Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
April 4, 2007Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 4th day of April, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- John Parker, Lufkin, Texas, Committee Chair
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas, Vice-Chairman
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER PARKER: The first order of business is approval of the previous committee meeting minutes, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Motion passes.
Item number 1, Land and Water Update, Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. I'm happy to report that construction is underway at the Caprock Canyon Visitors Center, with completion anticipated in the early summer of 2007. The Center will contain a reception and exhibit areas, offices, restrooms, and a gift shop. It is much needed; if you've ever been to Caprock Canyon, you know what we've been working out of. This will be a wonderful improvement and looking forward to that very much.
As you know, a $15 million bond was authorized in late January for construction on the new East Texas Fish Hatchery. It is anticipated to begin in the early fall of 2007; however, we do not know if the legislature will appropriate the additional $18 million exceptional item in our current LAR that would allow us to fully construct the facilities at the East Texas Fish Hatchery and do repairs at other hatcheries around the state.
The existing $15 million bond for the East Texas Hatchery will allow us to build at this time, we believe where we are, that it will allow us to build the water intake structure which is a major, significant structure. It will allow us to build approximately 33 acres of the planned ponds and the water discharge system to take care of the water that's coming out of the system. No buildings, other than one house for security, can be built with existing funding.
So, as we're currently funded, we would not be able to build offices or storage buildings. We'll just — we'll get by temporarily until that money is appropriated. But it will allow us to get the water intake structure built that will eventually service the entire hatchery when the hatchery is completed, and will allow us to build that 33 acres and allow us to build the water discharge system that will take care of the water coming out of the — again, the full hatchery when it's constructed.
So, we are proceeding along with that and continuing to work that part of our funding program.
The grand opening of the Conservation Center at the Texas Fresh Water Fishery Center is scheduled for April 14, 2007, just ten days from now. A 1300-square-foot mixed-use building for conferences, conservation education, and a game warden museum is included in that area.
The Center also includes classrooms and meeting areas, offices, and a library, restrooms, and additional parking, with a capacity of about 400 people. So this incredible facility that, again, is the result of donations, a fund-raising effort, is going to be a wonderful addition at the Texas Fresh Water Fishery Center and also might note that — I know some of you will be in that part of the state during that time period for the Texas Bass Classic, and I hope you'll be able to join us that evening for the opening at the Texas Fresh Water Fishery.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's the 14th?
MR. COOK: April 14, 2007. Two new buildings were recently completed at the CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi. The $1 million project successfully constructed a masonry maintenance building and a masonry spawning building, both replacing 20-year-old metal buildings. That's my report, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Very good. Next item is Item number 2, Bond Program and Capital Projects Update.
MR. WHISTON: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. For the record, my name is Steve Whiston. I'm the director of Infrastructure Division.
I'd like to begin this morning, if I may, Commissioners, with an update of our general obligation bond program. I'm pleased to report that we are very close now to completing all of the 147 capital repair projects that were funded from the FY 'O3 issue of Prop 8 bonds. We have now expended up a little over $35 million of those original bond funds, and the balance of that issue is now encumbered or obligated to contracts that are also very near to completion.
Our target date for fully extending this issue is still this August, the close of this summer of 2007.
If you recall, the FY '06 issue of Prop 8 bonds was about $18.1 million, which we received about a year ago, and those monies were allocated to 49 different major repair projects across the state. Eight percent of those projects have now been completed; 66 percent or about 32 of those projects are now either in design or construction.
I do feel, however, obligated to share with you this morning that we are lagging behind right now in the expenditure goals that we set for this bond issue. We are confident though, however, that we're going to be able, as soon as we can retire the '03 bonds, that we'll be able to gain back some ground and get back on target with the expenditure of these '06 projects.
Since our last meeting in November, we've had to invest a lot of staff time, completing projects that were funded from other capital funding sources. As an example, we've been working diligently to expend all the remaining Connally bonds, all the old park development bonds that were provided to the Department. The appropriation authority for those Connally bonds also expire. They go away at the end of this summer, so it was important for us to invest the resources to get those proceeds fully expended, which we intend to be able to do.
If I may, next on the agenda I'd like to spend just a few minutes, Commissioners, with you this morning, briefing you on the process that we undertake each year to identify, prioritize, and then gain approval for capital repair or capital improvement projects for the Department. As you know, this was a subject in the recent state auditor's report, and we felt that it was important that you be aware of this process, in the event that you are questioned or are asked to speak on the issue.
