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In the News: News from January 2016

CAPCOG committees serve vital role

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Seven advisory committees are integral to the program work performed by CAPCOG; their roles vary but ultimately the goal is to make recommendations on regional issues to CAPCOG’s Executive Committee. The committees’ work may include strategic planning, planning specific to a program’s work plan and funding goals, or making recommendations specific to state and federal funding. Some perform technical analysis and planning to assist CAPCOG staff with program implementation.

The Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) assists with the development and implementation of the Regional Solid Waste Management Plan. It also contributes to establishing procedures for reviewing solid waste projects and evaluates the projects, such as landfills, as they are proposed throughout the region. The committee also preliminarily scores projects for CAPCOG Solid Waste Grant funding every biennium.

> Read more about the SWAC.

The CAECD Strategic Advisory Committee’s primary role is to conduct short- and long-term planning for the delivery of emergency communications throughout the region. It also forms ad hoc technical committees to focus on specific issues including Text-to-911, regional radio communications interoperability solutions, and back-up network systems for 9-1-1 delivery.

> Read more about the CAECD Strategic Adivsory Committee.

The Homeland Security Task Force works to develop plans to address the use of tools and training needed to respond to man-made or natural disasters. It also makes recommendations for the State Homeland Security Program grants. The Task Force has subcommittees who develop plans on technical response, regional preparedness, communications, and public health and medical issues.

> Read more about the Homeland Security Task Force.

The Aging Advisory Council (AAC) serves as a forum for planning and providing feedback on aging related issues to drive some of the initiatives for the region. It also provides input on the use of funding for services and assists in the review of the Area Agency on Aging Area Plan.

> Read mroe about the AAC.

The Criminal Justice Advisory Committee contributes to developing the annual funding priorities and regional strategic planning documents for criminal justice grants. It also scores and ranks grant funding applications.

> Read more about the CJAC.

The GIS Planning Council (GISPC) helps coordinate the mutual development, implementation, sharing and maintenance of geospatial data and Geographic Information Systems applications among CAPCOG members. It has created ad hoc committees to address the uses of GIS by government practitioners and to deploy more useful mapping tools for emergency responders.

> Read more about the GISPC.

The Law Enforcement Education Committee (LEEC) identifies training issues and helps establish standards followed by the Regional Law Enforcement Academy for Basic Peace Officer Courses and other specialized and mandated in-service training for law enforcement officers.

> Read more about the LEEC.
> Discover more about these committees. 

CAPCOG recognizes Mallia for volunteer service

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

CAPCOG honored Melinda Mallia, Travis County Natural Resources Division Director, with its second annual volunteer service award.

“Mallia’s commitment to the proper planning, management, and disposal of solid waste and household hazardous waste in the CAPCOG region can’t be eclipsed,” said Ken May, CAPCOG regional services director.

Mallia served on the CAPCOG Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC), from 1996 to mid-2015 — the longest serving local government staff member of any CAPCOG committee. Mallia was instrumental in the development of the Regional Solid Waste Grant Program, the Regional Solid Waste Management Plan and its priorities, the landfill conformance review process, the closed landfill inventory process, and the private industry dispute and resolution process. During her service on SWAC, she contributed to selecting more than 300 projects, which received $11.3 million in regional solid waste funding.

> Read more about the Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

Solid waste grants applications available for industry review

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Capital Area Council of Governments posted all 25 CAPCOG Solid Waste Grant Program applications, which local entities submitted to receive funding during the 2016-17 grant cycle, on so private industry groups can review the applications.

Private industries that find issue with any of these applications have until 5 p.m. Jan. 19, 2-16to notify CAPCOG of their intent to dispute any application.

According to state law (Section 361.014 (b) of the Texas Health & Safety Code), a project or service funded under the Texas Regional Solid Waste Grants Program must promote cooperation between public and private entities, and the grant-funded project or service may not be otherwise readily available or create a competitive advantage over a private industry that provides recycling or solid waste services.

The request for applications ended Dec. 17 and the projects to receive funding should be selected in February.

