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In the News

FEMA: Senior benefits unaffected by disaster aid

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seniors can apply for federal disaster assistance without sacrificing Social Security benefits, paying more taxes or dropping their income-based benefit programs, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency news release.

The timely reminder comes amid recent disasters such as the deadly fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas, which also resulted in tremendous property loss.

“We want to reassure seniors not to be afraid to apply for assistance. FEMA assistance is available to all eligible survivors to include senior citizens,” FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin L. Hannes said in the release. “Receiving disaster funds will not impact non-FEMA assistance or assistance from other programs.”

> Learn more about FEMA assistance
> Explore CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging's services

Austin-area mandatory 10-digit dialing starts June 1; 9-1-1 not affected

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Remember to reprogram those phones! With the introductory six-month grace period ending, mandatory 10-digit dialing in Central Texas starts June 1, 2013.

The change, needed to accommodate an expanding population and demand for more phone numbers, also includes a new, additional area code coming this summer. 

First announced last year, the move echoes other communities across the country whose days of seven-digit dialing are a thing of the past. It affects Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Lampasas, Milam, Travis and Williamson counties.

Key components of the change, also called an "overlay":

  • Optional 10-digit dialing, or dialing the applicable area code and seven-digit phone number, ends its six-month introductory period on May 31, 2013.
  • Mandatory 10-digit dialing starts June 1, 2013; calls will not be completed without it.
  • Starting July 1, 2013, new phone lines may receive the new "737" area code, an addition to the area already served by "512."
  • Eventually all new telephone numbers within the 512 area will be assigned the 737 area code.
  • Customers can keep the 512 phone numbers they already have.
  • The three-digit 9-1-1 local emergency number will remain the same.

Customers can contact their local phone-service provider for more information, or visit the "Texas Area Codes" section of the state Public Utility Commission website. > Go

> Read a KUT news story on the region's new area code
> Learn how CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division supports 9-1-1

Area Agency on Aging: Eye on preventive services

Friday, May 10, 2013


From annual flu vaccinations and diabetes self-management training to obesity screening and tobacco counseling, preventive services can make a major difference in helping people protect their health. Learn how CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging’s Benefits Counseling Program helps connect eligible consumers with needed preventive services in the 10-county region.

Funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging has assisted older adults and their caregivers for more than 30 years. As a part of the AAA, the Benefits Counseling Program provides Medicare guidance to adults 60 and older and to Medicare beneficiaries of any age.

> Discover AAA's Benefits Counseling Program, including volunteer opportunities

Consumers can count on the agency’s state-certified benefits counselors to provide confidential, unbiased, one-on-one assistance in understanding Medicare eligibility requirements, navigating open enrollment periods, choosing applicable coverage options, helping prevent fraud, applying for help with drug prescription costs and more. All without having to pay a benefits counseling fee.

Benefits counselors, well-versed in the preventive services available under Medicare, also advise consumers on how to efficiently and cost-effectively access such resources. They don’t refer clients to specific doctors, social workers or other providers but do, for example, provide timely, relevant information about health insurance plans and insurance policies.

Preventive services covered by Medicare has expanded under the federal Affordable Care Act, making it even more important for eligible consumers to seek benefits counseling. Since Jan. 1, 2011, beneficiaries can receive a wide range of preventive services, with most at low to no cost.

> Learn more about Medicare at the official federal website

For example, depending on age, eligible Medicare participants may access free preventive services such as the following:

  • Blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests. ??
  • Cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies. ??
  • Routine vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio or meningitis. ??
  • Counseling on health and wellness topics such as smoking cessation, weight management, nutrition and mental health. ??

How does the Benefits Counseling Program get the word out about Medicare-covered preventive services? A combination of today’s tools and time-honored outreach. The Area Agency on Aging coordinates outreach events with a range of providers and coalitions within the region. Benefits counselors also discuss the services during group presentations and individual sessions. And in addition to sharing program updates, volunteer opportunities, events and more on its website, AAA is planning to raise its social-media profile.

Scheduling free one-on-one confidential benefits counseling, including learning more about preventive services available with Medicare, is as easy as requesting a benefits counselor at 512-916-6062 or toll free 888-622-9111. Call or refer someone who needs help today!

> Share your support for Older Americans Month, May 2013

CAPCOG honors 9-1-1 pros

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Capital Area Council of Governments recently honored area emergency communicators, naming the winners of its annual Telecommunicator Awards contest.