Our project management procedures and policies and processes were documented and approved and published in our project process manual in October of 1999, and since that time, actually, prior to that time and since that time, we are consistently working at trying to improve and enhance those processes, so that they can better accommodate and meet the needs of our customers to allow us to get our projects done in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Regarding our project management process and first — more just as a reminder — I included this slide to illustrate the major steps — I think you've seen this before on a number of occasions — the major steps that we are engaged in in the life of a project, from the time we receive appropriation authority or the funding to start a project, through the actual design and construction and close-out of that project.
What's important to note here is that, depending on the size and the complexity of that project, it takes an average of 18 to 38 months, from the time we get money, to expend or complete that project and expend those funds. And if we could start all the projects at one time, which is certainly not the case with us, because of our limited resources we have to stagger-start those projects, it would take 18 to 13 months — 18 to 38 months — but in reality, because of these stagger-start projects, it takes at least, if not more than, five years typically, to fully execute a bond program such as the ones we are managing right now, and fully expend the money.
In regard to project identification, the identification of capital needs is what I believe a really well-defined, collaborative process that begins with the site manager or the park ranger or the fisheries or wildlife biologist that's in the field at his park or site, who's responsible for that resource. Those needs are recorded. Needs for repairs or renovations are recorded and entered into our facility management information system, or FMIS as we refer to it. Examples of those kind of needs that are entered into the system are replace a deteriorated roof or repair a lift station pump, or fix the faulty electrical wiring in a building. These are all recorded by field staff at that park or facility level and entered into FMIS.
Those needs are captured in our data base by asset, by facility, and by location. That information allows us, Infrastructure Division, working with our customers, working with the resource divisions, to start bundling those project needs — or those repair needs, excuse me — into projects, building them into projects, taking similar or like kinds of repairs that makes sense and building them into prospective projects that we want to recommend for approval. When a facility need is entered into FMIS, the site manager will typically enter, as well, a cost estimate, what they believe, based on their experience, that that repair will cost. The costs are then continually being refined and developed throughout the entire process, during the life of a project.
When repair needs are bundled into projects, the steps that — a step that Infrastructure Division takes, we develop — our project managers, working with our clients, develop a full project scope for that project, and we begin refining the cost estimate to include the cost of planning, the cost of permitting, testing, necessary costs for archeology, for design and construction and all the project management oversight that's necessary to implement that project. So as we bundle those projects and they become projects in the system, those costs continue to get more accurate and better defined, as we go along. We develop those cost estimates, using established industry standards, processes established through PMI and through the industry that gives us confidence that those numbers are reasonable and supportable. They are verified; we have a professional cost estimator on our staff. He looks at those project estimates, and it helps us to verify their accuracy.
Project priorities, the next step, I want to share with you this morning, are first really determined and established by our customers. Infrastructure doesn't set priorities for our divisions. We don't believe that we are, obviously, as familiar with the priority needs within a division as our customers are, so priorities are initially set by our customer divisions. Prospective projects are then evaluated and placed in some priority order, using categories that were redefined and established back in 1997. These are our priority categories which we use to define what our most important or critical needs are.
The first such category, we believe, is health and safety. These are projects, obviously, that are needed to insure the safety and well being of the public and our staff, using those facilities. Examples of health and safety projects, if they're not obvious to you, you know, the provision of potable drinking water at a park or a site, or repairs to restrooms or repairs that would address unsafe conditions in a building or a facility.
I used the example of faulty electrical system. We consider that to be a safety issue, and would consider that a high priority as we go through the process to rank our projects. We recently, within the last week, by the way, had to close a fishing pier at Lake Corpus Christi, a fishing pier that's a number of years old that is no longer safe. That's a floating dock kind of pier that Parks initially determined and we looked at and supported their conclusion that this is not safe for the public, could not support safely, public use any longer, so we had to close that pier until we could identify project funding to allow us to make the necessary repairs.
The second priority we consider important in our process is regulatory and code compliance. These are projects that are necessary to meet or comply with a regulatory requirement or state law or a building code. Examples are renovations to a water or waste water system that are required by TCEQ, or perhaps an ADA repair that is necessary under federal law to make a project or a building accessible to the public, to handicapped visitors alike.
The next project priority we consider important, then, in our ranking system is structural repairs. These are priority projects that we believe, you know, examples would include repairing a failed or cracked foundation, where a building is in imminent danger of some kind of structural problem, has a leaking roof perhaps, that threatens the stability of the building or the roof structure that is supposed to protect the building.
