|Volume 7, Issue 34 · Friday, September 4, 2009|
UTEP installs Southwest's first commercial 'green roof'
Energy savings to be realized from reducing heat gains, losses
Officials at The University of Texas at El Paso are seeing green from the money they plan to save with the Southwest's first commercial green roof. A variety of the region's indigenous plant life - ranging from white evening primrose to sun gold gazania - are arranged in modular trays atop UTEP's Biology building - absorbing heat and boosting energy performance.
"Normally roofs serve as heat a collector, which transfers to the inside of the building," said Ed Soltero (pictured), UTEP campus architect and director of the department of Planning and Construction. "So if plants absorb the heat instead, it saves on energy costs."
The plants' color and the velocity of the potting soil breaks up the sun's UV rays, which tempers heat, according to Soltero. Additionally, the plants provide an extra layer of insulation in the winter.
The roof stands to net a savings of between 20 percent and 30 percent on heating and cooling costs, Soltero said.
The green roof's creation marks another step in UTEP's commitment to follow Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principals, which promote environmentally sustainable construction. It includes a 6,304-square-foot research plaza where faculty can perform environmental research and features an automated irrigation system. The unit also hosts all manner of flora and fauna, fostering biodiversity.
"Biodiversity is a small ecosystem," Soltero said. "So you'll get moving seeds, birds, self-supportive cycles, insects, bees, flowers, cross pollination."[more]
Weizenbaum chosen as interim director for DADS
Frederickson serving in interim assistant commissioner role
Jon Weizenbaum (left), formerly deputy commissioner for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) has been named interim commissioner of the agency, effective Sept. 1. Weizenbaum will serve as interim commissioner while a nationwide search for a replacement for former DADS Commissioner Addie Horn is under way. Horn retired from the agency this week. As interim commissioner, Weizenbaum will handle the day-to-day operations at DADS until a new commissioner is announced.
The new interim director began serving the agency as deputy commissioner in May 2006, and previous to that was director for the agency's Center for Policy and Innovation, where he oversaw policy development and oversight, analysis and support and quality assurance and improvement. He also previously served as legislative policy director for the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, specializing in aging and disability services. He is a former director for Communications and Governmental Relations for the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and is a licensed social worker.
Weizenbaum holds master's degrees from The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work and LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Also at DADS, Barry Fredrickson (right) has been named interim Assistant Commissioner for State Supported Living Centers while a search is on for a permanent assistant commissioner. Frederickson has served as director of executive and staff operations at DADS since September 2004, with oversight for Administrative Management Services, Educational Services and Support Services Coordination. Prior to that, he was regional administrator for the Dallas-Fort Worth region of the Department of Human Services, where he was responsible for the program operations and approximately 1,800 employees.
Fredrickson, who has worked with the state-supported living centers on staff hiring and recruitment, retention, training and facility support, assumed his assistant commissioner position on Sept. 2.
New HHSC executive commissioner cites staff changes
Rymal new deputy executive commissioner for financial services
Greta Rymal (pictured) has been selected by newly named Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs to serve as deputy executive commissioner for financial services.
"Greta has three decades of experience with state budgets and a wealth of knowledge about federal funding," Suehs said. "I know she has the skills and experience to provide leadership over our agency budgets."
Rymal has served as HHSC's director of Budget and Fiscal Policy since April 2008. Before joining HHSC, she worked in various capacities for the Legislative Budget Board for nearly three decades, serving as Washington liaison, assistant director, assistant director for federal funds analysis and senior budget examiner for health and human services.
As deputy commissioner for financial services, Rymal will be responsible for budget and fiscal policy, rate setting, forecasting and statistical analysis for the HHSC System, which includes five state agencies with combined budgets of $30 billion a year and 54,000 employees in hundreds of locations.
Additionally, Suehs has named David Kinsey director of Budget and Fiscal Policy. Kinsey, who has been with HHSC for almost nine years, is the former assistant director of the office. He also has worked on the budget and policy staffs of former Lt. Governor Bob Bullock and Speaker Joe Straus. Both selections and reporting changes are effective immediately. Another change being implemented is that CIO Gary Gumbert will now report to Chief of Staff Bobby Halfmann.
Baker Pattillo, president, Stephen F. Austin State University
Career highlights and education: Education: Arp High School, Arp, Texas, 1961; Associate of Art Degree, Tyler Junior College, 1963; Bachelor of Science Degree (English and History), Stephen F. Austin State College, 1965; Master of Education Degree (Guidance; Supporting Field: Educational Administration), Stephen F. Austin State University, 1966; Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Specialization: Educational Administration; Supporting Field: Guidance), Texas A&M University, 1971. Professional Experience: 1966-1970 - Assistant Director of Placement and Student Financial Aid, Stephen F. Austin State College; 1970-1972 - Director of Placement and Student Financial Aid, Stephen F. Austin State College; 1972-1979 - Dean of Student Services, Stephen F. Austin State University; 1979-1982 - Vice President for Student Affairs, Stephen F. Austin State University; 1982-2006 - Vice President for University Affairs, Stephen F. Austin State University; 2006-2007 - Interim President, Stephen F. Austin State University; and 2007-present, President, Stephen F. Austin State University.
