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Austin, TX 78744

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In the News

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 mcanales@capcog.org 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.

Air Quality funding available for New Technology Implementation projects

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Source: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has made available $3.5 million in grants to individuals and businesses to offset the incremental cost of emissions reductions of air pollutants from facilities and other stationary sources in Texas.

The New Technology Implementation Grant (NTIG) program is part of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) and is offered to eligible entities that intend to build, own, and operate new technologies to reduce emissions from point sources or store electricity related to renewable energy.

There are three NTIG project categories:

  • Advanced Clean Energy projects that involve the use of certain hydrocarbons (coal, natural gas, or petcoke), biomass, solid waste, or derived-hydrogen fuel cells, while meeting minimum emissions reductions requirements.
  • New Technology projects that reduce emissions of regulated pollutants (such as criteria pollutants or hazardous air pollutants) from point sources.
  • Electricity Storage projects that store electrical energy related to renewable energy sources.

The TCEQ will accept applications until 5 p.m., Oct. 18, 2016.

It has scheduled a grant application workshop to review the grant requirements and the application process from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Aug. 17 at the TCEQ headquarters, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Building F, Conference Room 2210A, in Austin.

> Learn more about the grant.
> Find more TERP grants.
> Read about CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Homeland Security increases training opportunities

Monday, July 25, 2016

CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Division is ramping up its coordination of training events and workshops. Its goal is to offer training on specialized topics at least once a quarter, but three courses are already scheduled for August.

“We want to sponsor training workshops that provide an engaging experience for those who respond to hazards in our region,” said Eric Carter, CAPCOG Homeland Security Division director. “These training classes are places for emergency personnel to learn, talk about, and share the skills needed to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.”

CAPCOG’s 10-county region consists of diverse communities with differing training needs. While some courses are beneficial to all local jurisdictions, it also strives to host specialized training for its urban and rural partners and for all levels of an organization’s personnel from first responders to elected public officials.

The three training courses scheduled for August are Mass Fatalities Planning & Response for Rural Communities, Continuity of Government Operations Planning for Rural Communities, and Crisis Management for School-Based Incidents.

> Learn about these courses or to find future training opportunities.
> Read more about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

Caregivers to get hands-on experience

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP), Nurses Unlimited, Health Training Services, and the City of San Marcos will host “Hands On, Caregiving at Home”, a seminar to support families caring for elderly loved ones in the home. The seminar will start at 9 a.m., July 22, at the City of San Marcos Activity Center, 501 E. Hopkins St.

“’Hands On, Caregiving at Home’ is designed to uplift local caregivers and boost their confidence in providing care by giving them instructions on assisting family members or friends with routine tasks and activities needed for daily living,” said Jill Findlay, AAACAP assistant director.

Staff from Health Training Services will demo proper techniques used to perform day-to-day activities. These include assisting someone in and out of bed and safely bathing. Caregivers also will learn proper use of adaptive equipment such as walkers, canes and gait belts, and receive an instructional handbook.

AAACAP will open the seminar by presenting several local services and programs available to people older than 60 and family caregivers. Other caregiving topics will be discussed.

Lunch will be provided. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required by calling 512-392-4662 or 512-916-6041.

> Learn more about AAACAP.
> Discover more about local caregiving resources.

TERP Texas Clean School Bus Program seeks Grant Applications

Friday, July 15, 2016
Source: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) Program is accepting applications for the Texas Clean School Bus (TCSB) Program. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis with a deadline to submit them by 5 p.m. Nov. 1, 2016.

More than $5.9 million in grant funds are available to cover the cost of retrofitting diesel-powered school buses with emission-reduction devices to reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust.

School buses remain the safest way to transport children, and their diesel engines are both durable and economical. However, the Texas Education Agency reports more than 40 percent of the school buses in local fleets are more than 10 years old. In the years since these vehicles were purchased, several advancements in vehicle and engine technology have helped reduce emissions from school buses.

The TCSB Program may make funding available to help school districts when purchasing and installing emissions reduction technologies such as diesel particulate filters, diesel oxidation catalysts, and crankcase filters. School districts located in designated counties also may qualify for funding to replace existing school buses with newer, lower-emitting buses through one of several grants from TERP.

