STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
Chris Cowan isn’t just a new hire in Burnet County. Filling the newly created environmental crimes deputy position in Burnet County, he’s the first such officer in the state.
“I look forward to the job,” Cowan told Burnet County commissioners during their Sept. 25 regular meeting in Burnet. “I want to show the usefulness of it in the future.”
A grant from Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) will fund Cowan’s salary and benefits for one year, beginning Oct. 1.
Precinct 4 Constable Missy Bindseil wrote the grant application and introduced Cowan to the commissioners.
“The state has never given money to fund an environmental deputy position. (State officials are) looking at this as a pilot program and something to start in a rural county,” Bindseil said Sept. 26. “We’re not Travis or Williamson counties. We don’t have the money. Because we’re in such a unique situation in Burnet County, every parcel of land affects a waterway of the state.”
Cowan will be responsible for investigating environmental crimes — such as illegal dumping, burning, or discharge into a watery — across the county and working cases through the district and county attorney offices.
As the grant only covers Cowan’s salary for the upcoming fiscal year, the job posting made it clear the position might not be renewed next year.
“Any grant-funded position by the county does not have a guarantee of continuance if the grant goes away. We’re going to go into this whole-heartedly with high expectations for what this can achieve,” said Burnet County Judge James Oakley. “It is my hope that the grant is continued. If it is not, (the position) will be a subject for Commissioners Court to consider in the next year’s budget.”
Cowan is a familiar face in Burnet County. He most recently worked at Specified Water Systems LLC as well as the Travis County Fire Marshal’s office. Previously, he worked for the city of Marble Falls.