What I like best about my job is: Working with students.
The best advice I've received for my current job is: There are no simple solutions to complex problems.
Advice I would give a new hire in my office: Wear purple.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: Walking 'Doches (my Dachshund).
People would be surprised to know that I: enjoy fine arts.
One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: You can receive the best undergraduate education in the state at Stephen F. Austin State University.
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.
Kelly to head up enterprise projects at DIR
Brian Kelly (pictured), director of the Communications Technology Services Division at the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), has been named Enterprise Solutions Director for the agency. His appointment is part of a number of changes at the agency. Kelly's position is a new slot created by DIR Executive Director Brian Rawson. Kelly will support the efforts of Ginger Salone, Deputy Executive Director of Statewide Technology Services, with oversight of the Communications Technology Services, Information Security and eGovernment and IT Policy Divisions.
In his new position, Kelly will provide leadership for critical agency initiatives that cross division boundaries. He was selected for his new position due to his success in rolling out large enterprise projects such as the 211 contact center technology solution and the statewide MPLS network. Kelly has more than 15 years of experience in communications and management functions in both the public and private sectors. Prior to joining DIR, Kelly was employed by a leading gaming technology and service company and for a transaction processing firm where he held various management positions.
DIR will soon announce a job posting for a Deputy Executive Director of Data Center Services, who will support the Technology Center Operations headed by Lara Coffer. Salone will also soon post for a new Director of Communications Technology Services to fill the position vacated by Kelly.
Governor appoints chair, five members to TYC board
The embattled Texas Youth Commission (TYC), which has gone through three conservators since its entire board resigned in March of 2007, has a new board chair and five new board members.
The agency came under fire after allegations of abuse of residents were reported more than two years ago. The TYC executive director subsequently retired, the governor demoted the board chair and eventually the entire board resigned en masse. Since then, the agency was put under conservatorship, a new executive director was hired to put a reorganization plan into place and now new board members have been named.
Chosen by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as chair of the Texas Youth Commission is Scott Fisher (pictured) of Bedford. Fisher is senior pastor of Metroplex Chapel of Euless. He is former member of the Texas Ethics Commission and the TYC Advisory Board.
Also named to the board were Joseph Brown of Sherman, Larry Carroll of Midland, Manson Johnson of Houston, Rolando Olvera of Brownsville and David Teuscher of Beaumont.
Brown is criminal district attorney for Grayson County. He is a member and past president of the Children's Advocacy Center of Grayson County and a former member of the TYC Advisory Board. Carroll is executive director of the Permian Basin Community Centers for Mental Health and Mental Retardation. He is past chair of the Texas Council of Community Mental Health and Mental Retardation Centers Executive Directors' Consortium and a former TYC Advisory Board member. Johnson is pastor of Holman Street Baptist Church in Houston. He is founder and president of Youth Awareness Mentoring Outreach, a member of the Star of Hope Mission Board of Trustees and Caring for Children Advisory Board and former member of the TYC Advisory Board. Olvera is Cameron County District Judge. He is a former member of the Texas Lottery Commission. Teuscher is a licensed physician and orthopaedic surgeon and is chair of the Patient FIRST Coalition of Texas. The terms of all six new board members will expire Sept. 1, 2011.
Texas Cancer Institute: 'Officially open for business'
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is "officially open for business," says CPRIT Executive Director Bill Gimson (pictured), as the institute this week released five cancer research requests for applications (RFAs) only three months after the institute received its first funding. CPRIT is the result of a voter referendum in 2007, which allowed for creation of the institute and the sale of bonds for $3 billion over 10 years. The proceeds will fund cancer research and prevention grants to hasten innovation in cancer treatment and expand cancer prevention services.
The initial funding - $450 million over the next two years - resulted in RFA categories that include Individual Investigator Research Awards, the High Impact/High Risk Research Awards, Recruitment Research Awards for First-time Tenure-track Faculty Members, Rising Stars, and Established Investigators. More RFAs for other services will be released in the coming months.
Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., will chair CPRIT's Scientific Review Council, which will make recommendations for funding research grant awards. CPRIT's Chief Scientific Officer Alfred G. Gilman, M.D., said the RFAs were designed to "be broad and encourage innovation." He predicted "exciting proposals" and the funding of "superb research." For more information on the RFAs, click here. The application system will be open beginning Tuesday, Sept. 15.
