By Audrey Spencer

Killeen Daily Herald

GATESVILLE - Coryell County commissioners on Monday decided against implementing a countywide burn ban, because they consider the drought index is still low.

During the special meeting, County Judge John Firth cautioned residents to continue to use caution when conducting controlled burns or setting off fireworks outside city limits.

"There is a lot of dried vegetation that could act to spread a wildfire," he said.

Also, commissioners considered several items in connection with the 2012 budget, including funding options for a new jail and new positions for the sheriff's department.

No decisions were made at the workshop, but the court did consider committing "a couple" of cents of property taxes toward a capital improvement fund for a new county jail.

The fund could give the county a cash-payment option for at least part of the new facility, said Firth.

"We would not be paying that much cash for anything that big," he said, "but the suggestion today is for a capital improvement fund to make down payments for the new jail."

Another capital improvement fund was suggested to start saving a half-cent of property taxes for a joint-use facility in Copperas Cove to replace city hall, a school district building and county annex.

"The benefit of a joint-use facility would be sharing parking lots and other areas such as hallways, reception rooms, bathrooms, conference rooms, and provide for hopefully a much more user-friendly facility," said Firth. "Ultimately by going in together, we'd be saving taxpayers money over the long run."

Commissioners' discussion on the matter Monday only concerned starting the fund so it would be ready if the Copperas Cove City Council decides to move forward on the project.

At the workshop, Sheriff Johnny Burks pitched the idea of hiring an additional deputy for the department and a nurse for the jail. A third position of a pretrial services officer was also proposed.

"Now we've got someone who's part-time," said Firth on the pretrial services position. "This would create a full-time position."

A pretrial services worker hopefully would help reduce overcrowding in the jails, said Firth.

Contact Audrey Spencer at or (254) 501-7476.

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