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In the News

Ozone nonattainment: What’s at stake for the region?

Monday, November 26, 2012

With another ozone season over, greater Austin has notched a fourth consecutive year of keeping in step with federal ozone standards. The region has even become the state’s largest metropolitan area for which pollution levels measured by local monitors are indicating compliance with all federal air quality standards.

The challenge? Staying compliant in the face of potentially tighter ozone standards that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering for 2014. Without a substantial reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions by 2015, the region could find itself afoul of revised federal standards, significantly impacting regional economic development and transportation planning.

> Get to know the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition

EPA must review selected federal air quality standards every five years for potential science-based changes that could further protect human health, says CAPCOG Air Quality Manager Bill Gill. With new proposed ozone standards expected next year and finalized in 2014, preliminary communications from EPA’s Science Advisory Committee indicate some members believe the research supports significantly tightening the standards.

If an area is designated “nonattainment,” or in violation of federal ozone standards, the state must then adopt a plan to bring the area into attainment, including a series of mandatory emission-control measures. After reviewing the plan, EPA may approve it or reject and replace it.

A nonattainment designation would mean that local jurisdictions that have led the effort to comply with federal ozone standards over the last 12 years would no longer be the primary decision-makers selecting air quality strategies. Instead, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and EPA would assume that role.

> Learn about CAPCOG's federal grant to curb diesel pollution

The consequences of being designated a nonattainment area are significant. New or expanding industrial facilities would face significant hurdles to growth, including requirements for emission offsets and highly stringent emission standards. Many emissions sources, including some small businesses, would also likely be required to retrofit their equipment to reduce pollution, significantly raising the costs of operating businesses within the region. For 25 years, the region also would be subject to “conformity,” a process requiring that local and regional transportation plans be limited to projects that keep emissions within allowable limits. To gain EPA and Federal Highway Administration approval, new transportation projects may need to restrict the projected amount of vehicle activity.

Local governments have a crucial chance to implement their own ozone-reduction strategies. Doing so will not only help jurisdictions maintain more local control but also help protect the health of Central Texans, especially more vulnerable populations such as children, seniors and people with chronic respiratory problems. With research and other tools, CAPCOG aims to continue assisting local governments in this important initiative.

> Explore CAPCOG's Air Quality Program

CAPCOG observes Thanksgiving holiday, will reopen Monday, Nov. 26

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! CAPCOG offices are closed in observance of the holiday and will reopen at 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 26, 2012.

> Learn more about CAPCOG

CAPCOG hires regional environmental coordinator

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

LayneDuesterhaus

CAPCOG has hired recent Texas State University alumnus Layne Duesterhaus as its new regional environmental coordinator. Duesterhaus, a Lubbock-area native who previously worked in the City of San Marcos Community Services Department, will support the region’s illegal dumping enforcement program, coordinate environmental law trainings, manage the area landfill and recycling inventory and assist on other regional solid waste issues.

In May 2012, the unicycle football enthusiast earned a bachelor’s degree in resource and environmental science, with a minor in business administration and certificates in geographic information systems and water resource management.

Duesterhaus, who joins CAPCOG’s solid waste program, also will be responsible for working closely with the Capital Area Regional Environmental Task Force.

> Learn more about solid waste planning at CAPCOG
> Read Layne's "Bobcat" profile at Texas State University's website 

Travis County housing boards seek new members

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Travis County Commissioners Court is seeking to fill two seats each on the Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority of Travis County and the Board of Directors of the Strategic Housing Finance Corp., with applications from interested parties due by 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, 2012.

Both boards offer opportunities to share in the discussion on Austin area affordable housing. The Housing Authority operates and maintains 105 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development public housing units for low-income families and manages a housing voucher program. The Strategic Housing Finance Corp. issues bonds and uses Low Income Housing Tax Credits to buy housing and build new developments.

The vacancies will become available Jan. 1, 2013, with the new appointees to the five-member Housing Authority expected to serve two-year terms. The two new appointees to the seven-member Strategic Housing Finance board will serve a staggered term ending Dec. 31, 2015, or Dec. 31, 2016, respectively.  

