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In the News

Questions, dilemmas as Medicare open enrollment looms? CAPCOG can help

Monday, September 30, 2013

What new preventive services are now available through Medicare? How can I avoid becoming a victim of fraud while trying to get my Medicare benefits? What Medicare prescription drug plans are available where I live? How do I evaluate the costs in relation to my budget?  

As the upcoming Medicare annual open enrollment gets underway Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2013 – one of the periods when eligible consumers can select or adjust their Medicare prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans – participants will have questions, and CAPCOG can help. 

> Discover the Area Agency on Aging's Benefits Counseling Program

CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP), affiliated with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, provides free, unbiased, one-on-one counseling and enrollment assistance. The agency’s benefits counselors, who also speak to groups across the region and conduct outreach at community events and health fairs, help consumers who are 60 or older, their caregivers and anyone who’s Medicare eligible.   

AAACAP has launched its fall Medicare open enrollment outreach campaign with various presentations and information tabling at events throughout the region, including enrollment-assistance opportunities scheduled through October 2013. Participants at the enrollment-assistance events are asked to bring a list of their prescription drugs, including frequency and strength.  

> Get the dates, locations and flier for upcoming open-enrollment events

The Capital Area Council of Governments was created by state statute and is governed by elected officials from the 10-county region it serves. Programs and services related to public safety and emergency response, environmental planning, economic and community development and the elderly are delivered at a regional level to leverage funding, maximize cooperation and eliminate duplication. CAPCOG serves Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties.  

Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area, a CAPCOG program  funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, has served as a trusted source of information on services and supports for older individuals and their caregivers for more than 30 years.

CAPCOG Executive Committee member takes TARC reins

Friday, September 27, 2013


TARC Immediate Past President Ramsey Cantu (right), mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas, passes the gavel to newly elected President Maurice Pitts, a Lee County Commissioner and CAPCOG Executive Committee member.

Lee County Commissioner Maurice Pitts, a CAPCOG Executive Committee member, has been elected president of the Texas Association of Regional Councils. The statewide organization, established in 1973, provides training, outreach, legislative representation and other support to area councils of governments.

Pitts, who has represented the Capital Area Council of Governments on the TARC board in various capacities since 2003, starts his one-year term immediately.  

The longtime commissioner brings a robust record of public service to his new role, with nearly 21 years and counting as a Lee County elected official and service on groups such as the Giddings Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Board, the Giddings Economic Development Corp. Advisory Board, the Capital Area Economic Development District and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Municipal Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Advisory Committee.

Pitts' tireless work with CAPCOG spans two decades. With his interest in recycling and solid waste, he joined CAPCOG's Solid Waste Advisory Committee in 1994 and continues to serve. Since first being elected to CAPCOG's Executive Committee in 1999, Pitts led the board as chair in 2007, has spearheaded legislative issues and has helped recruit new elected officials to the agency. 

Pitts also is a founding member of CAPCOG's Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization, launched in 1999, for which he continues to serve as vice chair.

Competition for Citizen Corps mobile trailers ends Oct. 4, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Texas Association of Regional Councils (TARC) and the Texas Citizen Corps are accepting competitive applications from area corps programs by Oct. 4, 2013, for two mobile outreach trailers complete with accessories and graphics.

 

 

 

 

 

The two awards, each valued at $5,800 retail, are for permitted purposes such as Citizen Corps programs, selected homeland security trainings, approved community events, and CCP activations by local jurisdictions or Texas state government.

Citizen Corps, part of a national initiative launched after 9/11 to help train and mobilize community volunteers in efficient preparedness and response related to disasters, terrorism and other threats, involves collaboration among individuals, government and business.

Texas has about 50 Citizen Corps councils across the state.

> Get the trailer award application
> Learn more about the Texas Citizen Corps
> Explore CAPCOG's Homeland Security Division

Sept. 25, 2013: An Ozone Action Day

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

With high ozone levels forecasted for the Austin area by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Sept. 25, 2013, will mark the fifth Ozone Action Day of the season.

Residents and businesses are encouraged to help curb pollution by combining errands into one trip, vanpooling, cycling, walking, keeping vehicles properly tuned, telecommuting, fueling fleets after 6 p.m. and making other mitigating efforts. Sensitive populations such as young children, the elderly and people with lung disease should avoid exposure by minimizing outdoor exertion.

Ozone pollution results when emissions from industrial facilities, electric utilities, vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and chemical solvents are baked in sunlight. Ground-level ozone, even at low levels, can cause adverse health effects, especially among more vulnerable groups.

