The City of Fort Worth, with partners Cisco and Presidio, officially launched free CFW Neighborhood Wi-Fi access in five neighborhoods: Ash Crescent, Lake Como, Northside, Rosemont, and, coming this fall, Stop Six. City officials and community partners gathered at Como Community Center on Tuesday to celebrate the launch and speak about the benefits of this great resource.
“Access to the internet provides a sense of connectiveness, and our community has that today,” Leon Reed, Lake Como Neighborhood Association second vice president, said. “What I’m really proud of is the benefits the children of our community will receive as they will have a real opportunity to advance their education by continuing to learn at home. And I’m also excited about the adults having the opportunity to go online and search and apply for jobs. I’m so proud of the vision of Fort Worth to provide all its citizens the opportunity to enjoy what the world has to offer.”
Many Fort Worth residents have lacked home internet access, making it difficult to attend online classes, apply for jobs or tap into other social service resources. The issue became especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, where lack of connectivity was impacting residents’ quality of life
In 2020, the City of Fort Worth kicked off an effort to bring free Wi-Fi to some of the neighborhoods most affected by a lack of connectivity. (See the neighborhoods on the map below.) The project began with $5 million in seed money from the CARES Act, and was completed with additional ARPA funds. Fort Worth ISD also joined the partnership to make the program possible by allowing the City to use school buildings to hold equipment that will originate the signal. CFW Neighborhood Wi-Fi complements FWISD’s effort to deliver connectivity to student’s districtwide.
The West Seventh Street district is a very popular venue for area residents to enjoy a night out with friends. On Friday and Saturday nights, thousands of visitors and residents crowd the entertainment venues in the blocks bordered by West Seventh, Bledsoe Street, University Drive and Foch Street.
The large number of visitors creates a significant challenge getting emergency medical resources into the district for medical calls.
Since September 2018, a unique partnership between the bicycle teams from Fort Worth Police Department and MedStar has helped improve patient access to medical resources. MedStar’s Bicycle Emergency Response Team – BERT for short – responds to medical calls in the West Seventh District as requested either through a 911 call, or by Fort Worth police officers on duty in the district.
Since the program was begun, BERT medics have treated 466 patients, with 61% of the patients treated on scene without the need to dispatch an ambulance or fire truck into the entertainment district. This keeps those resources available for other community responses.
The FWPD-MedStar partnership operates on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., all year long.
MedStar’s BERT members undergo extensive training in bicycle operations through the International Police Mountain Bike Association, especially focusing on navigating in large crowds. Bikes are equipped with all the medical equipment necessary to treat patients suffering from medical or trauma emergencies.
Fort Worth’s homeowners could see the City’s property tax rate drop 2 cents if the City Council considers a new rate as part of the fiscal 2023 budget process.
City Manager David Cooke proposed the decrease when he put before council members a $915.3 million General Fund budget Tuesday. The City’s overall budget will top $2.3 billion.
Water rates, garbage collection fees and stormwater fees are not going up.
“Again this year, the City’s economic outlook is positive, even as we continue to feel long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cooke said. “We’re seeing gains in local job growth, property values, sales tax collections and new building permits. But along with Fort Worth’s impressive population growth come increased demands on City services and infrastructure.”
Cooke said City staff is being even more mindful in this budget cycle about how to achieve goals of making Fort Worth a more livable and vibrant city. He said it is important to show residents the City is being a good steward with their money, but at the same time improving their quality of life.
How programs and services are provided for future generations is always an underlying budget goal, Cooke said. That’s become a little more difficult this budget cycle because the City is also experiencing cost increases and the pressures of the current economy and job market.
“The budget is a process and a path that are years in the making,” Cooke said. “We have to be thinking about the future. It’s about today and also what we’re doing in the long-term.”
Cooke recommended reducing Fort Worth’s property tax rate to $71.25 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The reduction is needed to help residents achieve an affordable lifestyle as consumer prices continue to rise.
The owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay $1,425 in City property taxes. Exemptions would change the final amount of the tax bill.
The recommended budget is an increase of 10% over the fiscal year 2022 adopted budget, or about $83.4 million. It is one of the largest increases in recent years, but needed to keep up with growth and maintaining infrastructure, Cooke said.
Monies will pay for bridges and road maintenance, further improve neighborhoods and place renewed focus on picking up litter and making roadways brighter at night.
The new budget includes about 300 new positions, with about 200 of those paid for in the General Fund. Those include 40 new positions in the Development Services Department. Police will gain 71, which includes 45 new officers who will be on the streets in fiscal 2024; 23 new jobs in Fire, and 14 to staff a new library.
The additional positions in Development Services will help provide faster and more efficient service to both developers planning large-scale projects and homeowners tackling improvements around the house.
For the fiscal 2023 budget, Cooke proposes allocating 7 cents of the 71.25 cents tax rate to Pay-as-you-go, or PayGo. The boost, coupled with the impact of higher appraisal values, will put $12.3 million more into the fund that uses cash to pay for projects. That will total $65.2 million.
Among other things, money for street maintenance will jump 34.5%, from $35 million to $47 million. Streetlight maintenance will increase by $3 million. Funds for pavement markings will increase to $6.5 million.
To help foster a visibly cleaner Fort Worth, City staff is proposing an increase in the monthly environmental fee that many residents see on their utility statements. The increase is needed to put more money behind litter cleanup and illegal dumping enforcement.
The current fee is 50 cents monthly for single-family residences. Under the proposed increase, the first since the program began in 1996, a homeowner will pay $1.50 per month. Monthly fee increases are also proposed for commercial, industrial and nonprofit properties, which makes the distribution of the fee equitable across all properties.
The proposed increase would add $6 million annually, and expand capacity for other environmental projects and services, such as $4 million for street sweeping. The environmental fund will increase to $16.1 million, up from $4.9 million. The new amount includes the transfer of $4.4 million from the Solid Waste Fund.
Watch City News for more details on many of these topics over the coming weeks.
Fort Worth residents have many opportunities to speak on the proposed fiscal 2023 budget. A series of community engagement meetings will be held at geographically dispersed locations across Fort Worth. The dates and times of these meetings are below. The dates in blue boxes are City Budget Meetings; the dates in green boxes are Community Conversations.
After a national search, David Medrano has been named Fort Worth’s next city auditor. City Council will appoint him at its next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
“David is joining the City with a wealth of leadership experience and strategic mindset that will serve our Internal Audit Department, and the entire City, well,” Mayor Mattie Parker said. The role of the city auditor position is vital to good governance, and his ability to work collaboratively to find and implement innovative solutions will help ensure the City operates with efficiency and accountability.”
Medrano has recently served as chief financial officer for SunLine Transit Agency in Thousand Palms, Calilf.; chief internal auditor for the Imperial Irrigation District in Imperial, Calif.; and internal audit chief for the County of Santa Barbara, Calif. He also has experience in audit and finance with several major energy companies in Texas.
Medrano has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University, a master of accounting degree from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and an executive-accelerated development certification from Rice University.
John Riggs has been serving as interim city auditor since December 2021, replacing Patrice Randle, who retired.
Researchers from Texas and the United Kingdom will untangle the classification conundrums of the “ironweed” tribe (Vernonieae) in the sunflower family to advance biodiversity research and conservation
FORT WORTH, Texas (Aug. 8, 2022) — The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) have awarded botanists at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden | Botanical Research Institute of Texas (FWBG | BRIT) and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew $1.2 million (nearly $850,000 from NSF and nearly £300,000 from NERC) to classify and understand plants in a hyper-diverse group referred to as “ironweeds” in the sunflower family, Compositae. This is the first grant of its kind awarded to FWBG | BRIT and Kew through a special international collaborative program between NSF and NERC.
