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Austin, TX 78744

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In the News

Llano transportation & economic development plan begins

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Llano County Commissioners’ Court hosted CAPCOG on Nov. 24 to announce support for a 2015 countywide transportation and economic development plan.

The effort, funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, will pick up steam in early 2015 as the county nominates advisory committees from public and private sectors. TxDOT and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute started researching traffic patterns and future trends. CAPCOG will combine their research with economic and demographic info to create a data-driven plan for the future county growth.

Counties outside Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s jurisdiction can use comprehensive prioritization of transportation projects to get the most from out-of-state and federal funding sources and to preserve right-of-way corridors.

The upcoming planning process will include surveys, stakeholder work sessions, and several public meetings to ensure the plan represents Llano County residents.

> Contact Chad Coburn, CAPCOG manager of community development and planning, for more information.
> Read more about CAPCOG's Community and Economic Development Program.

CAPCOG offers basic telecommunicators course

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments offered its first 40 Hour Basic Telecommunicator Licensing Course from Nov. 10 to Nov. 14, 2014 helping 19 9-1-1 operators meet a new state requirement. Additional courses will be available throughout the 2015 fiscal year.

The Basic Telecommunicator Licensing Course is now a required course by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) that emergency telecommunicators must complete within their first year of hire.

The 40 hour course is designed to provide a beginning telecommunicator with an understanding of situations encountered in an emergency communications environment. Course content includes training such as radio dispatching, call taking, call classification, emergency and non-emergency situations, liability and legal issues and stress management.

The 19 students in attendance were from Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) throughout the CAPCOG region and other outside agencies. They all passed the final exam with a required score of 85 or higher. The course is offered to CAPCOG’s regional PSAPs at no charge.

> Find future training courses.
> Learn more about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.
> Contact Kelsey Dean, CAPCOG PSAP specialist.

TCEQ extends emission reduction grant opportunity

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) extended the grant application process for its Emissions Reduction Incentive Grant Program.

Applications now will be accepted until 5 p.m., Dec. 16, 2014.

> Apply for the grant on the Texas Emission Reduction Plan website.

The grant encourages entities to upgrade or replace heavy-duty on-road vehicles or non-road equipment, equipment, locomotives, marine vessels, stationary equipment, refueling infrastructure, on-site electrification and idle reduction infrastructure, on-vehicle electrification and idle reduction infrastructure, and rail relocation and improvement projects in Texas.

Entities that operate or plan to operate such vehicles and equipment in the nonattainment areas and other areas of Texas, to include the Austin area, are eligible for the grant.

> Discover more air quality grant opportunities.
> Read about the Capital Area Council of Governments’ Air Quality Program.

Proposed Ozone Standards Pose a Challenge for Central Texas

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Proposed new national ground-level ozone standards put Central Texas at risk of being designated a “nonattainment” area by 2017. However, ongoing regional air quality planning efforts could make the difference in preserving the region’s attainment status. On Nov. 26, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed tightening the “primary” ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65-70 ppb to protect public health and welfare. Ozone levels in Central Texas are currently within the range proposed by EPA for the standards.

While ozone levels in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) — Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties — continue to improve, progress may not occur quickly enough to remain in compliance under the proposed standards. If EPA sets the new primary ozone standard at the lowest end of its proposed range –65 ppb – current projections indicate that continuing and strengthening the region’s emission reduction program will be necessary to stay in attainment.

If EPA designates Central Texas “nonattainment” for ground-level ozone, which might occur by October 2017, there could be significant economic impacts for the region. New regulations could restrict industrial expansion, delay funding for roadway construction, and increase the cost of doing business throughout the region. The regulatory consequences of a nonattainment designation could last for 25-40 years.

Ongoing regional air quality planning efforts are led by the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC), which consists of local elected officials from all five counties in the Austin-Round Rock MSA. They have developed a series of voluntary emission reduction plans that have helped the region remain in attainment of EPA’s air quality standards following the last two revisions to the ground-level ozone standards.