> Learn more about ozone alerts and ways to reduce air pollution
> View a map of current ozone levels at TCEQ's website
> Check out TCEQ's Ozone Q&A

Nominations now open for CAPCOG’s 2014 Executive Committee

Monday, September 23, 2013

With a newly elected nominating committee in place, nominations are open through Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, for the Capital Area Council of Governments’ 2014 Executive Committee. 

> Learn more about CAPCOG’s Executive Committee

The 28-member Executive Committee, CAPCOG's governing body, largely comprises city and county elected officials who provide direction to CAPCOG staff on program implementation, budgets, contracts and general policies and procedures for managing the agency. It also serves as the board of managers for the newly created Capital Area Emergency Communications District, the first COG-managed 9-1-1 district in the nation.

Committee members serve a one-year term from January through December and meet at 10 a.m. on second Wednesdays. 

> Get the self-nomination form for eligible local elected officials  

The Executive Committee includes three nonvoting seats for state legislators representing Texas Planning Region 12. Except for the nonvoting seats, only elected officials who are from CAPCOG member cities and counties and serve as their respective jurisdiction’s official General Assembly representative can be nominated.

Jurisdictions with a vacancy on the General Assembly can appoint a representative simultaneously with nominating an Executive Committee candidate. 

> Get the self-nomination form for eligible state legislators

The bylaws require the nominating committee to consider geographic diversity. Continued efforts to maintain a diverse committee also include a balance of city and county representatives from large and small jurisdictions while also taking into consideration a candidate’s support and involvement in various CAPCOG activities. 

CAPCOG Executive Director Betty Voights will present the nominating committee’s eventual slate of candidates to the General Assembly for a December vote as required by agency bylaws. 

The eight-member nominating committee, also selected from the General Assembly, includes the following participants:

  • Judge Tom D. Bonn, Caldwell County
  • Commissioner Will Conley, Hays County
  • Judge Donna Klaeger, Burnet County
  • Commissioner Cynthia Long, Williamson County
  • Council Member Don Tracy, City of Cedar Park
  • Mayor Caroline Murphy, City of Bee Cave
  • Mayor Debbie Holland, City of Hutto
  • Mayor Alan McGraw, City of Round Rock

> Learn more about CAPCOG's General Assembly

Graduation, perfect pass rate for CAPCOG Cadet Class 69

Friday, September 20, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A graduating cadet from Basic Peace Officer Class 69 receives her certificate from Mike Jennings, director of CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy, on Sept. 20, 2013.

As CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy Class 69 graduated Friday morning, Sept. 20, 2013, at the Texas State Capitol, the group carried an additional badge of success: a 100 percent first-attempt pass rate on the state exam for new peace officers. 

The achievement continues RLEA's years-long pass-rate record, with all but two of the agency's more than 20 cadet classes in the last five years having scored this feat. In addition, more than half the group scored 90 or higher on their state test.

Class 69, which started CAPCOG's six-month Basic Peace Officer Course last spring, comprised more than 25 cadets representing area agencies including the following:

  • Austin Independent School District
  • Bertram Fire Department
  • Elgin Police Department
  • Fayette County Sheriff’s Office
  • Georgetown Police Department
  • Hays County Sheriff’s Office
  • Leander Police Department
  • Lexington Police Department
  • Round Rock Fire Department
  • San Marcos Police Department
  • Taylor Police Department

Cadets must pass the state exam administered by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education to become licensed peace officers.

> Discover CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy
> Sign up for the next cadet class or continuing-education opportunity

A closer look: Medicare annual open enrollment

Friday, September 13, 2013

As the annual Medicare open enrollment gets underway from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2013, CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging’s Benefits Counseling Program is on hand to help eligible consumers sort the various options.

Each year, Medicare participants get a chance to adjust their health insurance coverage, whether comparing, choosing or changing their Medicare and prescription drug plans for the following 12-month period. Get a closer look at Medicare’s annual open enrollment and CAPCOG’s regional role in navigating the process.

Who’s eligible for Medicare coverage?

People age 65 or older, younger than 65 with certain disabilities or of any age with end-stage renal disease can participate. The Area Agency on Aging’s (AAA) benefits counselors can help consumers 60 or older, their caregivers and anyone who’s Medicare eligible.

What coverage changes does open enrollment allow? ?

  • Switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Ad-vantage Plan — or vice versa. ?
  • Switching Medicare Advantage Plans. ?
  • Switching from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does — or vice versa. ?
  • Joining, switching or dropping Medicare prescription drug plan coverage.