The fourth and final priority category we consider important is what we just call general repair needs. These are repairs that we believe are needed to operate and maintain a facility, such as repairing broken windows or deteriorated siding. These are projects that we believe that are necessary or needed to avoid further deterioration that would make that project become a health and safety need or a structural problem a little further down the road.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Can I ask you a question? Sorry to interrupt.
MR. WHISTON: Certainly, yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sorry to interrupt. Because you used the pier at Lake Corpus Christi as an issue that you had to close the pier relative to health and safety.
MR. WHISTON: Correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: But I assume it's because of structural integrity. Something's wrong with it; obviously you don't feel safe. But I mean, have you known about that? I mean, how does that — I guess what I'm asking is how does that process along? I assume one day they didn't show up and say, uh-oh, we can't go on the pier; we've got to close it.
MR. WHISTON: Yeah, certainly we have to depend on our resource divisions to monitor more closely than we're able to, you know, the condition of their facilities. You know, we trust they do an outstanding job with that. In this case, certainly, this has been a known problem. We weren't familiar; we did not realize it was becoming as serious as it became until recently, and so it was not, unfortunately, a priority for Parks Division early on in the process. But now that it has been recognized as a need, it's certainly something that escalates to the top of our list and one that we're going to have to address, find a way to repair.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: The dollar issue relative to Parks, though.
MR. WHISTON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: You alluded to the audit report.
MR. WHISTON: Uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Specifically, were they critical of the process we're currently using and, if they were, what steps are we taking to correct the problems that they brought to light?
MR. WHISTON: Yes, sir, Commissioner Brown, I think primarily the reference in the audit report to our processes were more — had more to do with our documentation of the process. I think they recognize that we have had a long-standing process and we were able, I think, to support that. I think what our need for improvement here is that we were unable — a lot of the consideration, and I'll get to it a little bit later when I talk about how we go about gaining approval for projects — but a lot of our processes are done more informally.
We bring staff together, we talk, we confer, we make decisions among ourselves about what we believe are, you know, critical, important projects, and I think our failing in the eyes of the auditors is that we failed to document. We failed to record, or provide evidence, of the steps we took or the actions that we took in order to make those decisions. So, that's something that we acknowledge and something that we're going to do whatever's necessary to change our processes to address, so that we can provide that documentation.
They did, as well, find some fault, I think, in our cost-estimating process. They felt that it was not consistent between project managers and certainly, we acknowledge their finding, but feel like we do have a supportable system. We do use industry standard to develop the cost estimates. There's a whole different array, as I'm sure you're aware, of different methodologies and different tools that we employ to develop a cost estimate.
Not every project manager does it the same way, and I think the auditors felt like we needed to be a little bit more consistent with that. We'll try to accommodate that, but we still believe that, by and large, you know, the net result, the product, you know, of our processes to develop estimates are reliable and accurate. We tried to make a point to impress with them that these are estimates; these are rough estimates at the beginning.
They had some concern about how our estimates change over the life of a project. They felt like the increase or decrease of cost to finally implement a project was sometimes too high or too low from, compared to the original estimate that was entered into FMIS, and we certainly acknowledge that. We believe that's the case; we believe industry standards allow sometimes up to a 25 percent cost increase or decrease over the life of a project. That's the result of a whole number, a whole slew of different issues, you know.
We find better design solutions to, you know, to solve a problem, we save money when we get into the field and really get into a project or the reverse could be true. We find problems that we didn't anticipate, you know, originally, when we originally estimated or scoped that project, so we're going to continue to work with them. We think their information was valuable to us and gives us some framework to make some improvements.
MR. COOK: I think it's worth noting here, too, and I've seen it as the years go by. You may start out with a pier or a boardwalk or something like that, that the Park manager is listing as a general repair need. He goes out there and he sees that those support posts or floats or whatever it is needs to be replaced.
But there's not enough money to replace them, then it becomes — maybe it moves up into the structural integrity level of, you know, guys, this thing's going to fall down if we don't fix this thing. But it still — we're burning all of our money that's available to us in Health and Safety, so suddenly you go out there one day, or maybe not suddenly, but over time, you go out there one day and go, you know, it's not safe for people to be walking this boardwalk or on this pier or using this facility. So I believe I have personally seen some of that; I know our staff has, and with resources we have, we frequently run out of funding before we get to many of those general repair needs, and a lot of those general repair needs get listed after they're not done as minor repairs.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Become majors.
