New county environmental crimes officer swamped by cases

Chris Cowan was hired four months ago to handle environmental crimes in Burnet County. He's been so busy with cases that the county is seeking funding for a second officer to help him. Courtesy photo

Chris Cowan was hired four months ago to handle environmental crimes in Burnet County. He's been so busy with cases that the county is seeking funding for a second officer to help him. Courtesy photo

STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS

Just over four months into the job, Environmental Crimes Deputy Chris Cowan already is a victim of his own success.

The position was funded from a Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) grant to make Cowan the first such officer in the state.

Now, he has 36 pending felony cases and more to get to. This has raised two problems. One: The position has no budget for overtime. Two: Cowan has been even busier than the county anticipated he would be.

“He reached forty hours (last week) by six o’clock Wednesday,” said Precinct 4 Constable Missy Bindseil to Burnet County Commissioners on Feb. 12. “Chris can’t just stop and say, ‘I’m at forty hours.’ These are potential first and second-degree felonies.”

That’s why the commissioners approved a resolution to submit another CAPCOG grant application for a second environmental crimes deputy.

The application deadline is Feb. 28; however, the county will not hear an acceptance or denial until sometime this summer.

The application for a second deputy also will be accompanied by a second request for funds to cover Cowan’s position. Cowan’s first year was covered by a grant for 100 percent of his salary. The second year can be only for 80 percent of the first year’s amount. The county will submit two separate applications but might have to combine the applications into one.

“We’re coming up on a milestone,” Cowan said. “The first prosecutions of illegal dumping cases are going to grand jury soon. Things are moving along great.”

jared@thepicayune.com

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