TxDOT unveils online traffic Web tools
Hate sitting in traffic? Hate traveling roads that are narrow or need resurfacing?
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently unveiled two new Web site tools that will allow motorists to see listings of congested highways in the state as well as check out pavement conditions. Texans also will be able to see how TxDOT is spending maintenance funds throughout the state.
TxDOT is coordinating with outside resources to provide data used in the new tools. For instance, while TxDOT tracks pavement scores, the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Texas at Austin provides information used to determine the impact of maintenance expenditures. The Texas Transportation Institute provides the information for the list of the top 100 most congested roadways. To view the new Web tools, click here.
LaPlante retires from TSLAC after 35 years
Christopher LaPlante, state archivist and director of the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) for more than 24 years, has retired. LaPlante, whose career at the TSLAC spanned 35 years, began his career at the agency in 1974 as a processing archivist. He was assistant director of the Archives from 1975 to 1985 and state archivist and director of the Archives and Information Services Division from 1985 to 2009. His tenure is the longest of any state archivist.
LaPlante, shown in the accompanying photo accepting a bust of Sam Houston from the Atascosito Historical Society and presented by TSLAC Chair Sandra J. Pickett (left), over the years has had numerous successes including creating greater visibility for the agency on both the state and national level, sponsoring the E-Records Conference for 10 years, creating numerous partnerships among various communities throughout the state and preserving many Texas records such as maps, county records, voters lists and more. His attempts to preserve documents in the public domain, recover stolen documents and keep gubernatorial papers in the public trust were reported in publications such as The New York Times and Texas Monthly.
LaPlante holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Dallas and a master's degree from The University of Texas at Arlington.
ARRA funding rural roads, water projects
Some $20 million in rural public works projects for 75 rural government entities are being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The federal funds, which are distributed by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA), will be used for road and drainage projects, water facilities upgrades and wastewater services improvements.
A total of $19.47 million in Recovery Act funds was allocated for rural community growth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in May. Another $2.1 million in HUD funds through the Texas Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program brought the total in grant funds to more than $20 million. Stimulus funds were awarded to communities that applied for the 2009-10 Community Development program but did not receive grants due to a federal shortfall in funds.
Rural cities with populations less than 50,000 and counties that have a non-metropolitan population under 200,000 are eligible for TDRA's Texas CDBG program. This program serves approximately 1,017 rural communities, 245 rural counties and provides services to more than 375,000 low- to moderate-income beneficiaries each year. To view the awards list, project descriptions and job estimates, click here.
TSTC Waco looking foward to Aerospace Center
Multi-level hangars, training labs and classroom space will be part of a $10.2 million, 85,600-square-foot Aerospace Technology Center at the Texas State Technical College Waco Airport, funded in part by a recent $1.5 million supplemental grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The facility, set to be under construction in summer 2010, will consolidate TSTC Waco's aviation programs that are currently spread out in other facilities and combine its airport operations into a single location.
The facility will also allow for future expansion of high-tech training in Federal Aviation Administration-certified aviation programs and aerospace operations, including aircraft dispatch, air traffic management and others. A new terminal will be funded in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Capital Improvement Program.
TSTC Waco officials are hopeful the new Aerospace Technology Center and the TSTC Waco airport with its 8,600-foot dual runway and air traffic control tower will become an excellent recruiting tool for potential aerospace/aviation-related businesses.
Three finalists named for dean of Bush School
Three finalists have been named to hold the position of dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service - Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs (left), U.S. Army (Ret.); Ryan Crocker (center), former ambassador to Iraq; and S. Enders Wimbush (right), director of the Center for Future Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute in Washington. The three candidates are expected to visit the school this month and next.
Meigs is on the faculty of the Security Studies Program as Visiting Professor of Strategy and Military Operations at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He previously served as director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the U.S. Department of Defense. He has also taught at Syracuse University and was a visiting professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. While on active duty, he was commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe, among other positions.
Crocker is a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq until February of this year and has previously served as ambassador to Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. Wimbush is the director of the Center for Future Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. Prior to that appointment, he spent 10 years in the private sector with a firm analyzing future security environments for government and private sector clients. He also is a former director of Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany.
Austin group seeks grant for 'smart grid' program
The Pecan Street Project of Austin recently applied for a $10.4 million grant to create an "energy Internet" for alternative power in an effort to slow global warming. The Pecan Street Project is a partnership between the city, the city-owned utility and private companies.
The urban power system will be designed to work on a citywide scale to use energy created by thousands of renewable energy sources such as solar panels and plug-in hybrid cars to reduce the use of energy from huge electrical generation plants, said Brewster McCracken, who is expected to serve as the project's executive director. The grant, if approved, will pay for a smart grid demonstration project similar to when the Internet was developed to connect computers via the Web with a uniform system and the right technological tools, he said.
