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In the News

November honors Caregivers, brings Alzheimer’s awareness

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments proclaimed it is joining many communities around the nation who recognize November as National Caregiver and Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

“It is important to acknowledge the significant role that family, friends and neighbors play in caring for sick, elderly and disabled relatives,” said Jennifer Scott, director of the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of the Capital Area. 

An estimated 43.5 million caregivers nationwide provide unpaid care, valued at an estimated $450 billion per year, to an adult or child who can’t care for themselves, according to a 2015 AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving report. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a serious public health problem that particularly affects older adults, Scott said. About 1 in 9 older adults have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Fifteen percent of people ages 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s and the percentage increases to 43 for adults between the ages of 75 and 84.

Through services provided by the AAA and ADRC, the Capital Area Council of Governments supports both causes year around with a variety of programs, services, and events. Some of the programs include:

  • The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), which provides in-home respite care, voucher respite, mental health services and more services directly to caregivers
  • Stressbusting for Family Caregivers, which helps caregivers with reducing stress and coping with the emotional decisions they are faced with while caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or a chronic disease
  • Caregiver education, which sends a gerontologist into the home for an assessment and family counseling
  • Caregiver educational presentations, which brings lecturers and caregiving experts to communities throughout the region

> Read the Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month Proclamation.
> Read the National Caregiver Awareness Month Proclamation.
> Discover the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area.
> Discover the Aging and Disability Resource Center of the Capital Area.

CARTPO to discuss Proposition 7 funding, project priorities

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CARTPO) will discuss the anticipated funding the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will receive from the passing of Proposition 7 as it relates to regional transportation infrastructure projects during its 9:30 a.m., Friday, Nov. 20 meeting.

Proposition 7 will provide a permanent funding stream of about $2.5 billion through state fees to TxDOT for transportation projects starting in 2018. It is being enacted after a constitutional amendment was drafted during the 84th legislative session and authorized by the Senate Joint Resolution 5.

CARTPO members also will reevaluate their local priorities for transportation funding which CARTPO provided to TxDOT in 2014 for consideration in several of the agency’s programs. The programs included the Long-Range Transportation Plan, Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, Unified Transportation Program and other TxDOT initiatives requiring consultation with rural planning organizations.

The meeting will be in the CAPCOG Pecan Room.

> Discover the Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

CAPCOG solid waste grant program seeks projects

Monday, November 09, 2015

Slightly more than $204,000 of pass-through funding is available to local communities during the CAPCOG Solid Waste Grant Program 2016-17 cycle.

The grant program began taking applications Nov. 3 and has a Dec. 17 deadline. A Nov. 18 grant writing workshop will provide assistance to applicants. Grant funds are available to local governments, school districts, and general and special law districts. The funds may be used in seven project categories:

  • Local enforcement;
  • Litter and illegal dumping cleanup and collection events;
  • Source reduction and recycling;
  • Citizen collection stations;
  • Household hazardous waste management;
  • Education and training;
  • And other (projects in this category must be approved by the TCEQ on a project-by-project basis).

During 2014 and 2015, the solid waste grant funded 14 projects. The majority of the projects provided funding for communities to conduct household hazardous waste collection events and community cleanups. Funds helped Fayette County, Smithville, and Austin Community College purchase recycling program equipment. Bastrop County used funds to create and update outreach materials on proper waste disposal.

> Apply for a CAPCOG solid waste grant.
> Register for the upcoming grant writing workshop.
> Discover the CAPCOG Solid Waste Program.

TCEQ seeks applications for Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants

Thursday, November 05, 2015
Source: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) Program announced it is now accepting applications for the Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants (ERIG). The grant funds the upgrade or replacement of older heavy-duty vehicles, non-road equipment, and stationary equipment.

Application submissions will have a 5 p.m., Feb. 2, 2016 deadline.

The grant is eligible to any person who operates or plans to operate on-road heavy-duty vehicles, non-road equipment, or stationary engines primarily in one or more of the eligible counties. For infrastructure projects, persons owning or operating the infrastructure in an eligible county may also be eligible for funding.

