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  Volume 7, Issue 36 · Friday, September 18, 2009
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Lottery bucks national trend with $3.72B in sales

While some states show double-digit declines, Texas figures up

Lottery Logo

Even in a battered economic climate, Texans are proving they don't like to fold before they wager a little something. The Texas Lottery closed out its fiscal year with more than $3.72 billion in sales, an increase of more than $17 million from FY 2008.

Lottery Commission spokesman Bobby Heith (pictured) said the spike in sales can be attributed to new games, including the $5 Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans scratch-off tickets, which offer players a chance to win team-related merchandise and experiential prizes in addition to up to $100,000 in cash. Introduced in August, both games landed in the top 10 sellers for FY 2009 sales.

Robert Heith

"Mega Millions has also done very well this year," Heith said.

Mega Millions sales totaling $262.8 million represent the largest figure the game has earned since Texas joined the multi-state game in 2003. The popular Texas Two-Step game scored its highest sales figures ($51.5 million) since 2003, also.

Instant scratch-off ticket sales soared to $2.79 billion in sales, the third highest figure since the tickets were introduced.


Lieutenant governor announces staff changes

Brunson to serve as new chief of staff, Rathgeber new deputy chief

Julia Rathgeber

Blaine Brunson

Two familiar faces are in new roles with increased responsibilities in Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's office as Blaine Brunson (left) has been named chief of staff and Julia Rathgeber (right) is the new deputy chief of staff. Both are veterans of Texas state government and have held various senior-level positions.

Brunson has served as budget director for the lieutenant governor's office since 2003. He began his career in state government in 1996 and has worked for the Legislative Budget Board, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He holds a bachelor's degree from Angelo State University and an M.B.A. from Texas State University.

Rathgeber, policy director for the lieutenant governor's office since 2003, also previously served on former Lt. Governor Bob Bullock's staff, as well as in senior positions with the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Rathgeber holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars

Elton Stuckly

Elton E. Stuckly, Jr., president, Texas State Technical College Waco

Career highlights and education: My education includes an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power Technology from Texas State Technical College, B.S. and M.S. from The University of Texas at Tyler and I am currently working on my doctorate in higher education at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. After graduating from TSTC, I worked for seven years as an electrical and electronics power technician and five years as senior electrical designer. I was able to return to TSTC and progress from the position of instructor to department chair, technical cluster director, vice president for Student Learning and to my current position as the college's president.

What I like best about my job is: While I like the diversity of the job - with its variety of challenges - it is the people I like best about my job. The great students and the amazing faculty and staff I work with every day are what I enjoy the most.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: "You are only as good as the people you work with!" Lucky for me I work with some of the best.

Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Pace yourself; there is a lot to get done. Plan ahead and work smart, but have fun. Enjoy your job.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: eating the "Stuckly Special" at Bush's Chicken in Lacy Lakeview.

People would be surprised to know that I: love to go to the farm and drive the tractor, no phones - it's my form of relaxation.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: TSTC provides a high-quality hands-on technical education in industry-standard labs that are some of the best in the nation. When our students graduate, they are sought out by industry throughout the state. They can enter the workforce making above average wages and become productive citizens.

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

Public entities can apply for $17M in ARRA funds

SECO to administer grants for transportation efficiency projects

Some $17 million in federal stimulus funding is available for transportation efficiency projects for Texas cities, counties, public school districts and other local and state entities through grants administered by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) of the Texas Comptroller's Office. The competitive grants will be awarded in the following categories:

  • $11 million for alternative fuels projects for government vehicles - funds can be used to buy alternative fuel vehicles, purchase alternative fuel vehicle conversions and buy equipment for alternative fuel stations. The alternative fuels eligible include natural gas, propane, hydrogen, ethanol, electricity and biodiesel.
  • $6 million for traffic signal projects - funds can be used to synchronize traffic lights on major routes and to replace bulbs in traffic signals with light emitting diodes (LEDs).

As with most Recovery Act funding, one of the criteria and guidelines provides that priority will be given for ready-to-go projects that can begin immediately. Application requests for alternative fuels projects opened today, Friday, and traffic signal project requests will be posted next week. Entities have approximately 30 days to submit applications once application request are posted. For more information, click here.

SECO will also administer stimulus funds for other public sector energy conservation programs. Application requests will be released soon for renewable energy efficiency projects and a loan program for energy retrofits for state and local government buildings.

Forrest to serve as TFC's interim executive director

Tom Forrest

Tom Forrest (pictured), former Director of Contract Management and Administrative Support in the Texas Facilities Commission's (TFC) Facility Design and Construction division, has been named interim executive director of the agency. He replaces Edward Johnson, who recently resigned after four years at the helm of the agency.

Forrest will be responsible for management of the TFC's more than 320 full-time and 160 full-time contract personnel as well as the agency's more than $163 million budget. He will also oversee TFC's role of managing, constructing and maintaining the state's billions of dollars in assets. The agency currently manages some 125 facility design and construction projects with a value of more than $500 million, maintains and operates 134 state office buildings, facilities and properties and manages approximately 1,100 leases valued at more than $117 million.

Forrest holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of North Texas. Prior to joining TFC, he was president of Forrest & Associates and has more than two decades of experience in executive management at the local government level. He also is a former Assistant Director of Transportation, Planning and Sustainability for the City of Austin, where he managed public works, transportation and sustainability projects, land-use planning, budgeting and capital project funding.

Westbrook heads Combs' Criminal Investigation Division

New Chief

Veteran police officer Max Westbrook (pictured with State Comptroller Susan Combs) has been named chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Texas Comptroller's Office. The new chief is a 24-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, where he held the rank of lieutenant. Combs said Westbrook's experience in criminal investigations and his knowledge of law enforcement agency policy would serve the comptroller's division well.

Westbrook served as lieutenant in APD's Organized Crime Division from 2003-2008, where he was responsible for the organization, planning and oversight of long-term federal conspiracy investigations involving narcotics, prison gangs and gambling. As an assessor for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), Westbrook has evaluated police departments throughout the country.

Westbrook is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Southwest Texas State University. He serves as a lecturer on criminal justice at The University of Texas School of Social Work and has received more than 70 commendations in his career. In his new post, he will lead a division charged with deterring intentional criminal conduct against the state tax laws by detecting and investigating tax-related crimes keeping the public informed of prosecution results.

