STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
Budgets and employees generated little action but a great deal of discussion during the Burnet County Commissioners Court’s regular meeting May 29.
The most discussion came from the news that Environmental Crimes Deputy Chris Cowan has submitted a letter of resignation to join the Granite Shoals Police Department.
Cowan, who worked with Precinct 4 Constable Missy Bindseil, has about 40 felony cases under investigation at the moment with many others that have been closed.
Commissioners were most concerned with where a new environmental crimes deputy should be placed within the county.
“That position and office needs to be standalone,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr.
County Judge James Oakley asked if it should operate out of a number of departments within the county, outside of a precinct constable.
Bindseil said the trend across the state is for such a position to move from sheriff’s offices to constables.
“I agree with (Commissioner) Luther. It needs to be a standalone, eventually, but it’s not there yet,” Bindseil said. “We haven’t had cases go to trial yet. It’s a pilot program for the rest of the state, so they’re depending on us to do this correctly.”
The job opening will be posted before the next regular meeting, when commissioners will again discuss the organization of the position.
The environmental crimes deputy position was completely funded by a grant for this fiscal year. Next fiscal year, it will be grant funded at 80 percent with the county making up the other 20 percent. The county applied for the same grant to add a second such officer but will not know of that decision until late summer.
In regards to the budget, Oakley said he’s beginning to work through department requests for the next fiscal year.
In many cases, he said, county departments are maintaining similar budgets to the current year.
The county jail, however, was one area for possible concern.
“I will say it’s critical to keep the population up because the average population is below what’s projected,” Oakley said.
The county jail houses inmates from Burnet County and contracts with other area counties and agencies to hold inmates. If the average daily jail population for the budget year is lower than projected, the deficit in funding has to be supplemented from county reserves.
The County Clerk’s Office and District Attorney’s Office, Oakley noted, each requested an additional employee. The district attorney is requesting an assistant district attorney to focus on intake.
The county clerk is seeking someone for this year to be paid from the records management fee but then after that to be paid by the county.
County Clerk Janet Parker said the office at one time had 10 employees but now has six.