(June 11, 2013) -- The UTSA College of Public Policy (COPP) and the UTSA Institute for Economic Development (IED) Rural Business Program have partnered with Shell Oil to strategically develop municipal governments in the Eagle Ford Shale region. The UTSA-Shell Municipal Capacity Building program promotes socioeconomic growth by helping the Eagle Ford Shale's rural communities prepare for current challenges and future needs and by identifying potential opportunities as a result of the changes happening in the area.
Municipal government officials and citizens from communities in Dimmit, Uvalde and Zavala counties will convene for the program's final meeting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, June 14 in the Buena Vista Building Meeting Assembly Room (1.338) at the UTSA Downtown Campus.
"The training program was created to help these cities and counties better understand the ins and outs of municipal governance beginning with the basics," said Francine Romero, associate dean of the UTSA College of Public Policy. "At the fifth session, we hope to see this enhanced knowledge put into action, when our participants develop strategies inspired by the professional guidance they have received in the last four meetings."
On June 14, participants will work toward refining and realizing their action plans through a session facilitated by Jeff Barton, a planning and policy consultant, and Bill Burnett, vice president of Bowman Consulting, both former Hays County commissioners. These action plans may include a sustainable community project proposal eligible for up to $15,000 of grant funding by Shell."
Since March, representatives from rural communities in and around Shell's Eagle Ford Shale operations have attended the monthly municipal training workshops in Carrizo Springs. The workshops are hosted by the UTSA-Shell partnership with a curriculum designed by Romero and presented by a variety of professional and UTSA faculty experts. Elected city officials, community leaders and local government employees attended the trainings, which have focused on fundamental aspects of municipal governance such as municipal structure, social capacity, land use and planning, and communications, e-government and public relations.
"We've worked to lay a foundation in these cities that is conducive to economic and social development," said Romero. "There has to be a new level of sophistication in the way these governments are run moving forward, and we designed these training sessions as a way to help them come into their own as city governments in this new environment shaped by the operations in the Eagle Ford Shale."
Adrian DeLeon, mayor of Carrizo Springs, said that the training sessions have spurred his city to adopt new ways of conducting its business. Carrizo Springs has been significantly impacted by the oil and natural gas boom in the shale.
"We're doing more work with e-government and strengthening our infrastructure," said DeLeon. "For example, we've uploaded our charter online, which we didn't previously have. We're also currently installing electronic meter readers around the city."
The second phase of the UTSA-Shell Municipal Capacity Building program is already in the planning stages. It will target cites along Interstate 35 and in La Salle County beginning in September and continuing through February 2014.
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