> Apply for the TCSB Grant.

Applications submitted using application forms from previous TCSB grant rounds will not be accepted. Eligible applicants must be a public school district or charter school in the state of Texas that operate diesel-powered school buses on a daily route to and from schools.

> Read the TCSB Grant flier for more details.
> Learn about CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.
> Discover CAPCOG Air Quality Grant opportunities.

CAPCOG brings national call taker training to region

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

For the first time in years, the nationally recognized and popularly requested Public Safety Training Consultants (PSTC) will educate emergency telecommunicators from around the region in July and August on professional development topics that complements CAPCOG’s already robust telecommunicator training.

CAPCOG requested PSTC teach five courses:

  • Progressive Supervision on July 12
  • It’s Your Ship - Navigating Communications Center Leadership on July 13
  • Complacency, Cannibalism, and Critical Thinking on July 14
  • Providing Exceptional Service - “What if it Were Family?” on Aug. 25
  • Active Shooter on Aug. 26

“Leadership and customer service are two very valuable skills for all 9-1-1 dispatchers,” said Kelsey Dean, CAPCOG PSAP specialist. “Emergency telecommunicators have to provide outstanding customer service while also controlling the call with someone who is often in a high stress situation. They have to appropriately calm the caller and know how to not only explain an agency’s response but sometimes how to save a life.”

Like CAPCOG’s telecommunicator courses, PSTC’s courses help attendees maintain and hone those critical skills dispatchers and supervisors use daily. They also reinforce best practices for meeting the public’s expectation of telecommunicators.

> The July classes have limited space, but call takers can contact Dean about enrolling.
> Register for the August classes.
> Read about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.

Funding available for Austin-Round Rock MSA air quality projects

Friday, July 08, 2016

CAPCOG is commencing its second round of funding opportunities for projects to improve air quality in the Austin-Round-Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area — Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties. The funding opportunity has an application deadline of Aug. 19, 2016.

The Regional Air Quality Grant program will allow for a broader range of projects to be funded than the Local Emissions Reduction Grant program completed earlier in 2016. It will fund projects supporting the goals of the regional air quality plan, the Ozone Advance Program Action Plan. A project’s funding will be based on its cost, instead of the amount of Nitrogen Oxides (NOX), a major contributor to the creation of ground level ozone, it reduces. Clean Air Coalition members and action plan participants are eligible for the grant. Other organizations must submit a letter committing to the action plan to qualify.

Through the Local Emissions Reduction Grant Program, CAPCOG awarded Austin Community College a $29,450 grant to install solar panels on the roof of the Highland Learning Center campus. The project is expected to reduce the amount NOX emitted by about 1.2 tons during its lifespan. The installation will include 324 320-watt solar panels which will be able to create 100 kilowatt hours of power per hour of sunlight.

> Read more about the grant. 
> Discover the CAPCOG Air Quality Program.

CAPCOG offers Downtown Development workshop

Friday, June 24, 2016

CAPCOG’s downtown development workshop will make the case for why communities that aren’t focusing some of their economic development resources on their downtown are missing an opportunity for new investment, small business development and jobs.

“It’s about return on investment for a city, because they must already maintain infrastructure and provide services in their downtown business district; this workshop will be about how to maximize that investment,” said Chris Schreck, Director of Planning & Economic Development at CAPCOG. 

The workshop will feature presentations by Georgetown Main Street Manager Shelly Hargrove and Debra Drescher who is State Coordinator of the Texas Main Street Program. Georgetown was one of the first cities designated as a Texas Main Street in 1982 and still has a successful downtown program, a testament to the Main Street concept and principles. 

Downtowns can become a live/work/play center of a city which means jobs and housing, so Elgin, also a Texas Main Street city, is developing housing choices in their downtown which will be discussed by Sean Garretson, local consultant and developer. Chris Schreck will lead a brief discussion over lunch about assessing the economic impact of a downtown program. 

CAPCOG in its role as the Capital Area Economic Development District provides this workshop to support strategies in its regional economic development plan. This workshop is tailored for county and city elected officials, city managers, city planners, and economic development directors and board members. The workshop will be from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, Texas.