MR. COOK: They become on the big list, so it's a process that we — I think our guys are doing a good job of. Again, I think most of what the auditors pointed out is a documentation of the process, you know, strengthen our documentation and we will do that.
MR. WHISTON: Yes. Last, I think another factor that I think causes some of that variance in project costs, if I may, you know, is the fact that, you know, sometimes these projects are estimated three to five years before we actually have the funds available to execute that project. Just in this last year, I think we've shared with you before, construction costs have increased by at least 18 percent statewide, some materials as high as 30 to 35 percent, concrete, steel. Costs have continued to rise and our original estimates don't reflect that change and so project costs, in some instances, is more than what we envisioned.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Also, Steve, I think at this point too, as long as we're talking about these time frames, I think the whole Commission needs to know — talk to them about, with the budgetary constraints that we've had to live with, not caused by us. For instance, in the last biennium, have we had to reduce our staff, architects, engineers, and contract managers, would you care to —
MR. WHISTON: Certainly.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — not care to, I'm going to ask you to tell them exactly what we've had to live with, with budgetary constraints.
MR. WHISTON: Certainly. Thank you. I'd be happy to, Commissioner Parker, Chairman Parker. And it's no secret, you know, due to budgetary shortfalls in, through the legislature in the last couple of years, our department has had to cut back on operations, and our, my division, like all the other divisions, have had to take our share of cuts and reductions in operating costs.
Over the last two bienniums, my staff has been reduced by about 49 FTEs in the last biennium, and that was a — that's a significant loss of staff that we had formerly in place, that allowed us to more quickly and more effectively execute projects.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Out of how many, Steve? You said 49 out of how many?
MR. WHISTON: We, at that point, had about 175 FTEs in our division and we have been reduced now by —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: 30, 25 to 30 percent.
MR. WHISTON: 30 percent, yes. And certainly we understood the need for that and accepted that and, you know, felt like we've done all that we can and worked diligently trying to recover from that, find new methodologies, new delivery methods that we can use the staff that we have to be able to successfully continue to spend these dollars and execute these projects, but that has had some impact on our ability to deliver.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: But I think it was wise that they set up these priority requirements, you know. Health and Safety first, so forth and so on, using the staff that we are presently having here in the headquarters and out in the field. And, you know, when you — when business cuts their staff, then that means folks that are left have to double up and/or projects, you know, shift down in priorities.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you. Finally, the last step in this prioritization project, as noted in that last bullet, is a step where we take all of the individual division priority lists and, as I referred to earlier, we come together, all the divisions come together in a series of meetings, and merge each of the division priorities into one single, department-wide priority project list. This is a real collaborative process. It requires a lot of give and take on the part of the division representatives and the division staff that take part in the process but, in our opinion, it does produce what we believe to be a very realistic and supportable priority list of needs for the agency.
Finally, the project approval process. As soon as these divisions get together and our priorities are integrated into a single department list, our priorities are, once again, finally approved by each of the division directors. Next step, Infrastructure Division reviews that final list. It's our responsibility, we believe, to make sure that all the projects are aligned with priority criteria that are established for that program. We also take that time to verify the scope of the project, to make sure that what we intend to do is an allowable use of the bond fund or whatever funding source that we've been appropriated to expend for those purposes.
Next the priority project list is submitted to the deputy executive director of Operations and I must share with you that we also do submit this to Gene. We do give Gene an opportunity to review. His approval is important, as well and we do need to kind of amend our processes, since his and Scott's position were created to reflect that. That list, after it's approved by the deputy execs, are submitted to Mr. Cook for his approval and finally, that list is, in all cases, made available to you as the Commission, for your review.
Next, Commissioners, if I may, I'd like to spend some time in the final portion of this briefing, is to give you a quick update on some of our capital projects. And some important ones this time. If I may, I'd like to begin with a before and after, a really impressive engineering project that was recently completed at Garner State Park. I was really fascinated, intrigued, and really pleased with the result of this project. Over the years, as you know, the Frio River has continued to cut into the river bank and threaten our facilities at Garner. That's occurred with every high water event that we've had there on the Frio.
The river in the past has flooded camp sites, day use areas, restrooms. We have had to rebuild restrooms and relocate them outside the flood plain. It's been an interesting struggle with nature to, you know, provide facilities that the public want and need at that site, and still accommodate or deal with Mother Nature.
