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In the News: News from April 2015

Volunteer advocates needed for seniors, disabled in long-term care facilities

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) ombudsman program is seeking volunteers to fulfill ombudsmen roles throughout its 10-county service area – Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties. Volunteer ombudsmen serve as advocates for residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They assist residents and their families and provide a voice for those unable to speak for themselves.

An ombudsman is a specially trained and certified volunteer who advocates for resident’s rights and quality of care by regularly visiting and observing residents in long-term care facilities. Volunteer ombudsmen also identify and investigate complaints; and educate residents, families, and staff on maintaining the health, safety, welfare of the facilities’ residents. Ombudsman services are both free and confidential.

With 239 nursing and assisted living facilities in the AAACAP region, a strong volunteer force helps ensure every facility and their residents have access to ombudsman services.

No prior experience is required to volunteer as an ombudsman, but volunteers must be at least 18 years old and complete a free training course consisting of classroom study and training at local nursing homes. After training, volunteers serve an internship, working two to four hours per month in their assigned facility. Hours are flexible and determined by the volunteer.

Authorized by the Older Americans Act, each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Local staff and volunteer ombudsmen work in local areas as part of the statewide program.

> For more information on volunteering, contact Pete Moreno, AAACAP’s managing local ombudsman.
> Read about the AAACAP ombudsman program.

Central Texas responds to EPA ozone standard proposal

Friday, April 24, 2015

Local air quality efforts in 2015 and 2016 could be the last chance for the region to reduce emissions and ozone levels before U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses new, lower standards as the basis of its nonattainment designation process.

CAPCOG staff has conducted an extensive outreach effort during the past few months to inform local officials about EPA’s proposal and what the region can do to respond. This has included more than a dozen presentations to city councils and commissioners courts in the region. CAPCOG also provided technical support to the Clean Air Coalition in developing comments to the EPA on the proposed rule.

The EPA has proposed tightening the national ground level ozone air quality standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a level between 65-70 ppb . EPA is under a court order to finalize the standards by Oct. 1, 2015.

Central Texas’s ozone levels were at 69 ppb in 2014 and continue to decrease. If EPA were to set the standard at 70 ppb, the region would likely avoid a nonattainment designation, but if it is set at 65 ppb, the region’s ozone levels may not be reduced quickly enough to avoid a nonattainment designation, despite nationally-recognized local efforts that have won EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for community engagement in both 2014 and 2015.

By identifying ways EPA could exercise some flexibility under the Clean Air Act to implement the proposed standards and by continuing to voluntarily implement local emission reduction measures, Central Texas is trying to ensure it can enjoy clean air and a healthy economy, while avoiding the long-lasting regulatory consequences of a nonattainment designation.

At a March 11 meeting, the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition, a committee of local elected officials in the Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties, approved a formal comment letter to the EPA on its proposal, asking for flexibility in implementing the proposed standards.

The comment letter asked EPA to:

  • Calculate compliance differently, better accounting for year-to-year fluctuations in ozone levels; 
  • Designate areas as “unclassifiable” or defer designations by a year if their 2016 ozone levels are close to the level of the standard;
  • Fully implement requirements under the Clean Air Act that protect metropolitan areas from interstate and intrastate ozone transport; and
  • Fully account for any voluntarily implemented measures if EPA does designate the region as nonattainment.

The CAC and other regional partners will continue to implement the region’s Ozone Advance Program Action Plan in order to:

  • Stay in attainment of the eight-hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS);
  • Continue reducing the region’s 8-hour ozone design value to avoid being designated nonattainment; 
  • Bring the area into attainment of an ozone standard if it is designated nonattainment;
  • Reduce the exposure of vulnerable populations to high ozone levels, and
  • Minimize the costs to the region of any future nonattainment designation.

CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program will continue to work with local stakeholders to ensure existing emission reduction measure commitments are fully implemented. It also will help secure additional emission reduction commitments to put the region in the best position to avoid a nonattainment designation for the proposed standards.

> Discover more about CAPCOG's Air Quality Program.

Round Rock PD hosts all sponsored BPOC

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Round Rock Police Department will host and run a Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy’s (RLEA) fully-sponsored cadet basic peace officer course (BPOC).

The Round Rock BPOC, which will start June 15 and end Nov. 20, 2015, only will enroll cadets who have been sponsored by area police agencies and sheriff offices. The course will provide cities and counties with the opportunity to accommodate new hires that occurred later in the fiscal year. It will provide the necessary training for those new hires to pass their TCOLE exams. The course also will be the final RLEA BPOC during the 2015 fiscal year. The registration deadline is May 18, 2015.