Fontenot reappointed to serve on Port Commission

Jim Fontenot

Jim Fontenot (pictured) has been reappointed by the Harris County Commissioners Court to serve another two-year term on the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority. Fontenot has served in that capacity since January 1999.

Fonteno is an attorney and investment banker whose professional experience is in finance, real estate, environmental policy and international business. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California, a master's from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Georgetown University.

"Jim has been a strong and experienced voice for residents of Harris County for 10 years now," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, "and his experience will serve the port well as it faces increasing challenges over the coming years."

Comptroller to study school costs' role in achievement

School Study

A study of school district resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and efficient and economic operations will be undertaken by the State Comptroller's Office, as mandated by legislation from the 81st Texas Legislature. State Comptroller Susan Combs said the study will be a "complete analysis" of how public schools are spending their funds and the academic outcomes that result from that spending.

The Comptroller's Office will use the resources and expertise of the Education Research Center at The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and Public Service. The Texas Education Agency, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, public school superintendents, education experts and other education stakeholders will also participate.

The legislation calling for the study requires the comptroller to evaluate current academic accountability and financial data by integrating the data, then to rank the results of the evaluation to identify the performance by districts and campuses and to identify areas for improvement. The comptroller will also analyze the operating cost for each student and each program and the staffing cost for each student. It is expected to be completed in late 2010. The results will be made available free to school districts.

HHSC awarded $50M grant to help with insurance costs

Tom Suehs

Just as a national report is issued showing that health insurance premiums Texas familieis pay increased almost five times as fast as family incomes in the last 10 years, a $50 million grant through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration has been awarded to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to provide cost-sharing accounts to assist low-income Texans in the purchase of health insurance. HHSC Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs said the project "stretches limited taxpayer dollars to insure more Texans," adding that while employers will still cover most of the employee insurance cost, the state will provide additional help for employees who either cannot afford their part of the premium or their co-pays. First-year funding can also be used for outreach, marketing and related costs to launch the new initiative.

The grant covers five years for up to $10 million each year, with the state contributing a 20 percent match. HHSC will create cost sharing accounts for Texans earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $66,000 for a family of four. The cost sharing accounts will be managed by the health plan, with the employee directing how the funding is used.

The three new initiatives for eligible employees that will be available in 2010 include:

  • Healthy Texas helps small businesses by lowering premiums with a state-funded pool to help cover employees with high health care costs.
  • TexHealth Coalition provides coverage to small businesses in Galveston and Central Texas and will expand to Houston, Dallas, El Paso and the Brazos Valley within a year.
  • Community First Health Plan will offer a new coverage for small employers in Bexar County and seven surrounding counties in January.

ERCOT CEO Bob Kahn announces resignation

Bob Kahn

Bob Kahn (pictured), president and chief executive officer of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has resigned, effective in November. Kahn joined ERCOT in 2007 and said of his resignation that it is "the right time to leave."

No decision on an interim CEO or permanent successor has been announced yet by ERCOT officials, who did say the board and management will be "reviewing options" over the next month. Kahn is expected to work closely with the board during that time to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.

UTMB at Galveston: Phoenix rising from ashes

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) is on the mend. After UTMB suffered near-fatal blows from Hurricane Ike a year ago, the facility has been picking up the pieces and starting over. It continues to expand on both Galveston Island and on the mainland. Some of the highlights of that recent growth include:

  • Hospital capacity has expanded, with an additional 30 beds opening in the early fall, bringing the total beds to 400.
  • The UTMB Cancer Center recently opened its Galveston Infusion Therapy Clinic on the third floor of the University Hospital Clinics Building in Galveston.
  • In June, UTMB opened a state-of-the-art endovascular suite in Clear Lake.
  • A new Dickinson Family Health Clinic will open Oct. 1 and offer comprehensive treatment of adults and children.
  • The UTMB Department of Radiology recently opened the Friendswood Imaging Center, with MRI, CT, digital radiography and ultrasound services.
  • The Women's Health Center at Bay Colony recently added urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery to its specialty services.
  • The UTMB Dickinson Cancer Center, which opened earlier this year, will have its ribbon cutting on Oct. 1.

TPWD taking its Expo event on road this year

Ernie Gammage

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) is taking its annual Expo event on the road this year with the Life's Better Outside Experience. Starting next year, TPWD will partner with stock shows, rodeos and other events to present families with opportunities to learn about activities ranging from shooting to biking, photography to camping with gear - for free.

Ernie Gammage (pictured), TPWD urban outdoors program leader and former Expo director, said the Life's Better Outdoors Experience aims to provide "hands-on outdoor activities for families, youth and children who do not recreate in the outdoors, and to introduce them to these activities which can lead to conservation of our natural and cultural resources."

The Experience will replace the annual Expo, held in Austin during the first weekend of October since 1992, which has been suspended for at least two years due to declines in sponsorship.

Water-related projects garner $15M in ARRA funding

Financial assistance totaling $15 million has been approved by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for the following projects: $7.5 million grant from the Economically Distressed Areas Program and a $7.5 million zero percent interest loan from the Economically Distressed Areas Program for state water plan projects to finance the purchase of water rights to the City of Laredo.

TWDB also approved today $30,939,000 in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund including:

  • $6,940,000 loan through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Alice;
  • $1,150,000 loan through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Ingram;
  • $410,000 loan through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Lake Worth;
  • $6,015,000 grant through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Mercedes;
  • $419,000 grant through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Munday;
  • $15,080,000 grant through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Port Arthur;
  • $925,000 loan through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance wastewater system improvements to the City of Rosenberg.

VIA appoints commission to study streetcar system

Mike Novak

Marty Wender

San Antonio's VIA Metropolitan Transit board has announced a 20-member commission that will study the feasibility of a streetcar system in the city, while also making recommendations of routes and destinations. The group will also study potential funding sources and quality of life issues.

Board Chair Henry Munoz named developer Marty Wender (left) to chair what is being called the Commission on Intra-City Rail and Streetcar. Former Bexar County commissioner Mike Novak (right) will serve as vice chair.

Among the other members are three members of the Downtown Alliance - Darryl Byrd of Silver Ventures, Alamo Heights City Manager Rebecca Waldman and Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley. Others include Richard Gambitta, a public affairs professor and commissioner on the San Antonio Housing Authority's board, and former Councilwoman Debra Guerrero, who is now a developer.