These nationally-recognized efforts are supported by local businesses, government entities, and nonprofit organizations, as well as state programs designed to reduce local emissions. Regarding the challenge the region may face addressing the proposed standards, CAC Chair and outgoing Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said, “Central Texans should be very proud of the efforts our region has successfully pursued, and will continue to pursue, in order to stay in attainment of national ozone standards. Continued collaboration will help ensure the best possible protection for public health and protection against costs arising from a possible nonattainment designation.” The region’s planning efforts earned the CAC the EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for Community Engagement in 2014.

High ozone levels can cause breathing problems, particularly for children, seniors, and people who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. High ozone can also cause damage to plants and reduce growth rates for vegetation. Many countries have set ozone standards similar to what EPA has proposed, although implementation methods vary. For comparison, Canada has set its ozone standard at 65 ppb; the European Union ozone standard is 60 ppb; the United Kingdom has an ozone standard of 50 ppb.

> Discover more about the region's air quality.
Download CAPCOG's - EPA Ozone Standard Fact Sheet.

EPA announces proposed air quality standards

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Source: The Environmental Protection Agency

WASHINGTON – Based on extensive recent scientific evidence about the harmful effects of ground-level ozone, or smog, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to strengthen air quality standards within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to better protect Americans’ health and the environment, while taking comment on a level as low as 60 ppb. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards every five years by following a set of open, transparent steps and considering the advice of a panel of independent experts. EPA last updated these standards in 2008, setting them at 75 ppb.

"Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk. It empowers the American people with updated air quality information to protect our loved ones - because whether we work or play outdoors – we deserve to know the air we breathe is safe,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act has always been EPA’s responsibility. Our health protections have endured because they’re engineered to evolve, so that’s why we’re using the latest science to update air quality standards – to fulfill the law’s promise, and defend each and every person’s right to clean air.”

EPA scientists examined numerous scientific studies in its most recent review of the ozone standards, including more than 1,000 new studies published since the last update. Studies indicate that exposure to ozone at levels below 75 ppb – the level of the current standard – can pose serious threats to public health, harm the respiratory system, cause or aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and is linked to premature death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes.

Ground-level ozone forms in the atmosphere when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds “cook” in the sun from sources like cars, trucks, buses, industries, power plants and certain fumes from fuels, solvents and paints. People most at risk from breathing air containing ozone include people with asthma, children, older adults, and those who are active or work outside. Stronger ozone standards also will provide an added measure of protection for low income and minority families who are more likely to suffer from asthma or to live in communities overburdened by pollution. Nationally, 1 in 10 children has been diagnosed with asthma.

According to EPA’s analysis, strengthening the standard to a range of 65 to 70 ppb will provide significantly better protection for children, preventing from 320,000 to 960,000 asthma attacks and from 330,000 to 1 million missed school days. The new standard also could prevent more than 750 to 4,300 premature deaths; 1,400 to 4,300 asthma-related emergency room visits; and 65,000 to 180,000 missed workdays.

EPA estimates the benefits of meeting the proposed standards will significantly outweigh the costs.  If the standards are finalized, every dollar we invest to meet them will return up to three dollars in health benefits. These large health benefits will be gained from avoiding asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed school days and premature deaths, among other health effects valued at $6.4 to $13 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $19 to $38 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 65 ppb.  Annual costs are estimated at $3.9 billion in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $15 billion for a standard at 65 ppb.

A combination of recently finalized or proposed air pollution rules – including “Tier 3” clean vehicle and fuels standards – will significantly cut smog-forming emissions from industry and transportation, helping states meet the proposed standards. EPA’s analysis of federal programs that reduce air pollution from fuels, vehicles and engines of all sizes, power plants and other industries shows the vast majority of U.S. counties with monitors would meet the more protective standards by 2025 just with the rules and programs now in place or underway. Local communities, states, and the federal government have made substantial progress in reducing ground-level ozone. Nationally, from 1980 to 2013, average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent. EPA projects this progress will continue.
The Clean Air Act provides states with time to meet the standards. Depending on the severity of their ozone problem, areas would have between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standards. To ensure people are alerted when ozone reaches unhealthy levels, EPA is proposing to extend the ozone monitoring season for 33 states. This is particularly important for at-risk groups, including children and people with asthma because it will provide information so families can take steps to protect their health on smoggy days.