> Get more details, and download the application packets

For Austin area, 10-digit dialing debuts Dec. 1

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

As area population and the need for additional phone numbers increase, Central Texas is getting 10-digit dialing and an additional area code on Dec. 1, 2012.

The move echoes other communities across the country whose days of seven-digit dialing are a thing of the past. 

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

  • New area code "737" will be added to the area currently served by "512." 
  • Starting Dec. 1, all local calls within the region will require the applicable area code and seven-digit telephone number for completion.
  • 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.

During an initial grace period, calls mistakenly dialed without the area code will still go through until June 1, 2013, when all 10 digits must be used.

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

PBS: Pick your favorite square mile

Friday, November 09, 2012

Capital Area folks, what's your favorite square mile in Texas? Producers of the PBS documentary television series One Square Mile: Texas are seeking your nominations by 11:59 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30.

The series, expected to air in summer 2013, follows the previous Emmy-winning production One Square Mile: America and will offer a first-person look at cultures, life and landscapes from one-square-mile perspectives across Texas. Producers, wanting to showcase the diversity of life in Texas, welcome suggestions from every area of the state's more than 268,000 square miles.

Whether your favorite square mile comprises a big-city neighborhood, a slice of a small town, a park or another Texas spot, be counted by submitting your pick online.

> Learn about One Square Mile: Texas, and nominate your favorite spot
> Watch the trailer for the original One Square Mile: America series

2012-2013 solid waste grants awarded

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved CAPCOG’s recommendation to award more than $350,000 in grant funding for fiscal 2012-2013 solid waste projects, listed in the table below. 

The 10 projects, from community cleanups to a household hazardous waste facility, support the Regional Solid Waste Management Plan.

CAPCOG will next solicit applications for TCEQ’s Regional Solid Waste Grant Program in fall 2013, dependent upon future funding. The program’s funding was reduced 50 percent during the last legislative session.

> Learn more about CAPCOG's Solid Waste Planning

Grant recipient Project Amount
CAPCOG Regional Environmental Task Force $111,000
City of Bastrop chipper $32,500
Burnet County Household hazardous waste (HHW) and tire collection event $12,975
Caldwell County Four community cleanup events $18,349
City of Johnson City recycling center forklift $18,697
City of Smithville recycling center enhancements $5,000
City of Lakeway HHW facility and equipment $87,358
Bastrop County HHW event and education $33,420
City of Granite Shoals Cleanup event $13,450
City of Lockhart recycling center forklift $18,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Grant applications for crime data conversions due Dec. 21

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Criminal Justice Division of the Governor's Office is seeking grant applications for local government units to convert crime data from the Uniform Crime Report to the National Incident Based Reporting System format. Applications, available online, must be certified by the CJD's grant management website by Dec. 21, 2012.

> Explore the National Incident Based Reporting System funding opportunity 
> Register at the CJD's website and apply for the grant 

Agency on Aging to reach thousands at Nov. 20 HEB Feast of Sharing

Friday, November 02, 2012

Organizers expect to serve about 14,000 meals at HEB grocery chain’s free 23rd annual Feast of Sharing in Austin, and CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging will be on hand with information about Medicare’s 2013 open enrollment ending Dec. 7.

The four-hour celebration kicks off at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin. 

Annual open enrollment allows Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers to compare, choose or change health and drug plans for the next calendar year. With some prescription drug plan premiums reportedly expected to jump by up to 23 percent, CAPCOG’s state-certified benefits counselors can help participants navigate the various options.

The counselors will staff a booth at the HEB community event, which features food and entertainment, to educate key audiences about Area Agency on Aging’s free assistance.

> Discover Area Agency on Aging's free benefits counseling
> Get details on HEB's 23rd annual Feast of Sharing celebration

CAPCOG wins 2012 Innovation Award from National Association of Development Organizations

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Capital Area Council of Governments has won a 2012 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations for its role in Pecan Street Inc., an Austin-area economic development project centered on clean energy.

The award, which recognizes regional development organizations and partnering organizations nationwide for improving local and regional economic and community competitiveness, was presented at NADO's annual training conference this month. Organizations in 22 states, including four honorees in Texas, garnered recognition in a dozen award categories ranging from aging, health and human services to youth education.  

With funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, CAPCOG collaborated with project organizers to expand Pecan Street Inc.'s exploration of renewable energy and use of an advanced system of efficient residential electricity delivery and consumption, or a smart grid, to additionally develop an innovation-based industry cluster of Central Texas clean-energy companies. As part of the project, CAPCOG also commissioned technical reports to detail the logistics, challenges and benefits of creating a smart grid and clean-energy economic cluster.

> Read the April 2012 Pecan Street Inc. Summary Report and technical addendum 
> Learn more about CAPCOG's Economic Development Program
> Download NADO's 2012 Innovation Awards booklet

Regional leadership award: Nov. 1 nominations deadline nears

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Members of the Capital Area Council of Governments can still submit their pick for the Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award, with nominations closing Nov. 1, 2012.

The ninth annual award, named for CAPCOG's first chairman in 1970, honors significant efforts in regional cooperation within the association's 10-county Central Texas area. Former Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck understood the need for collaboration across city and county lines and played a key role in creating the 24-member Texas Association of Regional Councils.

Nominees can include volunteers, community leaders or elected officials, including non-CAPCOG members. Past honorees include state Sen. Troy Fraser; Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin; Neal Kocurek, former chairman of the Envision Central Texas project; Robert Huston, former chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Ray Sanders, former Lockhart mayor and CAPCOG Executive Committee member; Bob Daigh, former district engineer of the Texas Department of Transportation; former Austin-area Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos; and former Caldwell County Judge H. T. Wright.

The 2012 winner will be announced at the Dec. 12 CAPCOG Annual Membership Meeting and Luncheon in Austin.

> Download the nomination form

> Learn about CAPCOG's Dec. 12 annual meeting

11th annual Striking a Balance conference coming Nov. 2 and 3

Monday, October 22, 2012

CAPCOG's Area Agency on Aging will host a free conference of education and networking opportunities for professional and family caregivers in early November. The 11th annual Striking a Balance conference, produced in partnership with Austin Groups for the Elderly (AGE), will include complimentary off-site respite for family caregivers and continuing-education credit for professionals.

Following last year's format, the two-day conference will provide training for professionals on the first day and a session for family caregivers on day 2. Both sessions are at Norris Conference Center, Northcross Mall, 2525 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX:

9 a.m.-noon Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 - Gerontologist and author Tam Cummings will present "Untangling Dementia" for professional caregivers, including a discussion on identifying the disease; using a common tool for assessing depression, dementia and behavior; and understanding end-of-life characteristics. Session includes three social work CEUs. 
> Learn more, and register by Oct. 31

9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 - Family caregivers will learn about local resources, gain skills to better manage their caregiving situation and connect with other caregivers and local aging experts. Event includes keynote speaker Kimberly Butrum, a gerontological nurse practitioner for more than 30 years with a special interest in treating memory issues. AGE's Austin Adult Day Health Center will provide free off-site respite for caregivers, but space is limited, so call 512-458-6305 for reservations. > Register for the conference today  

AGE of Central Texas and the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) partner to provide a wide range of services and information for caregivers and older adults, including this annual conference. Explore AAACAP services online, or call 512-916-6182 for information. > Go

RLEA class features speaker from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy (RLEA), which offers instruction to aspiring and current Texas peace officers, hosted a speaker from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at its recent Advanced Child Abuse Investigation class. David Boatright, executive director of the national center's Texas regional office, discussed crime statistics and the various resources available from his agency.

About 800,000 children are reported missing to law enforcement each year, according to Boatright's presentation, and more than 1.6 million in one year left home or stayed away overnight to escape physical or sexual abuse.

The three-day class, produced by the Texas Municipal Police Association, works to improve law enforcement's response to child abuse and neglect, especially sexual abuse and exploitation cases. RLEA's schedule of other continuing-education classes and its Basic Peace Officer Course are available online. > Go

CAPCOG releases new land data

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CAPCOG's Regional Services division, in partnership with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and the Texas Department of Transportation, has posted new GIS data showing the location of vacant parcels of at least 5 acres and partially developed larger parcels with developable vacant areas of more than 5 acres. The research covers Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties as of 2010.