State's sales-tax revenues continuing decline

Sales Tax

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said the state collected $1.75 billion in sales tax in August, down 12.5 percent from last year. That decrease indicates sales tax collections will likely keep dwindling as major sectors of the economy, including oil and gas, construction and retail trade continue to struggle.

Of the sales tax allocations, local governments are set to receive $428.3 million, and cities will receive $290.3 million, representing a 12.9 percent and 12.2 percent decrease, respectively. Special-purpose taxing districts will net $16.4 million in sales tax revenue, a 16.5 percent decrease from last year, and 10 Texas transit systems will get $95.8 million in sales tax allocations, down $14.4 percent from a year ago.

To view the allocations by city, click here. To view the allocations by county, click here.

Texas leads in funds for foster care adoption incentives

Texas led a number of states that received a total of $35 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to increase the number of children adopted from foster care. The state netted $4,969,734 in funds through HHS' Adoption Incentives program, an offshoot of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

The original program authorized incentive funds to states that increased the number of children adopted. Those incentives were revamped to encourage states to redouble their efforts under the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.

San Antonio City Council OKs land transfer to TPWD

Carter Smith

The San Antonio City Council has approved the transfer of undeveloped city-owned property tracts to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). As a result, the Government Canyon State Natural Area (GCSNA) is adding almost 2,962 acres of habitat for conservational and recreational use.

Carter Smith (pictured), TPWD's executive director, said the expansion marks "a true testimony to the effective partnership between our agency and the City of San Antonio that has always focused on conserving the land's unique natural resources, regardless of ownership."

There will be minimal facilities on the tracts, some of which will complement GCSNA's trail system, in compliance with the area's restrictive development and public-use policies, designed to protect natural resources.

Research centers at two Texas universities earn grants

Research centers at two Texas universities were among six minority universities nationwide named to share nearly $30 million in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) funds. Up to $1 million per year for up to five years (based on performance and availability of funds) will be received by the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at The University of Texas in Brownsville and the Center for Space Exploration Technology Research at The University of Texas at El Paso. The funds will help the universities establish significant, multi-disciplinary scientific, engineering and commercial research centers that contribute substantially to NASA programs.

The funding comes from NASA's Office of Education. The universities were selected from among 35 that submitted proposals. The winners were selected based on proposal reviews by scientists and educators from the academic community, private industry and NASA.

The program seeks to help increase participation in NASA's research by faculty and students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority with a goal of increasing the number of minorities who obtain advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Updegrove named director of LBJ Library

Mark Updegrove

Presidential historian Mark K. Updegrove (pictured) has been named director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, effective Oct. 11. His appointment was made this week by Adrienne Thomas, acting archivist of the United States. He replaces Betty Sue Flowers, who recently retired.

As a historian and political commentator Updegrove has appeared on national television and radio and lectured at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country. He is the author of two major works on the presidency. He currently serves as director of business development at Rawle Murdy communications firm. He previously directed advertising sales, marketing and operations for Yahoo! Canada and also served in similar positions as the publisher of Nickelodeon Magazine and MTV Magazine. He also is a former sales representative with Time magazine and was president of the Canadian edition of Time.

Updegrove holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland.

TPWD offers chance to win lifetime hunting license

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is offering hunters and anglers a chance to win a Lifetime Super Combo hunting and fishing license - normally $1,800 - for only $5.

Two drawings will be held Dec. 30, 2009, and June 30, 2010, and applicants must have registered by Dec. 27 to be eligible for both drawings. Entries can be purchased anywhere fishing and hunting licenses are sold or online at the TPWD Web site. Proceeds from the drawing will help fund conservation efforts.

Registration deadline for Nov. election approaching


The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 Constitutional Amendment election is Monday, Oct. 5.

Texans can review ballot language for each proposed amendment and register to vote by visiting the Texas Secretary of State Web site.

Secretary of State Hope Andrade said it only takes a few minutes to "fill out a voter registration application - or to update information if you have moved - to be eligible to cast a ballot in November."

GLO allocates $135.4M to coastline projects

In an effort to combat beach erosion from South Padre Island to McFaddin Beach, the Texas General Land Office has allocated $135.4 million in coastal protection projects, $25 million of which arrives as part of the 81st Legislature's Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act.

The ambitious effort includes a list of 26 projects, including rebuilding dunes flattened by Hurricane Ike and restoring beaches threatened by erosion.

Once a beach undergoes renourishment through the General Land Office, it becomes eligible for future funds from the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA).

State Board of Education meetings to be hosted online

As mandated by House Bill 772, all State Board of Education meetings will be broadcast live online with audio and video feeds beginning this week. Links to the Webcasts will be posted to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Web site.

The webcasts will include full board meetings as well as those of subcommittees with video archives available for request online for up to five years. Audiocasts of the board meetings have been available since 2004.

Huntsville ISD to apply for Recovery Act bonds

Richard Montgomery

The Huntsville ISD will apply for $7.8 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds to use for high school facility projects. If approved, the bonds could help fund the $13.2 million construction and renovation plan approved recently for the school by the district's board. The funds would provide new facilities for career and technology education, athletics and band. Renovations would be made in the special education department, new computer labs and reconstructed science labs as well as a new elevator and attendance and security areas at the school.

HISD Superintendent Robert Montgomery (pictured) said costs not covered by the bonds would be covered by the district's fund balance. The bonds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Johnson Co. to buy teleconference system for courts

Johnson County commissioners recently agreed to purchase a $60,000 teleconferencing system for the Guinn Justice Center, the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center and the Precinct 1 Justice of Peace office.

The new teleconferencing system will allow the county to hold arraignments and certain pretrial hearings via video conferencing rather than transporting prisoners to the court, said District Judge Bill Bosworth. The system also will allow court-appointed attorneys to use the system to speak with clients and eliminate a visit to the jail, he said.

The new teleconferencing system should be installed within six weeks, Bosworth said. Fees paid on each court case filed will fund about 40 percent of the cost for the new system and a grant to improve the county's indigent defense system will pay the remaining cost, he added.

TDA grant allows for dual credit program at UTPA

Dennis McMillan

South Texas students will have new opportunities to earn college credits while still in high school thanks to a $100,000 grant to The University of Texas-Pan American from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). The grant, which is spread over two years, will help fund the South Texas Academic Rigor and Talent (START) Project, which allows high-achieving students from rural high schools up to 150 miles from the UTPA campus in Edinburg to attend a summer residential program that can result in their earning up to six hours of college credit.