A registration fee of $25 will be charged to reserve a seat and cover the lunch and refreshments; however, there is no charge for CAPCOG members. Attending elected officials can qualify for four CEUs toward their state or TML educational requirements.

> Register for the workshop.
> Review the agenda.
> Contact Mason W. Canales to receive a code to register for free.

TCEQ announces grant funds for natural gas vehicles

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Source: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is still accepting applications for funding consideration under the Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grant Program, part of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.

Individuals, businesses, and governmental entities that own and operate a heavy-duty or medium-duty vehicle may qualify for the grant to replace a vehicle with a natural gas vehicle or repower the vehicle with a natural gas engine. Counties in the Capital Area Council of Governments that are eligible grant include Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Lee, Fayette, Travis, and Williamson counties.

The TCEQ will accept the grant program’s applications through May 26, 2017.

Interested parties should contact a Participating Dealer under contract with the TCEQ to determine eligibility. Program staff at the TCEQ are always available to answer questions.

> Learn information on the Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grant Program, its participating dealers, the application process and eligibility requirements.
> Read more about the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.
> Discover more air quality related grants.
> Read about the CAPCOG Air Quality Program.

WarnCentralTexas boosts emergency warning registrations

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

WarnCentralTexas.org is a new web portal launched region wide in May to increase participation for a regional emergency communications tool that sends alerts via text, email or phone calls during a disaster.

The website allows residents in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties to register their emails and cellphone numbers to an address or addresses in those counties. Local government emergency personnel, who are responding to incidents and disasters in their communities, can then send location-based, direct warnings via email, text message and phone calls to WarnCentralTexas.org registered participants. Visitors are also encouraged to register if they often stay in the region.

CAPCOG has supported an emergency warning service for the region’s local governments for more than a decade. The emergency notification service was launched when most residents still had landline phones; its ability to reach residents continues to decline as more people move to cellphone only households. CAPCOG registers landlines into the system automatically using the 9-1-1 database, but cellphone numbers and email addresses have to be self-registered. About 45,000 cellphone users are currently self-registered. Using the same easy-to-remember branding region wide should provide greater recognition with more users as the outcome.

Warn Central Texas dot org logo and web address.

“Protect your family, property and self. Sign up for emergency warnings in your neighborhood by voice, text, or email.” — WarnCentralTexas tagline.

CAPCOG uses CodeRED as the software tool for emergency notifications. Residents who are signing up to participate in the program at WarnCentralTexas.org may find the following questions and answers helpful.

WarnCentralTexas FAQ

How do I know that my local community is using WarnCentralTexas.org?
CAPCOG purchased the use of the system for its member organizations in the 10-county region — Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties. Cities and county officials have access to the CodeRED system for sending notifications to areas in their jurisdictional boundaries.

Who will be making the emergency calls and sending the text and emails to my devices?
Emergency management coordinators and other public safety officials have the authority to push emergency warnings to residents through CodeRED’s database. The tool allows those sending the alerts to choose geographic areas to receive warnings based on the type of emergency. 

Who will the call come from?
Emergency calls will come from the following phone numbers regardless of which city or county officials may be sending them. Residents may find it useful to save the numbers in their phones’ contacts.

  • Emergency Alert 866-419-5000
  • Community Alert 855-969-4363
  • Weather Warning 800-566-9780

What if I don’t know if I signed up at WarnCentralTexas.org already?
If you are a managed account holder, CodeRED will tell you if your phone number is already in its system while you are registering. You will then be prompted to login. If you are not a managed account holder, you can simply resubmit your information, and it will be updated in CodeRED’s self-registration database. There is no harm in re-registering to ensure the CodeRED database has your correct information.

How will my personal information be used?
CodeRed’s database of registered users is not shared or sold. CAPCOG can request information from the CodeRed database, but it doesn’t request personal information such as phone numbers and addresses so the information remains private.

Can I get emergency warnings based on my location instead of my address?
CodeRED offers a free mobile app for Android and iPhone devices. The app allows device owners to receive alerts based on the geo-location of their phone as long as they are within any jurisdiction that uses CodeRED. Download the CodeRED Mobile Alert app at Google Play or the Apple Store.