> Review the applications.
> Discover more about the CAPCOG Solid Waste Grant Program.
> Read Section 361.014 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.
> Contact Matt Holderread, CAPCOG regional services grant coordinator, with concerns about an application, related to promoting cooperation between public and private entities.

Pitts earns Griesenbeck award

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lee County Commissioner Maurice Pitts accepts the Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award from Elgin Mayor and CAPCOG Executive Committee Chair Marc Holm.

The Capital Area Council of Governments presented the 14th Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award to Lee County Commissioner Maurice Pitts at its annual December meeting.

Pitts, who has more than 20 years of service as a Lee County Commissioner, began serving CAPCOG’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee in 1994. He was elected to CAPCOG’s Executive Committee in 1999 and in 2007 was elected chair of the governing body. Pitts also has served for several years on the Capital Area Economic Development District and was a founding member of the Capital Area Transportation Planning Organization, the state’s first rural planning organization created by CAPCOG in 1999. He still serves on all the committees today.

But it’s also the work beyond CAPCOG’s boundaries that distinguishes Pitt’s service toward regionalism. He represented CAPCOG on the board of the Texas Association of Regional Councils (TARC) from 2003 to 2015. There he served on TARC’s legislative and transportation committees and was elected TARC President in 2014. Pitts also represents the interests of COGs statewide on solid waste issues; he is serving a six-year term on the Municipal Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Advisory Committee that ends August 2017.

The award honors former Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck, CAPCOG’s first chair and TARC’s first president.

Senator Watson addresses regionalism at General Assembly

Friday, January 08, 2016

The General Assembly of the Capital Area Council of Governments held its annual meeting in December at the Embassy Suites in San Marcos, which featured Senator Kirk Watson as the keynote speaker.

Senator Watson, who was the first recipient of CAPCOG’s Leadership in Regionalism Award, discussed the need for local governments to work as a region when addressing issues such as transportation, economic development, affordable housing and air quality.

Watson, during his tenure as Austin Mayor in 2000, initiated the Clean Air Coalition at CAPCOG, which has become a model for city and county elected officials working to maintain EPA ozone standards and prevent a nonattainment designation that would decrease transportation funds and economic development opportunities.

He noted the region faces challenges concerning affordable housing, jobs and transportation. These issues are better addressed on a regional level, because they are intimately tied together and their impacts on one community affect communities region wide making the challenges hard to tackle independently. Efforts such as regional economic development initiatives can further improve access to affordable housing and jobs while limiting transportation strain by supporting balanced growth in communities increasing the possibility for more people to live near where they work.

Senator Watson’s comments opening the meeting were supported by the State of the Region report that closed it; CAPCOG’s Economic Development Manager Chris Schreck focused on the region’s population growth, economic growth, educational attainment, workforce availability, housing and regional transportation.

By many measures, 2015 was another banner year for the Capital Area, Schreck said. The region is attracting huge numbers of highly skilled workers. Firms are growing and jobs are being created. The unemployment rate is at 3.3 percent. However, the continued growth in the region has exacerbated long-standing issues and has created new challenges in the Capital Area. Inequity in educational outcomes limits the opportunity for everyone to benefit from the region’s growing economy. Rising housing costs are displacing many residents in Austin and parts of Hays and Williamson counties, forcing them to move to more suburban and rural locations. This has the effect of isolating them from employment opportunities and from the public services many low-income households depend upon.

> Read more about the 2015 State of the Region.

The General Assembly also elected a new Executive Committee for 2016, which will hold its first meeting of the year on Jan. 13, including Leander Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Navarrette and State Representative John Cyrier, the two newest members.

Twenty-five elected officials serving in CAPCOG’s 10-county region are elected to the Executive Committee each year after interest is solicited from member cities and counties. Texas COGs are also required to have at least one slot for a state legislator; however, CAPCOG solicits interest from the 17 who serve all or portions of its ten counties and typically selects 3-4 to serve.