  • Cindy Ledesma, Austin Police Department; Michael Brimble, Cedar Park Police Department; and Tammie Reyna, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, each received a Dedicated Service Award, given for exceptional professionalism.
  • Kim Haba and Brenda Parkinson of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office won the 9-1-1 Team Award, which recognizes two or more telecommunicators for exemplary handling of a specific emergency call involving coordination of multiple public safety responses and other emergency resources.

The regional awards helped mark the April 14 to 20, 2013, National Telecommunicators Week, which was also recognized by a CAPCOG Executive Committee resolution.

> Discover CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division

Data Points brings latest on regional economy

Friday, May 03, 2013

After a brief hiatus, CAPCOG’s monthly economic development update is back with a new look and a new format, making it even easier to keep up with the capital area’s regional economy.

The revamped Data Points, available online and by free email subscription, still delivers analysis on topics important to the regional economy. It now also features “Vital Signs,” a quick-reference section offering essential metrics of the regional economy such as employment growth, building permits and retail sales.

Count on Data Points for updates provided exclusively by CAPCOG’s Economic Development Program, including monthly patents awarded and two new stock indices respectively tracking businesses headquartered in the capital area and major employers in the region.

Data Points additionally will spotlight one of the capital area’s 10 counties each month. Look for these changes and other improvements to come.

> Read the May 2013 issue 
> Explore CAPCOG's Economic Development Program

State clean-air grant makes way for low-emission solutions

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Railroad Commission of Texas has launched a $6 million pollution-curbing grant to help businesses retire older forklifts and medium- or heavy-duty diesel vehicles for low-emission replacements.

“We’re pleased to help operators use Texas-produced alternative fuels to save money and help continue to clean up Texas air,” said Chairman Barry T. Smitherman in a commission news release. “Our program works for large and small operators in eligible counties, whether they have a single piece of warehouse equipment or an entire fleet of heavy-duty trucks.”

The grant, funded through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, averages $9,500 per award and covers eligible new equipment that meets current emissions standards and will be operated in one of the 43 eligible Texas counties.

Replacement vehicles and equipment fueled by natural gas and propane are expected to help grant program participants cut fuel costs and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 600 tons, according to the release.

> Read the Railroad Commission of Texas news release
> Download the grant's frequently asked questions flier

Federal economic development competition for area universities closes June 17

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The U.S. Economic Development Administration's University Center Competition, assisting higher education institutions in developing regional systems that support high-growth entrepreneurship, is accepting applications for the fiscal 2013 funding round through June 17, 2013.

Accredited institutions from the Austin region - including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas - and Denver region can apply for funding, according to the EDA annoucement. Past awards have ranged from $80,000 to $200,000 per recipient. Visit the federal Grants.gov website for more details on the funding competition. > Go

State emissions reduction program accepting rebate applications through June 28

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is offering rebate grants to reduce air pollution from heavy-duty diesel vehicles and equipment, with applications accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, June 28, 2013, or until all $5 million in available funding is distributed. 

Funding from TCEQ's Texas Emissions Reduction Plan Rebate Grants Program, aimed at replacing or upgrading selected on-road vehicles of a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 8,500 pounds or nonroad equipment with a minimum 25-horsepower engine, is available first come, first served to eligible applicants and expected to go quickly.

Call 800-919-8377 or visit TCEQ's website for application materials and additional eligibility requirements. > Go

CARTPO: US 290 expansion to 4-lane highway a top priority

Monday, April 15, 2013

A recent ranking by Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization members placed expansion of U.S. 290 in Bastrop and Lee counties at the top of the priority list.

> Discover CARTPO

CARTPO, a committee of the Capital Area Council of Governments, offers a forum for elected officials from Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties to discuss and make recommendations on transportation policy, direct planning and data initiatives, oversee the federally prescribed local consultation process and collaborate with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. 

The committee's March 2013 vote prioritized larger, longer-term regional roadway projects from seven Central Texas counties. Counties were allowed to submit three projects for ranking.

> View the project rankings spreadsheet

Delegates from all nine counties present at the committee's March meeting cast ballots, with counties not allowed to vote on their own projects. Each delegation awarded one to 10 points per project, based on the project's urgency and ability to improve congestion, road conditions and safety.

As with several recent CARTPO project prioritizations, expansion of U.S. 290 in Bastrop and Lee counties to a four-lane divided highway ranked first. The area represents the only non-four-lane portion of U.S. 290, adding to the ranking's significance beyond the capital area.

