Following controversy over whether a new privately-operated county jail should be built outside of downtown Sherman, the city council of Sherman and Grayson County commissioners recently agreed to hire an architect to conduct a new study on the feasibility of keeping the jail downtown. The city and county will split the cost of the study.
While Grayson County Commissioners previously backed a plan for a private company to build and operate a 750-bed, $34 million jail north of downtown Sherman, city leaders, including the Downtown Sherman Preservation and Revitalization Committee, argued that the old jail could be remodeled for less than the projected cost of a new jail.
County Judge Drue Bynum says if the old facility can be renovated for less than the cost of a new facility, that option will go to the public in the Nov. 3 bond election. An official of the preservation and revitalization committee said he plans to work to postpone the bond election until the results of the study are finalized.
Central Texas 2-STEP project funded
Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University-Central Texas and Temple College will begin using $1.2 million in grant funds from the National Science Foundation to support the Central Texas 2-STEP project. The goal of the project is to encourage American citizens to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.
"The purpose of the program is to encourage students to get their degrees and go on to get a career in the STEM fields," said Dr. John Idoux (pictured), the project's principal investigator. The project will focus on recruiting high school students participating in Temple College's Texas Bioscience Institute as well as transitioning military service members.
TBI provides high school students a foundation for upper-level studies in the biosciences, medicine, engineering or mathematics fields. They will be enrolled in advanced, dual-credit courses and will earn both high school diplomas and associate degrees.
Harrison Co. officials allocate $1M for airport hangar
Harrison County officials have allocated $1 million for the construction of T-hangars at the county airport.
Funding for the project arrived last year from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in an 80-20 state-county match. The county matched $124,000 in funds.
County Judge Richard Anderson said the purpose of T-hangars is to provide a more cost-efficient storage facility for resident aircraft in addition to a revenue stream to pay for some of the airport's operational costs.
Halbert takes over as dean of UNT libraries
Dr. Martin Halbert (pictured) has been named dean of the University of North Texas Libraries, effective Oct. 1. Halbert currently serves as director of digital innovations for the Emory University Libraries in Atlanta. He also will serve UNT as an associate professor in the Department of Library and Information Sciences in UNT's College of Information. Halbert replaces Dr. Donald Grose, who recently retired.
While at Emory, Halbert has served as the principal investigator for digital library services and research projects totaling $6.1 million. He is also president of MetaArchive Cooperative, an international consortium of research libraries and institutes that preserve digital archives in partnership with the Library of Congress, as part of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. Before joining Emory, he was head of networked systems for libraries and head of the Computing Resources Library at Rice University, and also previously worked for the U.S. Information Agency in Tartu, Estonia.
Halbert received his bachelor's degree from Rice University, his master's The University of Texas at Austin and his doctorate from Emory.
Grier on job today as HISD superintendent
Terry Grier, the newly hired superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, will be on the job for the first time today, Friday, after Grier was officially hired Thursday to take over the top spot. Grier comes to HISD from the San Diego, California, school district, where he has been superintendent for the last 18 months.
Among the issues Grier will face as HISD's top administrator are sagging student achievement and a growing dropout problem. Today, he is expected to visit HISD campuses to visit with focus groups and with students.
Ethan Kapstein joins staff at LBJ School
Ethan B. Kapstein (pictured) has joined the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and will hold a Tom Slick Professorship in International Affairs. He also has received an appointment at the UT-Austin McCombs School of Business and will hold the Dennis O'Connor Regent's Professorship in Business for 2009-2010.
Kapstein is one of the world's premier international economic relations scholars. He is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC, holds the INSEAD Chair in Political Economy at INSEAD, the international business school with campuses in Fontainebleau, France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Kapstein is also a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington and with the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.
Kapstein is a former professor at the University of Minnesota and executive director of the Economics and National Security Program at Harvard University.
Philanthropists donate $6M to athletics at Texas State
Jerry and Linda Fields (pictured) have made a $6 million donation - the largest gift in support of athletics to date - to Texas State University-San Marcos. Texas State President Denise Trauth made the announcement at Bobcat Stadium during the official opening of the new west-side expansion.
In appreciation of the gift, officials have decided to name the expansion the Jerry D. and Linda Gregg Fields Bobcat Stadium West Side Complex, Trauth said.