The agency is also proposing to strengthen the “secondary” ozone standard to a level within 65 to 70 ppb to protect plants, trees and ecosystems from damaging levels of ground-level ozone. New studies add to the evidence showing that repeated exposure to ozone stunts the growth of trees, damages plants, and reduces crop yield. The proposed level corresponds to levels of seasonal ozone exposure scientists have determined would be more protective.

EPA will seek public comment on the proposal for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register, and the agency plans to hold three public hearings. EPA will issue final ozone standards by October 1, 2015.

> View EPA’s proposal.
> Read more about EPA air quality standards.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.
> Read the CAPCOG Air Quality Program's EPA Ozone Standard Fact Sheet.

Environmental summit to take place in Bastrop

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Texas Senator Kirk Watson will conduct the 2014 Central Texas Environmental Summit “Collaboration Along the Corridor,” so community stakeholders can learn about and discuss solutions to environmental challenges facing the area.

The summit will take place from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 8, at the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center, 1408 Chestnut St. in Bastrop.
Keynote speakers will address two topics: Texas Water Update: Drought, Water Conservation, and State’s Role; and Central Texas Air Quality Update.

Key state and regional government staff will man outreach and education booths to provide one-on-one discussion opportunities and answer questions for attendees. The Capital Area Council of Governments Solid Waste and Air Quality programs will present exhibits in their areas of expertise. 

Attendance is free, but registration is required. 

> Learn more about and register for the Central Texas Environmental Summit.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.
> Find out about CAPCOG’s Solid Waste Program.

Schreck delivers economic expertise to region

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chris Schreck, the Capital Area Council of Governments’ Economic Development Manager, wants to bring economic growth expertise to every jurisdiction in the region. He is eager to lend expertise but also is seeking to learn more from the region’s communities.

“I’m a big believer in development initiatives that begin with the community,” Schreck said. “People have their priorities and places have their unique assets. Economic development that begins by taking an inventory of those items can reveal really unique opportunities to create growth and jobs while preserving or creating a distinct sense of place.”

Schreck already is meeting with jurisdictions throughout the region, such as Eanes Independent School District, to present on economic development opportunities.

Before coming to CAPCOG in October, Schreck provided economic and technology policy consulting for SRI International, where he focused on technology-based economic development, higher education, and economic data analysis.

Schreck also is developing the next Capital Area Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy with the CAEDD, which creates and supports goals and objectives the region should seek to continue economic prosperity. 

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG's Economic Development Manager.
> Learn more about the Community and Economic Development Program.

CAPCOG seeks projects for Homeland Security Grant

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) is accepting requests from counties and cities in the CAPCOG region for projects to be funded through the FY 2015 Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP).

As in previous years, it is anticipated that Fiscal Year 2015 HSGP funding will continue to be limited and will focus on sustaining capabilities developed during prior funding cycles. CAPCOG is awaiting additional guidance about specific federal and state priorities and will make this information available on the CAPCOG website as it becomes available.

This grant is being administered in accordance with the “Capital Area Council of Governments FY 2015 Homeland Security Program Regional Grant Process,” as approved by the CAPCOG Executive Committee Sept. 10, 2014.

> Read the FY 2015 Homeland Security Program Regional Grant Process.

To apply, each jurisdiction must submit a project worksheet form for each project no later than 5 p.m., Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Instructions for completion of this form are contained in it. Late or incomplete submissions cannot be accepted.

In addition, jurisdictions planning to apply for this funding must complete a survey regarding their implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Failure to complete this survey by the deadline, Dec. 4, 2015, will disqualify jurisdictions from consideration for Fiscal Year 2015 HSGP funding. Jurisdictions are encouraged to complete this survey even if they do not plan to apply for HSGP funding.

> Take the survey.

For any questions or request for additional information, please contact Ed Schaefer, CAPCOG’s Homeland Security director.

> Download the FY 2015 project worksheet form.
> Read the grant announcement.

AAACAP accepts medication screenings by mail

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area is expanding its free medication screening capabilities so more seniors and caregivers can access the service and prevent possible negative effects of combining medicines.

Screening applications are now available online. Elderly caregivers and people who are 60 or older can download the form and mail it to 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, Texas, 78744.

> Download the applications here.