As a result of the last major flood, the embankment below the original CCC concession building and dance floor was lost. It was washed away, as you can see here in this slide. You can probably get a better image of it on your laptops. The concession building and dance platform are actually kind of concealed behind the trees, but you can see some of the concrete stairway that leads from the dance floor down to what was, originally, a landing down near the riverbank. All washed away, all flooded away, continued to erode and threatened the integrity of the dance floor. It was suspended out in the air and was — had become, certainly, a safety and structural priority for us.
This past December, we completed finally a major stabilization of that project. Using Prop 8 bond funds, we repaired and constructed huge engineered stone retaining walls that now contain the river and will protect that resource indefinitely. You can get a, I think, good idea of about a 100-foot-long limestone retaining wall in this slide that was constructed by a contractor. These stones were — these huge stones, monolithic stones, were stacked in seven to eight courses high. These stones were about three feet wide and roughly measured two feet tall and about five feet long and weighed up to four to five tons each.
We stacked this wall — the contractor stacked this wall, again, about 100 feet along the Frio River bank. The contractor had —
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Who did that project? Do you remember the contractor?
MR. WHISTON: No, sir, I don't. I should find that out, but offhand, I don't recall who —
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Just curious ‑‑
MR. WHISTON: Yes, but he did a good job for us. It was necessary that they had to divert the Frio River in order to get the equipment down to the river bed to set these stones. This project was really carefully engineered and we believe it was necessary to take this kind of step, in order to protect the resource from future flooding.
Next, I'd like to share with you that also this past December, Spaw Glass completed construction of new facilities at the World Birding Center site in Brownsville. These facilities were designed by a local architect and intended to reflect the architecture of local, historic Brownsville. The buildings were mostly brick masonry and characterized by really intricate brick patterns in the brick work. This is a view of the main visitor center and interpretive building. That was constructed — it's a little over 7,000 square feet and contains a visitor reception area, park store, exhibits, offices, and public restrooms.
This is one of the three tram stops that were constructed at Brownsville World Birding Center where visitors can, in the future, when the park is opened, board the tram cars and be taken to different birding destinations throughout the park. This is a view of the main lobby of the visitor center, looking toward what will be the new park store, or a gift shop. I think you can get a better sense in this picture of some of the brick work and the terra cotta tile floor that was used, integrated into the design of the building. We're really pleased with the look of it, and we hope the functionality of the building.
Next is a quick shot of one of the four observation decks that have been constructed over the Resaca. The Resaca is in the background. It's currently in this picture not flooded. It doesn't have water in it, because Parks has recently been engaged in kind of shredding all the unwanted, non-native vegetation out of the Resaca, but once that project is completed, the water will be re-introduced and these little birding platforms, these little observation decks, I think, will be a real great amenity to the site that will allow, you know, visitors and bird watchers to get a real close-hand view of the bird species that are out there. These platforms were built by our force account construction crews.
And, lastly, a quick view of the new maintenance facility there at Resaca, or at Brownsville.
And, next, Commissioners, with your permission, I'd like to ask Colonel Pete Flores to join me, to report on our progress with the planning and capital fund-raising campaign for the new Texas Game Warden Center. This first slide is a view of the property that we've recently acquired for the construction of the Game Warden Training Center, taken at an approximate location where we believe the new gate and the new entrance is going to be, leading into the facility.
Before I share with you some of our construction plans, I would like to acknowledge, I think, joining us here in the audience is Ron Ayer, who's our grants coordinator with the Department. Ron has done an incredible job; he's the one who's responsible for managing our fund-raising capital campaign and doing an outstanding job with that, as well as Greg Thelan, who on my staff is the project manager for the Texas Game Warden Training Center. I felt it was important that they be here to answer any questions you guys might have that Pete or I can't answer.
As you know, the new Game Warden Training Center will replace the existing law enforcement academy here in north Austin on 51st Street and Guadalupe. This current facility has been operated by law enforcement since 1978. This building was originally built in 1969 and it's just worn out. It's in disrepair, and it no longer meets the needs of Pete's staff and the Department.
It's our desire and our plan to construct, as you well know, a new training center on property that we recently acquired from the Police Activities League, just outside of Starr, Texas in Hamilton County. Location is somewhat north of Lampasas and east of Brownwood, if you ever have an opportunity to get up that direction.