The expansion, also funded by an increase in student fees, includes suites and clubs at a total cost of $17 million.
Wimberley to use $500,000 grant to improve Blue Hole
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently awarded a $500,000 state grant to the Blue Hole Regional Park to help create hiking trails, soccer fields, tennis courts, primitive camping areas and picnic areas at the well-known spring-fed "swimming hole" on Cypress Creek in Wimberley. The city acquired the 126-acre park from a private owner in 2005.
Scheduled to begin next year as part of a master plan developed by local stakeholders and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the renovations to the park are estimated to cost about $3 million and should be complete in about three years, said Saralee Tiede, a spokesperson for the Wildflower Center. The improvements are planned to protect water resources and ecological features, provide education resources and integrate the park with other regional educational resources, she said. The city is required to match the state funding.
South San Antonio ISD hopeful of bond passage
Some $62 million from a November bond election will be used mostly for renovations and new construction at the South San Antonio High School if the upcoming bond election passes. SSAISD officials this week approved a three-phase proposal outlined in a feasibility study presented to the board. The plan includes more than 375,000 square feet of renovations and new construction at the high school. The school was built in the 1950s. The board also selected an architectural firm for the project.
Although the board agreed last month to call a bond election, a plan for how the bond proceeds would be spent was not in place until this week. SSAISD Superintendent Ronald Durbon (pictured) said using all of the bond proceeds at South San Antonio High would help ensure it meets the standard of other schools in the area.
The district held an unsuccessful $37 million bond election in 2006. A similar proposal in 2007, however, was passed.
TxDOT funds $113,000 to Plainview-Hale County Airport
The Texas Transportation Commission has allocated roughly $113,000 to the Plainview-Hale County Airport to make hangar access improvements. The funds, allocated through the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) Aviation Facilities Grant Program, will go toward airport enhancements, including engineering developments and design work for pavement upgrades.
Tim Hardage, manager of the airport, said the project will encompass the reconstruction of two areas prone to contain water and replace damaged concrete and asphalt.
TxDOT plans to provide roughly $60 million for the planning, construction and maintenance of community airports this year.
Pagan, Trevino on School of Public Health faculty
The School of Public Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth has named Jose A. Pagan, Ph.D. (pictured), chair for the Department of Health Management and Policy, and Elizabeth (Liz) Trevimo Dawson, DrPH, assistant dean for Curriculum.
Pagan previously served as professor of economics at The University of Texas-Pan American, where he was also director of the school's Institute for Population Health Policy. He was Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar for the Wharton School and School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, from 2003 to 2005. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.
Dawson will work with the School of Public Health's Master of Health Administration and enhanced Doctor of Public Health degree programs. She earned her master's and doctoral degrees at the Health Science Center. She also served in various research and staff roles at the Health Science Center, including five years as coordinator for the Texas Public Health Training Center. She was health equity manager for Baylor Health Care System, Dallas.
USDA awards Elmendorf $1.6M for potable water facility
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to award $1.6 million in loan and grant funds to the City of Elmendorf. The funds will be directed to financing a potable water supply facility.
The project will include a new water well, filtration treatment plant, ground storage tank, pressure tank, water main and a support facility featuring high-service pumps.
Elmendorf, with a population of less than 1,000 residents, is located just south of San Antonio. The new facility will help reduce the city's dependence on the San Antonio Water System.
Kerrville authorizes another study on convention center
Kerrville City Council members recently instructed city staff to begin a search for an independent firm to review the feasibility of a convention center in Kerr County. The study should include sustainability, location, tax neutrality and a look at the experience of other Texas cities with convention centers.
Council members agreed to discuss the scope and initial costs of the study at their next meeting, said City Manager Todd Parton (pictured). Several council members suggested the study be done in steps at which point the council can decide whether to continue the study or not.
City of Terrell applies for $20M in transportation grants
The City of Terrell has approved an application for a Texas Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to help finance a handful of transportation projects. The city will try to gain access to $20 million of some $1.5 billion available to fund infrastructure projects.
The projects will likely be completed by February 2012 if the city secures the grant, according to Assistant City Manager Mike Sims.
The TIGER grant funds would help widen a major Terrell thoroughfare to four lanes as well as relocate ramps and create frontage roads.
