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In the News: News from August 2016

GIS mapping service heightens cities, counties’ capabilities

Monday, August 15, 2016

CAPCOG’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program, part of the CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division, wants to support cities and counties’ planning capabilities by offering mapping services throughout the region.

“Every community needs to know where their assets and resources are to make better informed and smarter planning decisions,” said Craig Eissler, CAPCOG GIS program manager. “Maps containing basic layers can set a foundation that allows planners and community leaders to best serve the community and plan effectively.”

CAPCOG’s mapping services can provide standard maps with information important to the daily management of a community’s services and development which include zoning, parcels, floodplains, utilities, and other basic layers of information. Add-on data if beneficial can include economic and demographic data, aerial imagery, ETJs, and current and future land-use zones as well as existing and planned infrastructure networks. GIS mapping allows multiple types of information to be viewed interactively to allow analyses of residential and commercial growth, response time for emergency calls, and support general planning functions. CAPCOG can assist cities and counties by creating a starting point or expanding their current map sets that can translate into printed, digital or interactive maps. The CAPCOG GIS program also can assist communities with map presentations for leadership, residents and developers to market the community or track development opportunities.

> Communities interested in using CAPCOG’s GIS Program’s mapping services should contact Eissler.
> Read more about the GIS program.

CAPCOG General Assembly set for Sept. 14

Friday, August 12, 2016

The September General Assembly meeting will mark the start of a new fiscal year as CAPCOG member representatives consider the proposed $32.7 million budget. The other primary duty of the membership is to select the new nominating committee that will recommend the 2017 Executive Committee for elections at the  December General Assembly. The meeting and luncheon will take place at 11:30 a.m., Sept. 14, at the Omni Hotel Southpark, 4140 Governors Row in Austin. CAPCOG Member Services Coordinator Mason Canales will begin receiving nominations for the Executive Committee in mid-September; eligible candidates are elected city and county officials who serve on the General Assembly.

Following the September meeting, the Texas Comptroller’s Office and the Texas Association of School Boards will lead a two-hour, Procurement and Cooperative Purchasing Workshop for local elected officials. The workshop will cover procurement best practices and explain how joining cooperative purchasing groups can benefit cities, counties, school districts and other local jurisdictions. Representatives from purchasing cooperatives such as BuyBoards, Purchasing Solution Alliance, and TxSmartBuy will discuss the advantages of joining their cooperatives and the types of purchasing in which they specialize.

> RSVP for the General Assembly meeting.
> Register for the Procurement and Cooperative Purchasing workshop.
> Learn more about the General Assembly.

General Assembly Representatives will receive a complimentary lunch during the meeting and representatives of CAPCOG members can attend the workshop for free.

> Contact Canales at to receive the discount codes.

Funds available for alternative fuel, natural gas fueling stations

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) made available about $17.7 million in grants to continue the development of a network of natural gas and other alternative fuel fueling stations to serve as a foundation for a self-sustaining market for alternative fuel vehicles in the state. 

About $9.8 million is available for projects under the Clean Transportation Triangle (CTT) and $7.9 million is being offered under the Alternative Fueling Facilities Program (AFFP). The grants are part of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP), and are offered to eligible entities that intend to build, own and operate alternative fuel or natural gas fueling stations in eligible Texas counties, which includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Travis and Williamson counties for the CTT program.
The grants offset a portion of the cost for the construction of new facilities dispensing natural gas or alternative fuels, or the substantial reconstruction of existing facilities to provide new services or capabilities dispensing natural gas or alternative fuels. Eligible fuels for the CTT program include compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas. Eligible alternative fuels for the AFFP include biodiesel, hydrogen, methanol, natural gas, propane, and electricity. 
TCEQ will accept applications until 5 p.m., Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
Three application workshops are scheduled to review the grants’ requirements and application process. 

  • AUSTIN: 1:30 p.m., Sept. 13, 2016
    TCEQ's Austin Office Building F, 2nd Floor, Room 2210
    12100 Park 35 Circle
    Austin, TX 78753
  • HOUSTON: 1:30 p.m., Sept. 14, 2016
    Houston-Galveston Area Council
    3555 Timmons, Suite 120
    Houston, TX 77027 
  • ARLINGTON: 1:30 p.m., Sept. 15, 2016
    North Central Texas Council of Governments
    616 Six Flags Drive
    Arlington, TX 76011 

> RSVP to Camen Gupta, TCEQ Program Coordinator. 
> Read more about or apply for the grants.
> Learn about CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Leaders share response experiences to mass shootings

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Community leaders from Dallas; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Aurora, Colo. will share their firsthand experience in responding to and recovering from mass shooting incidents as part of a CAPCOG Homeland Security Division conference. “The Crisis Challenge: the Leadership Role in Terrorism and Mass Shooting Incidents” conference will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16 at the Omni Hotel Southpark, 4140 Governors Row in Austin.

