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Special Energy Issue 2008 Fiscal Notes Logo

Brief Bytes

by the Editorial Team

New Digs for Texas Game Wardens

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is developing a $15 million training center for its game wardens and staff. TPWD plans to move its existing Texas Game Warden Training Center to a larger site in Hamilton County by July 2008.

The move will enable prospective game wardens to train in a central area, says Major Randy Odom, the chief of training. The new facility will allow most cadet training to be conducted on site, with the exception of boat operations. Currently cadet training, in areas such as firearms, emergency vehicle operations and boat operations, are conducted off site at facilities operated by other agencies.

In 2005, the Police Activities League donated 220 acres of its 244-acre ranch in Hamilton to TPWD, which aims to sell its existing training property in Austin to help fund development of the new facility. TPWD is also seeking private donations and corporate sponsorships to develop the project.

The planned training center will include an upgrade of kitchen facilities and student dormitories and construction of an administration building, classroom, gym, indoor pool, firing range, driving track and obstacle course for physical training, says Odom.

“Our move to Hamilton County will make our training more efficient as the training infrastructure will be self-contained in the facility,” Odom says.

For more information on the planned Texas Game Warden Training Center, please visit www.texasgamewarden.com or call (800) 322-8492.

(Karen Hudgins)

What Do Watt Watchers Watch?

Watt Watchers of Texas is a State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) program for elementary, middle and high schools that promotes energy conservation. Student monitors patrol the halls of schools and reduce wattage waste by turning off lights and leaving tickets for watt wasters.

More than 4,500 Texas classrooms have a Watt program. Texas schools could save more than $12 million in wasted energy if every teacher would turn off the lights in the classroom for just two unoccupied hours per day.

SECO is a division of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, and the U.S. Department of Energy sponsors Watt Watchers of Texas. For more information, visit www.wattwatchers.org.

(David Rivers)

Tiny nano machines invade dangerous cells in the blood.

NanoHealth Gets Big Bucks

The Alliance for NanoHealth, a consortium made up of seven Houston-area universities, is slated to receive $2.2 million in new federal funding over the next year.

The funding was included in the fiscal 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Bill as announced by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston).

Alliance for NanoHealth members are UT Health Science Center at Houston, the Baylor College of Medicine, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Rice University, the University of Houston, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The alliance promotes nanotechnology-based solutions in medicine.

For more information, visit www.nanohealthalliance.org.

(Tracey Lamphere)

Community Colleges Booming in Texas

Community colleges in Texas are experiencing growth statewide that is expected to continue at about 3 to 5 percent over the next several years, primarily because of more affordable tuition, fees, commute costs, and room and board expenses.

“People come to community colleges because that’s where they live, the colleges are serving a population base,” says Reynaldo Garcia, president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

The fastest-growing community college districts in Texas include Collin County Community College District in Plano and South Texas College District in McAllen.

For more information, visit www.tacc.org.

(David Rivers)


Fuel Cell Technology Goes to College

Texas State Technical College in Waco is one of the first community colleges in the state to offer a two-year degree program to train students for entry-level positions as fuel cell technicians. Starting salary for qualified graduates is about $32,000. Specialists in the field typically perform fuel cell installations, operations, maintenance, troubleshooting and repair.

The project is the brainchild of Sidney Bolfing, a senior instructor at TSTC Waco and the co-founder of The Renewable Energy for Education Consortium (TREEC). In addition to TSTC’s Waco campus, TREEC has renewable technology programs at five other community colleges in Texas.

For more information, visit www.treec.org.

(David Rivers)

Get Out of Your Cubicle

Good health and productivity in the workplace have an undeniable link. Fitness is no longer a craze, but crucial to the quality of life. Organizations including the Comptroller’s office support healthy habits through employee wellness programs. The Comptroller’s Wellness Program includes activities for weight loss and increased physical activity with a little fun thrown in.

The “Making Strides@CPA” challenge, just one facet of the overall program, is a hit among Comptroller employees, says Audrey Thompson, Wellness Program coordinator. It challenges workers to walk 30 minutes a day, four times a week.

The first installment of Making Strides, which ended in November 2007, had 435 participants who walked an astounding 443,116 minutes.

USAA, a San Antonio-based financial services company, provides for its employees on-site fitness centers, smoking cessation and weight management classes, and healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines. Participation in the program rose to 68.5 percent in 2005. Participants reported significant decreases in weight, smoking rates and other health risk factors. The decline in absenteeism alone is expected to save USAA more than $105 million in three years.

(Tracey Lamphere)

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