Allowing digital access to the free medication screenings will let people across the 10-county region receive the benefit of their prescriptions and other medicines being reviewed for negative reactions, cost savings and effectiveness.

Since St. David’s Foundation and Department of Aging and Disability Services awarded the grant, AAACAP has provided 417 medication screenings.

> Discover more services provided by AAACAP.
> Learn more about medication screens and download the forms to mail.

RETF cameras catch illegal dumpers in the act

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Using a camera purchased by the Capital Area Council of Government’s Regional Environmental Task Force, Williamson County Deputy Constable Eric Thomas is on the verge of closing four illegal dumpsite cases in two months. He has issued two warrants, made one arrest, and one case is still outstanding.

CAPCOG purchased 10 SpyPoint cameras to assist with illegal dumping surveillance in earlier 2014, and an additional 10 cameras are on order. The current cameras, which have already spent almost 1,000 hours in the field, have helped apprehend illegal dumpers and cleaning up dumpsites.

> Learn more about the RETF.

Because the cameras have worked so well for Thomas, Williamson County Constable Kevin Stofle purchased two additional cameras to assist the deputy’s efforts.

“They have been very effective in showing what was going on at these dumpsites,” Thomas said.

In some cases, the use of surveillance in the area has led the Constable’s office to create deterrents for people using an illegal dumpsite, such as where to post signage or showing how and why people access the site. In other instances, the equipment captured video of non-environmental criminal activity which helped the Williamson County Sheriff’s office make arrests.

One of the most important parts of having access to the cameras is they become a force multiplier, said Sgt. Douglas MacDougall, an investigator for the Travis County Attorney’s office.A SpyPoint camera, which is being used by the RETF to help catch illegal dumpers, is hung in a tree as a demonstration.

Twenty-four hour surveillance on an illegal dumpsite at minimum would require three officers, but it should have six, said MacDougall. That costs law enforcement agencies time and money.  A camera however can drastically decrease the personnel resources and time spent at a scene.

One officer can spend three hours or less getting the information from a camera and reviewing it in a sped up manner, MacDougall said.

“With the case load I carry, I can set it up in the area and come back in a week’s time to check the activity,” Thomas said. He normally replaces batteries and gets the footage at the same time. “It definitely gives us a tool to better utilize our time.”

Being the only person, who works environmental crimes for Williamson County precincts 2 and 3, time is important. Thomas currently has 75 active cases spanning on issues of nuisance to illegal dumping to hazardous waste complaints.

> Help stop illegal dumping by reporting incidents.

MacDougall, who serves a third of Travis County and assists with cases in the nine other CAPCOG counties, visits and works investigations on about 20 illegal dumpsites a week.

“There is not a ton of us that do environmental crime work,” MacDougall said. “But now we have 10 camera systems that are expandable that we can give to people in the 10 counties. It is to their benefit and ultimately to the region’s benefit, because ultimately solid waste dumping affects the whole region and enters the water system.”

RETF members can reserve a camera and schedule a pickup or drop-off time for the equipment.

> Contact Ken May, CAPCOG Regional Services Director.
> Contact Matt Holderread, CAPCOG Solid Waste Program Planner.

Workshops set for strategic criminal justice plan revisions

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments and its Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC) are coordinating two meetings for input on Regional Strategic Criminal Justice Plan revisions.

The plan identifies gaps and prioritizes needs related to direct victim assistance, juvenile justice, mental health, and criminal justice services. Regional criminal justice stakeholders developed the plan last year.

> Read the current Regional Strategic Criminal Justice Plan.

Agendas for the meetings will include a presentation and review of the 2014 plan, an analysis of data on past state funding to the region, and small group discussions to identify needs and suggest plan priority revisions. Topics will include training; direct services; education and outreach; housing, sheltering, or other facility needs; investigation and/or prosecution; support technology and equipment; and personnel support.

Criminal justice planners can attend the meetings at the following times and locations:

  • 9 to 11 a.m., Nov.  14, at J.B. Hallie Jester Building, 1801 Old Settlers Blvd., Round Rock, Texas.
  • 9 to 11 a.m., Nov. 19, in the CAPCOG Pecan Room, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, Texas.

A complete analysis of regional input and data from the meetings will be provided to CJAC in December to develop plan revisions.