The City of Austin has promised $14 million in infrastructure improvements and Austin Energy may invest more than $200 million for smart grid technology over a five-year period and also plans to apply for a separate $113 million Smart Grid Investment Grant, McCracken said.
PVAMU names Wilson director for new honors program
James A. Wilson (pictured) has been named honors program director for Prairie View A&M University. In his new role, he will oversee the nascent program, which aims at expanding service to gifted students, and lead the expansion of the program into an actual honors college.
Wilson has worked as an assistant professor of history at The University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He has also served as a Peace Corps mentor in Kenya.
Wilson received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's degree from Cornell University and both a master's and doctoral degree from Princeton University.
San Jac College hires facilities expert, diversity aide
San Jacinto College officials recently selected Bryan Jones (left) as the associate vice chancellor of facilities and construction and Christopher Darville (right) as an intern executive assistant to the chancellor to lead a diversity initiative for the college.
Jones, who formerly worked as assistant director of facility systems for Texas Children's Hospital and managed several other multi-million dollar projects, has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University. Jones will oversee several construction projects funded by a $290 million bond approved by voters in 2008. The projects include new and expanded science and allied health facilities at the college's three campuses and renovation of the libraries on each of the campuses.
Darville currently is completing his doctoral student internship at San Jacinto College through the Community College Leadership Program of The University of Texas at Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University and a master's degree from Southeastern Louisiana University. He also has served on the faculty of Dillard University of New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana University. The goal of the diversity initiative is to attract and retain more African-American, Latino and other minority students to San Jacinto College.
Tarleton, A&M-Central Texas, Temple College team up
Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University-Central Texas and Temple College have teamed up to create the Central Texas 2-STEP project, part of a national initiative to encourage the pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM fields). The project came to fruition thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
John Idoux, the project's principal investigator, said STEM fields make up the economic engines that run the country, adding the importance of having "as many of our citizens as possible studying in those areas, graduating in those areas and then going to work in these industries."
Central Texas, with its biomedical and agricultural research centers, especially stands to benefit from an influx of STEM graduates.
Lamar University welcomes new finance, operations VP
Robert "Bob" Lovitt (pictured) has joined Lamar University as vice president for finance and operations.
Since 2005, Lovitt served as executive vice president for finance and administration at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where he oversaw an annual operating budget of $110 million. He has also served as senior vice president for business affairs at The University of Texas at Dallas from 1985 to 2005.
Lovitt holds a master's degree from the University of Nebraska and a bachelor's degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Angelo State budget includes construction projects
The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents has approved two major building projects and a budget of $97,998,558 at Angelo State University. That figure reflects a 4.7 percent increase over last year's.
The budget includes funds for a $7 million project to add 18,000 gross square feet to the Center for Human Performance, which will add a weight room, jogging track, climbing wall and expanded aerobic facility.
The budget also encompasses a $4.38 million renovation of the first floor of the Porter Henderson Library, which will provide an additional commons for students.
TTUHSC uses telemedicine for first pediatric patient
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health has introduced an initiative designed to bring pediatric healthcare access to families in the most rural reaches of the state. Project CHART (Children's Healthcare Access in Rural Texas) delivers healthcare services to children via television. The technology allows the patient to be presented by another physician or nurse from a remote location to a pediatric specialist at one of the TTUHSC campuses.
This week, the delivery of the first live pediatric specialty consultation for a child was completed in Stratford. Stratford is a small rural community more than an hour's drive from Amarillo.
Dr. Billy Philips (pictured), vice president and director of the TTUHSC F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health, said telemedicine, as the process is known, "works in reducing access issues, improves efficiency and adds to the quality of health care delivery" for residents in far-flung areas of the state without ready access to pediatric care.
Funded by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Project CHART will establish 30 sites in all, which offer specialty care for Medicaid-enrolled children in rural areas of the 108 most western counties in Texas.
Lone Star College-Kingwood receives grant for study
The East Montgomery County Improvement District recently awarded a $15,000 grant to Lone Star College-Kingwood to pay for a feasibility study for a new concert hall at the college.
Dr. Katherine Persson (pictured), president of Lone Star College-Kingwood, who requested the funding, said the $15,000 will be added to $35,000 in contributions the college hopes to raise to hire a consultant to determine if it is feasible for the college to build a 1,000-seat concert hall to bring in additional revenue to the community. College officials said they plan to begin a capital campaign to privately raise funds for the proposed concert hall and pledged against using funds from a 2008 bond election to pay for the facility.
UTSA awarded $5M NSF grant for SiViRT center
The National Science Foundation has awarded a team of researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio a $5 million grant - part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act - to establish the Simulation, Visualization and Real-time Prediction (SiViRT) Center for interdisciplinary computer-based research, education and training.