Applicants can include individuals, corporations, organizations, governments or governmental subdivisions or agencies, school districts, business trusts, partnerships, associations, or any other legal entity. Applicants must have the legal authority to dispose of the vehicle being replaced.

Eligible CAPCOG counties for the grant include: Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson.

Grant Application Workshops, Dealer Trainings, and Application Assistance Sessions will be scheduled to provide an overview of the ERIG application process. The ERIG program has several new changes this year. Plan to attend a workshop to learn more about new program requirements and new grant application forms.

> Watch for upcoming grant workshops and trainings.
> Get the grant application.
> Learn more about TERP.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

CAPCOG launches criminal justice plan survey

Monday, November 02, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments opened an online survey for criminal justice planners and professionals and area residents to provide input into the Regional Criminal Justice Strategic Plan.

Two planning meetings were held on Oct.29, 2015, but CAPCOG wanted to solicit additional input from area criminal justice stakeholders and developed the survey for those who were unable to attend the planning meetings.

The survey is available until 5 p.m. Nov. 9, 2015. Please pass the survey's link to anyone who would be interested in providing input on the Regional Criminal Justice Strategic Plan in the CAPCOG region. People who attended either stakeholder meeting should not complete the survey, since they already provided input for the plan.

> Take the 2016 Criminal Justice Strategic Plan survey.

The Regional Criminal Justice Strategic Plan indentifies gaps in direct victim assistance, juvenile justice, mental health, and criminal justice issues so that services, existing programs, new initiatives, and funding opportunities may be reviewed and resources targeted accordingly.

> Read the current Regional Criminal Justice Strategic Plan.
> Discover more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program.
> For more information about the survey, contact Matt Holderread.

Governor’s office opens body camera grants

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Source: Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division.

The Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, on Oct. 26 announced a new grant program to aid municipal police departments and county sheriff’s offices in establishing or enhancing body-worn camera (BWC) programs.

The Criminal Justice Division anticipates up to $10 million may be funded through the grant program to municipal police and county sheriff’s departments. Such departments must employ officers who are engaged in traffic or highway patrol, otherwise regularly detain or stop motor vehicles, or are primary responders to calls for assistance from the public. Funds may only be used for the one-time purchase of cameras and to procure digital video storage resources (not to exceed one year).

Grantees must provide matching funds equal to 25 percent of the awarded amount. Match requirements can be met through cash or in-kind contributions. Grant applications will be accepted until 5 p.m., Dec. 7, 2015.

> Review and learn how to apply for the grant.
> Learn about the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division.
> Discover the Capital Area Council of Governments Criminal Justice Division.

19 graduate from Capital Area peace officer academy

Monday, October 26, 2015

Walking across a stage in the Texas Capitol on Friday, 19 former Capital Area Regional Law Enforcement Academy cadets commenced their police officers careers.

“All 19 cadets worked hard to achieve the honor of graduating from the academy to pursue a career in law enforcement,” said Mike Jennings, the Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy director. “Their dedication for learning what it takes to become a peace officer has paid off. Every graduating cadet passed their Texas Commission on Law Enforcement certification exam, seven earned a 90 or higher on the exam.”

For seven months, the graduating cadets spent nights and weekends taking the academy’s Basic Peace Officer Certification Course, which started in March. CAPCOG offers a part-time, night academy at least once a year, so prospective peace officers can maintain jobs while enrolled in the course.

State Representative Marsha Farney gave the keynote commencement speech telling the graduates they are embarking on a noble profession that will inspire their neighbors, friends, families and even themselves.

This is the 76th graduation held by the academy, four of which were held this year. The class president of the graduating cadets was Margaret Acuna. Brett Engstrom was honored as the course’s salutatorian. Ryan Staha earned the honors of being Valedictorian.

> Learn when the next Basic Peace Officer Course will be conducted.
> Discover the CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy.
> Find other courses offered by the academy.