What other information can I receive by signing up at WarnCentralTexas.org?
The primary use of the emergency communications tool is to contact residents during disasters, but self-registrants can choose to receive general notifications, such as street closures, from local jurisdictions that use CodeRED. When registering for the system, residents also can request severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service about tornados, thunderstorms, flash floods or winter storms. More than one phone number and email address can be registered to a residential or business address.

> Register with WarnCentralTexas.org.
> Get educational outreach materials for WarnCentralTexas.org.
> Learn more about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

NCOA, GreenPath provide personalized financial help for older Americans

Friday, June 10, 2016
Source: National Council on Aging

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and GreenPath Financial Wellness joined forces to provide older adults. people 60 years older or older, with unbiased reverse mortgage, debt and bankruptcy counseling as well as money management and financial education services.

“Our partnership with GreenPath is the evolution of NCOA’s holistic approach to helping seniors maintain their economic security and independence,” said Amy Ford, director of NCOA’s Home Equity Initiatives. “NCOA is an innovator in providing unbiased information for older Americans. GreenPath’s expertise will help us significantly increase the number of seniors we can assist.”

GreenPath is the hub for calls from older adults seeking reverse mortgage counseling from NCOA. Beyond reverse mortgage counseling, GreenPath provides consumers a full range of services to help them pay down debt, avoid bankruptcy, and manage their limited incomes wisely. NCOA will train GreenPath counselors to enhance their understanding of the specific needs of older adults, as well as the array of community-based supports available to help seniors stay independent in their community.

To schedule a reverse mortgage counseling session, call toll-free 855-899-3778, Monday-Saturday.

> Learn more about NCOA’s work in economic security.
> Find out about GreenPath Financial Wellness.
> Discover the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area’s Benefit Counselor program.

The Area Agency on Aging, a program of the Capital Area Council of Governments, has Certified Benefits Counselors that assist seniors to identify and understand public benefit programs that they may be qualified for which provide financial assistance to lower Medicare Costs, such as Medicare Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Plans.

CAPCOG BPOCs add environmental law training

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Illegal trash dumping, air pollution, water pollution, hazmat incidents and incidents involving medical waste that affect the region’s water supply and threaten public health and safety are often criminal environmental activities. So starting this August, every cadet enrolled in CAPCOG’s Regional Law Enforcement Academy’s Basic Peace Officer Course (BPOC) will be better equipped to combat such environmental crimes when they are working as commissioned officers.

In April, the CAPCOG Law Enforcement Education Committee added a 4-hour segment of specialized environmental law training to the future BPOCs. Expert trainer Dennis Rudder, a sergeant investigator with the Travis County Attorney’s Office Environmental Crimes Unit, will lead the course segment. Rudder, the president of the Regional Environmental Task Force (RETF), serves as an instructor for Basic and Intermediate Environmental Law Training Courses requested throughout the state.

“It's not necessarily a single act, but the aggregation of numerous violations over time which is detrimental to the environment,” Rudder said. The addition of these course hours provides the foundation for new peace officers to prevent environmental crimes  from affecting the public’s health, safety and welfare.

The RETF is composed of code and law enforcement officers who work in  the CAPCOG 10-county region. The RETF creates awareness and addresses illegal dumping and the enforcement of Texas’ environmental laws. It is funded through CAPCOG’s Solid Waste Program; operates an illegal dumping hotline, 1-877-NO-DUMPS; and provides environmental law training, investigation, and prosecution assistance to local governments statewide.

> Learn about the RETF.
> Find out about CAPCOG's Basic Peace Officer Course.
 

CAPCOG shares economic analysis expertise throughout the region

Monday, June 06, 2016

For every 10 jobs we create in the food production, processing, and distribution sectors, we create roughly another eight jobs elsewhere throughout the local economy. Moreover, 54 cents of every dollar in sales earned by food producers, processors, and distributors gets funneled back into the local economy. There are important opportunities in these sectors that exist for communities in our region, said CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Director, Chris Schreck.