“By bringing together leaders who have handled these tragic events, CAPCOG is providing a learning experience that can help our community leaders be more successful in building a public safety team and environment that is successful at preventing, planning for, and responding to similar incidents,” said Eric Carter, CAPCOG Homeland Security Division director. “Hopefully, these types of incidents never happen in the Capital Area, but we all should be prepared if they do.”

Conference attendees will hear from practitioners including George K. “Skip” Noe, the Aurora Colo. city manager who responded to the July 2012, theater shooting that killed 12 and injured 70 residents. Chattanooga Police Chief, Fred Fletcher, and Hamilton County, Tenn. Emergency Services and Homeland Security Director, Earl “Tony” Reavley, will discuss the response to the July 2015 shooting that crossed Chattanooga and left five Marines dead. Dr. Jeremi Suri, a Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs, will serve as a key note speaker addressing topics such as international security and protest and dissident movements. Also speaking at the conference will be John Jones, Texas Department of Public Safety’s assistant director of Intelligence and Counter Terrorism.

> Register to attend the conference.

Seating is limited and priority will be given to mayors, county judges, and city managers representing CAPCOG’s 10-county region.

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

Striking a Balance gives caregivers learning, sharing experience

Friday, August 05, 2016

One of the Austin area’s largest conferences for family and nonprofessional caregivers will return for its 15th year to provide Central Texas residents with valuable information about support resources that assist caregivers in caring for their loved ones and themselves. “Striking a Balance” will take place Aug. 20 at the Doubletree by Hilton, 6505 North Interstate Highway 35 in Austin. Doors will open at 8:30 a.m. with the keynote speaker beginning at 9:30 a.m. Other conference activities will continue until 2 p.m.

AGE of Central Texas and the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP), a program of the Capital Area Council of Governments, host “Striking a Balance” so attendees can learn about local, state and national resources to address the practical, emotional, legal, and financial supports family caregivers need. “Caregiving is a journey unique to each individual,” said Patricia Bordie, a CAPCOG AAACAP program manager. “It is a journey that doesn’t have clear ups and downs or beginnings, middles and ends.” “Striking a Balance” is a conference where family caregivers can come to get answers about all stages and aspects of caregiving but more importantly know they aren’t alone.

> Discover AGE of Central Texas.

About 34.2 million Americans provide unpaid care for adults who are 50 or older. Among those Americans is Cara Magrane, a longtime advocate for caregivers, who is delivering this year’s keynote address, “A Caregiver’s Journey: from Advocacy to Caregiving and Back.” Magrane is the chief operating officer for Respite Care of San Antonio and serves on many boards that advocate for caregiving, especially caregiving for children. But her caregiving experience became personal after her husband suffered a stroke. Magrane’s speech will detail her caregiving experience and highlight the importance of asking for help, using respite care, and sharing your story to raise public awareness.

“For decades, I was the navigator for families, then suddenly, I found myself the person in need of direction and assurance,” Magrane said. “It has been a humbling few years, moving from sympathy to empathy; knowing I had not practiced what I had been preaching. I hope all caregivers truly hear that they have permission to take a break; to take care of themselves first. I hope they understand by sharing their story — their journey — with others, they are increasing awareness and demystifying what respite is and how valuable it is to our communities.”

AAACAP and AGE of Central Texas hope Magrane’s story won’t be the only one shared during “Striking a Balance.” When the conference first started, it was thrilling to have 60 caregivers attend. In recent years, attendance has close to tripled indicating the growing need for caregiver education. This year the conference space is large enough to accommodate more than 200 caregivers and expand the pool of expert vendors and educational breakout sessions.

> Read more about AAACAP.

“The most important outcome of an event like this is the connections caregivers make with other caregivers,” Bordie said. In some cases, caregivers are experiencing similar physical and emotional pressures while providing care. Knowing other caregivers share some of the same challenges may empower them to learn new ways to handle stress and recharge themselves, so they can continue to provide care to their family members or friends. “We want everyone who attends the conference to leave knowing it is important to take care of yourself so you can return to care renewed, refreshed and ready to continue to support your loved one.” Bordie said.

The educational breakout sessions provide caregivers with a deeper understanding of specific topics. This year’s sessions will teach caregivers about legal issues, such as wills and powers of attorney; communication and support issues; dementia specific concerns; and access to in-home and caregiver support services for veterans. In addition to educational sessions, Central Texas care providers and caregiver support organizations will be present to meet with caregivers face-to-face and assist them with assessing their needs, planning for care and accessing service and programs.

“We urge all caregivers to come to this type of event, because this is where they learn about balancing care for their loved ones with care for themselves,” Bordie said.

> Register for the conference.

