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In the News

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

Community grant applications scored; funding TBD

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Community grant applications scored; funding TBD CAPCOG and the Texas Department of Agriculture have scored the 2013-14 Community Development Block Grant applications for the region’s counties and cities with populations less than 50,000.

The grants aim to expand economic opportunities and improve living conditions with projects that meet U.S. Housing and Urban Development program priorities.

The local grant awards will help support water and sewer-related projects. Applicants will be notified of their award amount once federal allocations to Texas for the 2013 cycle and related regional funding amounts are determined.

> Get the final scoring sheet and learn more about the CDBG program

Air monitoring station comes to Caldwell County

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Capital Area Council of Governments has launched its first air quality monitoring station in Caldwell County.

The new addition, installed May 28 at the Lockhart police and EMS station, should help improve understanding of air quality upwind of Austin on high-ozone days when winds come out of the south and southeast and will provide a more complete picture of ozone exposure within the five-county Austin- Round Rock metropolitan statistical area.

CAPCOG’s network of ozone monitors throughout the region includes six permanent stations: two in Williamson County, two in Hays County, one in Bastrop County and another in Fayette County. Those stations supplement the two regulatory ozone monitors in Travis County operated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and help characterize ozone transport throughout the region.

Data from CAPCOG’s six existing monitoring stations are reported to TCEQ’s website. Though data from the Lockhart station won't be reported to the state’s site, it will be available monthly upon request.

> See TCEQ's reporting page for ozone averages in selected metro areas
> Learn more about CAPCOG's Air Quality Program

New program manager aboard for Area Agency on Aging care coordinators

Thursday, June 06, 2013

           Rene Oldstein

Rene Oldstein has joined CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging as the new program manager for care coordinators.

Oldstein, whose career has spanned banking, real estate and health care, brings diverse experience including service as executive director of a 103-bed assisted living and Alzheimer’s care facility. She also helped in the startup and operation of two 22-bed Alzheimer’s communities in Austin.

Oldstein holds an Assisted Living Manager certification in Texas and an Administrator license in Alabama.

Her passion for working with older adults has included volunteering with organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and participating in fundraisers to benefit seniors.

Footage highlights ugly truth about illegal dumping

Friday, May 31, 2013

From discarded paint and pesticides ditched in a field to old furniture, unwanted tires and piles of brush tossed in a creek, illegal dumping in Central Texas can take a toll on public health, the environment and wildlife. Get an up-close look as KEYE-TV goes on patrol with the Capital Area Regional Environmental Task Force.


> Watch the video and read the story at KEYE's website
> Learn about the Capital Area Regional Environmental Task Force
> Report illegal dumping online or with the 1-877-NO-DUMPS hotline

FEMA: Senior benefits unaffected by disaster aid

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seniors can apply for federal disaster assistance without sacrificing Social Security benefits, paying more taxes or dropping their income-based benefit programs, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency news release.

The timely reminder comes amid recent disasters such as the deadly fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas, which also resulted in tremendous property loss.

“We want to reassure seniors not to be afraid to apply for assistance. FEMA assistance is available to all eligible survivors to include senior citizens,” FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin L. Hannes said in the release. “Receiving disaster funds will not impact non-FEMA assistance or assistance from other programs.”

> Learn more about FEMA assistance
> Explore CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging's services

Austin-area mandatory 10-digit dialing starts June 1; 9-1-1 not affected

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Remember to reprogram those phones! With the introductory six-month grace period ending, mandatory 10-digit dialing in Central Texas starts June 1, 2013.

The change, needed to accommodate an expanding population and demand for more phone numbers, also includes a new, additional area code coming this summer. 

First announced last year, the move echoes other communities across the country whose days of seven-digit dialing are a thing of the past. It affects Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Lampasas, Milam, Travis and Williamson counties.

Key components of the change, also called an "overlay":

  • Optional 10-digit dialing, or dialing the applicable area code and seven-digit phone number, ends its six-month introductory period on May 31, 2013.
  • Mandatory 10-digit dialing starts June 1, 2013; calls will not be completed without it.
  • Starting July 1, 2013, new phone lines may receive the new "737" area code, an addition to the area already served by "512."
  • Eventually all new telephone numbers within the 512 area will be assigned the 737 area code.
  • Customers can keep the 512 phone numbers they already have.
  • The three-digit 9-1-1 local emergency number will remain the same.

Customers can contact their local phone-service provider for more information, or visit the "Texas Area Codes" section of the state Public Utility Commission website. > Go

> Read a KUT news story on the region's new area code
> Learn how CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division supports 9-1-1

Area Agency on Aging: Eye on preventive services

Friday, May 10, 2013

From annual flu vaccinations and diabetes self-management training to obesity screening and tobacco counseling, preventive services can make a major difference in helping people protect their health. Learn how CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging’s Benefits Counseling Program helps connect eligible consumers with needed preventive services in the 10-county region.

Funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging has assisted older adults and their caregivers for more than 30 years. As a part of the AAA, the Benefits Counseling Program provides Medicare guidance to adults 60 and older and to Medicare beneficiaries of any age.

> Discover AAA's Benefits Counseling Program, including volunteer opportunities

Consumers can count on the agency’s state-certified benefits counselors to provide confidential, unbiased, one-on-one assistance in understanding Medicare eligibility requirements, navigating open enrollment periods, choosing applicable coverage options, helping prevent fraud, applying for help with drug prescription costs and more. All without having to pay a benefits counseling fee.

Benefits counselors, well-versed in the preventive services available under Medicare, also advise consumers on how to efficiently and cost-effectively access such resources. They don’t refer clients to specific doctors, social workers or other providers but do, for example, provide timely, relevant information about health insurance plans and insurance policies.

