In the News
Dec. 6 CAPCOG criminal justice regional planning meeting rescheduled
Friday, December 06, 2013
Due to a weather-related delayed opening at its building, CAPCOG has rescheduled the Dec. 6 criminal justice regional planning meeting to 9 a.m.-noon Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. The meeting will take place at the agency's headquarters, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, TX 78744.
Staff have worked to notify all registrants of the change, but participants unable to attend the Dec. 20 meeting can instead reserve a spot at the 1-4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, session at the Williamson County Jester Annex, 1801 E. Old Settlers Blvd. Suite 110, Round Rock, TX 78664, by contacting Cindy Hood.
General registration for the planning meetings - developed to gain stakeholder input for a regional criminal justice strategic plan due to the Governor's Criminal Justice Division by March 1, 2014 - closed on Dec. 2.
Emergency notification now available by text and email, too, in Central Texas
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Don’t hang up the phone, ditch that text or scrap that email! The message you receive could save your life. The Capital Area Council of Government’s Regional Notification System, the telephone-based warning system used by public safety agencies in CAPCOG’s region since 2006 to share time-sensitive information with local residents, can now alert users by text and email too. A quick online registration is all it takes.
CAPCOG’s system, formerly called the “Emergency Notification System,” previously was limited to telephone calls to people that were included in the 9-1-1 database and to those who had registered their cellular telephones on CAPCOG ENS. The new RNS includes capacity to send messages by email or text and – eventually – Twitter and Facebook. Residents can register their cellphones, landlines, email addresses, pagers and other devices that receive text-based messages.
The improved system also will allow local officials to send a wider range of notifications. The previous system could only be used in situations in which life and property were directly threatened. Instead, the upgrades permit delivery of messages that may not comprise an emergency but nonetheless are important to public health, well-being and convenience. These could include restrictions on water usage, traffic disruptions due to major events and weather-related cancellations of public events.
If local officials need to spread the word widely and quickly, the CAPCOG RNS provides another option: The system can send 10,000 telephone calls, 6,000 text messages and 20,000 email messages per minute.
Largely as a result of interest generated after the 2011 Labor Day wildfire outbreak, the number of cellular telephones registered on the system is approaching 70,000. Current participants on the old system will get an automated phone message inviting them to sign up for the newly expanded features. These include the option of being automatically notified when the National Weather Service issues tornado, severe thunderstorm or flash-flood warnings for their area.
Mandatory workshops for criminal justice grant applicants scheduled
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
CAPCOG's Homeland Security division has scheduled two January 2014 workshops for potential grant applicants interested in state funding opportunities regarding criminal justice, juvenile justice and victim services.
Grant writers, coordinators and others involved in completing the applications or entering them at the CJD's eGrants website need attend only one of the mandatory workshops - Friday, Jan. 17, or Tuesday, Jan. 21 - to get details on applying for the following fiscal 2015 funding available from the Governor's Criminal Justice Division:
• General Victims Assistance
• Violent Crimes Against Women
• Criminal Justice Programs
• General Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs
Workshop attendance is mandatory for all applicants, new or returning. Applications submitted by organizations not attending one of the workshops will not be reviewed or prioritized by CAPCOG's Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC) or recommended for funding to the CJD.
The Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, will make potential grantees’ applications available to CAPCOG in March or April 2014 for review, prioritization and recommendations by CJAC in April 2014
Pick your plan! Annual Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7
Monday, November 25, 2013
CAPCOG's Area Agency on Aging (AAA) encourages eligible consumers to compare, choose or change their Medicare and prescription drug plans before annual open enrollment ends Dec. 7, 2013.
The annual open enrollment period, underway since Oct. 15, sets participants' plans for the following 12-month period.
AAA's Benefits Counseling Program can help participants sort the various options. For free one-on-one confidential counseling, call a Medicare benefits counselor today at 512-916-6062 or toll free 888-622-9111, ext. 6062.
The National Council on Aging is also on hand to assist. Its My Medicare Matters website now includes two additional tools to help in Medicare planning:
- RX Calculator, which estimates savings from switching Medicare Part D plans.