We presently own, and I brought a pointer with me, which won't help you with your laptops, but we presently own about the 220 acres that are outlined with the yellow outline that we acquired from PAL. The PAL, or Police Activities League retained 25 acres at the bottom of this site plan; they retained that for their use, and they will continue to occupy and operate that portion of the property.
There are some existing facilities on the site. This is a view, kind of an aerial view of the existing small compound of wood frame structures that are out there at the property. The structures include six, in the background, six barracks buildings that will be renovated to accommodate our cadet staff, a larger dorm just kind of to the right of the slide that is currently used, or has been used to house staff that operated the PAL activities, or the PAL programs out there.
In the foreground is, and to the left is the dining hall and kitchen that currently exists, and the building in the foreground to the right is the administrative office and infirmary, all buildings that we're going to retain and renovate and incorporate into our new academy. We feel like it's in our best interests to do that.
The development of the training center will include, as well, construction of ten new buildings or features that are identified in this site plan. Included in that list of ten is a new administration and classroom building, a new gymnasium, a new swimming facility, an armory, cadet cabins as I mentioned before, firing range, and an emergency vehicle operations course for the academy. I wanted to give you an idea of what we envision these buildings are going to look like, and what we hope will be, we think, you know, an appropriate design motif that our law enforcement customers have identified and indicated to us they would like to see developed.
This is a view, or artist's rendering, or architectural rendering of the new administration building we propose to build. This is going to be about a 5,000-square-foot building, stone veneer, high metal roofs. This building will accommodate offices, conference rooms, storage, and other administrative needs for the new training center.
Likewise, we propose to build a new education building out there. This building will contain classroom space, multiple classroom space, libraries, and computer labs that are going to be necessary for the center to become the state-of-the-art facility that we know and need it to become. This building is going to be about 4,300 or so square feet in size.
Likewise, a new gymnasium; a building that we believe is necessary to provide physical conditioning for the cadet class. It will include showers and locker rooms as well.
Water rescue; this is a building that will contain a 25-meter, heated swimming pool for swimming and aquatic survival and water rescue training that's required of all our training cadet candidates. This will be about, a little under 5,000-square-foot new facility as well out on the site.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Heated water, huh? And they jump in to rescue somebody?
MR. WHISTON: It's either that or one of the stock ponds that's out there right now, so —
(Simultaneous discussion and laughter.)
MR. WHISTON: As I mentioned before, we intend to renovate the six barracks buildings out there to become new cadet cabins and it will look like the image here on this slide. It's going to be about a thousand square foot each, and will accommodate, kind of in a dormitory style, a number of cadets that are in the academy, or in the training.
Finally, the dining hall, just to give you another, one last example of some of the new construction. I'm sorry, in this case, renovation; this is the proposed renovation, the look of the new building that will provide a full kitchen and dining hall space at the training center. And with that, I'm going to turn the microphone over to Pete to share with you a little bit about the capital campaign.
MR. FLORES: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Cook, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Peter Flores. I'm the director of law enforcement. Just wanted to basically summarize what Mr. Cook had mentioned earlier about our capital campaign, tell you where we're at. I wish to express that we're all very excited about this project; three years in the making, and we're going to pretty much stick with it until it comes to fruition. I wanted to say we really appreciate the personal time that y'all have put into this project, also your personal resources that you've put into this project, and it's a great thing, a great vision to see this thing come to life.
Our co-chairs of the capital campaign are Lee M. Bass, which is our Chairman Emeritus and Chairman Fitzsimons. I really appreciate your effort on this. It's taken off; we've been engaged about three months so far in our first phase for our capital campaign, and we intend to go into a public phase later on.
Our partners in this endeavor to build this academy are the Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division. We are also partners, Dick Davis and the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and of course, our Texas Game Warden Association, and all members and affiliates throughout the state.
Texas Game Warden Training Center; of course, we've got a checkbook there, so it's a tax deductible donation. For our fund-raising goal, to make this dream a reality, is $15 million. Total funds we've raised to date are $3.7 million, and that's — we're on the right track and again, on behalf of Parks and Wildlife we want to take this time to thank all of those Texans and corporations that have generously donated this money and preemptively thank all of those who want to donate towards this project.
Included in this, we plan to include an endowment to be able to provide us with future operating costs. Obviously, with a facility of this size, our operating costs will be increasing from its current operating costs at the academy and the ranch, and hopefully, by working it this way with endowment, we'll be self-sustained, so what we would like, optimistically speaking, is to be able to build this facility first class, and also to provide endowments to operate it, while doing our very best to stay away from appropriations. But we won't rule it out, but our very best to stay away from appropriations.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Pete, if I can ask you, in your current fund-raising goals, does that include endowment for each building or not?
