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In the News

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 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

Medicare moves closer to Big 5-0; local benefits counseling on tap

Monday, July 29, 2013

As Medicare marks its 48th anniversary July 30, 2013, CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging's Benefits Counseling Program stands ready to help older adults and other eligible consumers navigate Medicare issues such as health care coverage, plan enrollment, fraud prevention and more.

Medicare, a federal program signed into law along with Medicaid nearly five decades ago, provides health insurance to seniors 65 and older, to younger participants with certain disabilities and to people of any age with end-stage renal disease. The program has helped millions of beneficiaries since its 1965 launch.  

CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging's certified staff and volunteers assist eligible consumers on Medicare issues ranging from open enrollment, prescription drug plans and preventive health to supplemental insurance, savings programs and fraud prevention.

Free, confidential counseling for older adults and other eligible Medicare beneficiaries starts with a call to CAPCOG at 512-916-6062 or toll free 888-622-9111, ext. 6062, for one-on-one help. Call today.

> See the U.S. Health & Human Services news release on Medicare's milestone
> Discover CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging's Benefits Counseling Program
> Get trained as a benefits counseling volunteer 

Current federal ozone standards stay – for now

Friday, July 26, 2013

With a federal appeals court upholding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2008 health-based air pollution standard, the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area remains in compliance with ozone requirements.

Several government, industry and environmental parties petitioned the court to set aside the EPA standard as, respectively, either too stringent or not strong enough to comply with clean air law. The court let stand the ozone standard for protecting public health, but ordered EPA to further review its secondary rule related to environmental protection.

Recent air quality modeling indicates that the region comprising Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties may be able to comply with stricter federal ozone standards expected in 2014 if the area can continue reducing its emissions.

> Read the federal appellate opinion
> Discover CAPCOG's Air Quality Program
> Explore local participation in EPA's Ozone Advance program, and take the survey

CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging: Seniors, watch for fraud calls

Monday, July 22, 2013

With Medicare and Social Security scammers often enlisting the phone for their criminal deeds, CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging wants seniors to help protect themselves with some simple steps.

The phone is a convenient tool for fraudsters wanting to steal Medicare dollars, wrote Better Business Bureau Education Foundation Program Director Barbara Parrott McGinity in a recent Houston Chronicle special section column. Seniors can be defrauded without even leaving home.

Screening calls with an answering machine, requiring charity solicitors to submit their requests in writing and hanging up when hearing certain tell-tale signs such as an unsolicited request for credit card information are among the ways to fight back, according to the column. Consumers can find even more tips in the full column and get McGinity’s phone number for questions. 

> Read McGinity's column for steps against fraud
> Discover the Agency on Aging's free services

Air quality modeling shows need for continued emissions reductions

Friday, July 19, 2013

Recent modeling indicates that the region comprising Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties may be able to comply with stricter federal ozone standards expected in 2014 if the area can continue reducing its emissions. To make that happen, it’s all hands on deck for residents, business and government.

> Explore CAPCOG's Air Quality Program

Being out of compliance with new ozone standards would have serious consequences for the region, including loss of local control over air quality planning, strict limits on industrial growth, new constraints on transportation planning and costly pollution regulations.

In 2004 and again in 2012, the region barely avoided a formal designation of being a “nonattainment” area for ozone after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued stricter standards. By pursuing voluntary emission reduction strategies, the region could avoid this designation. 

> Learn about ozone pollution and nonattainment at EPA's website

Air quality modeling performed by both the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) and the EPA indicate that by 2015, ozone levels in the region may fall to the upper range of the federal agency’s expected new standards. The 2015 ozone levels likely will be used by EPA to formally designate areas as complying with or running afoul of the new standards.

Local modeling results show that the Austin area’s ozone levels should decline from 74 parts per billion in 2012 to about 70.0 to 70.9 parts per billion by 2015, right at the edge of the 60 to 70 parts per billion EPA will likely propose. These modeling results, however, do not account for some recent emissions research conducted by CAPCOG and AACOG, who will collaborate this year to further refine the estimates.


