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In the News

Kari’s Law ensures direct dialing to 9-1-1

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kari’s Law, signed by Governor Greg Abbott on Friday, requires multi-line telephone systems to have 9-1-1 direct dialing. An inexpensive feature to deploy in most cases, 9-1-1 direct dialing allows for any caller to dial the numbers 9-1-1 to reach a public safety answering point without first entering another number for an outside line.

“We should be taking every possible step to make access to first responders as fast and easy as possible” said Gregg Obuch, emergency communications director for the Capital Area Emergency Communications District (CAECD), a division of Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG). “Kari’s Law will allow people in office buildings, hotels and other multi-lined phone facilities to access emergency telecommunicators via the simplest way possible – dialing 9-1-1.”

Kari’s Law is the result of Texas Senate Bill 788 filed by Senator Kevin Eltife, of Tyler, after a 9-year-old child could not reach 9-1-1 from a hotel room during a deadly assault on her mother.

Since Abbott has signed the bill into law, the CAECD is prepared to respond to inquiries from businesses and organizations with multi-line telephone systems.

“There’s a lesson virtually every parent teaches their child – if you face an emergency, call 9-1-1,” Abbott said. “I am signing Kari’s Law to ensure that whenever there is an emergency, any child and any adult who dials 9-1-1 is going to be able to connect with emergency personnel to ensure they come to the rescue of those who need help the most.”

According to Obuch, most large businesses and hotels with multi-line telephone systems in Central Texas already implemented a 9-1-1 direct-dial function, but the new law will ensure everybody who uses such a phone system can reach an emergency telecommunicator.

Every business and organization with multi-line telephone systems not using a 9-1-1 direct-dial function should contact their phone providers to request its programing changed to accommodate 9-1-1 direct dialing.

The district is available to assist any business service users in complying with Kari’s Law.

> Business service users can contact Julie Harmon, CAPCOG 9-1-1 operations coordinator.
> Read more about the CAECD.
> Discover CAPCOG's emergency communications division.

CAPCOG calls for GeoMap 2016 projects

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments has launched its first call for GeoMap 2016 projects. GeoMap is a data-collection program run by CAPCOG to obtain expensive, geographic information while saving local dollars. The first call will end May 29.

The cost-sharing, base map purchasing program has saved local jurisdictions in CAPCOG’s 10-county region more than $9 million since 2002.

Aerial imagery is a mainstay of the products offered, but this year CAPCOG expects LiDAR data to be a high priority for many organizations – especially in fast-developing areas. GeoMap vendors offer many unique and custom products that program participants can also purchase.

CAPCOG is pleased to guide project participation for appraisal districts, county governments, city governments and planning-related organizations.

> Discover more about the GeoMaps program.
> Submit your GeoMaps Projects.
> Contact Craig Eissler, CAPCOG GIS program manager.

EPA seeks National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program proposals

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Source: The Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Transportation and Air Quality is soliciting proposals nationwide for projects to fund that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions in terms of tons of pollution.

The National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program looks particularly for projects from fleets operating at (or servicing) goods movement facilities in areas designated as having poor air quality. Priority for funding also may be given to projects which:

  • Result in outcomes that benefit affected communities;
  • Engage local communities with respect to the design and performance of the project; and
  • Can demonstrate the ability to promote and continue efforts to reduce emissions after the project has ended.

EPA's deadline for project submittals is 4 p.m. (ET), June 15, 2015.  Proposal packages must be submitted electronically to EPA through Grants.gov (www.grants.gov)

> Download the program request application.

Eligible diesel emission reduction solutions include verified emission control technologies, such as exhaust controls, cleaner fuels, and engine upgrades, verified idle reduction technologies, verified aerodynamic technologies and low rolling resistance tires, certified engine repowers, and/or certified vehicle or equipment replacement.

Eligible diesel vehicles, engines and equipment may include buses, Class 5 - Class 8 heavy-duty highway vehicles: marine engines; locomotives and non-road engines; equipment or vehicles used in construction; handling of cargo, including at a port or airport; and agriculture, mining or energy production, including stationary generators and pumps.

