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In the News: News from September 2015

CAPCOG Disaster Debris Plan earns award

Monday, September 28, 2015

CAPCOG’s Disaster Debris Plan, which can be used by municipalities and counties, offers guidance via a template for a coordinated, quick, and succinct response to large scale, debris generating events by establishing a common and standardized approach to handling debris. The recently completed plan has earned national recognition for its contribution in strengthening economic resiliency in communities affected by disaster.

The National Association of Development Organizations announced in August CAPCOG’s Disaster Debris Plan will receive a 2015 Innovation Award. The plan, which was funded through Texas Homeland Security State Administrative Agency’s Regional allocations, was completed earlier in 2015 with help from regional stakeholders. It strives to allow local governments to hastily secure the public health, safety and welfare of a community; let communities realize their maximum disaster reimbursement; and sustain resiliency against debris negatively impacting their economies.

> Discover more about the plan and see helpful debris management documents.
> Read more a full article about the plan.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Solid Waste Planning Program.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

Homeland Security Director to retire

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ed Schaefer, the Capital Area Council of Governments Homeland Security Division director, will retire Sept. 30 after 25 years of his career dedicated to emergency management and disaster preparedness.

“It has been a great pleasure to work in homeland security in Central Texas both as a member of the Homeland Security Task Force and as its CAPCOG staff support,” Schaefer said. “The Task Force has focused on coordination and cooperation and shown it works.”

For the last eight years, Schaefer has worked for CAPCOG where he coordinated the task force. His work has helped improve regional communications interoperability, regional planning, communities’ use of emergency notifications, and regional cooperation.

Schaefer was instrumental in starting cellphone self-registration for emergency notifications; developing the statewide mutual aid system; and coordinating the purchase of regional resources to deploy throughout CAPCOG’s 10 counties.
Much of what the Homeland Security Task Force has accomplished during Schaefer’s tenure surpasses preparing for any one incident, he said. Its efforts have helped public safety personnel in preparing for and responding to a wide range of incidents.

Prior to coming to CAPCOG, Schaefer served on the Task Force as the Lower Colorado River Authority’s emergency management coordinator. He worked for LCRA for 10 years and previously served with the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management for 7 years and as the emergency management coordinator for Burnet County.

> Read more about CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Division.

Nonattainment designation for new ozone standard could cost Central Texas

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) released a report that estimated that a “nonattainment” designation for the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could cost Central Texas $24 - $42 billion over the next 30 years.

“This report shows that there are real economic consequences of an ozone nonattainment designation, and underscores that there are real economic benefits to taking voluntary action to reduce ozone levels in areas like Central Texas to avoid a nonattainment designation,” said Andrew Hoekzema, CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program Manager.

A nonattainment designation would mean added permitting requirements, extra hurdles for infrastructure development, and regulations on emissions of existing businesses within the region. CAPCOG’s new report estimates what the economic impact of these regulations could be if the region is designated nonattainment.

By Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required under a court order to finalize a new ozone NAAQS or retain the existing standard. Last year, the EPA proposed to reduce the level of the ozone NAAQS from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65-70 ppb. Ozone levels in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) — Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties — are currently at 68 ppb, putting it right in the middle of that range. If the EPA sets the standard at the lowest end of that range, it is likely that one or more counties in the Austin-Round Rock MSA will be designated a “nonattainment” area for the new NAAQS.

Since 2002, the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC) has led local efforts to remain in attainment of ground-level ozone standards. Through voluntary regional air quality planning efforts, local governments, businesses, and other organizations in the Austin-Round Rock MSA have worked with the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to voluntarily reduce local ozone-forming emissions. As part of the region’s current air quality plan, 30 organizations have voluntarily implemented more than 500 emission reduction measures, and another 24 organizations participate through CLEAN AIR Force’s Clean Air Partners Program. These emission reductions have been critical to keeping the region designated attainment for the two previous ozone standards, and are likely to be important again in the area’s ability to remain designated in attainment for the EPA’s new ozone standard. The EPA has recognized these local efforts by awarding Clean Air Excellence awards for Community Engagement to the Clean Air Coalition in 2014 and the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas in 2015.

“We hope that this report can help motivate the Central Texas community to continue the good work it has been doing for over a decade to voluntarily reduce ozone-forming emissions,” Hoekzema said. “This will be especially important in 2016, since designations will likely be based on 2014-2016 ozone levels. We also hope that this report can serve as the starting point for discussions between our community and the EPA to find creative ways to work within the Clean Air Act to improve air quality without designating an area nonattainment unless absolutely necessary.”

> Read the full report.
> Discover the CAPCOG Air Quality Program.