The following cadets graduated from the course:

  • Margaret Acuna
  • Billy Brown
  • Bradley Brown
  • Richard Ciolfi
  • Ian Clark
  • Shawn Conway
  • Brett Engstrom
  • Eric Graham
  • Jesus Hernandez
  • Jarrod Jarmon
  • Bryce Johnson
  • Cameron Moore
  • David Oberg
  • Tyler Schafer
  • Carly Serna
  • Traci Smith
  • Ryan Staha
  • Kathryn Stewart
  • Raul Valdez

Nursing students educate capital area seniors about falls

Thursday, October 22, 2015

After several trips to thrift stores, a pair of Texas A&M nursing students unloaded 1/2 dozen pairs of sneakers and other shoe styles on a classroom table.

The two students were collecting tangible examples of shoes that help prevent seniors from falling. They wanted to make sure every student in their class had a pair to display while teaching “A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls” in the communities served by the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP), said Darla Gruben, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

Texas A&M Health Science Center, College of Nursing in Round Rock, and AAACAP partnered to teach A Matter of Balance. The partnership benefits everyone the program touches. It increases the number of older adults who learn about fall prevention; allows for AAACAP, a Capital Area Council of Governments division, to reach more seniors with the program, and the students learn valuable skills and information.

“The Texas A&M and AAACAP partnership has greatly benefited older residents living in Williamson County,” said Liz Salinas, AAACAP Health and Wellness Coordinator. “It allows for a continual pool of passionate and devoted coaches who can educate older residents in several area communities at once.”

A Matter of Balance is an evidence based program created by the Roybal Center for Enhancement of Late-Life Function at Boston University. The course teaches older adult participants to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risks at home, and exercises to increase strength and improve balance. The course is taught over eight, 2-hour sessions by two coaches.

AAACAP provides the course throughout the 10-county region, trains program coaches and oversees program fidelity. For the partnership with Texas A&M, it trains the nursing students to be certified program coaches.

> To volunteer as a Matter of Balance coach contact Liz Salinas.

Every year, there are 20 students at the Round Rock campus who take the course that teaches A Matter of Balance as part of its curriculum. They become certified A Matter of Balance coaches after 8 hours of training over two days conducted by Salinas, a master trainer for the program. The nursing students can then lead A Matter of Balance programs for about 48 seniors a year. Since the program began 6 years ago, about 300 older adults have received fall prevention classes.

The nursing student led A Matter of Balance classes started Sept. 28 and are being facilitated at senior living communities in Round Rock, Georgetown and Leander; and at a senior center in Round Rock.  
The dedication and enthusiasm of the nursing students tends to transfer to the older-adult participants in each A Matter of Balance program, Gruben said. Every session is full of energy from both the nursing students and the seniors.

While seniors benefit from learning about fall prevention, the students are learning from teaching the classes.

“At first they are fearful, because they have been in a hospital setting and not educating groups of people, but after that first class, they are so excited and realize the A Matter of Balance materials give them a lot in their tool kit, and it allows them to give back to their community,” Gruben said. “They realize they are really fulfilling a need in the community.”

A large part of nursing is patient education. This partnership teaches the students how to handle that education at a different level and bring it back to a one-on-one patient setting. It also shows the nursing students there is a variety for job opportunities in the community for nurses because these programs are held in a non-hospital setting.

Just learning about fall prevention is another great aspect of the partnership for the nursing students, Gruben said.

Injuries resulting from falls make up about 88 percent of emergency room visits nationwide.

“Everyone is given a fall risk assessment in the hospital,” she said. “The students can use what they have learned during their A Matter of Balance training to better assess a patient, prevent a patient from falling at the hospital, and educate the patient about fall prevention once they return home.”

A Matter of Balance is a very important program that educates everyone from the programs participants to the student coaches about the risk of falling, Gruben said. It is a wonderful cause for Texas A&M nursing students to be passionate about and doing the “selfless service that we promote as an Aggie Core Value here at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.” That passion drives some students to not only talk about what types of shoes help prevent falls, but also to voluntarily rush out and buy appropriate examples of shoes.