This group of plants forms what plant taxonomists refer to as the Vernonieae tribe and includes approximately 1,500 species of herbs, shrubs, trees and vines worldwide. The “ironweeds” have confounded botanists attempting to understand patterns shared by species in this group, which has led experts to describe tribe Vernonieae by a notorious nickname: the “evil tribe.”
“Vernonieae is incredibly confusing. The characteristics among many species overlap and vary to a degree that it’s hard to differentiate them as distinct genera,” said FWBG | BRIT Research Botanist and Principal Investigator (PI), Morgan Gostel. “At the same time, other plants in the tribe are highly distinctive with little in common and are quite easy to recognize and distinguish at the taxonomic level of genus.”
“For most of the history of Vernonieae, more than one thousand species were classified in the same genus (Vernonia), but Vernonia has been reduced to just 20 species. This has left the remaining species of this once vast genus in a state of limbo or ‘purgatory’ until taxonomists determine their correct placement,” Gostel said.
Recently, considerable research in the Americas has begun to unravel the mysteries of the tribe and species formerly placed in the genus Vernonia; however, nearly half of the species of Vernonieae are restricted to the Eastern Hemisphere and have been long neglected by botanists, said Gostel. Funding from this NSF-NERC award will allow Dr. Gostel and his collaborators at Kew to reclassify diversity in Vernonieae from the Eastern Hemisphere and develop tools to help others identify and understand this enigmatic group of plants. Members of the team at Kew include Drs. Isabel Larridon, Benoit Loeuille and Ana Rita Simões.
Taxonomic knowledge like this is essential to conserving the diversity of plant life on the planet, said Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Research Leader and co-PI for the grant, Dr. Isabel Larridon. “Understanding the diversity of the nearly half-a-million plant species on Earth is a strategic priority for Kew Science,” Larridon said. “Yet there are too many plant species and not enough trained taxonomists to study, describe and distribute information about them.”
While resolving questions about Vernonieae, Gostel and Larridon will also advance the distribution of scientific information and the training of the next generation of scientists.
The results of their work will be added to the newly established Global Compositae Database (GCD), a public online taxonomic resource for the Compositae family. The GCD, coordinated by the International Compositae Alliance (TICA) is part of a global effort to develop an online database of all plant life and recognized as a Taxonomic Expert Network by the World Flora Online.
At the same time, the team will train the next generation of plant taxonomists by working with at least three graduate students and four undergraduate students. Further international training will be provided through workshops with students, botanists and herbarium and university staff and via environmental education programs offered by FWBG | BRIT and Kew.
During the four-year project, Gostel, Larridon and their team will conduct field work in five countries critical to sampling for this work (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa and Thailand) and study plant specimens in numerous herbaria around the world, most notably at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (K); Fort Worth Botanic Garden|Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), Missouri Botanical Garden (MO), Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris (P), and Botanic Garden Meise (BR). They will analyze the DNA of Vernonieae and the morphological features such as small hairs, pollen and flowers from these plant species to identify patterns that can help them classify diversity in the group.
“By better understanding Vernonieae, we will be making great strides in understanding the complexity of this group and making important discoveries that will help botanists understand and communicate about plant diversity in other groups,” Gostel said. “We expect the ‘evil tribe’ won’t be so evil when we’re done.”
Editors: Images may be downloaded here.
Mayor Mattie Parker will be the keynote speaker at Fort Worth Chamber’s annual State of the City event on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Dickies Arena.
The luncheon-style event will include an update on City accomplishments; a special interview segment with Margaret Hoover, host of PBS’ Firing Line; and the presentation of the 2022 Small Business of the Year Awards and Best Place for Working Parents Awards.
The recording of Parker’s State of the City address will be available on the City of Fort Worth YouTube channel in English, Spanish and ASL starting at noon Friday, Sept. 30.