The Texas Department of Transportation considers the regional recommendations and rankings as funding for area projects becomes available.

> Contact David Fowler, CAPCOG senior planner, for more on the prioritization process

Behind the scenes: 9-1-1 call takers

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Nine-one-one. What is the address of your emergency?”

Call takers at public safety answering points or 9-1-1 communication centers throughout CAPCOG’s 10-county area ask that question more than 3,500 times a day.



Telecommunicators at the Combined Transportation Emergency and Communications Center in northeast Austin, Texas, handle dispatch for various response agencies.

As Central Texas and the nation observes National Telecommunicators Week from April 14 to 20, 2013, get a closer look at the various “hats” 9-1-1 call takers wear in providing diverse support to police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and community members.

Plus, learn how CAPCOG helps prepare call takers for their important role.

A typical shift starts with getting updated on calls that occurred previously in the day and calls currently in progress. Staff must be ready to handle a variety of 9-1-1 calls — from the report of a fire, medical emergency or robbery to a request for other police assistance.

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Did you know?
  • The CAPCOG region, comprising Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties, includes more than 600 telecommunicators.
  • CAPCOG leads the region in local implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1, a national initiative to help emergency communication centers accept calls by text messages, photos, videos, alarm systems, vehicle devices such as OnStar and medical-alert systems for seniors — all in addition to voice-only calls.

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Telecommunicators are masters of multitasking. They not only answer 9-1-1 emergency phone calls but also dispatch units over the radio and field calls from citizens with routine inquiries. Plus, staff work with both statewide and national computer systems to share information or assist officers with investigations. They accomplish these tasks with accuracy and in a timely manner to serve the community.

CAPCOG helps contribute to that success. With expertise in 9-1-1-related issues and in telephony, radio systems, operations, networks and police and fire operations, the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division supports the public safety answering points by providing a wide range of training for call takers.

> Discover CAPCOG's Emergency Communications division

New call takers receive training on the 9-1-1 equipment; a 40- hour basic telecommunicator course; and a variety of classes on dispatching, crisis communications, pre-arrival dispatch protocols and other public-safety topics.

Call takers serve as the link between people seeking help in an emergency and the emergency response agencies that arrive on the scene. In honor of call takers' service and important public-safety role, entities including CAPCOG and the State of Texas also have adopted their own resolutions recognizing National Telecommunicators Week.

> Read the Texas proclamation

Getting data a cinch with GeoMap

Monday, April 08, 2013

From aerial and Lidar imagery to depictions of underwater depth measurements, CAPCOG’s Geospatial Base Mapping Project, “GeoMap,” makes it easy to get crucial, quality planning data without breaking the budget.

Want customized maps for projects such as appraisals, growth management, conservation, local development or disaster response? No need for a lengthy procurement process. GeoMap’s competitively selected vendor provides the customized map data, with CAPCOG managing the vendor contract and coordinating quality assurance and control.

Project participants historically have received several dollars of data for every dollar contributed. As current interest in regional 6-inch aerial photos for 2014 grows, for example, the resulting product may include cost-sharing and volume discounts for all participants.

> Discover GeoMap, which currently has 19 participating governments

Texas grant for alternative fuels closes April 26, 2013

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Texas State Energy Program is accepting grant applications from local governments and other eligible public entities to transition or convert their fleets to alternative fuels.

Alternative fuels can include compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum, liquefied natural gas, electrical power or hybrids of conventional fuel and battery electrical power.

The overall pool of available funding comprises about $1,400,000, with selected maximum grants per applicant and per vehicle and a matching-funds requirement equal to 20 percent of total project costs.

Applications for the Alternative Fuels Initiatives Grant Program are due to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts office by 2 p.m. CT Friday, April 26, 2013.

Visit the State Energy Conservation Office website for more details. > Go

Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area seeks volunteers

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging’s Benefits Counseling Program, whose certified staff helps older adults and other eligible consumers in Central Texas navigate Medicare issues such as health care coverage, plan enrollment, fraud prevention and more, is seeking caring volunteers.

The program has scheduled a free four-part series of volunteer training sessions from April through August 2013. Volunteers will learn about topics ranging from Medicare programs, eligibility guidelines and prescription drug coverage to documentation requirements, Medigap insurance and community outreach. Training also will include hands-on practice with mock consumer phone calls.  