How does the Area Agency on Aging help Medicare consumers? ?

  • The Benefits Counseling Program offers state-certified staff and volunteers for free, one-on-one, confidential sessions to answer questions, review forms, explain the enrollment process and more. ?
  • Counselors can demystify potential confusion regarding the Affordable Care Act and Medicare, especially as Medicare’s own open enrollment overlaps the new federal health exchange’s kickoff enrollment period that runs Oct. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014. ?
  • AAA, funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, partners with other agencies and organizations across the region for trainings and other outreach opportunities. Staff work with the Texas Senior Medicare Patrol, for example, to empower and educate participants on fraud prevention, and AAA maintains office hours at the WellMed Charitable Foundation Senior Community Center in Austin to reach a mutual audience.

How can local governments, organizations and agencies team with AAA for Medicare open enrollment? ?

  • Schedule a benefits counselor presentation for your next public meeting, addressing topics such as Medicare preventive services, medication coverage, eligibility, fraud prevention and more. > Go
  • As the Area Agency on Aging launches its fall 2013 season of free open enrollment presentations across the region, check AAA's Web page for times and dates to share with constituents. > Go

“Capture Your Commute” for a chance at $50 Amazon gift card

Friday, September 13, 2013

From biking and vanpooling to taking transit or walking, your alternative commute could score a prize with Commute Solutions' Sept. 16-30, 2013, contest.

The Capture Your Commute Contest, hosted in partnership with the City of Austin Air Quality Program for commuters living or working in Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, encourages the use of pollution-reducing alternative transportation options.

Once the contest starts, simply submit a photo of your commute to info@commutesolutions.com.

With a $50 Amazon gift card as the prize, Commute Solutions will announce the first winner on Sept. 23, 2013, and the second victor on Sept. 30.  

> Get more contest details at Commute Solutions' website
> Explore the City of Austin's Air Quality Program
> Discover CAPCOG's Air Quality Program

CAPCOG nabs second national award for innovation

Thursday, September 12, 2013

For the second consecutive year, the Capital Area Council of Governments has won an Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations.

CAPCOG’s GeoMap, a cost-sharing initiative to produce and maintain current geospatial base map data for local jurisdictions, developers, consultants and other interested parties, earned a coveted spot among NADO’s 2013 slate of honorees that included more than 90 projects from 25 states.

The Innovation Award recognizes regional development organizations and partnering organizations nationwide for improving local and regional economic and community competitiveness. Honors were announced at NADO's recent annual training conference in San Francisco. Last year, CAPCOG also won NADO innovation honors for its role in Pecan Street Inc., an Austin-area economic development project centered on clean energy.

> Get the full list of NADO 2013 Innovation Award winners

Launched in 2002  to maximize taxpayer dollars and help minimize data-development duplication, GeoMap offers cost advantages including an economy of scale. CAPCOG, as project coordinator, secured vendor rates that decrease as product volume increases. Coordinating and pooling the region’s resources increases the total volume of an order, securing lower prices per entity than if single participants separately purchased selected products.

­­­Further discounts are realized when multiple participants share the same area of interest and therefore share the cost. Also, a regional discount is often spread across the project when large organizations – CAPCOG or the Texas Department of Transportation, for example – participate, reducing costs for all.

> Discover CAPCOG's GeoMap

GeoMap's products include aerial photography, Lidar imagery, underwater depth depictions, elevation data, structures, road centerlines, pavement, vegetation and land cover. The program also produces critical data for use in disaster preparedness, 9-1-1 operations, regional planning and infrastructure management.

By securing competitive pricing for services and coordinating area cost-sharing, CAPCOG’s GeoMap has saved the region an estimated $8.6 million since 2002.

TARC seeks leadership award honorees

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Texas Association of Regional Councils is accepting nominations for its annual Jack Colley Citizen Corps Leadership Award.

The award, named for the Texas Division of Emergency Management chief who served from 1998 to 2010, recognizes a Citizen Corps volunteer or group for exemplary leadership and service locally, regionally, statewide or nationally.

Nominations are due to tarc@txregionalcouncil.org by 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.

> Get the award nomination form
> Learn more about TARC

CAPCOG adds ozone monitor in SW Austin

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Capital Area Council of Governments is establishing a new ozone air monitoring station in southwest Austin at Gorzycki Middle School.

The temporary monitor will help provide a more complete and accurate picture of peak ozone levels in the region, especially when winds come out of the northeast.

This winter, CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program will review data collected in September and October to determine whether to continue collecting data at the new location during next year’s ozone season.