Efstathios (Stathis) Michaelides (pictured), the grant's principal investigator and professor and chair of the UTSA Department of Mechanical Engineering, said the SiViRT Center will offer a platform for engineering, science, statistics, biology and medicine experts a chance to "conduct fundamental and collaborative research with real-world applications."
Broken into two units, the SiViRT Center's imaging team will work to advance the center's imaging capabilities as the center's real-time prediction team attempts to establish a framework that can be applied to everything from cancer treatment modeling and surgical control to intelligent unmanned vehicles.
ACC grant will help train women for green jobs
The Austin Community College has been awarded a $59,800 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau to assist in the recruitment of women into renewable energy training programs. The goal of the grant is to increase the number of females in the training program from the current 10 percent to at least 20 percent over the next year.
"ACC is already a leader in renewable energy related courses, and this puts us even further ahead of the curve," says Kirk White, interim executive dean for Continuing Education. "The grant will enable us to do more to reverse the under-representation of women in an increasingly important field."
New high school graduates will be targeted, as well as current ACC students, women using local workforce board and nonprofit agency services and members of green energy professional groups. Community groups will help advertise the training programs. The ACC training includes solar technology, wind power, green building and weatherization.
DCCCD Richland College President Mittelstet retiring
Dr. Stephen K. Mittelstet (pictured) has announced plans to retire from Dallas County Community College District after four decades of service.
In 1979, Mittelstet began serving as president of DCCCD's Richland College. He held a variety of administrative posts at Richland prior to that charge, beginning in 1972. In addition to his role as president, he also serves as superintendent of Richland Collegiate High School, a dual-credit charter school, which has earned an "exemplary" rating from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) the last three years.
Mittelstet earned his bachelor's degree at McMurry University and his doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin.
Trevino, Herr join Alamo Area Council of Governments
Tim Trevino (right) has been named director of the newly created Public Relations Department at the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG). He comes to the COG after serving as vice president of finance for Aircraft Management International in Mexico. He began his professional career as a senior planner for Solid Waste and Community Development with the Middle Rio Grande Development Council of Governments in Uvalde. He later worked in the banking industry as a senior project specialist, responsible for developing new sector infrastructure projects, promoting business development opportunities and serving as a liaison to the Canadian International Development Agency and Industry Canada-Sustainable Cities Initiative.
Trevino holds a bachelor's degree from Southwestern Universty and a Master's in City Planning with a concentration in international development and regional planning, from MIT.
Also joining AACOG is Ben Herr (left), the new regional transportation director. For the last four years, he served as executive director of the Texas Transit Association and is also a former employee of the Public Transportation Division of the Texas Department of Transportation. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and a master's from Webster University. He is certified as a Community Transit Manager by the Community Transportation Association of America.
Mitchell gift to UTHSC-Houston totals $2.5M
A recent gift of $2.5 million from noted philanthropist and oil tycoon George Mitchell will help establish the George P. and Cynthia W. Mitchell Center for Research in Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
George's wife, Cynthia, became afflicted with the disease, which affects memory, thinking and behavior, in 2001. Since then, the family has committed more than $18 million to Alzheimer's research.
Researchers at the Mitchell Center, which includes Director Claudio Soto, a professor of neurology at UTHSC-Houston, will focus on finding new diagnostic tools to recognize Alzheimer's before brain damage begins. Researchers will also work toward the creation of drugs to delay by decades the onset of symptoms.
Napper to serve as interim head of Scowcroft Institute
The former United States ambassador to Latvia and to Kazakhstan, Larry Napper (pictured), has been named interim director of the Scowcroft Institute for International Affairs of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
Napper retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2005 after more than three decades, including two ambassadorships. Napper will serve on an interim basis at TAMU while a search for a permanent director is under way.
Napper is a senior lecturer at the Bush School. He was U.S. ambassador to Latvia from 1995 to 1998 and U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan from 2001-2004. His service was recognized with the Secretary of State Career Achievement Award and two Presidential Meritorious Service Awards, among others.
UT Tyler cites Wu as new department chair
Dr. Hui Wu (pictured) has been named chair of the Department of Literature and Languages at The University of Texas at Tyler. She replaces Dr. Victor Sherb, English professor, who is returning to teaching. Wu will also serve as an English professor at UT-Tyler.
Prior to joining UT-Tyler, Wu was an associate professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Central Arkansas. She also served there as director of the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Education Project and was founding executive director of the Confucius Institute.
Wu earned her doctorate from Texas Christian University.
Lamar picks Vanderleeuw to serve in Brooks Chair
James Vanderleeuw (pictured), professor of political science, has been named to Lamar University's Jack Brooks Chair in Government and Public Service. A member of the Lamar staff since 1988, Vanderleeuw is director of the university's Center for Public Policy Studies, a role he will continue.