Preventive services covered by Medicare has expanded under the federal Affordable Care Act, making it even more important for eligible consumers to seek benefits counseling. Since Jan. 1, 2011, beneficiaries can receive a wide range of preventive services, with most at low to no cost.

> Learn more about Medicare at the official federal website

For example, depending on age, eligible Medicare participants may access free preventive services such as the following:

  • Blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests. ??
  • Cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies. ??
  • Routine vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio or meningitis. ??
  • Counseling on health and wellness topics such as smoking cessation, weight management, nutrition and mental health. ??

How does the Benefits Counseling Program get the word out about Medicare-covered preventive services? A combination of today’s tools and time-honored outreach. The Area Agency on Aging coordinates outreach events with a range of providers and coalitions within the region. Benefits counselors also discuss the services during group presentations and individual sessions. And in addition to sharing program updates, volunteer opportunities, events and more on its website, AAA is planning to raise its social-media profile.

Scheduling free one-on-one confidential benefits counseling, including learning more about preventive services available with Medicare, is as easy as requesting a benefits counselor at 512-916-6062 or toll free 888-622-9111. Call or refer someone who needs help today!

> Share your support for Older Americans Month, May 2013

CAPCOG honors 9-1-1 pros

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Capital Area Council of Governments recently honored area emergency communicators, naming the winners of its annual Telecommunicator Awards contest.

  • Cindy Ledesma, Austin Police Department; Michael Brimble, Cedar Park Police Department; and Tammie Reyna, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, each received a Dedicated Service Award, given for exceptional professionalism.
  • Kim Haba and Brenda Parkinson of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office won the 9-1-1 Team Award, which recognizes two or more telecommunicators for exemplary handling of a specific emergency call involving coordination of multiple public safety responses and other emergency resources.

The regional awards helped mark the April 14 to 20, 2013, National Telecommunicators Week, which was also recognized by a CAPCOG Executive Committee resolution.

> Discover CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division

Data Points brings latest on regional economy

Friday, May 03, 2013

After a brief hiatus, CAPCOG’s monthly economic development update is back with a new look and a new format, making it even easier to keep up with the capital area’s regional economy.

The revamped Data Points, available online and by free email subscription, still delivers analysis on topics important to the regional economy. It now also features “Vital Signs,” a quick-reference section offering essential metrics of the regional economy such as employment growth, building permits and retail sales.

Count on Data Points for updates provided exclusively by CAPCOG’s Economic Development Program, including monthly patents awarded and two new stock indices respectively tracking businesses headquartered in the capital area and major employers in the region.

Data Points additionally will spotlight one of the capital area’s 10 counties each month. Look for these changes and other improvements to come.

> Read the May 2013 issue 
> Explore CAPCOG's Economic Development Program

State clean-air grant makes way for low-emission solutions

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Railroad Commission of Texas has launched a $6 million pollution-curbing grant to help businesses retire older forklifts and medium- or heavy-duty diesel vehicles for low-emission replacements.

“We’re pleased to help operators use Texas-produced alternative fuels to save money and help continue to clean up Texas air,” said Chairman Barry T. Smitherman in a commission news release. “Our program works for large and small operators in eligible counties, whether they have a single piece of warehouse equipment or an entire fleet of heavy-duty trucks.”

The grant, 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 the 43 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 the release.

> Read the Railroad Commission of Texas news release
> Download the grant's frequently asked questions flier

Federal economic development competition for area universities closes June 17

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The U.S. Economic Development Administration's University Center Competition, assisting higher education institutions in developing regional systems that support high-growth entrepreneurship, is accepting applications for the fiscal 2013 funding round through June 17, 2013.

Accredited institutions from the Austin region - including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas - and Denver region can apply for funding, according to the EDA annoucement. Past awards have ranged from $80,000 to $200,000 per recipient. Visit the federal website for more details on the funding competition. > Go

State emissions reduction program accepting rebate applications through June 28

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is offering rebate grants to reduce air pollution from heavy-duty diesel vehicles and equipment, with applications accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, June 28, 2013, or until all $5 million in available funding is distributed. 

Funding from TCEQ's Texas Emissions Reduction Plan Rebate Grants Program, aimed at replacing or upgrading selected on-road vehicles of a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 8,500 pounds or nonroad equipment with a minimum 25-horsepower engine, is available first come, first served to eligible applicants and expected to go quickly.

Call 800-919-8377 or visit TCEQ's website for application materials and additional eligibility requirements. > Go

CARTPO: US 290 expansion to 4-lane highway a top priority

Monday, April 15, 2013

A recent ranking by Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization members placed expansion of U.S. 290 in Bastrop and Lee counties at the top of the priority list.

> Discover CARTPO

CARTPO, a committee of the Capital Area Council of Governments, offers a forum for elected officials from Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties to discuss and make recommendations on transportation policy, direct planning and data initiatives, oversee the federally prescribed local consultation process and collaborate with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. 

The committee's March 2013 vote prioritized larger, longer-term regional roadway projects from seven Central Texas counties. Counties were allowed to submit three projects for ranking.

> View the project rankings spreadsheet

Delegates from all nine counties present at the committee's March meeting cast ballots, with counties not allowed to vote on their own projects. Each delegation awarded one to 10 points per project, based on the project's urgency and ability to improve congestion, road conditions and safety.

As with several recent CARTPO project prioritizations, expansion of U.S. 290 in Bastrop and Lee counties to a four-lane divided highway ranked first. The area represents the only non-four-lane portion of U.S. 290, adding to the ranking's significance beyond the capital area.

The Texas Department of Transportation considers the regional recommendations and rankings as funding for area projects becomes available.

> Contact David Fowler, CAPCOG senior planner, for more on the prioritization process

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