City of Austin to steer construction contract funds locally
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (pictured) has announced the city will begin trying to steer hundreds of millions of dollars in construction contracts to companies with a presence in Austin. He said companies with a local presence will get the contract in situations "where everything else is equal."
Local firms could offer bids ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent higher than out-of-town bids and still remain competitive, according to Leffingwell. Final details remain to be ironed out. The new policy takes effect in October.
Projects looming on the Austin horizon include the construction of a $500 million-plus water treatment facility. State laws generally require cities to select the lowest responsive bidder, but Leffingwell said some flexibility is allowed in selecting construction contractors and buying supplies.
Trent ISD approves $7.1 million bond issue
Trent Independent School District is proposing a $7.1 million bond issue to pay for athletic upgrades and other renovations. The upgrades include new lights for the softball fields, a new weight room, new agricultural facility and replacements for school buses.
Voters will cast their ballots on Nov. 3. If approved, property taxes probably will increase about a half-cent every year for the next 15 years, the life of the bond, on every $100 value. The current annual school district tax rate is $1.44 per $100 valuation.
New wind turbines in the area have boosted Trent's tax base by $80 million since January. Superintendent Greg Priddy said the turbines will help pay for a majority of the upgrades and renovations if the bond issue passes.
San Marcos City Council adopts $146M annual budget
The San Marcos City Council Tuesday adopted a municipal budget of $146,226,256 for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, representing an increase of .35 percent over last fiscal year's.
The budget includes preventative maintenance for city facilities and fleet, technology enhancements and fire apparatuses for the downtown fire station, among other initiatives.
City Manager Rick Menchaca (pictured) said the budget "reflects a strict adherence to the city council's goals and conservative budgeting in tight economic times," adding the city is maintaining all current services and workforce at this time.
San Antonio wins $144M in federal stimulus funds
San Antonio recently learned the city is in line to receive about $144 million in federal stimulus funding to pay for a variety of programs.
City officials plan to spend about $72 million of the funding for road projects and to help pay for upgrades to the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River, $10.4 million to hire 50 new police officers and $13 million to add 1,500 new child-care subsidies for working parents.
The federal funding also includes $25 million for energy-efficiency projects and weatherization assistance, $10 million for Head Start programs, $6 million to prevent homelessness, rental assistance, housing relocation and credit counseling. Council members also set aside $4 million for community development projects prioritized by each council member. The majority of those projects are road and sidewalk improvements.
New overpass suggested for parkway in Bryan
A district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently proposed that a new $8 million highway overpass be built on FM 2816 at Villa Maria Road in Bryan.
Plans for the project are still preliminary, said Bob Appleton, the district director of transportation planning and development for TxDOT, but the state has selected the proposed project as a priority item because of the number of crashes involving fatalities and injuries that have occurred at the intersection. Funding for the project is specific to areas where a crash history occurs, he said. Designs for the project are still in the early stage and will not be completed until 2011, Appleton said.
McKinney moving forward with $44M aquatic center
Despite tough economic times, officials of the City of McKinney and the McKinney Independent School District recently expressed support for moving forward on a proposed $44 million aquatic center.
Mayor Brian Loughmiller (pictured) said the city of McKinney has set aside $29 million for the multi-use, indoor/outdoor,145,000-square-foot aquatic center. He expects board members of the McKinney Independent School District will schedule a $15 million bond election next spring to ask voters to approve funding for the facility. If voters reject the school district bonds, McKinney city officials said they plan to go forward with a scaled-down aquatic center.
As currently planned, the facility will have a 50-meter indoor competition pool, indoor and outdoor recreation pools, a fitness area, gym, indoor track, meeting space and a party room. Superintendent Tom Crowe of McKinney ISD said the planned facility is comparable to a recreation facility and is needed to serve McKinney residents who currently travel to aquatic centers in Plano, Keller, Allen and Frisco.
Abilene ISD to use federal funds for new technology
Officials of the Abilene Independent School District plan to spend the $10 million in federal stimulus funding the district expects to receive to upgrade technology throughout the district.
The district received two-year grants for $3.5 million for economically disadvantaged students and expects to receive about $6.5 million in the funding allotment given to the Texas Education Agency to distribute to individual school districts. The district plans to spend about $2 million of the $3.5 million award for disadvantaged students for payroll. The district also applied for a $1 million allotment specifically for technology and expects to spend about two-thirds of the funding for staff development.
