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County burn ban lifted; crew recognized for work on jail-turned-attraction

Burnet County Commissioners Court meeting Feb. 8, 2022

Employees of the Burnet County Maintenance and Janitorial Department who worked on renovations of the historic jail on the courthouse square filled the back rows at the Commissioners Court meeting to receive a thank-you from County Judge James Oakley for a job well done. Renovations are complete, and the jail will open to the public Thursday, Feb. 10. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

The Burnet County Commissioners Court lifted the current burn ban, bought a license plate reader for a constable, approved a series of plats while putting one on hold, and agreed to help the Spicewood Community Center pave its parking lot, all during its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 8. Commissioners meet in the second-floor courtroom of the Burnet County Courthouse, 201 S. Pierce St. in Burnet. 

During departmental updates, County Judge James Oakley gave a special thank-you to the county maintenance and janitorial crew members who helped renovate the historic jail on the courthouse square. Renovations, paid for with hotel occupancy taxes, will turn the jail into a visitors center and museum. A public opening is at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10. 

“I’m really proud of how that building came out and how the maintenance team came together,” Oakley said. “They have really poured their heart and soul into the renovations of that historic building, with attention to every detail.” 

Commissioners lifted the countywide burn ban as of midnight Tuesday by a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Damon Beierle, Precinct 2, and Joe Don Dockery, Precinct 4, voted against lifting the ban, which was put in place two weeks ago at the last Commissioners Court meeting. That vote was also 3-2, with Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther supporting the ban at that time. 

Precinct 4 Constable Missy Bindseil took the mic to ask commissioners to purchase a $2,100 license plate reader. The reader can instantly compare license plate numbers against lists of stolen cars or cars owned by people with warrants out for their arrest. 

“We’re missing a lot,” Bindseil said. “The only warrants being extracted (from license plate numbers on the current system) come out of the county clerk’s office. We need the warrants out of the (justice of the peace offices).”

The Commissioners Court agreed. 

“License plate readers are a good thing,” Oakley said. 

The money will come from unallocated funds set aside in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget. 

A list of plat-approval items was smaller than usual and dealt with fewer problems, although one frustrated landowner showed up to speak during the public comments section. 

“At the last meeting, Commissioner Dockery made a motion that Mr. (County Attorney Eddie) Arredondo would investigate our issue with RLS and Blacksmith Ranch,” said Sean Hicks, a Blacksmith Ranch resident. “I was hoping to see an agenda item here with his findings, but I don’t see it.” 

He asked that the item be put on the agenda for the next meeting, which is Tuesday, Feb. 22. Elected officials may not respond to or ask questions of anyone during public comments, but Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther confirmed after the meeting that the item will be on the next agenda. 

Hicks and about 20 other residents of the north Burnet County development appeared before the court Jan. 25 to ask commissioners to suspend the permitting process on a 100-acre section of land in Blacksmith Ranch that is being subdivided by Cross Timber Ranch. Deed restrictions for Blacksmith Ranch limit lots to no less than 31 acres each. Cross Timber Ranch lots are 5 acres. 

Blacksmith Ranch filed a lawsuit against Cross Timber Ranch developers the same day as the Jan. 25 meeting. Commissioners voted at that meeting to have the county attorney investigate Burnet County’s legal authority in this situation. 

Item 10 on the agenda was listed as a preliminary plat approval for Burnet Oaks Estates in the 300 block of County Road 200. The item was actually for a final plat approval in the 3000 block of CR 200. Because of the error, commissioners could not vote on the item, which came in handy as several property owners requested that final approval be withheld until a boundary dispute could be settled.

“These boundary issues need to be resolved before granting approval,” said Stan Rountree, whose property is adjacent to the proposed subdivision. 

Rountree said a survey done by the developer encroached on his and at least three other property owners’ land by 3 feet and is incorrect.

The item was tabled. 

Planning is underway to pave the Spicewood Community Center parking lot using Precinct 4 road crew manpower and equipment. The community center will pay for necessary base material and asphalt. 

The center is a nonprofit organization and a county voting center. Paving the parking lot will “benefit all citizens of Burnet County and serve a public purpose,” Dockery said at the meeting. 

The paving won’t be done in time for the March 1 primary, Dockery told 

“This is obviously the first step in the process,” he said. “We still have to meet with them on the complete scope of work.”