> Discover more about A Matter of Balance.
> Learn about the Area Agency on Aging. 

CAPCOG telecommunicator licensing training passes 100%

Monday, October 19, 2015

CAPCOG has always trained telecommunicators, and its year-old, 40-hour basic telecommunicator course demonstrates another outstanding addition to educational opportunities in which call-takers can partake.

The state began requiring telecommunicators to be licensed by Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in 2014. Since then, CAPCOG has offered four Basic Telecommunicator classes. Students of the classes achieved a 100 percent pass rate. Students are required to score an 85 percent or greater to pass the class. All students who took the licensing exam also excelled with a 100 percent pass rate, passing the exam on their first try.

CAPCOG has taught about 30 students with an average exam score of 82 percent. CAPCOG offers the Basic Telecommunicator course four times a year free of charge to telecommunicators working within the 10-county region. Outside agencies are welcome to send students to our class for a fee.

CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Division offers a variety of other training courses.

> For more information contact Kelsey Dean, CAPCOG PSAP specialist.

The next Basic Telecommunicator class is from Dec. 7 through 11. The exam will be Dec. 14.

> Discover more emergency communicaitons courses.

Area residents can register to receive emergency warnings in 2 minutes

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments wants to remind area residents registering for the regional notification system (RNS), a messaging service that alerts residents of emergency and non-emergency situations, can take as little time as two minutes.

RNS messages sent by local officials may include content such as incident-specific information, recommended protective actions or response directives. They can be delivered to various devices that accept voice, email or text messaging content and to alpha or numeric pagers. The message sender identifies recipients, develops the message and determines which types of devices receive the message.

> Register to receive emergency messages from RNS.

All you need to register is your phone or cellphone number and an address.

Once registered for CAPCOG’s RNS provider, CodeRed, residents will recognize the RNS call when their caller ID displays the following numbers. Please be sure to add these telephone numbers into your telephone's contacts, when applicable:

  • 866-419-5000 or Emergency Comm for Emergency Notifications
  • 855-969-4636 or ECN Community for General Notifications 
  • 800-566-9780 or Emergency Comm for CodeRED Weather Warning Alerts

To hear the last message delivered to a phone, simply dial the number back.

> Want to more about RNS, discover more on how it is used.

CAPCOG General Assembly adopts FY 2016 budget

Thursday, October 15, 2015

CAPCOG’s approved 2016 budget estimates expenditures of $24.4 million and revenues of $24.42 million.

The Area Agency on Aging, including the Aging and Disability Resource Center, and the Capital Area Emergency Communications District consist of the largest budget expenditures — $8.4 million and $13.2 million respectively.

New programs and projects planned for the budget year include: text to 9-1-1, a regional radio communications interoperability plan, an in-home caregiver respite program, scenario place-making, the Capital Area Addressing and Referencing Map (CAAR Map) GIS program, and more.

The 2016 fiscal year budget is almost a 2 percent increase from the 2015 fiscal year budget. The General Assembly approved the budget in September, and a complete budget book was posted in October.

> Review CAPCOG's Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
> Read other CAPCOG financial documents.
> Discover more about CAPCOG.

Capital Area Mutual Aid Plan coordinates region

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Capital Area Mutual Aid Plan’s goal is to make available the appropriate resources at the appropriate time in response to large-scale, emergency management incidents as they develop.

Covering all 10-counties in CAPCOG and the Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council 11-county region, the plan provides guidance for the coordination of many different types of available local, public resources needed for regional response in the event of catastrophic incidents. It addresses the system of requesting, locating, and mobilizing those resources and the coordination of their deployment before and after substantial state, federal or distant local resources can arrive.

CAPCOG’s Executive Committee approved the plan in September, which is different than the Capital Area Mutual Aid Agreement approved in 2006. The agreement pertains to counties and municipalities and what resources — police, fire, and emergency medical units — they may make available, while the plan is directed at those local governments and other organizations not eligible through agreement, such as the American Red Cross.