The grant is part of TDA's Parallel Pathways to Success Pilot Grant Program, administered by TDA's Rural Economic Development Program. The UTPA funding is part of $552,440 approved for the Pathways program, whose goal is to provide high schools and institutions of higher education and other similar organizations with funds to be used for rural Texas students to learn workforce skills and training and earn college credits while still in high school.

Dennis McMillan (pictured), associate vice president for Enrollment and Student Services at UTPA, said the funding will allow the college to expand offerings to rural high school students. "We are especially excited about the potential to bring in a small number of top notch students from areas 100 to 150 miles out who might face greater financial or travel obstacles in order to participate in a concurrent enrollment program," he said.

National Science Foundation awards $2.7M to UTSA

Dhiraj Sardar

The National Science Foundation has awarded The University of Texas at San Antonio a five-year, $2.7 million grant for the study of potential biomedical applications for nanomaterials. The award marks the largest grant ever received by UTSA's physics department.

More than 80 percent of the funds will remain at UTSA. The remaining 20 percent will be divided among collaborators the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and Northwestern University.

Some $900,000 of the grant will be used to hire six graduate and undergraduate students to assist faculty with research. Dhiraj Sardar (pictured), the Ashbel Smith professor of physics at UTSA, will serve as principal investigator for research.

UT System hires design team for UTSA athletic complex

Lynn Hickey

Regents for The University of Texas System recently selected a partnership of a Dallas-based architecture firm and a San Antonio-based architecture firm to design and engineer the phase one portion of the planned $84 million competitive athletics complex at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

The planning and approval for the first $22 million phase one project should take about nine months to a year and the complex should be open by 2012, said Lynn Hickey (pictured), athletics director for UTSA. The project is being paid for with a venue tax approved by Bexar County voters in 2008, another $1.5 million approved by voters in a 2003 bond election and $5.5 million from a municipal bond election approved by voters in San Antonio in 2007.

Plans call for the two architectural firms to design and develop building plans for a 1,000-seat soccer stadium, a 5,000-seat track and field stadium with locker rooms, meeting rooms, a press box, a space for ticketing, concessions and merchandise. Phase one also includes the initial utilities, road and parking infrastructure as part of the work on the 60-acre complex located at Kyle Seale Parkway and Loop 1604. UTSA officials also plan in phase two of the project to build new baseball, softball and tennis venues and practice facilities for a new football program scheduled to begin in 2011.

TCEQ cites license to operate low-level waste facility

The executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently approved the last license needed for Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to build and operate a disposal site for low-active radioactive waste in Andrews County. Plans call for the county to loan money from a recent $75 million bond election to WCS, which has pledged to repay the bond at no cost to taxpayers.

While two Andrews County residents have filed suit to question the results of a $75 million bond election in November that passed by a three-vote margin, WCS officials said they plan to move forward with construction of the waste disposal facility despite the lawsuit. The site is expected to begin disposal operations in November 2010, said a spokesman for WCS.

Lone Star College gets $15K grant for concert hall study

Katherine Persson

Officials of Lone Star College-Kingsville plan to use a $15,000 grant from the East Montgomery County Improvement District to help pay for a study to determine the feasibility of raising private funds for a new 1,000-seat concert hall, said Dr. Katherine Persson (pictured), president of the college.

The cost of the feasibility study is estimated to be $40,000, Persson said, and college leaders agreed to a requirement that they must find the remaining $25,000 to pay for the feasibility study before the $15,000 grant is made available by the improvement district. Persson also said if leadership decides a new concert hall is feasible, they plan to launch a fundraising campaign to raise private money to build the concert hall rather than using proceeds from a 2008 bond election.

The president of the improvement district said board members decided to increase the $167,000 in community grants the board had already awarded to add this most recent grant request because they believe a concert hall would bring additional revenue to the community. The concert hall also will add educational opportunities and attract well-known performers to the campus, Persson said.

Grayson County to start over with jail plans

Grayson County Commissioners Court is looking to start over with plans for its aging jail and what to do with future inmate populations as chances continue to dwindle for a privately built, for-profit jail. The court axed plans for a jail bond election in November during its Aug. 31 meeting.

The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) has announced plans to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Court's meeting on grounds that the meeting was not posted on the Internet before the Aug. 28, 10 a.m. deadline. The suit could invalidate every action taken at the meeting.

Central Texas education group wins $1M tech grant

Charles Dupre

The Central Texas Education Stimulus Collaborative (CTSESC), a public-private partnership created to leverage federal stimulus funding, recently received a $1 million grant from the Texas Education Agency for technology to help 3,300 high-needs students in grades 3 through 5 improve their language skills before entering middle school. CTSESC applied for the funding on behalf of Bastrop, Leander, Pflugerville, Round Rock and San Marcos school districts, KIPP-Austin and UT Elementary charter schools.

The Target Tech at Texas Collaborative Grant (T3 Grant) will be distributed to five school districts and two charter schools included in the application. The interactive whiteboard technology will help the high-needs students progress by using technology that helps teachers share engaging visual content, said Superintendent Charles Dupre (pictured) of the Pflugerville Independent School District.

CTXESC members include several private foundations, Austin ISD, Hutto ISD, Eanes ISD and Manor ISD in addition to the five districts that received grants.

Tarrant County groups garner $3M in stimulus funds

Tarrant County and the cities of Bedford, Hurst and Mansfield recently received notice they will receive about $3 million in federal stimulus funding to pay for energy-efficiency projects.

Tarrant County will receive about $2.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to install energy-efficient chillers in county courthouses and administrative offices in downtown Fort Worth.

Bedford will receive $201,000 to help pay for an energy-efficient reflective roof system to be installed on a former grocery store the city is converting to a library. Mansfield will receive $180,000 and Hurst will receive $165,000 for projects that support energy conservation and efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy awarded a total of $45.6 million throughout Texas to support energy-efficient and conservation projects.

Gregg County to refurbish roads with $250K grant

Bill Stoudt

Gregg County has been awarded a $250,000 grant to refurbish Mary Lawson, Magnolia and Camp Switch roads, according to County Judge Bill Stoudt (pictured).

