JPs ask Burnet County to enhance annex security

By Lew K. Cohn
Managing Editor

Burnet County elected officials discussed and debated the need for enhanced courthouse security at the South Annex in Marble Falls during Tuesday's regular commissioners court meeting.

Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Jane Marie Hurst, Precinct 4 JP Debbie Bindseil, Precinct 3 Constable Chip Leake and Precinct 4 Constable Missy Bindseil asked commissioners to look at providing more security coverage at the annex, which houses both justices of the peace as well as a branch of the tax assessor-collector's office.

Meanwhile, Burnet County Judge James Oakley said he is open to having a committee — which would include County Attorney Eddie Arredondo and Auditor Karin Smith — look into the matter if necessary, but reminded the officials unfunded mandates placed on the county by the state, including new state legislation which limits the percentage taxes may increase, forces the county to prioritize how it spends funds.

Hurst told commissioners courthouses across the state have been enhancing the presence of deputies and the use of metal detectors in the wake of the November 2015 attempted assassination of 390th District Judge Julie Kocurek of Austin, who was shot outside her home.

We need to be proactive and not reactive and I'd like to see us step up security and safety measures at the annex,” Hurst said. “We see people of all sorts in the building, including adult and juvenile probationers who are not composed in how they should act. We have offenders coming into the building through a side door before we open at 8 a.m. to report in before work.

The sheriff's office provides security for all county buildings, but although he is in charge and in control of that, the buck stops here as to how to fund security measures.”

Hurst said state statute requires a fourth of fees collected for courthouse security be used for justice courts not located inside the main courthouse. She noted the North Annex in Burnet, which is next door to the Burnet County Sheriff's Office, has a full-time deputy stationed with a metal detector to monitor people coming and going from the building.

Burnet County has a deputy who is stationed part-time at the South Annex, but that person may be pulled at times to help with coverage elsewhere in the county, according to Sgt. Jason Coates, who oversees the seven deputies who work in the court security division for the sheriff's office.

Debbie Bindseil said she is concerned about situations that may arise out in the hallways while the constables are serving their function as court bailiffs on days justice court is in session.

We are dealing with some people who do commit serious crimes, including family violence, and we need to be consistent,” Bindseil said. “It can be very confusing to the public when they come in and there is not a deputy out front.” . . .

Find the rest of this story in the Friday, June 14 issue of The Highlander, the newspaper of record for the Highland Lakes. To offer a comment or new tip, email lew@highlandernews.com.

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