> Contact Chad Coburn, CAPCOG manager of community development planning.
> Read more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Advisory Committee.

EPA offers technical assistance workshop for sustainable economic growth

Monday, November 03, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is soliciting letters of interest from local governments, so it can provide technical assistance for up to 25 communities about ways to promote sustainable economic growth.

The Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program helps increase a community’s capacity to implement smart growth and sustainable approaches by demonstrating to local communities how to use various tools. The growth techniques in the program strive to protect the environment, improve public health, create jobs, expand economic opportunity, prepare for the effects of climate change, and improve overall quality of life.

The program will provide technical assistance through a 1- to 2-day workshop on a specific smart growth development topics to include:

  • Bikeshare Planning
  • Equitable Development
  • Infill Development for Distressed Cities
  • Sustainable Strategies for Small Cities and Rural Areas
  • Flood Resilience for Riverine and Coastal Communities

The deadline to apply to participate in the program is Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014.

> Learn more about and apply for the program.
> Read about CAPCOG’s Economic Development Program.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Solid Waste Planning Program.

Got questions about text-to-9-1-1? Get answers

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Source: Answers are compiled from the FCC and CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Director, Gregg Obuch.

If cellphone users in the Capital Area text their emergency to 9-1-1 today, they would receive a message telling them to call. But soon those messages will be answered by a live operator who can dispatch the proper emergency responders.

While a few areas in the United States already rolled out a text-to-9-1-1 service, the Capital Area Council of Governments and the Capital Area Emergency Communications District anticipate responding to text-to-9-1-1 reported emergencies in 2015.

But what is text-to-9-1-1, and why would someone want to use it?
Text-to-9-1-1 is the ability to send a "short message" (SMS) or other kind of text message to 9-1-1. Texting during an emergency could be helpful if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or if a voice call might otherwise be dangerous or impossible. However, those who are able should always call 9-1-1.

Do area phone companies support text-to-9-1-1, and do regional Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) have the equipment and training to use it?
The "Big Four” wireless carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – began providing text-to-9-1-1 capabilities in mid-May of this year. Under current FCC requirements, other service providers have until Dec. 31, 2014 to provide the service. The PSAPs in the CAPCOG region have the necessary equipment in place. Training for call takers will be provided before text-to-9-1-1 is activated in the region. Planning for the deployment of text-to-9-1-1 currently is underway.

Why is it important to plan the implementation of text-to-9-1-1?
Text messaging is one of the primary ways people communicate today, especially younger people and people with hearing and speech disabilities. Several studies estimate more than 6 billion SMS text messages are sent daily in the United States. To ensure emergency texts are routed to the proper 9-1-1 center; it requires proper coordination with each service provider.

What are issues CAPCOG and the emergency communications district want to avoid when implementing text-to-9-1-1?
A key challenge in activating text-to-9-1-1 in our regional call centers is selecting the text-to-9-1-1 platform that works best in the emergency call centers. CAPCOG is conducting extensive research and reviewing methods used by other 9-1-1 areas that participated in the testing phase of the deployment and were the first to activate text to 9-1-1 in their areas. This will help CAPCOG and the regional call centers select the best option that fits our needs.

If I am able to text-to-9-1-1, will the 9-1-1 center automatically know my location?
Texting 9-1-1 is different from making a voice call. During a voice call to 9-1-1, the call taker will typically receive a phone number and the phone’s approximate location automatically. This is called "Enhanced 911" or "E911." However, in most cases when texting 9-1-1 from a wireless phone, the call taker will not receive this automated information. For this reason, it is important to give the 9-1-1 call taker an accurate address or location as quickly as possible when using text-to-9-1-1.

If text-to-911 is available to me, why should people use it only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option?
Voice calls to 9-1-1 are usually the most efficient way to reach emergency help. For example, voice calls allow the 9-1-1 operator to more quickly ask questions and obtain information from the caller, while two-way communication by text can take more time and is subject to limits on the length of text messages.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division.
> Learn more about text-to-9-1-1.

CAPCOG seeks nominations for Jack Griesenbeck Award

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments will accept nominations for its annual Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award until Nov. 7.