The oil-topped roads will be repaved with asphalt with funds from the Community Supplemental Recovery program, administered through the Texas Community Development Block Grant program. The funds arrive as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Camp Switch area - outside White Oak's city limits, west of Longview - has been left out of Gregg County planning for a long time, Stoudt said. "We're glad to finally have a chance to provide some more services to these county residents."

Carthage hopes to widen loop with $43.4M grant

City, county and state transportation officials are vying for a $43.4 million grant that would widen a 3-mile stretch of a loop in Carthage, extending southwest Loop 436 from Texas 315 to U.S. Highway 59. The funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will help transform the two-lane highway into a divided four-lane highway by 2012.

Charles Thomas, CEO of the Carthage Economic Development Corp, said the application for the grant is due in about a week. He expects to hear word of the grant's approval by February or March 2010.

Officials so far have garnered support from the Northwest Texas Mobility Authority and several area elected leaders. Panola County commissioners have also approved a resolution supporting the project.

UTMB sees $129 million in losses in 2009

David Callender

When the books closed on fiscal year 2009 on Aug. 31, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston posted a record $129 million loss, mostly due to Hurricane Ike. The storm flooded most of the hospital's facilities, including John Sealy Hospital and its emergency room. UTMB posted a smaller $50 million loss in FY 2008.

UTMB, however, will continue to operate, said President David Callender. State legislators approved $566.6 million in general revenue funding for UTMB, an increase of almost $109 million over the previous biennium, Callender said.

The facility also will receive $1.4 billion in insurance payments, Federal Emergency Management funds and public and private matches to restore facilities and services, he added. Callender expects revenues to drop drastically for several years as UTMB tries to restore the 550 beds located in John Sealy Hospital before the storm.

Travis Co. OKs Onion Creek greenbelt project

Travis County officials expect work to begin in about eight months on the first phase of a 21-mile greenbelt project along Onion Creek. The proposed greenway eventually will connect 15 existing and proposed county, city and state parks in southeastern Travis County with a series of hike-and-bike trails. The greenbelt could eventually include Roy Kizer and Jimmy Clay golf courses, McKinney Falls State Park and a new state campus that may be built along the creek at Texas 130.

Phase one of the project is a three-mile section of the creek on both sides of Texas 130 and between Texas 71 and FM 973, said Joe Fieselman, executive manager of Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources. Plans call for trails, a kayak launch, a fishing pond, a wildlife viewing area, a meadow for open play, a pavilion and restoration with native grass and trees. The first phase should be complete in about two years, Fieselman said.

Travis County voters in 2005 approved $8.6 million in bonds to buy land and develop open space parkland along Onion Creek. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission also awarded a $1 million grant to Travis County, which will match the grant with $1 million to pay for construction of the first phase of the greenbelt project.

Houston ISD approves $121.5 million facilities upgrades

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustees for the Houston Independent School District recently approved $121.5 million to upgrade schools in each of the nine districts that comprise HISD. Board members, however, did not vote on a proposal for a new building for the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Trustees approved $13.5 million for Bellaire High School in District V for a new building wing that will include updated science labs. Also approved was $12 million to add a new wing to replace temporary buildings now in use at Grady Middle School in District VII. The new multi-story wing will house science labs and a new library.

Board member Manuel Rodriguez (pictured) told supporters of the High School for Performing and Visual Arts that the time is not right to build the kind of school that supporters want. Winning approval for a new campus for the performing arts high school will take more time, he said.

Taylor to start new $38M high school in early 2010

Officials of the Taylor Independent School District recently said they plan to break ground soon on a new $38 million high school to accommodate 1,000 students.

The new 180,000-square-foot high school located on a 65-acre site on SH 79 and FM 973, also will have a library, gymnasium and cafeteria to accommodate 1,200 students, said David Krueger, assistant superintendent for support services. Voters in November approved the sale of $43 million in bonds to pay for the new high school and renovation and repair projects throughout the district.

The board is considering renovating and converting the 50-year-old high school building into an intermediate school. Once the school board makes a decision, district staff will work on planning for the proposed intermediate school. However, work will not begin on renovating the old high school until the new high school is completed, Krueger said.

Angleton ISD to get $7.9 million in stimulus funding

Heath Burns

As part of the Qualified School Construction Bond program included in federal stimulus legislation, Angleton ISD will receive federal help to avoid paying interest on $7.9 million in bonds. The bonds are part of a recent $139 million bond issue to build a new high school and renovate other district facilities.

Superintendent Heath Burns (pictured) said the federal award benefits taxpayers because those who buy the $7.9 million in bonds receive a tax credit for the value of the interest instead of the school district paying the interest. The district would most likely pay about $4.67 million in interest on the bonds over the 25-year period if the federal program was not available, Burns said.

The district previously issued about $105 million in bonds and the designated $7.9 million included in the federal program will be part of the remaining $34.9 million in bonds to be sold within the next 180 days, Burns said.

Lake Jackson task force studies $7 million bond issue

The Bond Task Force of Lake Jackson recently discussed issuing an estimated $7 million in bonds to pay for several projects, including improvements to streets, drainage and city facilities.

Task force members, who were appointed by city council, are meeting twice a month to help determine whether another bond is needed and to make a recommendation to council members on whether or not to call a bond election for May 2010.

Debt service in Lake Jackson is expected to decline by $227,086 and will continue to drop, the finance director said. The city has reached the time when it may be able to afford another bond issue, said City Manager Bill Yenne.

Spring Branch ISD task force urges faster building plan

Duncan Klussmann

A citizen's task force charged with developing a construction schedule for new schools recently unveiled a plan for the Spring Branch Independent School District to move up the district's proposed building schedule for two new schools to take advantage of lower construction costs.

The plan, which Superintendent Duncan Klussmann (pictured) said could save the district nearly $1 million, will keep Wilchester Elementary at its current site and accelerate construction of Wilchester and Frostwood elementary schools by two years. The plan calls for the new school to be built north of the existing Wilchester, and saves the schools new gym and library building. The task force recommended that Wilchester and Meadow Wood elementary schools be built concurrently in 2010 and completed by the fall of 2011. Under the plan that still must be approved by trustees, construction on the new Frostwood school would begin in 2012, once the new Meadow Wood is complete. District officials had originally planned to build Wilchester in 2012.