The chair was established in 1997 to recognize U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks' accomplishments in government service and for his contributions to Lamar University. Brooks graduated from Lamar in 1941. Vanderleeuw succeeds James True, who was the founding holder of the Jack Brooks Chair before his retirement from the Lamar faculty.
Vanderleeuw holds a bachelor's degree from Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey, a master's from the University of Nevada-Reno and a Ph.D. from the University of New Orleans.
Lone Star College to buy land for multi-use center
Officials of Lone Star College-North Harris recently agreed to buy 17 acres of land in the Aldine area for $1.8 million.
The land will be used as a site for a 50,000-square-foot multi-use center that is designed to be a center for workforce and academic preparation, economic and community development and for citizenship training for area residents, said Dr. Steve Head (pictured), president of Lone Star College-North Harris. The center will handle up to 3,500 students that supporters hope will also accommodate a child care component and a small business development center, Head said.
The new center also will include the LSC-Carver Center Early College Program, created in partnership with Aldine Independent School District, which offers college credit classes to the general community, and a 20,000-square-foot construction trades training center that will offer workforce certificates and degrees in programs such as heating and air conditioning, dry wall, sheet metal and welding, he said.
El Paso diverts $10.5M for library, technology upgrades
The El Paso City Council recently agreed to divert about $10.5 million set aside for some projects to use it for more pressing projects such as adding more space to the Cielo Vista branch library, improving technology and installing new traffic signals.
Emma Acosta (pictured), who represents the city's East-Central district, said the additional $234,000 allotted to the Cielo Vista branch library currently under construction will allow an additional 1,300 square feet to be added for a multipurpose room, storage area, coffee shop and more parking for the facility.
The council also authorized spending $4 million to connect the city hall and other city operations with fiber optic cable, $1.5 million to upgrade the telephone system, $2.5 million to install traffic signals at 17 intersections and $1 million to install speed bumps, medians, signs and traffic circles to improve traffic flow.
HB 4102 authorizes $62.8M for school repairs
Provisions in House Bill 4102, which provides relief for school districts impacted by disaster, have authorized more than $62.8 million to reimburse districts for repair costs related to Hurricane Ike. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) will manage distribution of the funds.
HB 4102 will also provide reimbursements for school districts that have lost funding from closures due to the H1N1 outbreak last spring and other storm-related damage incurred from the 2008 hurricane season.
The bill also contains measures to aid districts recovering from lower property values on school finance formulas.
DOE announces $114M for Kenedy County wind farm
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Treasury Department have announced $502 million in awards for 12 nationwide, clean-energy projects as part of $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. A rural South Texas wind farm in Sarita, which supplies power for San Antonio, is slated to receive $114 million in funds.
Coastal winds from the Gulf of Mexico power the 84 turbines in Kenedy County at the as-yet-unfinished wind farm, generating enough power for 70,000 homes each year, according to the company. The farm also produces energy for the customers in Karnes, Wharton, Jackson, Victoria, San Patricio and Nueces counties.
When completed, the wind farm project is expected to cost a total of $440 million and cover 300 acres of private land.
San Angelo OKs $1.5 million to dredge Concho River
In an effort to clear thousands of cubic yards of mud from the bottom of the North Concho River, the San Angelo City Council recently authorized spending $1.5 million for the dredging project. The dredging is expected to begin later this year or early next year after specifications for the project are completed and bids are solicited.
The dredging is part of a $7.7 million multi-year project to be paid for with half-cent sales tax funding and is expected to restore the water quality in the river by clearing the river bottom and increasing its flow. The plan calls for the river bottom sludge to be vacuumed with a hydraulic pump on a barge and pumped through a pipeline to city-owned vacant land. The dredging, which will take place from North 14th Street to First Street, is expected to be completed by spring 2010.
Department of Energy awards $13.2M to NCTCOG
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated $13.2 million to North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) to help fund refueling stations and alternative-fuel vehicle fleets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The funds, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will help the region foot the cost of 382 fuel-efficient vehicles and 11 refueling stations.
The following North Texas entities are set to benefit from the award: the cities of Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, Garland, Lake Dallas, McKinney, Richardson and Southlake; Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; Fort Worth Independent School District; Mansfield Independent School District; Tarrant County; and several private vendors.
Other Texas agencies to recently secure DOE grants include the Railroad Commission of Texas ($12.6 million) and Texas State Technical College ($12.3 million).
Arlington voters to consider $197.5M bond package
Arlington voters will consider a $197.5 million bond package in November for a bevy of projects, including a new elementary school in east-central Arlington and expansions of Lamar and Arlington high schools. The package includes $115.8 million for repairs, upgrades and construction; $60 million for technology; $13.3 million for transportation, including new buses; and more than $8.2 million for fine arts.