Named after Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck, who was CAPCOG’s first chairman, the award traditionally honors someone that consistently advocates a regional and multijurisdictional approach through their work with local governments, nonprofits, and other organization. Nominations can be either an elected official or a volunteer who has played a pivotal role in bringing the spirit of regionalism to the 10-county CAPCOG region.

CAPCOG has honored individuals with this award for more than 10 years. Previous recipients of the award include:

  • Mayor Kirk Watson, City of Austin
  • Dr. W. Neal Kocurek
  • Robert J. Huston, Chair of Texas Commission of Environmental Quality
  • Mayor Ray Sanders, City of Lockhart
  • Bob Daigh, Texas Department of Transportation Austin District Engineer
  • Texas Senator Gonzalo Barrientos
  • Mike Simpson, City of Austin and Texas Radio Coalition
  • County Judge H.T. Wright, Caldwell County
  • Police Chief Mark Whitacre, City of Marble Falls
  • Texas Senator Troy Fraser
  • Mike Fisher, Emergency Management Coordinator of Bastrop County
  • Seth S. Searcy, Attorney at Law

To submit nominations to CAPCOG, download the form and submit it to Mason W. Canales, the CAPCOG member services coordinator, by email or fax, 512-916-6001, by Nov. 7. The recipient of the award will be announced at the Dec. 10 CAPCOG General Assembly meeting.

> Download the Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award nomination form.
> Contact Mason W. Canales, the CAPCOG member services coordinator.
> Read about last year’s honoree, Seth S. Searcy.

Schreck joins CAPCOG to aid economic development across the region

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chris Schreck has joined the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) staff as its economic development manager. In the position, he will assist with regional economic planning and provide analysis support for entities in CAPCOG’s 10 counties.

Schreck looks forward to helping area communities take advantage of economic opportunities as the region’s technological, demographic, and competitive landscapes continue to develop.

Prior to starting at CAPCOG, Schreck provided economic and technology policy consulting for SRI International, where he focused on technology-based economic development, higher education, and economic data analysis. He also worked for the US Treasury Department and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and provided wireless market forecasting for IMS Research.

Schreck earned a master of public policy from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG’s community and economic development manager.
> Read more about CAPCOG’s community and economic development program.

AAACAP aids residents with Medicare enrollment

Friday, October 10, 2014

Benefit counselors with the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) are prepped to assist those in the region with Medicare open enrollment that starts Oct. 15.

Medicare open enrollment is the one time of year people who use Medicare can switch their Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage plans. There are so many choices involved in selecting a Medicare program; it can be hard for people to determine what provides the best savings for them.

AAACAP counselors are available to help navigate those tough decisions. They also provide screening for qualification into the Medicare Savings Program and low-income subsidies for every person they counsel during the open enrollment period.

Residents can receive assistance from AAACAP benefit counselors at 512-916-6062 or toll free 888-622-9111, ext. 6062.

> Learn more about Medicare open enrollment.
> Discover more about AAACAP benefit counselor services.

Bastrop County and its students promote sustainability

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Several Bastrop County entities teamed up to improve proper household hazardous waste disposal and recycling awareness and reduce the amount of trash entering landfills.

In September, Bastrop County, the cities and school districts of Elgin and Smithville, and Keep Bastrop County Beautiful began creating an informational campaign that will educate the public about their local waste disposal options.

Students around the county will be the primary movers and shakers by creating the campaign, which is anticipated to be completed before the end of the school year.

Bob Haisler’s high school marketing class in Elgin ISD will develop print materials such as bookmarks, advertisements, and other traditional media to distribute to students, place in public buildings and hand out at events.

Smithville ISD students will create videos about how to reduce, reuse, recycle, and, when all else fails, keep hazardous waste off garbage trucks and out of landfills. The videos will be posted on several social media sites operated by entities throughout the county.

 “I am so very proud to see Bastrop County students working together and using new media to educate the public about the importance of proper disposal of hazardous household waste,” said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. “This program enables us to continue achieving the goals we established in our regional Solid Waste Management Plan (back in 2007) to reduce improper disposal of hazardous materials and stop illegal dumping in our beautiful county.”

