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In the News

GeoMap projects approach deadline

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Cities, counties, appraisal districts and other regional partners can submit geographic information gathering projects to CAPCOG as a part of the 2016 GeoMap program until July 31.

Local jurisdictions throughout the region have saved more than $9 million by cooperatively purchasing the base mapping data contracted through the program since its inception in 2002. Savings are realized because the program eliminates redundant purchases of information and pools multiple projects together so the data can be obtained at the same time.

Aerial imagery, LiDAR data, orthoimagery, PanoramiX oblique imagery, GeoSAR Radar mapping and other data are all products that can be purchased through the 2016 GeoMap program. Such base map data sets can be used to help facilitate economic development, land-use planning, utility maintenance, transportation planning, floodplain mapping, 9-1-1 mapping and more.

> Get more information or submit programs.
> Learn more about CAPCOG's GIS Program.

CAPCOG to offer government transparency workshop

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments will provide a four-hour workshop for elected officials about the Texas Open Meetings and Public Information Acts on July 29, 2015 at the CAPCOG offices.

Attorneys from the Texas Attorney General’s Office will be joined by a Texas Municipal League attorney to provide a comprehensive and interactive presentation on the laws and how they regulate elected officials and their institutions. All three presenters will participate in an open-floor, question-and-answer panel, where elected officials can inquire about specific quandaries in regards to the two laws.

Since the training will occur after the State’s 84th Legislative Session,any updates to the Open Meetings and Public Information Acts also will be addressed during the workshop.

The course will meet the legally required training by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and count toward continuing education credits for elected officials.

> Local government officials contact Mason W. Canales, CAPCOG member services coordinator, to learn about free registration.
> Register for the course.

TCEQ stretches emission grant program deadline

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Source: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) extended the application deadline for its Texas Emission Reduction Plan, Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive (LDPLI).

TCEQ will stop taking applications for the program, which rebates vehicle owners for purchasing alternatively fueled automobiles, at 5 p.m. July 8. As of June 22, about $3.8 million rebate funds were still available through the program.

LDPLI gives up to $2,500 in financial incentives for the purchase or lease of eligible new vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or electric drives (plug-ins).

To apply for a rebate grant under the LDPLI, applicants must purchase or lease from a dealership or leasing company authorized to sell or lease new vehicles in Texas.

> Discover how to apply for the LDPLI.
> Learn about other Texas Emission Reduction Plan programs.
> Read more on CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

ATXFloods.com welcomes addition of all CAPCOG counties

Friday, June 19, 2015

When Austin launched TXfloods.com website in September 2012, about 100 dots denoted low-water crossings on the online map. Those points depicted mostly locations in Austin.

Today, about 800 low-water crossings are visible to the website’s visitors, and they lay across six counties — Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Lee, Travis, and Williamson — and the city of Marble Falls.

The goal of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department is for all the Capital Area Council of Governments’ counties and municipalities to participate in the website by the year’s end.

 

“Floods are not jurisdictional,” said Matt Porcher, who works for Austin’s Watershed Protection Department, Watershed Engineering Division; helped develop the website; and maintains it. Flood waters can traverse large recharge zones, he said. For instance, flooding in Blanco County affects what happens downstream in Hays and Travis counties.

People throughout the region also tend to cross city and county lines daily, making the inclusion of other jurisdictions on the online map extremely useful for commuters and other travelers. ATXFloods.com allows for drivers to check for low-water crossing closures before they get in their car to make a trip home or to work. It allows them to plan a safe travel route ahead of time compared to coming across a closed crossing.

Austin developed ATXFloods.com with the help of a Code For America grant in 2012 as a means to inform residents about low-water crossing closures and hopefully prevent vehicles from being swept away, which could cause a possible fatal incident.

“Flash flooding is a big threat in our area,” Porcher said. “A couple of people die every year from flash floods in the area, about 75 percent of those deaths happen on roadways at low-water crossings, and ATXFloods.com is a chance to prevent people from using those roadways.”

In mid-2014, Williamson County Emergency Management Coordinator and CAPCOG Homeland Security Task Force Chairman Jarred Thomas recommended the site expand to other regions. At the time, Williamson County was looking to create a similar website and Hays County already was using a blog feed to continually update residents of such closures. In late 2014, Porcher gave a presentation about Austin‘s implementation of the website to the Task Force, which he partially attributes to other jurisdictions’ making use of the site.