If voters approve the package, it would add 5 cents to the district's tax rate, beginning next year. The city's tax rate stands at $1.272 per $100 of assessed property value.
Superintendent Jerry McCullough said the bond package was "much needed" since the city's last bond election was 10 years ago.
FEMA allocates funds to Texas fire departments
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded $580,595 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program to various Texas fire departments and organizations. Recipients include:
FEMA has also awarded $566,500 as part of the Fire Prevention and Safety Grants Program to the Texas Department of Insurance for fire prevention and $525,319 to the City of San Juan Fire Department in SAFER grants for hiring procedures.
Memorial Coliseum developers face another setback
Prospective Memorial Coliseum developers are facing another setback as the Texas Historical Commission has declared the Corpus Christi facility can't be torn down without an architectural review since the structure is eligible for designation as a historical landmark. One developer has withdrawn its redevelopment bid as a result of the decision.
Responding to criticism from developers, City Manager Angel Escobar (pictured) said he didn't know why the city didn't know about the review requirement before.
The coliseum, an architecturally significant war memorial built in 1954, closed in 2004. Efforts both for and against redeveloping the structure have proven controversial.
SAISD trustees adopt 2009-2010 budget
San Antonio Independent School District trustees are expected to adopt a 2009-2010 spending plan (totaling $397.5 million) that includes pay raises, stipends for math and science teachers and technology-upgrade funds. That figure leaves the district with a small surplus as trustees expect to take in about $1.5 million more than they plan to spend.
Chief Financial Officer Steven Bassett said the surplus is a result of spending cuts that began three years ago. With a cumulative savings of $34 million -- saved from shaving 433 full-time positions and closing six schools last year - SAISD officials say they are in a position to apply those savings to the classroom.
As the district moves toward a potential May bond election, board President James Howard said the 2009-2010 budget will hopefully demonstrate "we're being good stewards with the taxpayers' money."
Santa Fe approves nearly $9M bond proposals
The Santa Fe City Council has approved three bond proposals for the November ballot. The propositions include $5 million for a new police station, $3 million to expand the Mae S. Bruce Library and $900,000 to build a public works building.
Mayor Ralph Stenzel (pictured) said the low tax rate has residents spoiled, adding the council feels the propositions are justified. "The citizens of Santa Fe need to take a look at them," he said.
The council pulled a fourth proposal from the ballot that would allot $2.69 million for street improvements.
City of Cleveland net $2.2M in TDRA grants
The City of Cleveland has been selected to receive two grants totaling approximately $2.2 million from the Texas Department of Rural Affairs for the purchase of four new generators and drainage improvements in the downtown area. The generators are slated for both of the city's fire stations and water plant.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in conjunction with the Governor's Office's Division of Emergency Management (GDEM), will also provide 75 percent of the cost ($496,000) for new generators at city hall and the civic center. The city is required to provide a 25 percent match, expected to cost between $100,000 and $150,000.
Corpus Christi seeks $8M state grant for water pipeline
Corpus Christi City Council members recently authorized city staff to request an $8 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to design and permit a pipeline to bring the city water from the Lower Colorado River.
TWDB received requests totaling $33 million for the deferred loan program that has $25 million available for the loans, said Mayor Joe Adame (pictured). The deferred loan program allows payments to be deferred and no interest to be accrued for 10 years, but must be repaid in 20 years. The agency is expected to announce grant awards for the deferred loan program this month, he said.
Planning and permitting for the proposed water pipeline will take at least two years. Corpus Christi city officials purchased rights to the Lower Colorado River in 1997 and has rights to 35,000 acre feet annually, which some fear could be lost if the city doesn't tap into it soon, the mayor said. The city's system currently uses about 175,000 acre feet. The state loan will be used for engineering studies to decide which of two routes the pipeline should take from the Lower Colorado to Lake Texana, how much right-of-way would need to be purchased, the cost to buy the right-of-way and to obtain construction permits from all regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Calallen ISD mulls partnership for new aquatic center
After learning that the cost of a proposed new aquatic center surpassed the $2.3 million approved by voters in 2007, trustees for the Calallen Independent School District recently discussed the possibility of creating a public-private partnership with an athletic club to help pay for an aquatic center. The bond proposal also included an indoor practice field for baseball, football and the band to be built inside the aquatic center. Price estimates for the facility, however, ranged from $4.5 million to $3.1 million, the least costly of options currently under consideration.
After hearing details of Option C, which would replace two concrete apron areas for the indoor practice field and with synthetic turf and eliminate diving capability from the proposed eight-lane pool, trustees also learned the proposed center would cost the district from $61,000 to $87,000 in annual maintenance costs, depending on how many chemicals would be required and whether the district purchased a cover for the pool.