The new school construction is part of a $597.1 million bond issue calling for replacing 12 schools in the district approved by voters in November 2007.

Sugar Land approves $86.7M for improvement projects

In the process of adopting a $220.3 million city budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Sugar Land City Council members recently approved $86.7 million for fiscal year 2010 to pay for several capital improvement projects.

Included in the approved capital improvement projects for the coming year are:

  • Extending University Boulevard;
  • Construction of a new fire station in Telfair;
  • Improvements to First Colony, Imperial and Eldridge parks;
  • New hike and bike trails along Brooks Street; and
  • Traffic improvements to the U.S. 59 and SH 6 intersection.

Jim Ned ISD approves $250,000 to purchase iPODs

Brant Myers

Trustees for the Jim Ned Independent School District recently agreed to spend about $250,000 in federal stimulus funds to purchase hand-held digital devices for every student and teacher at Jim Ned High School.

The iPod device should be delivered to all students and teachers by next semester, said Superintendent Brant Myers (pictured). The cost of the system includes upgrading the Wi-Fi system and district computers as well as training for teachers.

While the district considered purchasing laptop computers and mobile telephones, board members decided those options were too expensive and in the case of the mobile telephone, would include contracts the district could not support, Myers said. The cost for the new devices, which must be returned by students to the school at the end of the school year, is $200 each. The iPod device can be used to connect to the Internet and download information from colleges, retrieve tutorials and conduct research, Myers said.

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Texas broadband funding applications include more than just infrastructure

Mary Scott Nabers

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

Federal stimulus funding for broadband service has drawn intense scrutiny and interest. A total of $7.2 billion was appropriated to expand broadband access to unserved and under-served communities in the United States. The objective is to bridge the digital divide that exists between urban and suburban areas and rural and remote areas of many states.

The Broadband Initiative Program provides for infrastructure loans related to broadband infrastructure projects in rural and remote areas. The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program provides grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers and broadband adoption projects.

The first round of funding for these loans and grants totaled $4 billion. Little did the federal government know the type of response the program would receive. When the application process ended, nearly 2,200 applications had been received, with a combined price tag of $28 billion - more than six times the amount of money available!


Lubbock selects Kelly Rowe to serve as new sheriff

Kelly Rowe

Lubbock County commissioners recently appointed Kelly Rowe (pictured) as the new sheriff of Lubbock County. Rowe replaces former Sheriff David Gutierrez, who resigned to serve on the Texas Board of Pardons and Patrol.

Rowe, who formerly served as chief deputy in Lubbock, was selected from a field of five candidates. He has 16 years experience in law enforcement and has served as chief jail administrator, chief financial officer and captain of the law enforcement branch for the Lubbock Sheriff's Office.

Deputy CIO Partridge leaving post at TRS

Lee Partridge, deputy chief investment officer of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is leaving his post at the end of the month for the private sector. Partridge plans to start his own investment firm, Integrity Capital LLC.

Bedford council approves
$8 million for new library

Bedford City Council members recently authorized $8 million to convert an old retail store into a city library. The city bought the building for $2.25 million in 2007.

City officials plan to begin construction on the 37,000-square-foot building in late 2009 and open the new library in fall 2010, said Tom Ross, the city's director of administrative services. The new library will be 20,000 square feet larger than the current library and will provide more meeting space, a larger collection of books and other materials and more public computers.

Three Valley cities receive stimulus funds to fight crime

The cities of McAllen, Weslaco and Donna were selected recently to receive nearly $75,000 in federal stimulus funds to pay for an anti-crime program. The grant is from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program of the U.S. Department of Justice.

McAllen officials plan to use their $46,500 share of the grant to buy 12 handheld mobile ticket-issuing systems for the police department. Weslaco plans to spend its $17,000 grant on four mobile video/audio recording units and six radio microphones to allow officers to better document traffic stop information and to resolve complaints from the public. Officials of Donna will buy five level-three tactical vests and 10 night-vision scopes for tactical rifles with the $10,800 grant they received.

West Texas cities, counties win $1.7 million in funding

The city of Alpine, Culberson County and Presidio County recently received $1.7 million in grants from the federal stimulus package to help pay for infrastructure improvements.

The city of Alpine plans to spend the $200,000 it receives for street improvements, while Culberson County plans to spent its approximately $200,000 share of the stimulus funding to upgrade fire protection facilities. Officials of Presidio County plan to use their share of the funding for improvements to the Cibolo Creek Levee and to upgrade drainage.

Rockport approves $10.3 million for various projects

Paul Lippke

Rockport City Council members recently agreed to issue $10,355,000 in certificates of obligation to pay for upgrades to the city's water and sewer system despite objections from Councilman Paul Lippke (pictured) over funding for a new building.

The funds will be used for a new elevated water tower, an additional water line at the Highway 35 Bypass, a new lift station, a pump station and for a new building to house the public works and utility departments along with related services.

Kyle approves $3.5M
for capital projects

Kyle City Council members recently approved the city's $36 million city budget for 2009-2010 that includes $3.5 million for several capital improvement projects.

Some of the improvement projects include beautification of Main Street, a new library and sewage and drainage improvements.

West Memorial MUD
OKs $13.7 bond election

The board of the West Memorial Municipal Utility District recently approved placing a $13.7 million bond proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot. The proposed bond issue is part of the district's plan to maintain and improve the systems it operates while keeping the tax rate as low as possible, said Kenny Cryar, president of the West Memorial MUD, which operates in Katy. The plan includes repairing leaks and cracks and replacing deteriorated components in the 40-year-old sanitary sewer collection system operated by the West Memorial MUD.

Where are they now?

Where do folks go when they leave state government? Some go to work in the private sector or for nonprofits. Some transition to executive-level positions in higher education while others may seek elected local government positions. And some just retire and spend a lot of time with their grandkids at the fishin' hole. This column focuses on where former state government officials and employees are now.

Juan Garcia

Juan Garcia was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2006 and served one term. A former naval aviator and a commander in the Naval reserves, Garcia was nominated in June by President Barack Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. He was confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in August and was this week confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Tony Garza

Antonio O. "Tony" Garza, Jr. began his public service career after being elected in 1988 as Cameron County Judge, serving six years. In 1994, he was named Texas Secretary of State and senior policy advisor to then-Gov. George W. Bush. In 1998, Garza was elected to the Texas Railroad Commission, serving the commission as chair from 1999 to 2002. In the summer of 2002, President George W. Bush named Garza U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. After retiring from that position, Garza became a partner in an Austin-based consulting firm and counsel to an international law firm.