Eligible entities include regional, state, local or tribal agencies or intertribal consortia; or port authorities with jurisdiction over transportation or air quality; and nonprofit organizations or institutions that represent or provide pollution reduction or educational services to persons or organizations that own or operate diesel fleets or have, as their principal purpose, the promotion of transportation or air quality.

> Read more about EPA air quality grant programs.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Seiley: “The dispatcher is the very first, first responder”

Monday, May 11, 2015

Before 9-1-1 became a number Burnet County residents could dial to reach an emergency telecommunicator, Vickie Seiley manned two emergency phone lines and five administration lines, all of which could ring at once when residents called county dispatch seeking help.

At the age of 22 in 1984, she was one of four people who worked at the Burnet County dispatch center and the only person to work during her shift. There weren’t any computers to aid her in directing or answering calls from all over the county. She connected residents to area police, fire and emergency medical services including municipal departments such as Marble Falls, Burnet and Granite Shoals.

“It could get pretty hairy in there because there was only one person working at a time,” Seiley said. The population was smaller and so was the workload, but the job was still critical. Seiley “loved it.”

Seiley, who is now the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office communications supervisor, didn’t mind the hustle and bustle of busy hours back then. She worked the job for the same reasons emergency telecommunicators do the job today – to serve the community, help their neighbors during times of crisis, and aid emergency crews.

“I lived and breathed it,” Seiley said. “It was awesome. Whenever you make a difference in someone’s life, it makes you feel good.”

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week was April 12-18. The week honored the endless commitment emergency call-takers make for serving their communities and ensuring those facing crisis are connected to services they need.

The Capital Area Emergency Communication District, which serves CAPCOG’s 10-county region and  31 public safety answering points (PSAPs), has more than 600 telecommunicators that answered more than 1.5 million emergency calls during the 2014 fiscal year, about 130,000 a month. The Burnet County Sheriff’s Office PSAP has 12 people handling about 1,100 monthly 9-1-1 calls.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division.

“I don’t think people realize the dispatcher is the very first, first responder,” Seiley said.  “They are not at the scene, but they try to do what they can before help arrives.”

The job has changed a lot since Seiley worked the switch board.  There is so much more information at the fingertips of emergency telecommunicators, Seiley said. That doesn’t mean the job is any easier. Larger populations, bigger cities, more information, and modern equipment all adds to a call-takers job.

GIS mapping is a common tool to help telecommunicators and emergency crews locate people making calls now, but that wasn’t always the case.
Seiley used to be a roadmap for officers. Seiley would describe roads, turns, and landmarks to officers who needed help navigating county and city streets to arrive at emergencies.

Officers didn’t carry maps in their squad cars, and there would be large areas where radios would go dead, Seiley said.  Sometimes the only way for officers to find a location would be to stop at a local store and call dispatch. Occasionally, officers called from payphones.

When 9-1-1 first came to Burnet County, a large box was placed inside the dispatch center. Red letters and numbers scrolled across a digital display, Seiley said. It either displayed a phone number or an address. A large tape reel, probably the size of a movie reel, used to record every conversation that came into the dispatch center. Whoever worked at night was responsible for changing it.

Thanks to computers and GPS, such critical information is almost always guaranteed.

In the district now, more than 95 percent of 9-1-1 calls are answered within 10 seconds; almost 98 percent are answered within 20 seconds. The national recommended goals for answering calls are 90 percent at less than 10 seconds and 95 percent at less than 20 seconds.

Each second an emergency telecommunicator is on the phone, they are providing residents with public safety.

“(Telecommunicators) are trying to keep all the guys out there safe and make sure everyone gets the help they need,” Seiley said.

Find training opportunities for emergency telecommunicators.

RLEA hosts regional Glock armorer course

Friday, May 08, 2015

Many Texas police agencies use Glock pistols as part of their everyday equipment. While the weapons often remain holstered, it’s critical to ensure an officer’s sidearm is working properly before it is needed.

On April 23, CAPCOG’s Regional Law Enforcement Academy (RLEA) hosted a Glock Armorer Certification workshop so agencies throughout the state could ensure the safety and functionality of the weapons.

Participants in the course learned how to dissemble and reassemble the pistols, but more importantly, the instructor taught how to diagnose problems with the firearms and make repairs if needed.