Included in the technology the district plans to buy are interactive whiteboards, ceiling-mounted projectors and document cameras, said Mark Gabehart, the chief technology officer. The new interactive boards offer a handheld device with a clicker that permits each child to choose from four choices and tallies those choices without disclosing individual answers. The new boards also permit fill-in-the-blank answers, display student's images and project their voices. While Abilene ISD currently has interactive whiteboards installed in about 100 classrooms, the goal is to equip each classroom with the boards that cost from $1,100 to $1,300 each, Gabehart said.
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Involved in the government procurement process...this column is for you!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Billions of dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are flowing into the coffers of government entities in Texas. The funds are allocated for opportunities that involve contracting with outside vendors and service providers.
A procurement official's dream-come-true? Maybe not!
Procurement is never easy for government. Each new opportunity is time-consuming and resource draining for everyone involved in the public organizations. And, no matter how much time and how many resources are committed, occasionally procurements simply go bad for both public officials and private contractors. The result is disastrous for both parties.
There are many reasons why public private partnerships fail and situations like this have not been all that uncommon in Texas in the past few years. Part of the problem is that there are two different cultures involved and all too often neither side understands the other well enough.[more]
Upshur Co. to seek loan to upgrade roads, technology
County Judge Dean Fowler (pictured) of Upshur County recently said he plans to negotiate a $1.43 million loan to pay for improvements throughout the county.
The funding will be used to buy two new vehicles for the sheriff's office at a cost of about $140,000 each, a new $350,000 control panel for the jail, road and bridge equipment with a $400,000 price tag over a two-year period and a $50,0000 new document imaging system for the county clerk's office, Fowler said.
Diboll ISD approves $22.4M bond election for new school
Trustees for the Diboll Independent School District recently approved a $22.4 million bond election for Nov. 3.
The funding, if approved by voters, will pay for a new building to house kindergarten to sixth grade students, improve traffic flow and parking, upgrade science labs along with career and technology facilities, update safety and security and add technology infrastructure and equipment.
Winters to assume city
2009 CATEE conference set for Oct. 14-16
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, State Rep. Rafael Anchia and Houston Mayor Bill White will address the upcoming 2009 CATEE (Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency) Conference set for Wednesday through Friday, Oct 14-16 in Houston. Keynote speaker for the conference, "Impacts and Opportunities in Today's Economy," will be George Bandy, Jr., vice president of InterfaceFLOR and former InerfaceFLOR manager of sustainable energy. Among the session topics will be the American Reinvestment and Recovery Fund - increased opportunities for cleaner air and energy efficiency in Texas, The Future of Federal Climate Legislation, review of the 81st Texas Legislative Session: air quality, energy efficiency, renewable energy and Smart Grid in Texas. For more information and to register, click here. For information on sponsorships and exhibit space, click here.
Notary law, procedure seminar being offered by AACOG
Current, new and non-notary participants who would like to earn their Texas notary public commission can attend the Alamo Area Council of Governments' upcoming three-hour quarterly Notary Law and Procedure seminar. The seminar is slated for Thursday, Oct. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the AACOG Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. Dixie Lucey, director of education for the State Notary Commission, will teach the seminar. For more information on the seminar and how to register, click here.
6th Annual Tee IT Up Texas IT golf tourney slated
The annual Tee IT Up Texas customer appreciation golf tournament is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30, at Lions' Municipal Golf Course. The tournament is an annual event for IT vendors and their public sector/government customers. Watch for more information in future editions of the Texas Government Insider regarding registration and sponsorship opportunities. Those who have have not been on the communication list before should send an e-mail to the Tee IT Up Texas Tournament Director, Scott Kennedy (email@example.com), to add their names to the list.
AACOG plans Sept. 28 Hydrogen Education Workshop
The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) will host a Hydrogen Education Workshop on Monday, Sept. 28, from 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the AACOG Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. The workshop is open to persons interested in the latest in hydrogen technology - such as fuel cells - and applications including transportation. An "idea session" will be part of the afternoon session and will deal with introduction of applications of hydrogen-powered vehicles and transportation in the community. For more information about the event and registration, click here.
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.