Tyler ISD wins $117,000 grant to improve math skills

The Tyler Independent School District recently won a two-year, $117,000 grant from the Texas Education Agency to provide two middle schools with new technology to help seventh- and eighth-grade students improve their math abilities. About 250 students will participate in the Middle-School Students in Texas Algebra Ready (MSTAR) program. The purpose of the pilot grant program is to help middle school students prepare for the algebra assessment that comes with entering high school.

The grant pays for providing classrooms with equipment such as calculators and navigator systems that wirelessly network each student's graphing calculators to the classroom computer. The navigator system allows teachers to track the progress of students, view their coursework, check problem-solving techniques and guide performance using instant feedback. The two-year grant also pays for teacher training.

DeSoto approves $40,000 theft reduction system

The DeSoto City Council recently approved $40,000 to buy a radio frequency identification system to decrease the removal of unauthorized materials from the DeSoto Public Library. The new technology will also assist in inventory management and circulation, said Lucile Dade, managing director of library services.

Taft places city manager
on administrative leave

Taft city officials recently placed City Manager Florencio Sauceda on paid administrative leave while city operations are being investigation by the Texas Rangers and the district attorney's office.

Sauceda began working as city manager in Taft in 2001 and was terminated from the position in 2003. Following the election of new council members in 2007, Sauceda returned to the city manager's position in Taft. Sauceda recently received a reprimand from city officials for authorizing a rap group to produce a video which drew numerous complaints from Taft residents who claimed the video contained profanity and seemed to glorify gangs, prostitution and drugs and damaged the city's public image.

Commerce to upgrade city park, baseball fields

Commerce city officials will use both state and local funding to pay for a new pavilion at the city park, rebuilding restrooms at the baseball field, playground construction and renovation of the botanical garden.

The city will use a $75,000 state grant for construction of a playground, concrete trail, horseshoe courts, benches, picnic tables with grills, interpretive signs, an irrigation system and renovations to the botanical gardens at the city park. Insurance funds will pay to replace the pavilion destroyed by a storm while city funds will pay for improvements at the baseball field, said Marc Clayton, director of administrative services.

College Station hires Socol as communications head

College Station city officials recently selected Jay Socol as the new communications director for the city. Socol previously served as communication chief for the Texas Engineering Extension Service, which includes acting as spokesman for the Texas Task Force 1, the state's primary search-and-rescue team stationed in College Station. He also served as public information officer for the city of Bryan from 2000 to 2007. Socol has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University.

Socol will replace Wayne Larson, who was reassigned in early August to the position of assistant director for the communications department, which is currently being restructured.

Stephenville wins $60,000 grant to upgrade cameras

Roy Halsell

The Stephenville Police Department plans to use a nearly $60,000 grant to upgrade mobile video/audio recording equipment mounted in patrol vehicles.

The grant required a $21,867 match from the city, said Police Chief Roy Halsell (pictured). The new system will allow officers to download the digital camera as soon as the patrol car returns to the station, Halsell said.

Madisonville city manager Paul Catoe resigns

Madisonville City Manager Paul Catoe resigned from his post last week. He had held the position since August 2008 and did not cite any reasons for his departure.

During his tenure, Catoe helped make significant improvements to Madisonville's water system. Catoe's resignation left some members of the council disappointed. Lois Brown said although she was glad they had the budget ready, she was certain the city was "losing something good."

New Braunfels approves $22M for large projects

The New Braunfels City Council recently agreed to issue $22 million in certificates of obligation to complete several large capital improvement projects, including widening a portion of Walnut Avenue to five lanes. City officials also plan to use the $22 million to renovate the golf course at Landa Park and improve several aging city streets.

Longview to net $1.18M in HUD funds through grant

Longview is set to receive $1.18 million in federal grants for community development and affordable housing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The city will receive about $767,000 from the agency's Community Development Block Grant Program and $413,000 from the department's Home Investment Partnerships Program as part of $18.8 million in funding to the state.

Anji Johnson, Longview's manager of housing and community development, said the grants will help fund upgrades at Birdie Park and the installation of a security system and privacy fence at a women's shelter.

Jasper ISD mulling upgrades for school facilities

Jon Whittemore

Trustees for the Jasper Independent School District recently agreed to form a committee to study the need for improvements to district facilities.

Superintendent Jon Whittemore (pictured) said the aging condition of several facilities should be studied to determine whether to improve current structures or construct new buildings. Whittemore said he hopes the committee can have a report ready for board members in early January.

Crawley approves seeking bids on animal shelter

The Crawley City Council recently authorized the city manager to seek bids for a new animal shelter to replace the city's 26-year-old, 400-square-foot animal shelter that has only eight dog runs and five cat cages for an increasing population of stray animals. Council members previously approved the competitive bidding method to select a company to construct the facility.

The new 6,500-square foot shelter also will feature 39 dog runs and 54 cat cages, adoption rooms, office space for staff, a volunteer workroom and a garage for loading and unloading animals, said Sandy Mansfield, the city's animal control officer. The new shelter also will include specified areas for bathing, dipping, grooming and allow the shelter to house animals longer so they have more time to be adopted.

Abilene ISD wins $1M state grant to upgrade technology

Cathy Ashby

The Abilene Independent School District recently won a $1 million grant from the Texas Education Agency to upgrade technology throughout the district and provide more technical support for teachers at the district's two high schools and Woodson Center for Excellence.

The funding will be used to provide technological equipment for students that will integrate technology for high school mathematics and science courses, said Cathy Ashby (pictured), associate superintendent for curriculum. The technology includes software and data collection devices to allow students to design and analyze many types of experiments usually introduced in college, document cameras that project three-dimensional shapes and graphing calculators.

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Driscoll garners $300,000 to improve wastewater plant

Driscoll city officials plan to use a $300,000 grant from the Texas Department of Rural Affairs to upgrade the city's wastewater collection and treatment system, originally installed in the 1950s.

The grant, part of the federal stimulus package, will allow the city to meet state and federal standards for the wastewater treatment facility, said City Manager Sandra Martinez.