Luncheon registration is open on the Fort Worth Chamber website.
The Fort Worth Chamber’s State of the City event is presented by Simmons Bank.
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Preregistration for Tarrant County’s annual Back to School Roundup is open through July 15.
Families may preregister for school supplies or during one of the in-person events. School supplies will be distributed at the Back to School Roundup Aug. 5 at the Tarrant County College South campus, 5301 Campus Drive.
Preregistered families will receive a voucher admitting them into the roundup event and guaranteeing free school supplies.
The annual Back to School Roundup is a one-stop event that offers approximately 10,000 underserved Tarrant County school-aged children, ages 3-18, free school supplies, backpacks, haircuts, health, dental and vision screenings, immunizations, health and social resources, activities and games. The roundup is a collaborative effort of the county, 20 area public school districts, the City of Fort Worth, public health department, state agencies, nonprofit organizations, corporations and volunteers.
The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth has made history with the opening of the first immersive virtual reality simulation center in Texas.
The Regional Simulation Center uses cutting-edge immersive virtual reality technology, in addition to lifelike simulation mannequins, multi-functional spaces and more traditional virtual reality. The center’s technology can replicate virtually any health care scenario across multiple disciplines and has uses for both medical students needing to learn new procedures in a low-risk environment and seasoned health care providers looking to hone their skills or acquire new ones.
“The opening of HSC’s new Regional Simulation Center is truly exciting as it is the first immersive virtual reality simulation center in the State of Texas,” said Dr. Michael R. Williams, chancellor of the UNT System and HSC president. “The cutting-edge technology will allow our students and health care providers to practice and learn new skills in the most realistic of environments. This will ultimately benefit patients and increase patient safety.”
The $6.75 million facility is in renovated space on the first floor of HSC’s Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library, 955 Montgomery St. The new center is also open for training for hospital residency programs, emergency medical service providers, hospital personnel, nursing home staffers, clinical teams, first responders and more.
“This is an incredibly exciting day for the Health Science Center and Fort Worth,” said Michael Crain, Fort Worth City Council member representing District 3. “The impressive technology here will allow both the current and future generations of health care workers to learn and practice the skills they need to improve the overall quality of care in Fort Worth. This is a win for our city.”
The center is set to deliver comprehensive health care simulation with techniques drawn from multiple disciplines and customized to the level and background of each learner. The lab’s fully immersive virtual reality projection component uses cutting-edge 360-degree cameras that allow staff to transport students into on-the-job scenarios.
“HSC’s Regional Simulation Center will not only improve health care outcomes and patient safety, but this state-of-the-art facility will also act as a beacon to potential medical school students, tech companies and other entrepreneurs,” said Leonard Firestone, City Council representative for District 7, which includes HSC’s campus. “The center will let business owners know that Fort Worth embraces new ideas, emerging technologies and is a leader in life sciences entrepreneurship. The economic impact of this center could be a game changer for our city as HSC strengthens its position as a premier health care institute.”
Photo: City Councilmembers Alan Blaylock and Michael Crain were among the dignitaries attending the ribbon cutting at the lab.
The City Council will take its traditional summer break in July, and the next meetings will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2. All city services will continue to be available as usual.
During the break, city staff will continue preparing the proposed city budget for fiscal year 2023. Watch City News for a list of community engagement meetings this summer to learn more about the budget process.
Fort Worth residents now have more time to share their thoughts on the direction of the 2023 city budget. The deadline to submit feedback has been extended through Friday, July 15.
There have already been many valuable and thoughtful ideas that have been shared, but there’s always room for more.
Everyone is encouraged to take a photo of Molly, the city mascot, where you think investments are needed. It can be at a park that needs revitalizing or a street that’s due to be repaved. Download a picture of Molly from the city website. Copies are also available at city community centers and libraries.
You can even join Molly in the photo!
Upload your photo to one of these sites by July 15:
Learn more online.
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