Precinct 4 Commissioner John Fisher is serving his third term on the Bell County Commissioners Court. The Killeen native took office at a time of rapid growth, which continues to this day. Fisher sat down with the Herald to talk about just what he does as county commissioner and the important issues Bell County is dealing with as it grows.
What does a county commissioner do?
How I like to explain the responsibilities of the county commissioner is like this: It’s like the council member of the county. As a council member in a city, you take care of all the details within the city, inside the incorporated boundaries. The county commissioner takes care of all of the areas of responsibility outside of the city limits but inside the boundaries of the county. We take care of the roads in our precinct. We take care of the jail and the court system. We take care of indigent health care. We take care of all things that would be associated with running a county administratively, again, outside of the incorporated boundaries of a city but within the boundaries of the county.
If you had to choose one specific issue related to your office you are passionate about, what would it be?
The issue I am deeply involved in right now is water. The water for the future of the county is going to be very critical. The only way we are going to be able to grow as a county is if we look forward and think forward of how we are going to have a large enough water supply to meet the demands of future growth.
To that end, what kind of projects are you undertaking?
Personally, I am working on Chisholm Trail, the rural water supply corporation, because as a county commissioner basically being responsible for the rural constituency, Chisholm Trail is a large water supply corporation south of Killeen that takes care of Williamson County, part of Bell County and part of Burnet County. They deliver the water in the rural part just as Salado delivers rural water in Salado, West Bell delivers water in Killeen, Chisholm Trail delivers water outside of Killeen. There is a push right now for Chisholm Trail to consolidate with the city of Georgetown and its services. I just don’t believe consolidation of services to the city of Georgetown is going to be beneficial to the growth of southwest Bell County. If our fate is tied up with the administrative oversight in Georgetown proper, I just don’t think they will have as much interest in providing rural Bell County or even rural Williamson County other than providing water around the city of Georgetown.
What would your solution be?
We have offered many, many times for them to consider that yes, indeed, the city of Georgetown does need to take over Chisholm Trail, the part that is under ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction) and closest to their city limits and the perimeter of the city. The solution would be for Chisholm Trail to negotiate with the city of Georgetown to take over the part of the water supply corporation in the area that is critical to them for a fee. There is associated cost and associated debt involved. If the city of Georgetown would purchase from Chisholm Trail the infrastructure in the area in which they are wanting to take over and take over any debt, then Chisholm Trail could continue to do what they do. And that is deliver water to rural areas where Chisholm Trail has their certificate of necessity that is given to them by the state Legislature as far as their service area. They could concentrate on their service area outside of Georgetown and let Georgetown be responsible for providing water in close proximity to Georgetown.
Overall, would you say there is increased participation as State Highway195 develops between Georgetown and Killeen?
What everybody needs to understand is the issues that are important to Georgetown and the Williamson County portion of Georgetown, when you go south of Georgetown, you get into whole different issues. When you come north of Georgetown, up Interstate 35 toward Bell County, we share a lot of common issues. We carry the shortage of water issue. We carry the issue of the salamander and other endangered species. We carry a lot of the same interests. Since I have been on the court, we have probably worked with Williamson County better than we have in a long time just because they kind of did their thing and we did our thing. But now, it happens to be the growth of Williamson County going north and Bell County going south, we realize we do have a lot of common interests. We absolutely have to work together to solve those issues or we’re both going to wake up one day and be in a lot of trouble.