- Medicare QuickCheck, which helps participants review current coverage.
$2 million in diesel-cutting rebates available through EPA
Friday, November 22, 2013
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Clean Diesel Campaign is accepting applications through 4 p.m. EST Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, for rebates on the retrofitting or replacement of older nonroad contruction-equipment engines in selected public and private fleets.
The $2 million initiative aims to help curb harmful pollution from diesel emissions.
Interested applicants can participate in a free webinar on the 2013 Construction Equipment Funding Opportunity, part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act program, from 1 to 2 p.m. EST Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, or patch into the informational session by conference call.
New CAPCOG police cadet training coming spring 2014
Friday, November 22, 2013
CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy is accepting applications for six-month daytime cadet training slated to start April 2014.
Basic Peace Officer Course (BPOC) No. 72, launching a few months after the start of RLEA’s eight-month, part-time class currently underway in Pflugerville, will run from April 14 to Oct. 2, 2014.
The rigorous BPOC saw more than 120 cadet students in fiscal 2013 and includes 780 hours of classroom and field instruction.
RLEA's Basic Peace Officer Class No. 68, hosted by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, graduated Oct. 18, 2013, representing the host agency, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Learn more about the BPOC application process for prospective peace officers and explore continuing-education classes for current law enforcement professionals at the academy's training page. > Go
Disaster Debris Management 101: Presentation materials now available
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Miss CAPCOG's Oct. 30, 2013, training, Disaster Debris Management 101: Tools for Local and Regional Governments? Get the presentation materials now available online.
The full-day session, featuring government and industry experts such as Mike Fisher, Bastrop County’s emergency management coordinator, offered candid tips and case studies on planning, protecting public health and natural resources and ensuring disaster debris cleanups meet state and federal funding requirements.
Area experts discussed debris management plans, debris recycling and contractor monitoring and discussed successes and lessons in handling debris from the Bastrop County Complex Fire of 2011.
Stakeholders wanted: CAPCOG adds third December date for criminal justice planning
Friday, November 08, 2013
The Capital Area Council of Governments has opened registration and added a third December date to gather stakeholder input for a regional criminal justice strategic plan.
CAPCOG is funded by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division to assist with the grant application process and - new this year - to develop a regional plan due to the CJD by March 1, 2014.
Previously, CAPCOG staff facilitated a community planning process reflecting a compilation of plans developed at the county or multicounty level. Counties may still develop their own respective local plan but must use the CAPCOG-provided template for inclusion in the regional effort.
The upcoming outreach sessions allow representatives from law enforcement, victims services, mental health and juvenile programs to help identify challenges, solutions and necessary resources for their respective disciplines.
In addition, CAPCOG staff will analyze demographic trends and criminal justice data to help prioritize criminal justice-related needs. CAPCOG's Criminal Justice Advisory Committee will then complete the prioritization process in January.
Participants need select only one of the free sessions, now with a third date added - Dec. 6, 9 or 12 - and register online.
To further help in the outreach process, interested organizations are asked to contact CAPCOG's Mary Ramirez with the name, phone number and email address of their primary point person for criminal justice planning. > Go
> RSVP online for Dec. 6, 9, or 12 today
> Contact CAPCOG's Mary Ramirez for email updates
> Learn more about CAPCOG's criminal justice program
> Explore the Office of the Governor's Criminal Justice Division
GeoMap looks ahead to 2014 with new product in tow
Friday, November 08, 2013
CAPCOG’s Geospatial Base Mapping Project, “GeoMap,” is on track to cap a robust year and further expand services for 2014.
GeoMap 2014 will debut high-resolution oblique imagery, allowing stakeholders such as appraisal districts to now view properties from all four sides and measure structures vertically and horizontally without ever leaving the office.
The new product’s multiperspective viewing capabilities offer significant reductions in field work and can be an important tool for property assessment, planning, public safety, emergency management, fire and rescue and many more applications.