Free off-site respite care available

AGE of Central Texas will provide free adult respite care at its Austin Adult Day Health Center, 3710 Cedar St. in Austin. Reservations are required.
Contact Gailyn Trammell at 512-600-9275 to request the respite care.

RETF tools help prevent illegal dumping in counties, cities

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Regional Environmental Task Force (RETF), in its 20 years of operation focused on protecting the environment through awareness and enforcement activities, offers a range of resources and tools that can assist communities in the 10-county CAPCOG region to curtail illegal dumping and catch violators who still do it.

One of the most used and effective tools are road signs purchased by the RETF, said Mike Bittner, Caldwell County code enforcement officer. Setting up the signs brings awareness to illegal dumping in trouble areas and provides an avenue for witnesses to report incidents.  “The signs help in a number of ways,” according to Dennis Rudder, a sergeant investigator with the Travis County Attorney’s Office Environmental Crimes Unit and founding member of the RETF. “One way is just by educating people that they shouldn’t be dumping their trash.”

Caldwell County has placed 70 signs along county roadways and bridges; the area surrounding the signs have experienced about a 75 percent decline in illegal dumping, according to Bittner. Signs also were used by Travis County in a large, unfinished subdivision on South Imperial Drive after a massive volunteer cleanup effort removed a lot of illegally dumped trash. “Illegal dumping was a huge problem in that area,” Rudder said. “The paved roads gave people easy access to the site, so large piles of trash started to build up.” Eventually, the piles could have polluted the Colorado River waterway since the subdivision sits in the floodplain, but after the area was cleaned, the signs prevented further illegal dumping.

The use of one the RETF’s 10 HD-digital-video cameras requires a bit more time and effort, but they are extremely useful when collecting evidence of environmental crimes. Ken May, CAPCOG’s Director or Regional Services but formerly in charge of solid waste programs at TCEQ explains that cameras, which can be checked out by enforcement personnel whose jurisdiction is in the CAPCOG region, are constantly in use throughout the region, assisting in recording what happens at illegal dumpsites, and their video can be used as evidence leading to ticketing or prosecuting people who commit environmental crimes.

In one case, cameras were used to catch a man illegally dumping and burning materials after he would steal copper wiring from buildings. “We caught this guy acting like Tarzan, banging on his chest and swinging stuff around, as he was throwing this stuff into the fire,” Rudder said. That video helped convict the man for stealing the copper piping and his environmental crimes.

For Bittner, the best tool the RETF provides is an intangible one: the continuing education of code and law enforcement officers.

CAPCOG organizes four environmental law training courses for code and law enforcement officers every year — three beginner courses and one intermediate course. Local governments across the state send representatives to attend the RETF’s courses, which can be taught outside of CAPCOG upon request. In recent years, RETF instructors taught three courses in Beeville, Rockport and Eagle Pass. Each course instructed about 25 officers from the Costal Bend and Middle Rio Grande regions. Attendees learn the difference between civil and criminal environmental crimes as well as how to investigate, prepare case reports and what is needed to prosecute the crimes. Many officers who attended the training have recommended it to others and requested additional, more specific environmental law courses such as developing case reports for environmental violations. CAPCOG is investigating offering such courses.

“The instruction I got through the task force was immeasurable,” Bittner said. “Because I am a code enforcement officer, it gave me a law enforcement perspective, too. Knowing the proper law enforcement procedures allows me to work with peace officers and help put cases together.”

Having staff complete the intermediate course gives a jurisdiction an environmental law expert who becomes a powerful resource for protecting the public’s health, welfare and safety from environmental crimes and prevents the need for expensive clean-ups by local governments.

List of RETF tools:

Environmental Law Training — Annually, the RETF offers four courses on environmental law geared for sanitarians, code enforcement, and peace officers. CAPCOG also added an environmental law segment to its basic peace officers course.

Environmental Enforcement Guide — This small pocket sized  guide contains information on Texas environmental laws. It is published by Pocket Press and can be ordered on its website.

10 SPYPOINT Tiny W-3 Cameras — RETF members can check out cameras for conducting surveillance and investigating illegal dump sites and other solid waste crimes.

No Dumping Road Signs — These signs can be put up on county and city roads or common dumping locations. They state the location is under surveillance and provide the 1-877-No-Dumps (663-8677) for witnesses to report illegal dumping.

The 1-877-No-Dumps Hotline — The hotline lets citizens report illegal dumping. All calls are reviewed by the RETF coordinator and directed to the appropriate jurisdiction’s investigator.

RETF Sampling Trailer — The RETF trailer contains all the supplies needed to conduct environmental sampling. It is housed in Travis County but available to any RETF member.

Outreach materials — From posters to magnets to reusable bags to pens, the RETF provides educational materials about the No-Dumps hotline and illegal dumping.

> Learn about the RETF.
> Read about the CAPCOG Solid Waste Program.

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