Twenty-nine law enforcement officers attended. Attendees included Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Executive Director Kim Vickers; members of the US Probation Office and Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife; officers from Houston, The Colony, Port Aransas, San Angelo, Pflugerville, Texas State University; and others.

Upcoming Courses

In May, RLEA will offer multiple law enforcement in-service courses including: Report Writing; and Intermediate Arrest, Search, and Seizure. 

Registration has started for the full-time, day basic peace officer course (BPOC) No. 77. The course will begin in September at Georgetown Police Department.

> Register for an RLEA in-service course or a BPOC.
> Discover more about RLEA.

Seniors “Get into the Act” during Older Americans Month

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Older Americans Month has been celebrated since 1963, and the CAPCOG Executive Committee urges area residents to honor older individuals throughout May.

This year’s Older American Month’s theme, “Get into the Act”, focuses on taking charge of your health, investing in communities, and making an impact in the lives of others. The theme highlights the 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act signed into law by President Johnson in 1965. Through Area Agencies on Aging, the Act provides for services to support individuals wishing to remain in their homes.

Services such as home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, respite, and health and wellness activities promote independence. Central Texans can “Get into the Act” because the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) provides these services year-round.

Although, Older Americans Month emphasizes access to in-home and community-based services, the month also is an opportunity to celebrate how older Americans make a difference in the region. More than 304,000 individuals over the age of 60 live in the CAPCOG 10-county region.

Contact AAACAP at 888-622-9111 ext. 6062 for information, to volunteer, or to report how older adults are making a difference in your community.

> Discover more on Older Americans Month.
> Read the CAPCOG Proclamation for Older Americans Month.
> Find out more about AAACAP.

Volunteer advocates needed for seniors, disabled in long-term care facilities

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) ombudsman program is seeking volunteers to fulfill ombudsmen roles throughout its 10-county service area – Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties. Volunteer ombudsmen serve as advocates for residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They assist residents and their families and provide a voice for those unable to speak for themselves.

An ombudsman is a specially trained and certified volunteer who advocates for resident’s rights and quality of care by regularly visiting and observing residents in long-term care facilities. Volunteer ombudsmen also identify and investigate complaints; and educate residents, families, and staff on maintaining the health, safety, welfare of the facilities’ residents. Ombudsman services are both free and confidential.

With 239 nursing and assisted living facilities in the AAACAP region, a strong volunteer force helps ensure every facility and their residents have access to ombudsman services.

No prior experience is required to volunteer as an ombudsman, but volunteers must be at least 18 years old and complete a free training course consisting of classroom study and training at local nursing homes. After training, volunteers serve an internship, working two to four hours per month in their assigned facility. Hours are flexible and determined by the volunteer.

Authorized by the Older Americans Act, each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Local staff and volunteer ombudsmen work in local areas as part of the statewide program.

> For more information on volunteering, contact Pete Moreno, AAACAP’s managing local ombudsman.
> Read about the AAACAP ombudsman program.

Central Texas responds to EPA ozone standard proposal

Friday, April 24, 2015

Local air quality efforts in 2015 and 2016 could be the last chance for the region to reduce emissions and ozone levels before U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses new, lower standards as the basis of its nonattainment designation process.

CAPCOG staff has conducted an extensive outreach effort during the past few months to inform local officials about EPA’s proposal and what the region can do to respond. This has included more than a dozen presentations to city councils and commissioners courts in the region. CAPCOG also provided technical support to the Clean Air Coalition in developing comments to the EPA on the proposed rule.

The EPA has proposed tightening the national ground level ozone air quality standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a level between 65-70 ppb . EPA is under a court order to finalize the standards by Oct. 1, 2015.

Central Texas’s ozone levels were at 69 ppb in 2014 and continue to decrease. If EPA were to set the standard at 70 ppb, the region would likely avoid a nonattainment designation, but if it is set at 65 ppb, the region’s ozone levels may not be reduced quickly enough to avoid a nonattainment designation, despite nationally-recognized local efforts that have won EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for community engagement in both 2014 and 2015.