Striking a Balance 2015 shares caregiver resources

Monday, September 21, 2015

Striking a Balance 2015, a caregivers conference will place national and local resources in front of family caregivers who have dedicated a portion of their life caring for their loved ones.

Organized by the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) and AGE of Central Texas, the conference will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 26 at Norris Conference Center, 2525 W Anderson Lane, No. 365, Austin. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

“A family caregiver’s dedication to their loved one can be stressful and equal the work of a fulltime job, leaving little time for themselves,” said Jennifer Scott, AAACAP division director. “We have partnered to bring Striking a Balance to Austin for 14 years, so family caregivers have a venue to learn about their resources and know that they are not alone in facing their challenges.”

This year’s conference will feature nationally-acclaimed speaker and author, Dr. Sara Honn Qualls. Qualls will speak on how caregiving changes over time and explain when and how to implement changes. She is the Kraemer Family Professor of Aging Studies and Professor of Psychology, and Director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

The conference also will feature a number of breakout sessions lead by local experts and vendor information tables.

> Find out more about the conference.
> Discover the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area.

TCEQ Announces Workshops for TERP Grant Recipients

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Source: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality scheduled "I Just Received a TERP Grant-Now What?" workshops to assist Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) grant recipients with using their recently awarded funds.

Four workshops, slated to take place across the state, will provide an overview of the reimbursement, disposition, and monitoring process to grantees who recently were awarded a grant under the TERP Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants (ERIG) and Rebate Grants programs. The Austin workshop will be from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Sept. 29, at TCEQ’s Austin Offices.

TERP Staff will be available to address specific questions or concerns following the workshop. The workshop will be beneficial to grantees, vehicle and equipment dealers, third-party preparers, and financing entities.

Please visit www.terpgrants.org or call 1-800-919-TERP (8377) for more information regarding the scheduled workshops.

Austin: 1:30 - 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015
TCEQ's Austin Office
Building F, Room 2210 
12100 Park 35 Circle
Austin, TX 78753 

Houston: 1:30 - 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015
Tracy Gee Community Center
3599 Westcenter Drive
Houston, TX 77042

Arlington: 1:30 - 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015
North Central Texas Council of Governments
616 Six Flags Drive, Centerpoint II
Arlington, TX 76011 

San Antonio: 1:30 - 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015.
Alamo Area Council of Governments
8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 700
San Antonio, TX 78217

> Learn more about the TERP Grants.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Austin seeks nonprofit, business participation on disaster census

Monday, September 14, 2015
Source: City of Austin

The City of Austin is asking businesses and nonprofits to participate in a survey that will help assess their readiness and ability to recover from a disaster event. The census will run through Sept. 21.

> Take the survey.

According to a study by the Institute for Business and Home Safety, 25 percent of companies do not reopen after a major disaster.

The census is a part of an ongoing collaborative effort to make the Austin community more resilient and aid in recovery from disaster.

The City of Austin was the only city to be awarded a $150,000 Economic Recovery Preparedness Grant in 2014 by the Texas Homeland Security State Administrative Agency – State Homeland Security Program to enhance Austin’s business preparedness to recover from a natural or human-caused disaster. The grant is a result of a collaborative application by the City Economic Development Department (EDD) and Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM).

As a result of the grant, Austin has engaged a professional disaster assistance consultant, ProSource Technologies, and a policy research firm, Morningside Research, to survey how prepared Austin’s business community (including nonprofit, artist, artist organizations and musicians) are for an interruption in operations.

The team will make recommendations to the city on the most effective means to engage Austin businesses on resiliency and disaster recovery on an ongoing basis and later this year will conduct forums with practical information on existing community resources available to local businesses at little or no cost to assist with business continuity planning and workforce readiness.

“Recent natural disasters, such as the Memorial Day floods, proved that a disaster can hit at any time,” said Kevin Johns, Director for the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department.  “There is much that a business owner — from those that provide critical infrastructure like gas or groceries, to a music venue, nonprofit or big business — can do today to protect their employees, reduce their financial losses, and re-open quickly to support Austin’s economic recovery.”

> Take the survey.
> Discover more about the City of Austin Economic Development Department. 
> Learn about the City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM).

Travis County promotes RNS, safety tips during National Preparedness Month

Thursday, September 10, 2015
Source: Travis County Emergency Services

As part of National Preparedness Month, Travis County reminds residents to plan now for emergencies.—Don't wait. Communicate. Make your emergency plan today. Any time of the year, Travis County and Central Texas could face wildfires, tornadoes, flash floods, or man-made disasters. This year, we have seen the dangers of flash flooding, while still experiencing drought and wildfire danger.

