|Volume 7, Issue 36 · Friday, September 18, 2009|
Lottery bucks national trend with $3.72B in sales
While some states show double-digit declines, Texas figures up
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.
"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.[more]
Lieutenant governor announces staff changes
Brunson to serve as new chief of staff, Rathgeber new deputy chief
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.
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 email@example.com.
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:
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 (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
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 (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
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
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:
ERCOT CEO Bob Kahn announces resignation
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:
TPWD taking its Expo event on road this year
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:
VIA appoints commission to study streetcar system
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Jim Ned ISD approves $250,000 to purchase iPODs
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.
'Pipeline' can help identify, increase opportunities
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Texas broadband funding applications include more than just infrastructure
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![more]
Lubbock selects Kelly Rowe to serve as new sheriff
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
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.