By identifying ways EPA could exercise some flexibility under the Clean Air Act to implement the proposed standards and by continuing to voluntarily implement local emission reduction measures, Central Texas is trying to ensure it can enjoy clean air and a healthy economy, while avoiding the long-lasting regulatory consequences of a nonattainment designation.

At a March 11 meeting, the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition, a committee of local elected officials in the Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties, approved a formal comment letter to the EPA on its proposal, asking for flexibility in implementing the proposed standards.

The comment letter asked EPA to:

  • Calculate compliance differently, better accounting for year-to-year fluctuations in ozone levels; 
  • Designate areas as “unclassifiable” or defer designations by a year if their 2016 ozone levels are close to the level of the standard;
  • Fully implement requirements under the Clean Air Act that protect metropolitan areas from interstate and intrastate ozone transport; and
  • Fully account for any voluntarily implemented measures if EPA does designate the region as nonattainment.

The CAC and other regional partners will continue to implement the region’s Ozone Advance Program Action Plan in order to:

  • Stay in attainment of the eight-hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS);
  • Continue reducing the region’s 8-hour ozone design value to avoid being designated nonattainment; 
  • Bring the area into attainment of an ozone standard if it is designated nonattainment;
  • Reduce the exposure of vulnerable populations to high ozone levels, and
  • Minimize the costs to the region of any future nonattainment designation.

CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program will continue to work with local stakeholders to ensure existing emission reduction measure commitments are fully implemented. It also will help secure additional emission reduction commitments to put the region in the best position to avoid a nonattainment designation for the proposed standards.

> Discover more about CAPCOG's Air Quality Program.

Round Rock PD hosts all sponsored BPOC

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Round Rock Police Department will host and run a Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy’s (RLEA) fully-sponsored cadet basic peace officer course (BPOC).

The Round Rock BPOC, which will start June 15 and end Nov. 20, 2015, only will enroll cadets who have been sponsored by area police agencies and sheriff offices. The course will provide cities and counties with the opportunity to accommodate new hires that occurred later in the fiscal year. It will provide the necessary training for those new hires to pass their TCOLE exams. The course also will be the final RLEA BPOC during the 2015 fiscal year. The registration deadline is May 18, 2015.

Having only sponsored cadets will allow the BPOC to also have more physical training requirements. The BPOC will be a full-day course.

> Police departments and sheriff offices can contact Mary Ramirez, RLEA administrative assistant, to sign up prospective cadets.
> Learn more about RLEA BPOC's.

TCEQ awards $7.7 million for cleaner Austin area vehicles

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s award of more than $7.7 million in grants to vehicle and non-road equipment owners in the Austin area is a great win for regional air quality. The funds are part of the TCEQ’s 2015 fiscal year Emission Reduction Incentive Grants (ERIG).

The ERIG money will be spent on replacing or conducting engine retrofits on 143 older, on- and off-road vehicles and equipment, such as agricultural tractors, construction trucks and delivery vehicles, in the Austin-Round Rock MSA. Because of the projects and purchases provided by the grants, NOx emissions are estimated to decrease by more than 122 tons per year in the region. NOx emissions are a contributing factor to the generation of ground-level ozone.

Capital Metro was the largest grant recipient in the Austin-Round Rock MSA. It received $1.7 million to replace 47 buses with cleaner, alternative fuel based buses. Coors of Austin also will replace or conduct engine retrofits on 10 delivery trucks. It received $200,000 from the grant.

TCEQ announced the ERIG recipients on Tuesday. The grant is part of the Texas Emission Reduction Program grant system.

> Read the complete list of ERIG awardees.
> Discover other TCEQ grants seeking to reduce emissions.
> Learn about the Capital Area Council of Governments Air Quality Program.

TCOLE cycle ends in August

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Every two years peace officers need 40 hours of continuing education credits to maintain their Texas Commission on Law Enforcement certificates.

Between now and August, the Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy (RLEA) will offer numerous courses so area officers can earn continuing education hours and keep their certificates.

Area policing agencies and their officers should review their training hours now to ensure they remain certified. For officers who haven’t already met the continuing education requirements, they can find course schedules and descriptions of each upcoming class on the CAPCOG training website.