Schreck explained how linking components of the supply chain locally can have significant economic benefits for individual communities and the entire region during the Local Food as an Economic Development Driver seminar on April 27 in Elgin.

The information delivered during the seminar is a sample of the economic development analysis CAPCOG can provide for its members on an ad hoc or as needed basis. Analysis can get more in-depth when CAPCOG partners with communities on economic development or planning projects, and or leverages its GIS capabilities. CAPCOG excels in evaluating the fluidity between local and regional trends and examining the relationship between the two and how those can create benefits for a local community.

“Housing for instance is a very local issue. It’s a neighborhood issue at its core,” Schreck said. “But housing has really substantial impacts on regional issues, like transportation, workforce, and affordability. CAPCOG is really well-suited to work with communities on these kinds of issues that span both local and regional interests.”

Other presentations Schreck gave in the recent months include:

  • Workforce analytics during an Austin Chamber Regional Partners Meeting;
  • The future development of the region at a Real Estate Council of Austin Meeting; and
  • CAPCOG economic development services for local communities to the City of Kyle Economic Development Board.

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG planning and economic development director.
> Learn more about the CAPCOG Planning and Economic Division.

CJD to seek grant applications for crime reporting systems

Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Source: The Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division

The Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division (CJD) announced a $16.2 million funding opportunity for Texas law enforcement agencies to implement a national incident-based reporting system (NIBRS) or upgrade infrastructure to support an agency’s current use of NIBRS.

NIBRSes collect data on 24 offense types comprised of 52 distinct offenses and agencies report based upon the specific incident that includes data related not only to offenses and arrests, but also to location, victim and offender data, and other measures. During the 84th Texas Legislative Session, the legislature enacted legislation to move the state away from previous summary reporting, which provided less reporting categories, to NIBRS. It appropriated $17.3 million for the purpose of establishing a goal that all local law enforcement agencies will use NIBRS by Sept. 1, 2019.
    
CJD will start accepting grant applications on July 1, 2016 to help convert agencies from summary reporting to NIBRS or to upgrade current NIBRS. Applications will be accepted until Aug. 1, 2016. The minimum award for the grant is $5,000 and there is no matching requirement.

Preference will be given to those agencies that are either not submitting any data to the Texas Department of Public Safety currently or are submitting summary reporting data only. DPS and CJD also will consider applications from current NIBRS contributors who wish to upgrade their reporting system but will evaluate these applications based on their overall response to the solicitation and availability of funding. 

> Read the full funding announcement.
> Apply for the grant at egrants.gov starting on July 1, 2016.
> Learn more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program. 

CAPCOG builds resiliency into 9-1-1 infrastructure

Monday, May 23, 2016

Construction should begin by the end of the year on the installation of a secondary, or backup, 9-1-1 fiber-optic network for 23 of CAPCOG’s 27 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) locations where 9-1-1 calls are received. The additional network will allow PSAPs to continue to answer 9-1-1 calls if a network outage occurs instead of the calls being rerouted to another PSAP or call center. The calls are never in jeopardy of not being answered, according to CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Director Gregg Obuch, but when a call is rerouted it doesn’t carry with it the address and map of the caller. “We really want the location information of that caller in case the call gets dropped before we get a responder to the site.”

In early April, the CAPCOG Executive Committee, in its capacity as the Capital Area Emergency Communications District board, approved the $7 million project to install fiber lines on different routes to the 23 PSAP locations.  While the district maintains 31 PSAPs, four are located at the Combined Transportation, Emergency & Communications Center and two at CAPCOG’s offices. The remaining four PSAPs — Lee, Fayette, and Blanco counties’ and Marble Falls’ — need an alternative solution to fiber lines to provide a secondary network, such as installing radio towers and using microwaves. CAPCOG continues to work on identifying a secondary network solution for the remaining sites.

The backup network has been a priority for the last two years; often outages occur due to construction sites cutting fiber or even network maintenance – the network is owned by AT&T and, while they try to be responsive to these events, it still means 9-1-1 calls may be disrupted, said Obuch. The first phase of the project addressing 23 PSAPs will be completed in three years.

> Read about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.
> Learn about the Capital Area Emergency Communications District.

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