By Taylor Short

The Cove Herald

GATESVILLE - Coryell County commissioners discussed a grant application for a state program on Monday that would potentially save money and shrinking jail space.

The program, if implemented, would supply an indigent defense coordinator to arrange the defense services for those facing criminal charges in the county.

One way to keep the county jail less crowded - and to save money by shipping fewer inmates out of county - is to grant those who commit a minor offense and cannot afford to post bond a personal recognizance bond at the judge's or prosecutor's discretion. The bond allows them to pledge a personal guarantee that they will be present at their court date.

"I have seen this work in other places and having someone who specifically does that is really beneficial," said Gatesville attorney Scott Stevens. Stevens also serves as court-appointed counsel for county felony defense. During the meeting, Stevens said with two or three people appointing attorneys, sometimes coordination problems occur that can lead to the county overpaying for defense services.

"You guys are basically paying for services twice," he said. "That's one area where you're going to save some money and some time in the court system by not having the confusion that you have now."

County Judge John Firth emphasized that a minor crime is a non-violent, non-recurring crime by a person who is not deemed a flight risk.

He said Monday that the county received a response from the Texas Indigent Defense Task Force Friday allowing the county to continue the process after expressing intent to apply at a previous meeting.

Brian Wilson, a grants administrator with the TIDTF, will arrive in Gatesville Wednesday to discuss the program and application details with 52nd Judicial District Judge Trent Farrell and County Court-At-Law Judge Susan Stephens, Firth said.

About 20 grant requests made to the TIDTF by 18 counties made the list, with Coryell asking for a total of $219,000 over a four-year period and an estimated cash match amount of $29,500.

The state would pay 100 percent of the cost of the coordinator during the first year, 80 percent in the second year and 60 percent in the third year.

The current Coryell County jail is more than a decade old; according to a report by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the 92-bed capacity would be insufficient before the 20-year analysis period ends in 2027.

The jail would need no less than 144 beds daily until 2027; the report states that the Coryell County jail has exceeded that amount about nine times since the commission's analysis in 2007.

The application is expected to be submitted in April after approval by the court, Farrell and Stephens, Firth said.

Panic buttons

The court agreed Monday to add 10 additional panic buttons in various county offices that could alert police to the location of an emergency.

On Feb. 22, the court agreed to upgrade the courthouse security system after David Louis Henry, 46, allegedly shot Carrie Dean Stroope, 42, before killing himself outside the Coryell County courthouse Feb. 15. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

Firth said the buttons and upgrade would be installed this week, with the option to add up to 127, for a total of $1,250 from the courthouse security fund.

The court also approved the relocation of the commissioner's court chambers to the Gatesville County Annex at 201 S. Seventh St. effective April 26.

"I think that's the logical choice. As evidence today, we've got a room full of people and that courtroom affords the opportunity for everybody to have a seat and be able to hear better," said Precinct 2 Commissioner Daren Moore. "Facility-wise, it's the best use of our space."

Contact Taylor Short at or (254) 501-7476. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcove.

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