> Visit the CAPCOG Training website for law enforcement officers.

TCOLE recently mandated that peace officers be required to have four hours of human trafficking education and training. RLEA will offer several courses on the topic at least once a month until the end of the training cycle. There should be plenty of time and courses to ensure every Capital Area peace officer maintains their law enforcement certificate.

> Read more about the RLEA.
> Discover more about TCOLE training requirements.

EPA appoints Hoekzema to committee

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Central Texas local governments will be represented on an important U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy advisory committee.

The EPA appointed CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program Manager, Andrew Hoekzema, to a two-year term on the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee. He will provide independent advice from a local government perspective on issues about implementing the Clean Air Act. Hoekzema is one of about 40 people nationwide selected to serve on the committee.

Established in 1990, the committee is a senior-level policy committee that provides advice to EPA on air pollution issues. According to the committee’s charter, its major objectives are to provide recommendations on:

  • Approaches for new and expanded programs, including those using innovative technologies and policy mechanisms to achieve environmental improvements.
  • The potential health, environmental, and economic effects of Clean Air Act programs on the public, the regulated community, state and local governments, and federal agencies.
  • The policy and technical contents of proposed major EPA rulemaking and guidance required by the act in order to help effectively incorporate appropriate outside advice and information.
  • The integration of existing policies, regulations, standards, guidelines, and procedures into programs for implementing requirements of the Act.

CAPCOG hired Hoekzema in 2010. He became CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program manager in 2013.

Hoekzema will attend his first committee meetings April 21 and 22 in Washington, D.C.

> Read more about the CAPCOG Air Quality Program.

CAPCOG, CAECD honors Telecommunicators Week

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments Executive Committee and Emergency Communication District Board of Managers have recognized the dedication of the more than 600 public safety telecommunicators in the 10-county region.

National Telecommunications Week is April 12-18, and telecommunicators who work throughout the Capital Area are the “backbone of the 9-1-1 system” and provide an “unending service” to the region, stated the board and committee in a resolution. Telecommunicators are not only the link for residents facing emergencies to emergency response agencies, they save lives each and every day.

CAPCOG encouraged all local governments to honor their telecommunicators by also signing proclamations or resolutions and celebrate the week with appropriate activities and ceremonies.

The Capital Area Emergency Communications District will recognize the great job telecommunicators do by sponsoring a region-wide, bowling and social event on April 18.

> Learn more about the Capital Area Emergency Communication District.
> Read the CAPCOG Executive Committee's resolution for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
> Read Texas Governor Greg Abbott's National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week proclamation.

Two new courses lead older adults to better lives

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) is excited to announce two new Stanford Model-Evidence Based Intervention Programs that strive to keep the 10-county region’s aging population living active lives by offering free instructional six-week workshops.

The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (Better Choices, Better Health Workshops) and Diabetes Self-Management Program workshops – both developed by Stanford University’s School of Medicine – expand AAACAP’s evidence-based programs into two new areas of wellness care.

AAACAP chose to offer these programs because they are designed to help people gain self-confidence in their ability to control their symptoms, better manage their health problems, and lead fuller lives.

The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program is offered for people who have different chronic health problems to attend together for a shared learning experience. The program teaches the skills needed in the day-to-day management of treatment and to maintain and/or increase one’s activities.

It provides techniques to deal with problems such as frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation. It instructs people about the appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance.  The program also discusses the appropriate use of medications. Course attendees will learn how to communicate effectively with family, friends, and health professionals; how to manage their nutrition; and how to make decisions and evaluate new treatments.

Each class in the workshop is highly participative, where mutual support and success build the participants’ confidence in their ability to manage their health and maintain active and fulfilling lives. To improve on the course’s mutual support and success, workshops are facilitated by two trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic diseases themselves.

Participants in the chronic disease workshop have access to a copy of the companion book, “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, 4th Edition”, and an audio relaxation CD, “Relaxation for Mind and Body”.

The Diabetes Self-Management workshops are meant to benefit people with type 2 diabetes.

