Burnet County environmental crimes deputy resigns; commissioners discuss budgets

STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS

Burnet County

Burnet County commissioners discussed upcoming budget considerations and the ramifications of Environmental Crimes Deputy Chris Cowan’s resignation. File photo

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.

jared@thepicayune.com

4 Responses to “Burnet County environmental crimes deputy resigns; commissioners discuss budgets”

  1. Jeff says:

    This is exactly what’s wrong with small town America across this nation. “…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. So teh county must have criminals to keep up with their budget. The judge clearly indicates that in his statement.

    It’s quite ridiculous.

  2. Judge Gil says:

    Judge Oakley certainly did not say we need more criminals, just that we need to house more EXISTING jailed people from other counties which is what is making that jail deal work. There’s not a damn thing wrong with small towns across America in general and no more so in Burnet County than anywhere. Some of us went to a lot of trouble to get here and are happy about it.

  3. Elliott says:

    “I will say it’s critical to keep the population up because the average population is below what’s projected,” Oakley said.

    Tough call. Perhaps the projections made in the past were based on faulty premises and should be re-evaluated. Alternately, it could be possible to use extra cells for regional ICE detention. My well-connected sources say that out in Milam Cty., the illegals situation is large in population, and that tuberculosis is rampant. There is no longer any hospital in Milam, 3 had to shut down b/c “you know who” people weren’t paying, and good luck getting an ambulance in Milam. I’d propose every inmate not a citizen, be given a TB skin test prior to putting them in with the rest of the prisoners, b/c the innocence presumption should mean that an innocent person not be exposed to those having TB.

    As far as replacing the environmental crimes position, I’d put it so it reports to the DA, but has liasons with BCSO. The investigator would not need to be LE and would not make arrests. Rather, more of an admin / investigatorial position, that gathers evidence sufficient for arrest affidavits to be sworn. An energetic lawyer could do it.

  4. Judge dredd says:

    Funny how the man didn’t even work for more then two months.I wonder why.

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