Having only sponsored cadets will allow the BPOC to also have more physical training requirements. The BPOC will be a full-day course.

> Police departments and sheriff offices can contact Mary Ramirez, RLEA administrative assistant, to sign up prospective cadets.
> Learn more about RLEA BPOC's.

TCEQ awards $7.7 million for cleaner Austin area vehicles

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s award of more than $7.7 million in grants to vehicle and non-road equipment owners in the Austin area is a great win for regional air quality. The funds are part of the TCEQ’s 2015 fiscal year Emission Reduction Incentive Grants (ERIG).

The ERIG money will be spent on replacing or conducting engine retrofits on 143 older, on- and off-road vehicles and equipment, such as agricultural tractors, construction trucks and delivery vehicles, in the Austin-Round Rock MSA. Because of the projects and purchases provided by the grants, NOx emissions are estimated to decrease by more than 122 tons per year in the region. NOx emissions are a contributing factor to the generation of ground-level ozone.

Capital Metro was the largest grant recipient in the Austin-Round Rock MSA. It received $1.7 million to replace 47 buses with cleaner, alternative fuel based buses. Coors of Austin also will replace or conduct engine retrofits on 10 delivery trucks. It received $200,000 from the grant.

TCEQ announced the ERIG recipients on Tuesday. The grant is part of the Texas Emission Reduction Program grant system.

> Read the complete list of ERIG awardees.
> Discover other TCEQ grants seeking to reduce emissions.
> Learn about the Capital Area Council of Governments Air Quality Program.

TCOLE cycle ends in August

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Every two years peace officers need 40 hours of continuing education credits to maintain their Texas Commission on Law Enforcement certificates.

Between now and August, the Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy (RLEA) will offer numerous courses so area officers can earn continuing education hours and keep their certificates.

Area policing agencies and their officers should review their training hours now to ensure they remain certified. For officers who haven’t already met the continuing education requirements, they can find course schedules and descriptions of each upcoming class on the CAPCOG training website.

> Visit the CAPCOG Training website for law enforcement officers.

TCOLE recently mandated that peace officers be required to have four hours of human trafficking education and training. RLEA will offer several courses on the topic at least once a month until the end of the training cycle. There should be plenty of time and courses to ensure every Capital Area peace officer maintains their law enforcement certificate.

> Read more about the RLEA.
> Discover more about TCOLE training requirements.

EPA appoints Hoekzema to committee

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Central Texas local governments will be represented on an important U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy advisory committee.

The EPA appointed CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program Manager, Andrew Hoekzema, to a two-year term on the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee. He will provide independent advice from a local government perspective on issues about implementing the Clean Air Act. Hoekzema is one of about 40 people nationwide selected to serve on the committee.

Established in 1990, the committee is a senior-level policy committee that provides advice to EPA on air pollution issues. According to the committee’s charter, its major objectives are to provide recommendations on:

  • Approaches for new and expanded programs, including those using innovative technologies and policy mechanisms to achieve environmental improvements.
  • The potential health, environmental, and economic effects of Clean Air Act programs on the public, the regulated community, state and local governments, and federal agencies.
  • The policy and technical contents of proposed major EPA rulemaking and guidance required by the act in order to help effectively incorporate appropriate outside advice and information.
  • The integration of existing policies, regulations, standards, guidelines, and procedures into programs for implementing requirements of the Act.

CAPCOG hired Hoekzema in 2010. He became CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program manager in 2013.

Hoekzema will attend his first committee meetings April 21 and 22 in Washington, D.C.

> Read more about the CAPCOG Air Quality Program.

CAPCOG, CAECD honors Telecommunicators Week

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments Executive Committee and Emergency Communication District Board of Managers have recognized the dedication of the more than 600 public safety telecommunicators in the 10-county region.

National Telecommunications Week is April 12-18, and telecommunicators who work throughout the Capital Area are the “backbone of the 9-1-1 system” and provide an “unending service” to the region, stated the board and committee in a resolution. Telecommunicators are not only the link for residents facing emergencies to emergency response agencies, they save lives each and every day.

CAPCOG encouraged all local governments to honor their telecommunicators by also signing proclamations or resolutions and celebrate the week with appropriate activities and ceremonies.

The Capital Area Emergency Communications District will recognize the great job telecommunicators do by sponsoring a region-wide, bowling and social event on April 18.

> Learn more about the Capital Area Emergency Communication District.
> Read the CAPCOG Executive Committee's resolution for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
> Read Texas Governor Greg Abbott's National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week proclamation.

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