Two trained leaders, one or both who are peer leaders with diabetes themselves, will teach techniques on dealing with the symptoms of diabetes such as fatigue, pain, hyper/hypoglycemia, stress, and emotional problems to include depression, anger, fear and frustration. Course leaders will instruct individuals on the appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength and endurance while eating healthy. The appropriate use of medication and working more effectively with health care providers also are topics covered during the course.

Participants are guided through a process of making weekly action plans, sharing experiences, and helping each other solve problems they encounter in creating and carrying out their self-management program. Physicians, diabetes educators, dietitians, and other health professionals both at Stanford and in the community have reviewed all materials in the workshop.

Both programs are available at no cost to consumers who are 60 years old or older or who are caring for someone 60 years old or older. They will be conducted during a once-a-week, two-and-a-half-hour, six week course. AAACAP will provide the workshops in community settings, such as senior centers, churches, libraries and hospitals, to bring the lessons to the general public.

Other evidence based programs provided through AAACAP include A Matter of Balance, falls prevention and Stressbusting for Family Caregivers.

> Learn more about the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area. 
Read about other Evidence Based Intervention Programs. 

Night course offers more cadets to area police departments

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy began a part-time, evening basic peace office course (BPOC) on March 23. Ending in October, it will be the second part-time course to conclude this year and supply Capital Area policing agencies with capable and knowledgeable cadets to serve their communities.

Held at CAPCOG offices, the course is training cadets to become certified Texas Peace Officers. Cadets are learning in a classroom setting but also are getting hands-on experience from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The alternative schedule allows a wider range of cadets to take the course, graduate and pass Texas Commission on Law Enforcement exams.

Twenty-four graduating cadets marked the success of this year’s first part-time BPOC ending March 20, 2015. Several cadets, from the Williamson County based BPOC, will serve as Williamson and Travis county sheriff deputies and become part of other area police departments upon graduation.

RLEA graduated 18 BPOC No. 74 cadets, a full-time course, on Feb. 13, 2015. Before graduation cadets from BPOC No. 74 were hired by Leander, Cedar Park, and Copperas Cove police departments; Austin Fire Department; and Austin Independent School District. Another full-time course will graduate in July.

> Learn more about your city, county or school district sponsoring or recruiting BPOC cadets.
> Find upcoming BPOCs and other courses offered by the Regional Law Enforcement Academy.

White House Conference on Aging issues advisory on pension advances

Monday, March 23, 2015
Source: 2015 White House Conference on Aging blog

The White House Conference on Aging website is warning older adults to avoid pension advance traps and offered three tips to protect one’s retirement pension.

Retirees who are facing financial challenges should be wary of pension payment advance programs that can seem like a quick fix to their financial problems, stated a blog post from the website. Such programs can reduce retirement incomes because their repayment includes the advance plus interest and fees.

Often pension advances are cash advances in exchange for a portion, or all, of one’s future pension payments, stated the website. Companies that offer pension advances typically charge high interest rates and fees and often target government retirees with pensions.

The White House Conference on Aging website offered the following ways to protect one’s retirement pension:

  • Avoid loans with high fees and interest. Pension advance companies may not always advertise their fees and interest rates, but you will certainly feel them in your bottom line. Before you sign anything, learn what you are getting and how much you are giving up.
  • Don’t sign over control of your benefits. Companies sometimes arrange for monthly payments to be automatically deposited in a newly created bank account so the company can withdraw payments, fees and interest charges from the account. This leaves you with little control.
  • Don’t buy life insurance that you don’t want or need. Pension advance companies sometimes require consumers to sign up for life insurance with the company as the consumer’s beneficiary. If you sign up for life insurance with the pension advance company as your beneficiary, you could end up footing the bill, whether you know it or not.

> Read more about the 2015 White House Conference on Aging consumer advisory.
> Discover the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area.

New CAPCOG IT director brings additional IT insight

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments operates several technology based tools to enhance the capabilities of cities and counties in its 10-county region. The reverse notification system and the WebEOC are two such tools that counties and cities can use to help mitigate disasters.

To improve its use of such technology, CAPCOG hired a new Information Technology Director, Lee Cooper. Cooper's expertise will become instrumental in expanding CAPCOG’s technology capabilities and assisting with CAPCOG’s first regional public safety communication plan.