Superintendent Arturo Almendarez (pictured) reminded of an earlier option of having the school district form a public-private partnership with the Bay Area Athletic Club to build an aquatic center. Preliminary negotiation called for the district to pay about $1 million for construction of a pool at the athletic club with the option of using it for swim classes, meets and practice. The athletic club would pay for maintenance and upkeep. Trustees took no action on the proposal and plan to discuss the proposed aquatic center at their next meeting.
Lampasas scores $100,000 federal grant for ed center
Lampasas city officials recently learned that the city won a $100,000 grant to pay for a higher education center in that city. The Texas Department of Agriculture awarded the grant through its Parallel Pathways to Success Program to offer rural high school students a more flexible education system.
The proposed Lampasas County Higher Education Center will offer both vocational courses and college courses to high school students, said Mayor Judith Hetherly, who oversaw the grant application. The city, the Lampasas Economic Development Corporation, Lampasas ISD and the county all supported the application and agreed to furnish matching funds and partner in the creation of the center, Hetherly said. Central Texas College and Texas A&M University-Central Texas are listed as partners in the project.
The education center most likely will be located in a middle school left vacant when the district added two new campuses. Dual-credit courses should be available through the center in January, she said.
'Pipeline' can help identify, increase opportunities
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Looking for transportation-related contracting opportunities? Try Texas!
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
A multi-billion-dollar investment in transportation is part of the foundation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And, billions of dollars of stimulus funding are flowing into Texas.
Of all the stimulus funding received by the state, transportation has captured almost 13 percent of it. The next largest funding categories are health and human services at 29.4 percent and education at 28.4 percent.
While there have been some infrastructure projects that include building roads and bridges, of the $48 billion allocated to transportation infrastructure nationwide, $8.4 billion has been dedicated for transit capital improvements. As more people become willing to park their automobiles and use mass transit, interest in light rail increases and the government is determined to see that the momentum continues.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has named 660 transit providers as recipients of a combined $6.7 billion in funding. Facing a September deadline to have at least 50 percent of its Recovery Act funding allocated, FTA recently reported it not only met that deadline, but has available another $900 million in discretionary funds to distribute under other transit programs.[more]
Grayson Co. to ask voters
Notary law, procedure seminar being offered by AACOG
Current, new and non-notary participants who would like to earn their Texas notary public commission can attend the Alamo Area Council of Governments' upcoming three-hour quarterly Notary Law and Procedure seminar. The seminar is slated for Thursday, Oct. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the AACOG Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. Dixie Lucey, director of education for the State Notary Commission, will teach the seminar. For more information on the seminar and how to register, click here.
6th Annual Tee IT Up Texas IT golf tourney slated
The annual Tee IT Up Texas customer appreciation golf tournament is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30, at Lions' Municipal Golf Course. The tournament is an annual event for IT vendors and their public sector/government customers. Watch for more information in future editions of the Texas Government Insider regarding registration and sponsorship opportunities. Those who have have not been on the communication list before should send an e-mail to the Tee IT Up Texas Tournament Director, Scott Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org), to add their names to the list.
AACOG plans Sept. 28 Hydrogen Education Workshop
The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) will host a Hydrogen Education Workshop on Monday, Sept. 28, from 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the AACOG Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. The workshop is open to persons interested in the latest in hydrogen technology - such as fuel cells - and applications including transportation. An "idea session" will be part of the afternoon session and will deal with introduction of applications of hydrogen-powered vehicles and transportation in the community. For more information about the event and registration, click here.
Texas Conference on Regionalism slated in September
The 2009 Texas Conference on Regionalism: A Bridge Across Texas will be held Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 16-18, on South Padre Island. The event is co-hosted by the Texas Association of Regional Councils and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. Some of the topics for staff development and training workshops include economic development, criminal justice, 9-1-1, homeland security, solid waste and aging. Some topics for concurrent sessions include Economic Development ABCs, Planning for Aging Communities, Interoperable Communications, Technology Trends in Public Safety and Managing Grants and Subgrants Under the Recovery Act. Some exhibit hall and sponsorship opportunities are still available. To view the draft agenda for the event, click here. To register, click here.
TML getting ready for October annual conference
The Texas Municipal League will host its 97th Annual Conference and Exhibition Tuesday through Friday, Oct. 20-23, at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Each day of the conference will feature concurrent sessions and keynote speakers. The TML Board of Directors meeting will be Friday, Oct. 23. Among the many topics for the concurrent sessions are: State-of-the-Art Technology for Small Cities, Successful Economic Development in a Difficult Economy and Protecting City Accounts from Identity Theft. There will be an interactive session on dealing with difficult personalities. Other topics will be federal issues of importance to cities, community policing, preparing critical IT structure systems for disaster, maximizing retail opportunities, strategic planning and more. Among the keynote speakers will be Craig Karges, who combines magic with psychology and intuition to explore the potential of the human mind. For more information, click here. To register online, click here.