Award-winning GeoMap comprises a cost-sharing initiative to produce and maintain current geospatial base map data for local jurisdictions, developers, consultants and other interested parties.
GeoMap’s current year has included coordinating more than 12,000 miles of aerial photography for the Central Texas Council of Governments.
Looking ahead, GeoMap has already booked 2014 projects to secure aerial imagery, Lidar images, building footprints and more for area participants. Also, CAPCOG has competitively selected a vendor for GeoMap 2014: Fugro EarthData Inc., a leader in geospatial technology, brings a rich history of geospatial data acquisition and analysis.
Area stays in attainment of ozone standards for 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
It appears the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area - Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties - will remain in attainment with federal ozone standards for 2013, according to data collected through October at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's two regulatory monitors.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines violations of the ozone standard if the three-year average of any monitor's fourth-highest daily eight-hour ozone average is above 75 parts per billion.
The preliminary 2011-2013 average, or "design value," is 73 ppb for the monitor at the Austin Audubon Society and 72 ppb for the one at Murchison Middle School.
The EPA is currently considering whether to change the ozone standard in late 2014 or early 2015, likely in the range of 60-70 ppb.
2014 Social Security benefits rise 1.5 percent
Friday, November 01, 2013
Nearly 63 million beneficiaries will see a 1.5 percent boost in their monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits in 2014, the Social Security Administration announced in a news release.
Increased payments to SSI recipients will begin Dec. 31, 2013, followed by the Social Security adjustment set to start January 2014.
Learn more about the upcoming changes at the Social Security Administration website, and contact CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging for information on free services such as benefits counseling, medication screening, caregiver support and more for older adults in the 10-county region.
> Read the Social Security Administration news release
> Learn about Social Security cost-of-living adjustments
> Discover CAPCOG's Area Agency on Aging Services
> Get the latest on Medicare changes for 2014
Flood threat, CAPCOG training prompt KXAN story
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Austin-area KXAN meteorologist and reporter David Yeomans (left, white shirt), interviews Jim Barho of Burnet County's Office of Emergency Management.
As area and statewide experts convened in Austin for CAPCOG's Oct. 30, 2013, training, Disaster Debris Management 101: Tools for Local and Regional Governments, NBC affiliate KXAN-TV dropped by for a timely story on reducing the impact of floods.
Meterologists warned of heavy rains and potential flooding in Central Texas - including Austin - on Oct. 30. CAPCOG's training - focused on planning, protecting public health and natural resources and ensuring disaster debris cleanups meet state and federal funding requirements - offered an opportunity for KXAN to get an expert's take on keeping potential flood debris at bay and out of the way.
Watch the brief story, featuring Burnet County Office of Emergency Management's Jim Barho, at KXAN's website. > Go
New MIT report takes closer look at place-making
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Urban Studies and Planning has released the new research report, "Places in the Making: How Placemaking Builds Places and Communities," now available for free download.
The 72-page white paper includes a dozen case studies from across the country along with a look at the past, present and future of place-making itself.
Bastrop draws firefighters nationwide for training
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Camp Swift National Guard Training Facility in Bastrop is hosting firefighters from around the country for hands-on instruction through Oct. 24.
The 16th Annual Capital Area Interagency Wildfire & Incident Management Academy, coordinated by the Texas A&M Forest Service in partnership with a consortium of state, federal and nonprofit agencies, offers a two-week opportunity for firefighters of every discipline to take classes ranging from leadership, GPS orientation and equipment operation to fire behavior, tactical maneuvers, water use and more.
“It’s as close to a fire assignment as you can get without actually going to a fire that has the potential to burn houses down,” said public information officer Jan Amen, in an academy news release. “It is set up just like a wildfire incident so you know exactly what it’s like.”
CAMPO adds tools to weigh in on 2040 Regional Transportation Plan
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
With development of the next 25-year regional transportation plan revving up, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has launched additional ways for the public and community partners to share input and stay informed.