Cooper comes to CAPCOG after retiring from 11 years of working for the state. Working for Texas Health and Human Services, Cooper managed multiple enterprise level IT projects and served on its Technology and Architecture Review Board. With the Texas Department of Public Safety’s, Division of Emergency Management and Law Enforcement Division, he helped revive the amateur radio program at the state’s EOC and encouraged more interaction with Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES).

As an amateur radio operator, Cooper is active in the local ARES where he served as Travis County Emergency Coordinator for four years. In the position, he was instrumental in creating the Travis county hospital emergency communications group, which later became regional amateur radio network.

Cooper also has worked with Austin emergency management to integrate amateur radio and ARES into the combined transportation, emergency and communications center.

Central Texas Clean Air Coalition offers EPA ideas on proposed ozone standards

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC) last week submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed ozone standards. The comment letter addresses regional concerns by providing ideas on how to implement the standard.

EPA’s proposal would change the national ground-level ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 and 70 ppb. The CAC has enacted many voluntary actions to reduce the region’s ground-level ozone. The CAC consists of city and county officials throughout the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area – Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties.

Thanks in part to its efforts the Austin-Round Rock MSA has remained in attainment of the current standard and would be in attainment of a standard set as high as 70 ppb. However, if EPA sets the standard at 65 ppb, the MSA’s ozone levels may not be able to reach that level until after EPA has proposed to designate areas as “nonattainment.” New regulations on industrial expansion, road construction, and other activities could have significant economic consequences for the region if Central Texas is designated nonattainment.

The comment letter asked the EPA to consider the following:

  • Use a more stable measurement for determining if an area’s ozone levels comply with the standard than what is currently in use; 
  • Exercise the flexibility that exists in the Clean Air Act in the designation process, possibly designating areas as unclassifiable or extending the process by a year if a region’s ozone levels are close to the standard; 
  • Ensure adequate controls on interstate and intrastate ozone transport; and
  • For any new nonattainment areas, fully account for voluntarily adopted emission reductions that are already in place.

The comment period for the standard began in December and will end March 17. The EPA is under a court order to finalize the standard by Oct. 1, 2015.

> Review CAC’s EPA comment letter and its technical support document.
> Read more about the Clean Air Coalition.

CAPCOG ramps up Llano County Transportation and Economic Development Plan

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Llano County Transportation and Economic Development Plan is entering the public participation phase of the project where the county, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and the Capital Area Council of Governments will work with county stakeholders.

The public will have several opportunities to participate and provide feedback for the development of the plan. The upcoming planning process will include surveys, stakeholder work sessions, and public meetings to ensure the plan represents Llano County residents. Two committees, one providing insight to economic development and the other over transportation, should begin meeting this month.

The development of the Llano County Transportation and Economic Development Plan began in early 2015. It is a project funded by TxDOT.

As part of its role in the plan’s development, CAPCOG will combine traffic patterns and future trends, provided by TxDOT and TTI, and economic and demographic information to create a data-driven plan for the future transportation needs of Llano County.

The final plan will serve as a blueprint to accommodate growth and build the local economy.  Broad public involvement in developing the plan will give Llano County residents a greater voice in future road and economic development projects and state funding decisions.

Llano County will be the third transportation and economic development plan developed by CAPCOG.  TxDOT, TTI and CAPCOG previously completed plans for Blanco and Lee counties.

> For additional information or to find out how to get involved, contact Neil Frydrych, CAPCOG senior planner.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Regional Services Division.

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy opens for comments

Monday, March 09, 2015

CAPCOG started accepting public comments on the 2015-2020 Capital Area Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) on March 2. The comment period will end March 31.

Every five years, the Capital Area Economic Development District (CAEDD) and its many regional partners develop a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Each CEDS intends to identify and illustrate the economic dynamics shaping the region, call attention to important issues, and provide a guide for working as a region to capitalize on the region’s economic opportunities.

> Review the 2015-2020 CEDS draft.
> Send comments to Chris Schreck, CAPCOG economic development manager.

After the comment period ends, the CAEDD will produce a final CEDS draft. The CAEDD will adopt the CEDS in June and submit it to the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Community and Economic Development Program.

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