Did you know?
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current ozone standard is 75 parts per billion (ppb), averaged over eight hours.
  • EPA determines an area’s emissions compliance by calculating the three-year average of the fourthhighest daily eight-hour ozone average at each monitoring station, a statistic known as the area’s design value. If the design value exceeds the standard, the area is considered in violation.
  • In 2012, the Austin area’s ozone design value was 74 ppb.


Still, the projections demonstrate an ongoing urgent need for businesses, governments and residents to reduce emissions for continued compliance with federal ozone standards. As part of that effort, CAPCOG is leading a regional initiative to develop and implement reduction measures through EPA’s Ozone Advance Program.

> Take the Ozone Advance survey

Emission reduction strategies can include procurement policies, fleet management practices, local air quality ordinances, transportation emissions reduction measures, promotion of development and growth measures that reflect efficient and sustainable energy use and transportation solutions, public outreach and awareness campaigns and installation of pollution-control devices.

Funding is periodically available for implementing some of these emission reduction strategies through the Texas Railroad Commission’s Alternative Fuels Grant, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Texas Emissions Reduction Plan and the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign.

> Discover the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition

9-1-1 updates reach new milestone

Monday, July 15, 2013

CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Division has cleared another round in the quest to further modernize the region’s 9-1-1 infrastructure.

The recent installation of new equipment in 20 area public safety answering points or emergency communication centers ends the first phase of key updates to expand 9-1-1 capabilities.

In addition, the PSAPs now have newer mapping software to better assist 9-1-1 call takers in pinpointing caller locations. Call takers translate the mapping data into location information for police, medical and fire personnel responding to emergencies.

As previously reported, ongoing digital updates will help the PSAPs eventually accept calls from text, video images and other sources beyond the traditional voice-only calls.

> Discover CAPCOG's emergency Communications Division

July 12 marks deadline for interest in statewide solid waste advisory group

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

With applications from interested parties due by July 12, 2013, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is still seeking stakeholders to serve on its Municipal Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Advisory Council.

The council, whose charge to help further the efficient and effective management of solid waste includes evaluating state policy impacts and recommending applicable legislation, projects, special studies and funding-related policies, meets four times a year. 

Members serve six-year staggered terms and represent interests such as public agencies, commercial landfill operators, composting and recycling companies, financial advisors, the general public and others.

TCEQ is accepting membership applications in the following eight categories:

  • A representative from a solid waste management organization comprised primarily of commercial operators.
  • A person experienced in the management and operation of a composting or recycling facility or an educator with knowledge of the design and management of solid waste facilities.
  • An elected official from a municipality with a population between 100,000 and 750,00.
  • An elected official from a municipality with a population between 25,000 and 100,000.
  • A representative of the financial community.
  • An elected official from a county with a population less than 150,000.
  • An elected official from a municipality with a population less than 25,000.
  • A representative of the general public. 

For more information or to apply, visit TCEQ's website. > Go

Cadets’ achievement caps record year for Regional Law Enforcement Academy

Monday, July 08, 2013

Cadets from CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy’s Basic Peace Officer Class No. 67.

With its most recent round of cadets having passed the state exam for new peace officers on the first try, CAPCOG’s Regional Law Enforcement Academy closes its 2012 series on a perfect record.

The success marks yet another notch in the academy's 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.

Class 67, which started CAPCOG's Basic Peace Officer Course last November and graduated in early June 2013, comprised 24 students representing the Texas State University Police, Round Rock Fire Department, Elgin Police and Fire departments and Georgetown 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 the Regional Law Enforcement Academy
> Sign up for the next Basic Peace Officer Course

Ozone Advance survey extended through July

Friday, July 05, 2013

Want your say on measures the region should implement to stay in step with federal ozone standards? There’s still time!

CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program and the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition have extended the Ozone Advance survey through July. Stakeholders can share their views to help develop a new regional air quality plan for Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

Local elected officials need your input on which strategies the region should pursue to keep the area in compliance with federal ozone standards as part of its Ozone Advance plan, including whether new measures should be adopted, whether existing measures should be modified or whether some measures should end.