MR. FLORES: Yes, sir. It includes — well, excuse me, that would include — the $15 million excludes endowment. Endowment will be any amount of money that any benefactor would wish to establish towards operating. Currently the $15 million would include infrastructure and buildings of the facility as a whole.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: What would you like your endowment level to be, ideally?
MR. FLORES: Well, as much as possible, but about $2 to $3 million.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, the reason I'm bringing it up is, in the past, being involved with other boards and building buildings is, there is actually a rule of thumb on endowment relative to square footage of buildings. And I'm just wondering, you shouldn't probably talk to the chairman about it. Maybe you should start including that now.
MR. FLORES: We would be most interested in any of that type of information, so that we can make sure that we have a package that long range, and realistic.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, yes, you've got both.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: That leaves us in 25 to 30 percent on the building number with the others.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right. In fact, more and more nonprofits and particularly universities and those kind of things are going to that where, in other words, if they set up a building, they have all those costs included in the endowment, and they will not start building — I'm not saying we should do that, but I think we need to start working on endowment — they won't actually start building the building until they have the endowment dollars for that building.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: That's important, Peter, and you've got a lot of experience, I know, several buildings, schools.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, what have you. First you kind of react like this, because you think you should have, of course, several more dollars, but boy in the end, it really pays off big time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, the donors like it, because it assures them of permanence. It should; we're not coming back —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Once you — it's an education, yes.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Has everything been restricted?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, Commissioner, nothing has been restricted as of yet.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I see.
MR. FLORES: Time out.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Now what did you say?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Just asked if anything was — what's been raised to date in the 3.7. Do we have any restrictions to endowment currently, with those donations?
MR. FLORES: What's been raised to date has been funds that have been dedicated to buildings and we've had a number of general funds, donations coming in anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 to 200,000 non-dedicated. But now, we've had several dedicated to various buildings, including the administration and others, which we're very, very thankful for.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Now, Peter, would you say so everybody can hear about your final statement on the endowment.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I think this is just something we ought to talk to and I noticed Chairman Fitzsimons and Lee Bass, co-chair, so I'll just have a visit with them and maybe it's a way to look at it; not saying that we should do that, but I think we certainly should consider it.
MR. FLORES: Thank you, sir. Our project goal is to develop a state-of-the-art game warden training facility, one of the best in North America, or the best. Thank y'all very much. Thank you for the opportunity of allowing me to brief y'all. Thank you, Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Any questions?
MR. WHISTON: Yes, before we lose Pete and I move on to my next capital project, do you have any other questions about the Game Warden Training Center?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: As far as a specific cost like the building, if you had a donor that wanted to build the gym, for example, are there going to be naming rights attached to —
MR. WHISTON: Certainly. Yes, sir. Each building has a cost estimate attached to it.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Okay. So each building has a — someone would have the ability to donate?
MR. WHISTON: Correct.
MR. FLORES: And the gymnasium, by the way, has been — TXU donated 1.2 million for the gymnasium.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Great. That's good.
MR. FLORES: Just among other generous benefactors.
MR. WHISTON: Commissioners, just to wrap up. As soon as we can get a better handle — we're anticipating getting a better handle here on donations, we are poised — I want you to know we're poised to begin implementation of this project. We're prepared to enter into the design phase of this project, once we feel like we've realized enough money and have banked enough money and can come about an implementation strategy to start construction, either for our large group of buildings or a smaller portion of buildings. We're going to be prepared to do that, so looking forward to getting that project under way.
Next, Commissioners, with your permission, I want to just brief you quickly on our TxDOT program. As most of you know, since 1992, TxDOT has been responsible for the maintenance, and repair, and upkeep and construction of our road and parking lot systems state wide for our Parks Division, Wildlife Management Areas, and our fisheries facilities. Under an MOA that was established or executed back in 1992, TxDOT provides or has provided $5 million per year for that purpose.
Since the beginning of the program, TxDOT has allocated to Parks and Wildlife $85 million and of that amount, about $53 million has been expended or spent for road and parking lot repairs.
TxDOT is currently managing about 25 projects that are budgeted at about 32 million, with a balance of that appropriation or allocation that's been made available to us.