> Learn more about air quality monitoring

Task force report looks at growing senior population

Friday, September 06, 2013

From healthy living and affordable housing to greater integration in civic life, a City of Austin task force has released a set of goals and strategies to enhance the lives of older adults while maximizing available resources.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Aging, which included participation from local leaders such as CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging Director Jennifer Scott, produced the recommendations with assistance from various partners including the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, Seton Foundations, St. David’s Foundation and an advisory council.

Key categories in the report include Health, Housing and Basic Needs, Transportation and Community Infrastructure, Societal Participation and Inclusion, and Caregivers and Long-Term Supports.

Download the summary of recommendations and strategies or the full 95-page report at the city's website. > Go

CAMPO sets public meetings for 2040 Transportation Plan input

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Fresh on the heels of its recent community survey, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization - a CAPCOG partner - will hold a series of meetings for additional public input on the next regional transportation plan in Central Texas. The eventual 2040 Regional Transportation Plan will replace the current 2035 version.

CAMPO, which serves Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, must produce a 25-year regional transportation plan every five years. The agency works with stakeholders including cities, counties, regional and state transportation agencies and the public to plan for the area's current and long-term needs.

In addition to CAMPO's recent survey on transportation priorities and challenges, opportunities to weigh in include the following public meetings, each from 5:30 to 7 p.m.:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 10, Kyle City Hall, 100 W. Center Street, Cedar Park, TX 78613
  • Wednesday, Sept. 11, Cedar Park Recreation Center, 1435 Main Street, Cedar Park, TX 78613
  • Thursday, Sept. 12, Taylor City Hall Auditorium, 400 Porter Street, Taylor, TX 76574
  • Tuesday, Sept. 17, One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, Room 325, Austin, TX 78704
  • Wednesday, Sept. 18, Marble Falls Public Library, 101 Main Street, Marble Falls, TX 78654
  • Thursday, Sept. 19, Bastrop City Hall, 1311 Chestnut Street, Bastrop, TX 78602
  • Monday, Sept. 23rd, Lockhart City Hall, 308 W. San Antonio Street, Lockhart, TX 78644

Input opportunities also will include a public hearing during CAMPO's Transportation Policy Board meeting, 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, Joe C. Thompson Center, 2405 E. Campus Drive, Austin, TX 78705. 

> Read the current 2035 Regional Transportation Plan
> Learn more about CAMPO

State grant targets prostitution prevention

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Criminal Justice Division of the Governor's Office will award grants from $10,000 to $75,000 for eligible prostitution-prevention projects that begin on or after Sept. 1, 2013, and conclude by Aug. 31, 2014.

Potential grantees - Texas counties, cities and judicial districts - can get the application kit online starting Sept. 1 and must submit a completed version to CJD's eGrants website by Oct. 31, 2013.

The Prostitution Prevention Program does not require matching funds but applicants must meet certain other conditions to eligibility.

> Learn more and apply at the CJD site starting Sept. 1

Got thoughts on transportation? Weigh in with CAMPO survey

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just another week left to take the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's kickoff survey for the next regional transportation plan. The online survey, part of an outreach effort that also will include public meetings and a website for information and comments, closes Aug. 31, 2013.

CAMPO, which serves Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, must produce a 25-year regional transportation plan every five years. The agency works with stakeholders including cities, counties, regional and state transportation agencies and the public to plan for the area's current and long-term needs.

Residents, commuters, business owners and others are invited to take the survey, available in English and Spanish. The eventual 2040 Regional Transportation Plan will replace the current 2035 version. 

> Take the survey on transportation priorities and challenges today
> Read the current 2035 Regional Transportation Plan
> Learn more about CAMPO

TCEQ: Nominations for 2014 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards open ‘til Oct. 4

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Know an individual, a community, a business or an agency committed to stewardship of Texas' natural resources? Tell the world! The public is invited to submit nominations for the 2014 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards by Oct. 4, 2013.

The Office of the Governor and the Texas State Commission on Environmental Quality, honoring contributions to waste reduction, conservation and pollution prevention, will present awards in nine categories: Agriculture, Civic/Community, Education, Individual, Innovative Operations/Management, Pollution Prevention, Technical/Technology, Water Conservation and Youth.

> Nominate your pick today at TCEQ's website
> Explore CAPCOG's Sustainable Places Project

CAMPO and City of Austin launch Aug. 19-30 back-to-school commute contest

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bike, walk or carpool to work? Always wanted to give vanpooling or transit a try? Join the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Commute Solutions' Back-to-School Challenge for a chance at one of five $50 Alamo Drafthouse gift cards. 