Beeville plans to hire new city manager by November

Joe Montez

The Beeville City Council recently approved a city manager search schedule and a job description for that position. Interim City Manager Joe B. Montez (pictured) said a new city manager can be hired as soon as Nov. 14 if council members follow the approved schedule for accepting applications, reviewing qualifications and conducting interviews.

Council approved an Oct. 6 deadline for receiving applications for the city manager position, followed by review, begin interviews on Oct. 28 and complete the interviews by Oct. 30.

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Hallsville ISD sees $3 million drop in price tag for school

Greg Wright

The lower cost of construction labor and materials has resulted in the Hallsville Independent School District approving a $14.02 million guaranteed maximum price for a new elementary school the district is building, said Superintendent Greg Wright (pictured). The lower costs was about $3.07 million less than district officials had originally expected, he said.

Savings from the project will be used to pay for other projects included in the bond proposal that were eliminated when construction prices were much higher, Wright said. The projects to be added could include a new auditorium or six-lane track that were previously planned for the new high school the district plans to build. The district's architect said the price for building the new high school should also be lower than previously expected, but warned that costs for construction labor and materials are expected to rise soon.

Governor's appointments

Gov. Rick Perry has made the following appointments:

  • Homer Lear of San Antonio, Texas Legislative Committee on Aging
  • Betty Streckfuss of Spring, Texas Legislative Committee on Aging
  • Leslie "Les" Hatch of Lubbock, judge, 237th District Court of Lubbock County
  • Raymond "Ray" Wheless of Lucas, judge, 366th District Court of Collin County

Houston ISD moves forward with $12M school addition

Trustees for the Houston Independent School District recently approved $12 million to build a new wing for Grady Middle School. The new wing will feature new computer labs and wireless technology, said Gretchen Kasper-Hoffman, principal of Grady Middle School.

The new wing will replace numerous portable buildings spread throughout the campus and should be ready for classes in 2011, Kasper-Hoffman said. The renovations are part of a $121.5 million capital improvement budget approved recently by HISD trustees. Voters approved bonds in 2007 to upgrade district facilities.

Lufkin wins $4M in stimulus funds for industrial rail park

Lufkin city council members recently approved the acceptance of a $4 million federal stimulus grant to pay for pre-development costs for an industrial rail park.

The proposed Lufkin Industrial Rail Park will be located near SH103 and Loop 287. Developers of the proposed rail park are acquiring permits and plan to begin construction, including road and drainage work, as soon as the permits are acquired, said Mayor Jack Gordon.

TxDOT postpones Milam County highway projects

Frank Summers

Citing revenue issues, officials of the Texas Department of Transportation recently said they are postponing indefinitely three highway projects in Milam County. The delayed projects include the proposed widening of SH 36 from Cameron to the Bell County line and a proposed 10-mile bypass of US 79 around Rockdale. TxDOT will reimburse Milam County $100,000 and Cameron $55,000 for their share of buying highway rights-of-way, said Bob Colwell, public information for the Bryan District of TxDOT.

Milam County Judge Frank Summers (pictured) called the reimbursement an unexpected windfall for the county. The president of the Rockdale Downtown Association said he was disappointed the bypass project was postponed even though many Rockdale business owners opposed the bypass project.

El Paso Community College wins $600,000 federal grant

The El Paso Community College Northwest Campus recently received notice it will receive a $600,000 federal grant to build a new Community Literacy Center. The Hispanic-Serving Assisting Communities program awarded the grant.

The grant requires that the literacy center to be built within three years. The center will be located next to the campus library and will include areas designed for children and teens as well as a multi-purpose room, said Monica Wong, head librarian for the college.

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Blinn Foundation names Picone president/CEO

Joe Al Picone

The board of directors for the Blinn College Foundation recently selected Joe Al Picone (pictured) to serve as president and chief executive officer of the foundation. Picone also serves as executive director of the foundation. Picone previously served as dean of business services at Blinn College and on the Blinn board of trustees.

The Blinn College Foundation provides financial support for programs and activities that improve the quality of education and expand educational opportunities for the community. The foundation has posted revenues of more than $3 million since 2007.

Wall resigns as assistant city manager in Leander

Assistant City Manager Scott Wall recently resigned from his position in Leander to become an assistant city manager in Tyler. Wall's resignation is effective on Oct. 8 and he begins his new job in Tyler on Oct. 9.

Leander City Manager Biff Johnson said he plans to take over Wall's assigned duties and freeze that position. Johnson said the succession plan adopted by council includes one assistant manager in the future. Finance Director Sharon Johnson is currently an assistant city manager.

Montgomery Co. exercises Grand Parkway option

Despite having no available funding source, Montgomery County officials recently agreed to exercise their option on the construction of a 14-mile segment of the Grant Parkway planned to traverse seven counties in the Houston region. Declining to exercise its option on the proposed four-lane, controlled access toll road would have given all control to the Texas Department of Transportation, said Craig Doyal, commissioner for Precinct 2. The county will have two years to explore other funding options for the project, Doyal said.

TxDOT officials estimated in 2007 that the Segment G portion of the Grand Parkway will cost about $184.3 million, County Judge Alan Sadler said the county plans to develop a valid plan and partnership agreement with a source of funds during the two-year period before construction on that segment is planned.

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

Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers

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

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NFBPA plans "Outlook 2009" conference in October

The National Forum for Black Public Administrators will present "Outlook 2009: Preparing Leadership for Green Initiatives, New Technology and the Future Workforce" Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 8-10, at the Austin Convention Center. The conference will feature leading voices in green energy, workshops and panel discussions. Among the speakers will be Lee Jones, president and executive editor of InSpire Magazine. City managers from throughout the country will participate in a panel discussion regarding surviving the flailing economy. There will also be excellence awards for public administrators, networking opportunities and exhibits. Sponsorships are available. For more information and to register, click here.

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

Registration is now open for the 6th Annual Tee IT Up Texas! Government IT Customer Appreciation Golf Tournament scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30. IT vendors calling on public sector accounts are invited to visit the Web site to register teams and purchase sponsorships. Registration will be open until Oct. 15, however, early registration is encouraged as player participation is limited to the first 120 golfers. Sponsorships are also awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Player fees are $45 per person. Teams should have at least two government IT customers per team. Players are welcome from all public sector accounts - local as well as state government, ISDs, hospital districts, etc. For tournament info, click here. For sponsorship information, click here.

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.