Since the meeting, Porcher has talked to other emergency management coordinators and brought their counties or municipalities into the system. The plan is to have Fayette County on the system in the near future. Burnet, Llano and Blanco counties hopefully will soon follow.

It takes a little bit of training and preparation before other jurisdictions can place their low-water crossings online. Each point is entered manually and statuses of low-water crossings are updated manually by many administrators throughout the region. New points can be added at any time, which is helpful during instances of non-traditional flooding.

Jurisdictions need to know how to quickly and accurately add and change the map’s information, Porcher said. They also need to update it as soon as possible to keep the integrity of ATXFloods.com viable to the public.

“We want people to have confidence that the website is accurate, so when a roadway is reopened then it should be updated as soon as practical,” he said. To avoid confusion that can occur with shift changes, Austin crews check crossings marked as closed on the website in its jurisdiction every morning.

Since its launch in September 2012, ATXFloods.com has experienced almost 3 million visitors. More than 700,000 of those visitors viewed the site from May 22 to 25.

CAPCOG radio ads encourage residents to clean up commutes

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

CAPCOG launched an air quality ad campaign to run from June through September on 11 radio stations throughout the region. The ads will air during peak drive-time commuting hours Monday through Friday and will highlight ways Central Texas residents can “clean up” their commutes, including through carpooling, vanpooling and taking advantage of funding opportunities to repair or replace vehicles that fail emissions tests.

Download or listen to the following radio outreach messages:

> Carpooling and vanpooling No. 1

> Carpooling and vanpooling No. 2

> Drive clean machines

> KUT sponsorship radio spot

> Drive clean machines: Spanish

The ads are funded by the city of Austin and Travis County. Beginning last year, CAPCOG started coordinating air quality radio advertisement purchases on behalf of local organizations in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public education efforts.

Cities, counties, and other organizations within the region can help amplify these messages’ reach by posting the audio recordings of the radio spots on their websites and social media pages. They also can share links to regional air quality information available on CAPCOG’s website. Organizations can join in future radio ad buys if interested.

> Go to aircentraltexas.org for more information.
> Discover funding opportunities for cleaner vehicles.
> Learn carpooling, vanpooling and commuter tips.

AAACAP teaches A Matter of Balance coaches

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Volunteers around the region can change older Americans' lives by becoming A Matter of Balance lay leaders who coach seniors to reduce their risk and fear of falling.

CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area regularly welcomes volunteers who want to better senior’s lives by teaching the nationally recognized program — developed by Roybal Center for Enhancement of Late-Life Function at Boston University — in their own community. 

After an eight-hour training course, volunteers can take the eight-session program back to their communities. There they will show seniors to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risk at home, and exercise to increase strength and balance.

Upcoming courses for prospective lay-leaders will take place in Jarrell on June 19 and at the CAPCOG offices in Austin on June 30. Training and materials are free.

> Interested in volunteering contact Liz Salinas, AAACAP health and wellness coordinator.
> Register for the upcoming courses.
 

CAPCOG recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Friday, June 12, 2015

With about 304,851 residents who are 60 years old or older in the Capital Area Council of Governments’ 10-county region, CAPCOG wants to promote the awareness and prevention of issues involving elder abuse.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15 and draws attention to the fact that every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation.  Experts also believe for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported as many as 23.5 cases are unreported. With 10,000 people in the United States every day turning 65, the United States will have more elder adults than ever before.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) encourages individuals and organizations across our nation, states and local communities to take a stand and to raise public awareness about elder abuse. The ACL provides information, tools and resources to support efforts to shed light on the importance of preventing, identifying and responding to this serious, often hidden public health problem. CAPCOG and its Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area want to share the ACL’s information and message with every local government and organization in the region.

> Learn what you and your community can do for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging.
> Read the CAPCOG proclamation.

CAPCOG hosts school officer training

Monday, June 08, 2015

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) is teaching a course to educate peace officers who serve as law enforcement for school districts at the CAPCOG offices from June 8 to 12.

“School resource officers play an important role in our educational system,” said Mike Jennings, the CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy director. “Not only do they work to protect the safety of students and teachers, they can help develop and shape the lives of children and prevent incidents before they happen by being a positive role model.”