Applicants are encouraged to reserve class spots early by calling 512?916?6022 or sending an email to bcpvolunteer@capcog.org. Space is limited, and registration closes five days before each class.

Please note: Insurance agents, insurance brokers, and financial planners are not eligible to volunteer with the Benefits Counseling Program.

> Get the training schedule
> Download the volunteer application
> Explore the Benefits Counseling Program
> Discover other Area Agency on Aging volunteer options

2-year TX anniversary for MyPermitNow

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

MyPermitNow, a customizable Web-based application for land-use permitting, planning, addressing and code enforcement, has hit the two-year mark in Texas.

Since its capital area launch, the time-saving software has operated successfully in five cities and one county, with six local governments expected to implement it soon and several signing up now.

Created by government to help local jurisdictions streamline their permitting and related processes, MyPermitNow features low monthly fees; no hourly charges for installation or technical support; and greater efficiencies that help jurisdictions save developers, contractors and residents time and money.

Learn more about the software by contacting CAPCOG senior planner David Fowler. > Go

CAPCOG law enforcement cadets score another perfect pass rate

Monday, March 25, 2013


Cadets from CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy Class 66 prepare to graduate March 22, 2013, in Austin, Texas.

Another class of CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy cadets has achieved a 100 percent first-attempt pass rate on the state exam for new peace officers.

The success marks another notch in the academy's pass-rate record, with all but two of the agency's approximately 20 cadet classes in the last five years having accomplished this feat.

What contributes to the academy's high pass rate? "Hard work and personal time spent with cadets," said RLEA Director Mike Jennings. "We work with them one-on-one and as a group."

Class 66, which started CAPCOG's six-month Basic Peace Officer Course last fall, comprised 28 cadets representing area agencies such as Cedar Park Police Department, Round Rock Fire Department, Caldwell County Sheriff's Office, San Marcos Police Department and Texas State University.

Cadets must pass the state exam administered by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education to become licensed peace officers.

> Learn more about CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy
> Explore upcoming RLEA training opportunities

EPA seeks Smart Growth Achievement honorees

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 12th annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, recognizing innovative communities, is accepting nominations through 5 p.m. Eastern time Friday, April 12, 2013.

Public-sector, private-sector and nonprofit entities can apply for the award, which honors use of "smart-growth principles to improve communities environmentally, socially and economically," according to the EPA website. Competition categories include "Built Projects"; "Corridor and Neighborhood Revitalization"; "Plazas, Parks and Public Places"; and "Policies, Programs and Plans."

The competition will culminate in a December 2013 awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Learn more at EPA's website. > Go

CAPCOG law enforcement training: opportunities available now

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

RLEA cadets
Cadets practice during a class conducted by the state-accredited CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy.

CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy is offering training opportunities for aspiring peace officers and veteran professionals this spring.

The academy is accepting applications for its eight-month Basic Peace Officer Course, or cadet training, starting May 6, 2013, in Bryan, Texas. The part-time night class, offered in cooperation with the Brazos Valley Council of Governments and designed to meet the needs of working adults, includes academic instruction and preparation for the state licensing exam.

For current law enforcement professionals, CAPCOG’s continuing-education opportunities include the five-day Firearms Instructor Course starting March 18; the free class Focus on Reducing Impaired Driving Among Youth, March 22; the five-day Basic Instructor Course in mid-May; and more.

Also, CAPCOG’s Use of Force Simulator, a state-of -the-art training tool that helps law enforcement personnel prepare for a variety of sensitive situations, is available. Contact RLEA Director Mike Jennings to schedule the tool, which any agency that employs peace officers can use. > Go

> Explore the Basic Peace Officer Course
> Learn more about the Use-of-Force Simulator
> Discover CAPCOG's continuing education for law enforcement professionals

CAPCOG offers dispatcher applicant testing

Monday, March 11, 2013

CAPCOG Emergency Communications offers public-safety dispatcher, call-taker, and telecommunicator applicant testing for Public Safety Answering Points, or 9-1-1 communication centers, throughout the 10- county region.

Call-testing helps PSAPs select employees with the critical skills and abilities necessary to succeed on the job.

For more information or to schedule testing for your applicants, contact Devin Huntley. > Go

Regional forum showcases smart growth scenario-planning tools

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

With three speakers, free breakfast and an interactive demonstration of scenario-planning tools to help Central Texas cities shape future growth, the Capital Area Council of Governments Sustainable Places Project will present the free regional forum, Planning for Prosperity, 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in Austin. 