Take the survey today at CAPCOG's Ozone Advance page. > Go

CAPCOG issues emissions reduction progress report

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

CAPCOG has filed its final annual progress report under the 8-O3 Flex Plan, an ozone reduction initiative to be replaced next year by regional participation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Ozone Advance program.

The annual report, compiled on behalf of the Clean Air Coalition and submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the EPA, provides updates on the implementation of emission reduction measures that were included in the region’s 8-Hour Ozone Flex Plan adopted in 2008.

The report discusses the status of state-implemented programs, regional emission reduction measures and measures implemented by local jurisdictions and other local participating organizations. Details include the number of vehicles subjected to emissions tests, efforts under the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan program, the number of users of the regional rideshare website, local commitments to reduce emissions within respective communities and more.

With the 8-O3 Flex Plan expiring Dec. 31, 2013, CAPCOG, the Clean Air Coalition and area partners are gathering stakeholder input on potential emission reduction measures for the upcoming Ozone Advance initiative.

> Read the final annual report 
> Discover CAPCOG's Air Quality Program
> Learn about Ozone Advance, and take the survey

July 4, 2013: Austin area gets second consecutive Ozone Action Day

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

With high ozone levels again forecasted for the Austin area by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, July 4, 2013, will mark the second consecutive Ozone Action Day on which residents and businesses can help curb pollution by carpooling, combining errands into one trip, fueling up 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

July 3, 2013: Season’s first Ozone Action Day

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

With high ozone levels forecasted for the Austin area by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, July 3 will mark the first Ozone Action Day of the season.

Residents and businesses are encouraged to help curb pollution by carpooling, combining errands into one trip, 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

Seniors reminded to to take steps against heat stress

Friday, June 28, 2013

As capital area temperatures hover in the 100s this summer, CAPCOG's Area Agency on Aging reminds seniors to protect themselves from dangerous heat-related illness.

"Older adults can be at greater risk of heat stroke and other problems," said Area Agency on Aging Director Jennifer Scott, "so prevention and protection during the high heat of the season are key."

Seniors have greater challenges in adjusting to heat and sudden temperature changes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

The CDC site, which also discusses the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, advises cool, nonalcoholic beverages; rest; lighter clothing; and other steps to help seniors prevent heat stress.

> Discover more ways to protect seniors from heat stress at the CDC website
> Explore the Area Agency on Aging's services for seniors in the capital area

USDA Rural Housing Preservation Grant closes Aug. 2

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Housing Service is accepting grant applications from eligible public agencies and private nonprofits to help low-income homeowners in rural areas repair and rehabilitate their homes.

Housing Preservation Grant funds, estimated at more than $3.8 million, also can be used to help repair and rehabilitate units made available to low-income residents in rental properties and cooperative housing complexes.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, at the applicant's Rural Development State Office. 

> Learn more at the federal website

Letters of interest for state grant on water, sewer work due June 30

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Texas Department of Agriculture is accepting letters of interest by June 30, 2013, for its Small Towns Environmental Program to help fund water and sewer infrastructure improvements.

Qualified projects by eligible cities and counties must include local community participation such as volunteer labor and equipment to show a 40 percent savings from the retail construction cost.

The initial letter marks the first step in the application process, followed by other requirements before final selection. The announcement of awards is expected in December.

> Get details and the application at the TDA website

New technology next step in 9-1-1 updates

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Division is moving the region another step closer to Next Generation 9-1-1, a national initiative to expand emergency call-taking capabilities in today’s technologically mobile world.

The division has been training area public safety answering points, or emergency communication centers, on new equipment that eventually will help PSAPs handle calls from sources such as text, video, images and more — in addition to voice-only calls.

Training and equipment installation will continue at PSAPs across the region through summer.

> Explore CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division

Survey seeks input from I-35 commuters

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do you commute for work along Interstate Highway 35? The City of Austin and the Texas Department of Transportation want your input in a survey to gauge preferences for new travel services and IH-35 improvements.

Available in English and Spanish, the IH-35 Commute Alternatives Survey is part of an ongoing public outreach effort to explore potential mobility improvements along the interstate corridor through Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

Take the 10-minute survey today to help craft important travel solutions for tomorrow. > Go

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