The Aug. 19-30, 2013, contest, hosted in partnership with the City of Austin Air Quality Program for commuters living or working in Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, encourages the use of pollution-reducing alternative transportation options.

Simply sign up for the challenge, and log your biking, walking, vanpooling or carpooling trips for the chance to win a prize. When logging trips, participants also can track cost savings, fuel saved, calories burned and pollution reduced. 

> Learn more at CAMPO's Commute Solutions website
> Discover the region's Ozone Advance initiative
> Explore CAMPO, a CAPCOG partner
> Share the contest poster

Regional forum highlights growth, rail and bang for the buck

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Eventbrite - Sustainable Places Project Regional Forum | Growth. Transit. ROI.

Reserve your spot by Aug. 26 to explore robust scenarios of Austin's new development potential — including the $1.2 billion urban rail transit system — with opportunities for increased tax revenue, job creation, expanded affordable housing options, watershed protection, savings by residents who bike or walk to work, local reinvestment of those savings, and efficiencies gained by businesses whose employees’ vehicle expenses decrease. 

The event, CAPCOG’s sixth in a series of regional forums launched last year, will feature local experts in economic development, planning and computer modeling to demonstrate today’s tools to help communities make the most of their resources.

> Learn more, and RSVP today

CAPCOG can help: Tax increment finance districts

Thursday, August 08, 2013

When understood and properly used, tax increment finance districts - also known as "tax increment reinvestment zones” - can be a valuable tool for community and economic development.

TIFs work by having one or more taxing jurisdictions — a city, county or hospital district, for example — collectively commit to setting aside property taxes generated within a selected area or district in excess of the amount currently received. Instead of going to the general fund, this extra revenue — the “increment” — is set aside for direct reinvestment into the TIF district in the form of public infrastructure improvements.

Despite common misconception, a TIF doesn’t involve a tax increase. The tax rate remains the same, but any additional tax revenue produced by an increase in property values within the district helps fund infrastructure improvements and other public investments.

> Explore CAPCOG's Economic Development Program

TIFs serve to fund public improvements in areas otherwise unable to support new development without the improvements. In this way, TIFs are often used to revitalize blighted areas, but they have a fairly wide range of potential applications. Using the added or — through the use of bonds — future tax revenue produced by new development within the district, TIFs can pay for water and sewer lines, pedestrian amenities, parking garages, infrastructure for transit-oriented development and much more. TIFs have even been used to lease parking for free public use on nights and weekends.

A simple pay-as-you-go TIF could involve waiting for enough development along a particular road to then apply the added property tax value generated to improvements along that road, ultimately attracting additional development, and so on. Sometimes TIFs are used to support the issuance of bonds that can fund upfront the infrastructure needed to support a specific development project.

> Learn more about TIFs with CAPCOG's Michael Hennig

At the end of the life of a TIF, the district is formally dissolved and all taxes over and above the original base value of the district are once again given to each respective taxing jurisdiction. When successful, this leads to a larger tax base for these jurisdictions. In addition to the larger tax base, the retired TIF district is now equipped with new infrastructure and development that can serve as assets for future community and economic development.

Tax increment finance districts are versatile, so it’s important to develop a plan for incorporating a given TIF within the target area’s broader strategy. A good place to start? Collaborating with the Capital Area Council of Governments. In addition to its team of professionals who can help create a TIF, CAPCOG offers sophisticated planning tools that can help identify an area’s development potential.

> Discover economic trends with CAPCOG's Data Points blog

State grant for cleaner-running fleets closes Aug. 31

Friday, August 02, 2013

Reminder: Don't miss the Aug. 31, 2013, deadline for a pollution-curbing state grant to replace older forklifts and medium- or heavy-duty diesel vehicles with low-emission fleets. Public, private and nonprofit fleets in selected areas are potentially eligible.

The $6 million Railroad Commission Alternative Fuels Equipment Initiative, funded through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, averages $9,500 per award and covers eligible new equipment that meets current emissions standards and will be operated in one of more than three dozen eligible Texas counties.

Replacement vehicles and equipment fueled by natural gas and propane are expected to help grant program participants cut fuel costs and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 600 tons, according to an earlier Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas news release.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the RRC's Pat Wilson at 512-475-2911 or patrick.wilson@rrc.state.tx.us soon.

> Download the grant's frequently asked questions flier
> Read the RRC's spring 2013 news release on the grant  
> Learn more about rebates and incentives at the RRC website

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