A revamped website for even easier navigation; a new idea-sharing site with maps and other tools for real-time participation; and a Mobile Meetings toolkit with fact sheets, a PowerPoint presentation and other materials all aim to help individuals and communities weigh in as this important plan gets underway.
CAMPO, which serves Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, must produce a 25-year regional transportation plan every five years. The agency works with stakeholders including cities, counties, regional and state transportation agencies and the public to plan for the area's current and long-term needs.
In addition to the new tools, other outreach efforts have included opportunities such as a regional survey that concluded in August and public meetings.
The eventual 2040 Regional Transportation Plan will replace the current 2035 version.
From preparation to recovery: CAPCOG training tackles disaster-debris management
Friday, October 18, 2013
From wildfires and tornadoes to chemical spills and flooding, learn about preparation, response and recovery with “Disaster Debris Management 101: Tools for Local and Regional Governments,” presented by the Capital Area Council of Governments, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at CAPCOG’s Pecan Room, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, TX 78744.
Doors open at 8:30 a.m. for check-in and refreshments.
The full-day training, featuring government and industry experts such as Mike Fisher, Bastrop County’s emergency management coordinator, will provide candid tips and case studies on planning, protecting public health and natural resources and ensuring disaster debris cleanups meet state and federal funding requirements.
Experts in the field will address debris management plans, debris recycling, contractor monitoring and more. Discussion also will include successes and lessons in managing debris after the Bastrop County Complex Fire of 2011.
Participation is open to the public, with emphasis on emergency planners and response staff, industry contractors, local government planners, elected officials and neighborhood leaders.
The $35 admission includes refreshments, lunch and – for eligible participants – Texas Municipal League continuing education credits.
Clean Air Coalition seeks local emission reduction commitments
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC), a regional collaboration of city and county governments in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, is seeking commitments from local governments and other organizations in the region to implement local, voluntary measures to reduce ozone.
Remaining in compliance with federal ozone standards continues to be a high priority for this region, both to protect public health and to avoid the costly impacts of a “nonattainment” designation.
Ozone Advance is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s latest effort to promote voluntary adoption and implementation of measures in areas close to violating the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. The region’s Ozone Advance Program Action Plan will be the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area’s fourth voluntary air quality plan, replacing the 8-O3 Flex Plan when it expires Dec. 31, 2013.
Reducing ozone levels provides health benefits for children, seniors, and people with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis. If an area is designated “nonattainment” for ozone, consequences could prove serious for the regional economy, including new constraints on transportation planning, strict limits on industrial growth and a host of costly pollution regulations. It also would result in the loss of local control of air quality planning and would impose new costs on the state in preparing implementation plans for the region.
In 2012, the region was only 2 parts per billion away from being out of compliance with the three-year average the EPA uses to determine if areas are in attainment, also called the “design value.” With the EPA now considering tightening the standard to a range of 60 to 70 ppb, additional efforts will be needed to ensure the region’s continued compliance. Previous local air quality plans have been a critical component of the success the region has enjoyed in twice avoiding nonattainment designations for stricter ozone standards – years 2004 and 2012 – and the 17 percent reduction in the region’s design value from 89 ppb in 1999 to 74 ppb in 2012.
The CAC will collect commitments for the action plan through Nov. 15 and, during its Dec. 11 meeting, will consider the plan’s adoption and submission to the EPA. Over the next month, jurisdictions currently participating in the CAC are scheduling time on their agendas to consider which measures to implement for the new plan. The City of Cedar Park on Oct. 3 was the first CAC member to pass a resolution with commitments for the plan.
Priority measures the CAC has identified include reducing emissions from fleet vehicles and equipment; implementing commuter trip reduction programs; improving enforcement of existing regulations; planning for transportation emission reduction measures; implementing Ozone Action Day programs; and annually tracking and reporting electricity, gas and fuel consumption. Any measures local jurisdictions or other organizations are willing to commit to will be included in the region’s new action plan.
