Burnet County hires environmental crimes deputy; job first of its kind in Texas

STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS

Burnet County commissioners accepted a grant to hire an environmental crimes deputy during their regular meeting Sept. 25. Pictured are Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall (left), Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr., Precinct 4 Constable Missy Bindseil, Precinct 2 Commissioner Russell Graeter, Burnet County Judge James Oakley, Environmental Crimes Deputy Chris Cowan, Precinct 2 Constable Garry Adams, Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery, and Precinct 1 Constable Leslie Ray. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Burnet County commissioners accepted a grant to hire an environmental crimes deputy during their regular meeting Sept. 25. Pictured are Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall (left), Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr., Precinct 4 Constable Missy Bindseil, Precinct 2 Commissioner Russell Graeter, Burnet County Judge James Oakley, Environmental Crimes Deputy Chris Cowan, Precinct 2 Constable Garry Adams, Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery, and Precinct 1 Constable Leslie Ray. Staff photo by 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.

jared@thepicayune.com

3 Responses to “Burnet County hires environmental crimes deputy; job first of its kind in Texas”

  1. R.G. Carver says:

    Dear Mr Cowan,
    Congratulations on your new position. We look forward to working with you in our community. Presently we are fighting a TCEQ air permit application by Spicewood quarry that is to be placed between two existing neighborhoods. We are vehemently oppose the location of such a rock crushing operation. We are not trying to shut down the aggregate industries, but we are asking for laws, and regulations that are required for such quarries that now are nonexistent. We have rules and regulations for slaughter houses, livestock corrals, and stockyards but none seem to exist for a quarry. They pollute our air, put up carcinogenic silica, rattle the foundations of homes with their blasting and constant truck noise. I would ask that you look into this situation and see what you could do About working with the quarry for a new location. We have reached out to them and offered to purchase the land because we know they will not be good neighbors. It is not a location that is suitable for quarry and we ask you to look into this immediately. We have alligator creek that runs through the middle of the proposed quarry that feeds lakes and water streams in the Austin area . Could you please look into this matter as we are very concerned about the impact the quarry will have on our environment. Thank you. Regards, R.G. Carver. 512-767-0098

  2. NotJustHypocritical says:

    Just a question….how come the biggest push back against any of these businesses setting up in unincorporated legal areas are headed up by home builders and their sub contractors? Don’t see these people being activist for the environment when they want to build something to line thier pockets or claiming dust and pollutant issues against any of the industry that provides your livelihood, unless it’s in your backyard. Do I think placement of the purposed plant near you is optimal…no. do I think I should be able to tell you you can’t build a home near me on land you own becuase I don’t want you polluting and changing my environment? Of course not. But it seems that these arguments are always only one way.

  3. Marlowe Macintyre says:

    Thank you! This new position could be a real blessing for those of us that live in unincorporated areas in Burnet County. And, this could become a new trend across Texas. I hope that the new hire is a strong person with true grit and determination to right the wrongs. I pray that your new hire will not yield to monetary temptations. Thank you, Burnet County!

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