If a local government adopts the agreement, then it automatically becomes a participant of the plan. Other political subdivisions, nonprofits, and private sector organizations can partake in the plan and not the agreement.

> Read the full plan.
> Review the mutual aid agreement.
> Discover the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

EPA announces $7 million to reduce diesel emissions from school buses

Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of about $7 million for rebates to public and private school bus fleet owners for the replacement and retrofit of older school buses. Replacing buses with older engines will reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality.

New to this year’s program is the option of implementing retrofit technologies. Fleet owners can install diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC) plus closed crankcase ventilation (CCV) systems to reduce emissions up to 25 percent, and they can replace older buses with newer ones that meet the latest on-highway emission standards as in previous EPA rebate programs. EPA will pay up to $3,000 for each DOC plus CCV, and between $15,000 and $25,000 per replacement bus, depending on the size.

EPA will accept applications from September 28 to October 30, 2015. Applicants may request up to 10 buses for replacement and up to 10 buses for the retrofit option on each application. Fleets with more than 101 buses in operation may submit two applications.

Public school bus fleets and those owned privately but contracted with a public school system are eligible to apply for rebates to replace school buses with engine model years of 2006 or older.  They may also apply to install DOC plus CCV technology on school buses with engine model years 1994-2006.

Many of the nation’s school buses are powered by diesel engines. EPA standards for new diesel engines make them more than 90 percent cleaner than older ones, but many older diesel engines remain in operation and predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large quantities of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These pollutants are linked to health problems, including aggravated asthma, lung damage and other serious health issues.

This is the third rebate program offered under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) reauthorization to fund cleaner school buses. Nearly 25,000 buses have been made cleaner because of the funding.

> Learn more about the rebate program, applicant eligibility and selection process, and informational webinar dates.
> Email the EPA questions about the program.
> Discover CAPCOG's Air Quality Program.

Central Texas likely to remain designated in ozone “attainment”

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) may not have a significant impact on Central Texas since the region’s air pollution levels will likely remain low enough to avoid a “nonattainment” designation. The new, more stringent health-based ozone standard, announced Oct. 1, 2015, tightens the National Ambient Air Quality Standard from 75 ppb to increase protections for human health and the environment. Peak ozone levels in Central Texas have averaged 68 ppb between 2013 and 2015. If the region’s ozone levels were above 70 ppb, it would be at risk for being designated nonattainment, which could cost $24 to $42 billion in economic losses for the region, according to a report by the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG).

“Central Texas has been a national leader in voluntarily reducing ozone-forming emissions, and every resident of Central Texas can be proud of the success of the region’s efforts to keep the air clean and avoid the burdens of an ozone nonattainment designation,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who serves as the chair of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC) said. “I encourage residents to continue these efforts in 2016 to help ensure that the region can remain designated attainment for this new ozone standard.”

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

Although the region’s current ozone levels are in compliance with the new standard, pollution levels can vary substantially year-to-year. Keeping ozone levels low in 2016 will be important to ensuring the region can avoid a nonattainment designation under the new standard.

Residents of Central Texas can help the region remain in compliance with the new air quality standard and improve public health protections by purchasing newer, cleaner vehicles; avoiding driving alone to work; and conserving energy. On “Ozone Action Days,” when meteorologists expect ozone levels to be particularly high, children, seniors, and people with respiratory problems should avoid prolonged exposure outdoors, and motorists should avoid idling and taking unnecessary trips.

> Discover more information on regional air quality in Central Texas.
> Read CAPCOG's fact sheet about EPA’s new ozone standard, and how it affects Central Texas.

CAPCOG Disaster Debris Plan earns award

Monday, September 28, 2015

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

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

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

Homeland Security Director to retire

Friday, September 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

> Read more about CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Division.

Nonattainment designation for new ozone standard could cost Central Texas

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Striking a Balance 2015 shares caregiver resources

Monday, September 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCEQ Announces Workshops for TERP Grant Recipients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austin seeks nonprofit, business participation on disaster census

Monday, September 14, 2015
Source: City of Austin

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

> Take the survey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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