How can anyone prepare for the possibility of these different disasters? Go to ready.gov/september or ready.gov/es/septiembre to learn more. Take practical steps, so that you are informed and ready for events beyond your control: 

  1. Stay informed. Monitor news reports for emergency information. Remember that there may be no electricity during a disaster, so a hand-crank radio is recommended. Register your cell phone, phone landline, email address or pager to receive Regional Notification System alerts by voice call, email or text at http://wireless.capcog.org. The Travis County Emergency Services Facebook (TravisCoEmergencyServices) and Twitter (@TravisCountyES) pages also provide updates during emergencies.
  2. Build a disaster supply kit. Your kit should include enough non-perishable food, one gallon of water per day per person, prescription medication and other supplies, such as flashlights, batteries and a first-aid kit. Learn more about disaster supply kits at ready.gov/kit
  3. Make a plan that extends from home to vehicle, workplace and other locations. Remember to have supplies at all locations, and keep vehicle fuel tanks at least half full. 
  4. Prepare your home and decrease the threat of wildfires to you and your property by following the Ready, Set, Go! brochure at traviscountytx.gov/wildfire.  
  5. Get involved–Prepare your community for emergencies: For more information on National Preparedness Month and getting others involved, go to:  ready.gov/september or ready.gov/es/septiembre, and follow #NatlPrep.

> Learn more about Travis County Emergency Services.
> Read more about CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.
> Discover more about the Regional Notification System that serves all ten CAPCOG counties.

Jack Griesenbeck Award solicits nominations

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Former Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck was a man of vision when he decided to be the first chairman of the now Capital Area Council of Governments in 1970 and subsequently the first president of the Texas Association of Regional Councils, the state association representing all 24 Texas councils of governments. These organizations by definition must focus on regional issues that mutually benefit multiple local governments when doing their work. It is not always easy to wear your “regionalism hat” when you represent a more narrow constituency, but Judge Griesenbeck did that consistently as have the recipients of the award named after him.

In 2001, CAPCOG created the Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award to recognize those who have articulated the need for regionalism and supported the activities to achieve it. The first recipient was Senator Kirk Watson who brought together county and city officials to develop the state’s first voluntary air quality plan recognized by EPA in 2002. The Early Action Compact was a proactive approach to keep the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area from entering a nonattainment status and to avoid onerous federal mandates. The region and the organization Watson started, the Clean Air Coalition, continues to implement its third voluntary emission reduction plan.

Dr. W. Neal Kocureck, a local doctor and community leader, followed in 2002 after he launched Envision Central Texas, an effort to create a long-term vision of how the region should grow through a collaborative community by community approach. Bob Daigh, then district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation- Austin office, was the first in his position statewide to embrace the benefits of regional transportation planning among urban and rural county elected officials sharing ideas and prioritizing projects that would have the most impact on regional mobility.

Others recognized include former Caldwell County Judge H.T. Wright. Wright served many years on CAPCOG’s board until he died in 2010, but he also represented all Texas COGs and their 9-1-1 programs by serving on the Commission for State Emergency Communications. The most recent honoree was former Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, who always kept goals of the region at the forefront during his 20 years serving on CAPCOG’s board.

“Being regional isn’t always an easy thing to do when often leaders in our communities must prioritize their goals starting with the organization they represent,” explained CAPCOG’s executive director Betty Voights. “But when they can link those goals with what’s good for our region, they typically become more involved with CAPCOG, and we all benefit from their involvement.” 

After seeing so many work for the region for so long, Voights said it was important for CAPCOG to acknowledge those who consistently advocate a regional approach.

This September, CAPCOG is seeking its 14th honoree to receive the annual Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award. Nominations will be accepted from CAPCOG General Assembly Representatives until Oct. 7. The recipient of the award will be announced at the Dec. 9 CAPCOG General assembly meeting.

Previous Jack Griesenbeck Leadership Award in Regionalism Recipients
  • Mayor Kirk Watson, City of Austin
  • Dr. W. Neal Kocurek
  • Robert J. Huston, Chair of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Mayor Ray Sanders, City of Lockhart
  • Bob Daigh, Texas Department of Transportation Austin District Engineer
  • Texas Senator Gonzalo Barrientos
  • Mike Simpson, City of Austin and Texas Radio Coalition
  • County Judge H.T. Wright, Caldwell County
  • Police Chief Mark Whitacre, City of Marble Falls
  • Texas Senator Troy Fraser
  • Mike Fisher, Emergency Management Coordinator of  Bastrop County
  • Seth S. Searcy, Attorney at Law
  • County Judge Sam Biscoe, Travis County

> Download a Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award nomination form.
> Submit the nomination form to Mason W. Canales, the CAPCOG member services coordinator, by Oct. 7.

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