The 2010 Land Fragmentation Inventory data - which updates the 2005 and 2008 reports for all the counties except Burnet, a new participant whose data starts with the latest survey - provides helpful information for local governments, developers and others interested in learning where development has occurred since the last study and where vacant land is currently potentially available. CAMPO, for example, uses such information for household growth forecasting and traffic modeling.  

For more information, call David Fowler, senior planner, at 512-916-6165, send an email to dfowler@capcog.org or download the data at CAPCOG's website. > Go    

CAPCOG wins federal grant to curb diesel pollution

Friday, October 12, 2012

Capital Area Council of Governments, the agency serving a 10-county region of Central Texas, has won a federal grant of more than $1 million to reduce air pollution from older diesel-powered engines.

The award followed an outreach process in which CAPCOG solicited potential projects from jurisdictions across the eligible five-county Austin metropolitan statistical area, including members of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition. With less than two months to identify potential partners who could meet grant requirements – including eligible vehicles or equipment, ability to cover 75 percent of project expenses, and the potential for cost-effective results – CAPCOG coordinated a grant application that scored high enough to earn competitive federal funding. 

“This opportunity is a testament to the power of regional collaboration and our continual work to help keep the area within federal ozone standards,” said CAPCOG Executive Director Betty Voights. “With the combined efforts of government and private industry, including CAPCOG’s leadership on air quality issues in the region, we’ve gained funding that will go a long way in helping reduce harmful diesel emissions that affect public health, the environment and our communities’ pocketbooks.”

> Learn more about CAPCOG's Air Quality Program

The $1.016 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Program will help CAPCOG project partners including the cities of Austin and San Marcos, Travis and Williamson counties, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and heavy-equipment dealer HOLT CAT replace selected older diesel-powered engines with cleaner-running vehicles and equipment in 2013 and 2014. CAPCOG’s initiative to rally eligible projects among various potential partners in the region made it possible to meet the grant’s $950,000 minimum funding-request threshold.

Diesel pollution, including nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and air toxics, is linked to serious health and financial impacts including asthma attacks, lost work days and premature death. With millions of diesel engines in operation nationwide, reducing the harmful emissions they produce can make a big difference in improving the region’s air quality, protecting human health and saving money.

Grant funding will offset 25 percent of local project costs to replace 27 diesel trucks owned by the participating cities, counties and others with newer, lower-emission trucks and replace 12 pieces of older diesel-powered ground-support equipment at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport with newer electric versions. The projects are expected to yield nearly $441,000 in estimated annual health benefits by reducing particulate matter emissions by 4.8 tons. They’re also expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 71.2 tons, hydrocarbons by 6.7 tons, carbon monoxide by 33.8 tons and carbon dioxide by 316.1 tons and avoid the consumption of 28,478 gallons of diesel.

> Attend the next Clean Air Coalition meeting

Grant applicants across the country were evaluated on general criteria as well as factors specific to their EPA region. In Region 6, which comprises Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, applicants additionally needed to show the extent to which their proposed project would occur in areas at risk of violating federal standards for ozone pollution or the extent to which it would minimize exposure and impacts on low-income or otherwise vulnerable communities.

Other than Houston’s Aldine Independent School District, CAPCOG was the only EPA Region 6 applicant awarded grant funding during this round. In the CAPCOG region, the five counties of the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metropolitan statistical area – Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson – are considered at risk of exceeding federal ozone standards. In addition, CAPCOG’s project partners were able to demonstrate that they had eligible equipment, could achieve cost-effective emission reductions and could absorb 75 percent of their respective project expenses.  

CAPCOG, one of 24 regional planning commissions organized under state law, has jurisdiction over several regional issues such as air quality. The agency established its Air Quality Program in 2002 to coordinate regional planning efforts and receives a recurring grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to assist areas nearing “nonattainment” status, or at risk of violating federal pollution standards. In addition, CAPCOG assists the region in recognizing opportunities for cooperation and eliminating unnecessary duplication in emergency communications, elderly assistance, law enforcement training, criminal justice planning, solid waste reduction, homeland security planning, infrastructure development, transportation planning and economic development.