The forum, open to local governments, planning consultants, real estate developers and the public, marks the fourth in a series of SPP regional forums and will demonstrate a suite of Web-based interactive tools aimed at helping local jurisdictions and their communities develop and explore scenarios for a more efficient, financially sustainable future.

Speakers will include urban and regional planning expert John Fregonese of Fregonese Associates and members of the University of Texas analytics tool team.  

Eventbrite - Sustainable Places Project Regional Forum: Planning for Prosperity

It all began a decade ago, as the nonprofit Envision Central Texas and consultant Fregonese launched a planning effort to help the region manage future growth. The "activity centers" concept emerged as a preferred vision: nodes of growth – connected by transportation options – with pedestrian-oriented housing, employment, education and retail opportunities.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization 2035 Plan continued that vision, aligning transportation funding with activity centers. 

> Read the CAMPO 2035 Plan

Carrying the activity centers concept forward, CAPCOG and regional partners have teamed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and others to host the Sustainable Places Project, an initiative integrating planning, analytics tools and community visioning to help Central Texas governments maximize public-sector return on investment.

The project includes demonstration sites – in Austin, Dripping Springs, Elgin, Hutto and Lockhart – that will use scenario-planning tools developed in collaboration with UT. 

> Learn more about the Sustainable Places Project

Forum participants will learn how these Web-based tools work on a range of scales, whether assessing the feasibility of developing a few individual parcels or looking at the big picture of housing, jobs and transportation options across strategically connected centers throughout the region. Attendees will get a hands-on look at tomorrow's tools today. Register for the limited-seating free forum by 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 26. > Go

CAPCOG’s Use-of-Force Simulator: a timely training tool

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

CAPCOG Use-of-Force Simulator
CAPCOG's mobile Use-of-Force Simulator helps law enforcement prepare for situations such as active-shooter threats.

With recent mass shootings nationwide putting the spotlight on prevention, preparedness, protection and response, ongoing professional training for peace officers holds a crucial role in helping law enforcement keep communities safe.

For 18 years and counting, the Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy has been training new and veteran police officers in using force and responding to emergency situations. A key tool? CAPCOG’s Use-of-Force Simulator, which provides active-shooter training to law enforcement agencies and police cadets.

> Discover CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy

The simulator, an integrated system using software, a video screen and hundreds of potential incident scenarios, provides a realistic use-of-force training that helps participants develop the skills required for law enforcement personnel armed with both lethal and less-lethal weapons. Scenario content sets include various potential outcomes relevant to patrol; tactical matters; corrections; airport, school or military situations; drug enforcement; security; and active-shooter incidents. The simulator’s mobility — it’s contained in a wheeled trailer — allows for use at permanent facilities or off-site locations.

A typical training session lasts about 45 minutes. To begin, the simulator operator first refreshes the officer or cadet on use-of-force issues and departmental policy. The student then receives a weapon similar to what he or she carries while on duty. The simulator weapon does not fire live rounds but produces the same sound and recoil of a live weapon upon discharge.

> Learn more about RLEA cadet training

The officer or cadet is then shown a video scenario during which the student must ask questions, give commands and ultimately decide the amount of force needed to resolve the situation. Depending on the student’s questions or commands, the simulator operator is able to escalate or deescalate the scenario with the onboard computer system.

Once the session ends, the instructor and student review it using video replay.

> Get the current lineup of continuing-education classes for peace officers

Participants can expect all the hard realities of a real encounter. Judgment calls, indecision, sudden fear, partial understanding, blind-side surprise, eye-blink response, physical and psychological responses and life or death choices all contribute to the training experience that conditions the officer or cadet for survival.

The simulator features exceptionally realistic video and environments for all aspects of firearms handling, including marksmanship, tactical strategies, observation skills, scene assessments, interactive dialogue, problem-solving and decisionmaking. The tool provides for practice of high-stress, highliability incidents that can be more costly or difficult to recreate by conventional methods.

In operation locally since August 2010, the simulator has visited every county that CAPCOG serves. Personnel trained on the simulator report that it has helped them during critical incidents such as an officer-involved shooting. One local officer reported that the training helped prepare him to save not only his life but other officers during a recent such incident.

> Contact RLEA Director Mike Jennings today to schedule the simulator

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