By hosting NASRO at CAPCOG, school resource officers throughout the region can improve valuable law enforcement specialization that helps keep students and teachers safe. The training will further their education on a number of topics to include responding to incidents in a school setting and communicating with children.

Such skills can be beneficial to preventing incidents before they occur and helping students make responsible and lawful life decisions. School resource officers like other peace officers are a trusted part of the community they work in; however, officers who work on educational campuses have a greater chance of affecting the lives around them as they work the same beats every day and can really get to know the community they serve. This class is full; however, CAPCOG is interested in determining additional demand for its training.

> Learn about CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy.
> Register for upcoming law enforcement in-service training opportunities.

Disaster Relief Fund available for local governments

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Source: Texas Department of Agriculture

After this weekend’s storms, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) reminded local governments that state disaster relief funds are available and how those governments should apply for them.

Cities and counties may apply for Texas Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief Fund monies following a disaster declaration or for qualifying urgent infrastructure needs. Grants range between $50,000 and $350,000.

Applications from local governments must provide documentation that the applicant experienced the whole process, as follows:

  1. Local official declares a local disaster and completes disaster summary outline (DSO), which is available from Texas Division of Emergency Management (DEM).
  2. Local official requests assistance from the County Judge, who then requests assistance from the Governor’s Office.
  3. The Governor mobilizes DEM that reviews the DSO and decides whether to visit the local government’s jurisdiction and perform a preliminary damage assessment (PDA), as summarized in a PDA Worksheet.
  4. If PDA finds costs above a certain per capita amount, the Governor declares a disaster. 

Applications must have sufficient backup documentation for the budget. If applicants know insurance money covering the damage is applicable, then they should not request funds. Applicants should provide documentation that damage is not covered by insurance. 

The full PDA will include a separate sheet for each damaged site. Applicants should be able to furnish the needed level of detail if DEM visited and assessed actual damages associated with the reported storm event. Applicants also should inquire whether the Texas Governor’s letter or declaration of disaster has made it to the DEM Office of Deputy Assistant Director for Recovery, Mitigation and Standards.

> Get DEM contact information.

Applicants should have DEM to provide applicable copies of PDAs for their record and to accompany applications filed with Texas Department of Agriculture. 

They should gather information regarding the eligibility information needed to file applications with the Texas Department of Agriculture for disaster relief. Such information should show the entity has less than six months of unencumbered general operations funds available in its balance according to last available audit required by state statute or funds from other state or federal sources are not available to completely address the problem. An easy-to-understand explanation and most recent audit indicating the unrestricted fund balance must be submitted. The explanation or audit should highlight the applicable amounts of unrestricted balance, the annual general fund expenditures, monthly general fund costs, and the number of months reserve will cover.

All CDBG contract procedures and regulations apply in contract implementation; except, applicants can submit with their application letters requesting the pre-agreement stratagem and waiver of procurement requirements. These methods save considerable time and make the one-year contract period feasible. Sample letters that would be submitted with an application are available upon request.

Under the pre-agreement stratagem, TDA shall not reimburse any costs under the agreement until a Disaster Relief Fund contract is fully executed with the grantee. For non-drought disasters, TDA will consider reimbursement of eligible costs incurred from the date of the disaster event.

> Read more about the Department of Agriculture Disaster Relief Fund.
> Download the Texas CDBG Implementation Manual.
> Download the Disaster Relief application checklist.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Division.

TCEQ closes request for TERP Rebate grants

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ) is encouraging organizations, including small businesses, to submit applications for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) Rebate Grant Program before it closes.

TCEQ will stop taking applications on the TERP Rebate Grant Program at 5 p.m., Friday, May 29, nearly a month before the original closing date.

The rebate grant is a first-come, first-serve program to upgrade and replace diesel heavy-duty vehicles and non-road equipment. Vehicles and equipment must have 75 percent of their annual usage spent in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, Williamson, and/or 34 other Texas counties.

Interested applicants should submit applications before the deadline. Applications received after Friday will not be reviewed, but may be held for later review and consideration if more funds become available.

> Find out more about the TERP Rebate Grant Program.
> Learn about other TERP grants.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

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.

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