Area businesses, organizations and jurisdictions that aren't CAC members but want to add their own pollution-reduction commitments to the plan can send them to Andrew Hoekzema, CAPCOG air quality program manager, by Oct. 31. > Go
Mess with Central Texas? Not on RETF’s watch
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Tattered couches, chairs and mattresses thrown down a ravine? Old tires sitting in a waterway? Toxic chemicals and piles of garbage stashed just off a park trail? No, thank you!
Incidents of illegal dumping are a nightmare for neighborhoods — including people, pets, wildlife and the environment — but the Capital Area Regional Environmental Task Force is helping communities fight back.
The multijurisdictional collaboration of 12 government agencies in Central Texas was initiated in May 1996 through a memorandum of agreement. It provides education opportunities, an illegal dumping reporting hotline, environmental sampling and environmental enforcement support to member governments and the State of Texas.
Considered the state's premier formal environmental task force created to address issues regionally, the RETF includes both law and code enforcement officers who share tools and leverage resources to tackle illegal dumping and other environmental crimes. It's primarily funded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through the Regional Solid Waste Grants Program and has annually received grant funding from the CAPCOG Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
In addition to assisting one another on investigations and pending casework, RETF members meet quarterly to discuss trends, target areas for outreach and education and learn about new and pending legislation. The task force may also hear expert testimony while sharing insight and experiences.
The RETF provides training courses for continuing education credits, conducting two basic and one intermediate environmental law training class per year. Since 2008, more than 550 officers from more than 50 different Texas governmental entities have received training through these important sessions.
The task force also has posted more than 500 no-dumping signs in the CAPCOG region, displaying a toll-free number to report illegal dumping. The hotline receives an average of 120 calls per year. Callers may remain anonymous, and each call is investigated by a licensed law enforcement officer who may collect environmental samples, facilitate site cleanup, pursue enforcement against violators and seek restitution for environmental damages.
Depending on the type of misdemeanor or felony violation, punishment can include costly fines and significant jail time.
Help stop illegal dumping by getting involved. Call the illegal dumping hotline at 1-877-NO-DUMPS to report violations, and save the date - more details to come - for the RETF’s Dec. 12 Basic Environmental Law training.
Available: Training tool against active-shooter threats
Friday, October 04, 2013
CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy's Use of Force Simulator, a state-of -the-art training tool that helps public safety personnel prepare for potential active-shooter situations and other threats, is available for local jurisdictions.
The mobile simulator, an integrated system using software, a video screen and hundreds of incident scenarios, provides realistic use-of-force training that helps participants develop the skills required of law enforcement personnel armed with both lethal and less-lethal weapons.
Contact RLEA Director Mike Jennings to schedule the tool, which any agency that employs peace officers can use for a nominal fee. > Go
Questions, dilemmas as Medicare open enrollment looms? CAPCOG can help
Monday, September 30, 2013
What new preventive services are now available through Medicare? How can I avoid becoming a victim of fraud while trying to get my Medicare benefits? What Medicare prescription drug plans are available where I live? How do I evaluate the costs in relation to my budget?
As the upcoming Medicare annual open enrollment gets underway Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2013 – one of the periods when eligible consumers can select or adjust their Medicare prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans – participants will have questions, and CAPCOG can help.
CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP), affiliated with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, provides free, unbiased, one-on-one counseling and enrollment assistance. The agency’s benefits counselors, who also speak to groups across the region and conduct outreach at community events and health fairs, help consumers who are 60 or older, their caregivers and anyone who’s Medicare eligible.
AAACAP has launched its fall Medicare open enrollment outreach campaign with various presentations and information tabling at events throughout the region, including enrollment-assistance opportunities scheduled through October 2013. Participants at the enrollment-assistance events are asked to bring a list of their prescription drugs, including frequency and strength.
The Capital Area Council of Governments was created by state statute and is governed by elected officials from the 10-county region it serves. Programs and services related to public safety and emergency response, environmental planning, economic and community development and the elderly are delivered at a regional level to leverage funding, maximize cooperation and eliminate duplication. CAPCOG serves Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties.
Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area, a CAPCOG program funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, has served as a trusted source of information on services and supports for older individuals and their caregivers for more than 30 years.