The Capital Area Council of Governments administered about $7,500 in grant funds for the project through its Solid Waste program, which selects local projects to receive state funds acquired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“This grant supports our commitment to sustainability in Bastrop County, and we appreciate the confidence and support from the Capital Area Council of Governments,” Pape said.

The projects also will update Keep Bastrop County Beautiful’s interactive website and the companion “Talking Trash in Bastrop County” guidebook.

The program continues a long partnership between Bastrop County and its cities and school districts. The entities worked on the Recycling in the Schools project in 2010, which provided recycling resources for Smithville and Cedar Creek schools, and the Household Hazardous Waste Clean Up in 2013. Both were funded in part by the CAPCOG Solid Waste program.

> Visit Keep Bastrop County Beautiful’s website.
> Read more about the CAPCOG Solid Waste Program.
> Contact Jill Strube, Bastrop County grant administrator, or Jack Page, Smithville public works director

General Assembly approves CAPCOG FY 2015 Budget

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Capital Area Council of Governments General Assembly representatives in September approved a $23.8 million budget for expenses during the 2015 fiscal year.

The FY 2015 budget will continue to support CAPCOG’s numerous programs such as nutrition assistance of older adults, air quality planning, and the regional law enforcement academy. But it also allows for the expansion of other programs to include the creation of an Aging and Disability Resource Center and a Homeland Security Emergency Management disaster debris management plan.

Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area’s portion of the budget included $7.9 million in expenditures and the Capital Area Emergency Communication District’s budget included $11.9 million in expenditures.

The General Assembly also appointed the nominating committee that will help select CAPCOG’s 2015 Executive Committee.

The next General Assembly meeting will be Dec. 10.

> Download the CAPCOG Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Budget and Work Plan.
> Read more about the General Assembly.

Regional Law Enforcement Academy graduates 23

Thursday, October 02, 2014

CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy cadets of the No. 72 Basic Peace Officer Course prepare to enter their graduation ceremony at the Texas Capitol on Sept. 26.

Eight of the 23 cadets from the CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy No. 72 Basic Peace Officer Course filled positions in area policing agencies right after graduation on Sept. 26. The remaining cadets are expected to also obtain jobs in the region after completing testing for peace officer positions in area communities.

With the region’s growth, there are plenty of opportunities for cadets to serve the public as law enforcement officers. CAPCOG and the academy are honored to help fill that need by providing practical training and exercises to ensure cadets become TCOLE certified before serving their communities.

The cadets also learned about opportunities outside the region when police departments from Houston, College Station, Flower Mound, Pasadena and Lubbock pitched their agencies to the cadets during the five-month course.

Other departments coming to the academy is a testament to the training CAPCOG is offering, said Mike Jennings, RLEA director. “I would like to think that it says our academy is recognized as one of the best for producing a quality police officer.”

The eight cadets will become officers for San Marcos and Llano police departments, Caldwell and Williamson counties sheriff’s offices, and the Travis County Fire Marshall’s Office.

Another full-time, day class is accepting registration for a course beginning in January 2015.

> Learn details about the January 2015 Basic Peace Officer Course.
> Discover more training opportunities offered by CAPCOG.

Lee County Commissioner earns statewide leadership award

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lee County Commissioner Maurice Pitts poses with Penny Redington, Texas Association of Regional Councils executive director, after receiving the TARC Regional Leadership Award given in honor of Wilbur R. Dunk.

The Texas Association of Regional Councils (TARC) in late September presented Lee County Commissioner Maurice Pitts with its 2014 regional leadership award.

Pitts earned the award, which is given in honor of former Kimble County Judge Wilbur Dunk, because he has shown extraordinary dedication to the purposes and possibilities of regional cooperation through his work with councils of governments, stated TARC.

Commissioner Pitts, having served on Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) boards and committees for more than two decades, is a true advocate and spokesman for regionalism, said Betty Voights, CAPCOG executive director. Pitts always has been a board member who is consistently active in CAPCOG's programs and committees.

Pitts, a current CAPCOG Executive Committee member, is the 19th person to earn the award since its inaugural year in 1995. Elected officials on the TARC Board of Directors and members of its Executive Directors' Council selected Pitts after soliciting nominations from all 24 regional councils in the state.

TARC is a statewide organization established in 1973 that provides training, outreach, legislative representation and other support to area councils of governments.

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