Our concern is that at the current level of funding, at $5 million a year, we believe both our agencies are able to keep up with our demand, with our need for road repairs and parking lot repairs. Recently, with TxDOT's help, we've identified a backlog of unfunded road repair projects that we estimate will cost approximately $90 million, and that's in addition to the money that's appropriated or allocated under this MOA to us right now. You have that kind of deferred list of projects that are waiting out there.
The good news, though, is that TxDOT has stepped up and they've recognized our need and is willing, as an agency, to increase the annual allocation of state highway mobility funds to help us address this backlog of repair needs. So we are currently engaged right now in negotiating with senior staff at TxDOT to, hopefully, to increase the level of funding by an additional $10 to, we hope maybe $15 million a year; that's over and above the 5 million that we are currently allocated. We are expecting and hope to finalize our amendment that will establish this new funding level, the amendment to the MOA, that establishes this new funding level with TxDOT before the close of the legislative session, and we'll certainly keep you posted on the progress of that, but TxDOT has done an outstanding job in helping us and we fully believe that we're going to realize some additional funding from this.
Next, Commissioners, regarding the Battleship Texas, wanted just to briefly share with you, as Bob alluded to earlier, I am happy to report that the Battleship Texas Foundation has stepped up as well, and they have agreed to donate $125 to $150,000 immediately to the Department, to allow us to begin or engage a marine engineering firm to do the condition assessment that we need to do or accomplish with the ship. This study that will, we hope, begin or be able to initiate this summer, will help us to determine the repair needs on the exterior hull and skeleton of the ship, and be able to, once and for all, tell us whether or not this ship is structurally sound, what the condition of the ship is, and is it capable, structurally, now of sitting on a permanent concrete cradle as we wish it to be, out of the water. This study is going to be necessary in giving us the information to tell us what repairs are needed to put the ship in that kind of condition, to allow it to do so.
Engineers are going to be underwater, on board ship, doing ultrasounding and physically inspecting the entire structural integrity of the ship in this project, and we're going to be working closely with the Foundation to get that started as quick as we can this summer, as I mentioned before. We still remain relatively optimistic. As Mr. Cook shared with you earlier, that at some request for Prop 8 money might be made available by the legislature that will allow us to move ahead with this project and, depending on the level of funding, we do feel confident that we can accomplish some level of construction toward the dry berth or some significant ship repairs, depending again on the money that's made available to us.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Steve, you're one slide off.
MR. WHISTON: I'm sorry. Getting ahead of myself? Found myself punching too quickly.
Then finally, Commissioners, I will wrap up with a brief update on Hurricane Rita repairs. As you know, hopefully, the Texas Commissioner of Insurance, several months ago, granted us, or granted the Department an exemption or a waiver from the insurance requirement that was being imposed on us by FEMA. Soon after we were granted that exemption, we received notification from FEMA that overturned or disallowed that exemption, the exemption that was granted to us by the Department of Insurance.
In a recent letter from Mr. Cook to FEMA, we have now appealed that decision, and we're waiting for a final ruling, to determine whether or not we're going to be required to insure our facilities, to make us eligible for reimbursement for the expenditures or repairs we need to make or need to complete here for — that resulted from the hurricane.
In the meantime, we're not slowing down. We're proceeding with the repairs as we have staff to do so. All our facilities — I think I've shared with you before — are open and operational, that's with the exception of Sea Rim State Park. That's the one park that yet remains closed to the public. We're trying to address some critical electrical and utility issues and water/waste water issues that impacted that park pretty severely, before we're going to be able to bring that park back online.
We still currently estimate, when it's all said and done, that we will spend about $3.2 million on Rita repairs, and, if we are ultimately exempted from this insurance requirement, we think we can expect to receive reimbursement of a little over $2.9 million of that expenditure.
So we're hopeful that will work itself out, and we'll be able to realize some reimbursement. We'll share with you today too, we have received a little over, a little under, I guess, $2 million from FEMA that reimburses our operating expenses, monies that have come into the agency to our divisions, to reimburse us for the operating costs that we incurred in responding immediately to the hurricane, sending staff down there, buying materials, and responding to the hurricane event. So we're still working diligently to try to clean up from that, and hoping we can get through this season without any kind of similar situation happening to us again.
Commissioners, that concludes my report and I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is there any other further discussions, questions? Okay, thank you, Steve.
This Committee has completed its business, and we'll move on to Regulations Committee. Pass the gavel to Chairman Friedkin.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 4, 2007
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through , inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731