> Explore the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign

State conservation office offering grants for school HVAC efficiency

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Texas State Energy Conservation Office is offering grant funding for eligible public independent school districts to upgrade inefficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems to more energy-efficient versions. With a minimum award of $25,000 and a maximum $100,000, the SECO Public Independent School District Energy Efficiency Grant program aims to reduce recipients' facility operating costs and will consider age of existing equipment, energy savings, county population and other criteria in awarding funds. Questions and nonmandatory letters of intent are due by 2 p.m. CDT Monday, Oct. 15, with grant applications due by 2 p.m. CDT Monday, Nov. 5.

> Learn more, and apply today

Free benefits counseling as 2013 Medicare plan increase looms

Monday, October 08, 2012

As the annual Medicare open enrollment gets under way Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, millions of participating seniors nationwide may see their prescription drug plan premiums increase next year. The Area Agency on Aging, a division of the Capital Area Council of Governments, will provide free benefits counseling to help Medicare beneficiaries tackle crucial decisions related to upcoming changes.

AAACAP will launch its fall assistance and outreach series at the following free event, in partnership with WellMed: Medicare Open Enrollment Kickoff, noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at the WellMed Senior Community Center, 706 W. Ben White Blvd., Austin, TX 78704. Benefits counselors will answer questions in personalized, confidential appointments that participants must schedule in advance by calling 512-916-6049.   

According to recent reports, seniors currently enrolled in most of the top 10 Medicare prescription drug plans may face up to a 23 percent increase in their premiums if they don’t consider other available, cost-effective options during Medicare’s open enrollment period. The annual open enrollment period allows Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers to compare, choose or change their Medicare and prescription drug plans by Dec. 7 for the next calendar year. 

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

> Learn more about Area Agency on Aging upcoming events 

State comptroller: Cities and counties, post your budget

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts is reminding cities and counties to share their newly adopted budgets online. 

"The months of September and October are the start of a new fiscal year and a new budget cycle for many cities and counties in Texas," said the state agency in an email announcement. "This is a reminder that Senate Bill 1692, effective Sept. 1, 2011, requires those cities and counties that have a web site and have adopted a new budget for this fiscal year to post it online." The agency, in turn, must link to the posted budgets on its Texas Transparency website.

Jurisdictions that post their new budget or have a new website must also alert the comptroller office's Economic Development and Analysis division at 800-531-5441, ext. 3-4679, or transparency@cpa.state.tx.us. Those that have posted both their current budget and annual financial report may qualify for the comptroller's Leadership Circle Award.

> Explore the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle and tools for local government transparency

Air quality reports now available

Thursday, October 04, 2012

CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program has posted several new technical reports produced in partnership with the University of Texas. The reports offer data including the results of a special air monitoring study, a multiyear analysis of ozone formation and the associated meteorology in the region. The reports also depict modeling studies showing the impact of different regions on local ozone levels and the sensitivity of local ozone levels to nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emissions.

Among other benefits, the research provides documentation of emissions contributed from within the Austin metropolitan statistical area during elevated ozone levels, measured against emissions coming in from outside the region.

The Central Texas Clean Air Coalition, comprising elected officials from the five-county MSA of Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, will review the research as it evaluates strategies to further reduce ozone pollution. The coalition earlier this year helped identify diesel fleets and equipment to target for an emissions-reduction federal grant and will participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Ozone Advance program, which helps selected areas continue to meet national air quality standards for ground-level ozone.   

> Download the new air quality reports
> Get the Clean Air Coalition's Oct. 10 meeting agenda

Regionalism leadership award nominations due Nov. 1

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Nominations for the Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award, which honors significant efforts in regional cooperation within CAPCOG’s 10-county area, are due Nov. 1. The ninth annual award is named for CAPCOG's first chairman in 1970, former Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck, who understood the need for collaboration across city and county lines and played a key role in creating the 24-member Texas Association of Regional Councils.

Nominees can include volunteers, community leaders or elected officials, including non-CAPCOG members. Past honorees include state Sen. Troy Fraser; Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin; Neal Kocurek, former chairman of the Envision Central Texas project; Robert Huston, former chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Ray Sanders, former Lockhart mayor and CAPCOG Executive Committee member; Bob Daigh, former district engineer of the Texas Department of Transportation; former Austin-area Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos; and former Caldwell County Judge H. T. Wright.

The 2012 winner will be announced at the Dec. 12 CAPCOG General Assembly meeting.

> Download the nomination form

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