Navarrette has served on Leander City Council since 2003. Cyrier, state representative for House District 17, was elected in 2015 to serve the residents of Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes and Lee counties. He is a former Caldwell County commissioner and served on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The Executive Committee meets monthly to oversee the management of the agency and focuses on the administrative policies and practices such as budgeting, auditing, procurement, and other operational policies necessary to carry out a wide menu of programs, many of which are dictated by contractual scopes of work from state and federal agencies. The Executive Committee is led by five officers who will be elected at the January meeting. It also serves as the managing board for the Capital Area Emergency Communications District, which governs the region’s 9-1-1 systems.

> See a full list of 2016 Executive Committee members. 

MyPermitNow, MyGovernmentOnline tracks development process

Monday, January 04, 2016

MyPermitNow creates a clear path through the permitting and inspection process for governments and contractors. The web-based application has simplified several Central Texas cities’ permitting process while saving them time and money. It is now part of a larger suite of online tools, MyGovernmentOnline, meant to provide similar benefits.

“MyPermitNow has been great. It has helped Leander streamline and speed up our process, which desperately needed to be done because we have a high volume of permits,” said Kent Cagle, Leander city manager. Without MyPermitNow, Leander would need more staff to maintain its records and keep up with demand.

Leander issues about 1,500 permits per year and MyPermitNow lets inspectors, permit filers, contractors, and city planners be aware of every step in the process, said Linda Alger, Leander building official.

Specifically, MyPermitNow allows online permit submission, processing, and automated notifications for the entire permitting process, starting with the submission of building documents through the issuance of a permit to a building’s occupancy. The software is customizable to a government’s needs and can store plans, photos and other information as needed. The service also offers archiving of past documents and records to maintain continuity for government record keeping.

Putting the information in the web-based software allows governments to use a paperless system that provides better document management and limits human error. Its other benefits include increased transparency, an auditable process, an online approval process, empirical verifications, improved project management, and better process controls.

Going to paperless permitting increased the amount of information a building inspector can access on a job site, Alger said. Instead of carrying large plans and paperwork, MyPermitNow gives inspectors access to  the project’s documents at the project site via a computer tablet. Those documents can include building plans, previous permit results and other items an inspector may need. The inspector also can update the inspection status on site.

“It gives instant notifications about the inspections,” Alger said. “The permit applicant gets an email, text, or an automated phone call about the results of their inspections, sometimes before the inspector leaves.”

The South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC) in Louisiana developed MyPermitNow as a tool in response to the higher levels of plan review and permit tracking that became mandatory in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The SCPDC has since expanded the application to MyGovernmentOnline, which provides additional online resources including tools for code enforcement and planning and zoning.

The code enforcement tools allow for reporting complaints, tracking the complaint and seeing the complaint resolution. For the planning and zoning module, it lets officials search projects, check and review variances, and review subdivision and zoning requests.

CAPCOG is the Texas administrator of MyPermitNow and has registered 18 governments to use the software, since it began demonstrating it to local governments in 2011.

“As a regional partner to its local jurisdictions, CAPCOG realized the benefits MyPermitNow could provide to governments by creating more efficient processes that lead to cost savings,” said Ken May, CAPCOG Regional Services Division director. “MyGovernmentOnline is now offering a whole suite of applications to assist cities with several processes, and the value added permitting portion of the program is on a whole other level.”

“(Permit applicants) don’t have to come to the front counter for anything,” said David Harrell, director of development services for Lago Vista. “MyPermitNow is a true representation of E-government.”  For instance, a general contractor can sit in his Austin office and submit a permit for a single-family home construction project in Lago Vista. From the same office, he can see when inspections will occur and their results.

Because of MyPermitNow’s increased capabilities, reporting for planning purposes are more readily available and accurate.

Using a code enforcement module, Lago Vista, which has used MyPermitNow since 2011, can provide weekly and monthly updates on actions taken by the department, Harrell said. The Lago Vista City Council and residents can review what code complaints were filed and how code compliance offers responded to the complaint.

> Contact Ken May, CAPCOG Regional Services Division director, for more information about MyGovernmentOnline.

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