By Justin Cox

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON ? Bell County has funded several major construction projects in recent years, and Monday provided evidence that others have noticed – and they like what they see.

The County Commissioners' Court was presented with the Certificate of Merit by the American Institute of Architects, Academy of Architecture for Justice, during the court's regular meeting Monday morning for the Bell County District Courthouse project, which was selected for publication in the 2007 Justice Facilities Review.

"Our project was the only one in the state to receive this," said County Judge Jon Burrows after Monday's meeting. "It's a reflection of the diligence we put into our projects, to make sure they are well-built and they are fully benefiting from all the current design. This shows we are ahead of the game, so to speak, with the legislation initiatives."

The award is based on use of natural light, technology, accessibility, utilities, safety, and a number of other factors. The award was presented to Don Olson of Wiginton-Hooker-Jeffrey Architects.

The county was also awarded an incentive check in the amount of $1,837.71 from Oncor Electric Delivery for the efficiency upgrades implemented to the Sheriff's Office Building as part of the 2007 CitySmart Program, which the company sponsors. The award is the first of its type to be awarded to a Texas county.

The company awards cash incentives based on upgrading the efficiency of electricity systems in government buildings.

Burrows said he expects another one in the near future.

"We anticipate that when the jail addition is done, we'll get another incentive," Burrows said, "because part of the emphasis in the building's construction was making it more energy efficient, because that's the way we're building them now."

In addition, the court chose to maintain the lift on the burn ban, which they lifted at the end of last week, for another 48 hours. The ban will go back into effect at sundown on Wednesday through Jan. 13. The court reserves the right to temporarily lift the ban during that period if they find that the danger level decreases significantly.

Also, the court announced the receipt of $185,924 in two grants to the county from the Task Force on Indigent Defense to assist with increased court costs incurred from indigent defense. The first grant comes based on population of the county, totaling about $130,000. The total is far below the cost to the county of $761,296 as required by the Indigent Defense Act, so an additional grant of about $55,000 was awarded to balance out the costs. The final amount of grant money, however, still represents only 23.9 percent of the money born by the county.

The court also approved the final budget amendments for the fiscal year 2007.

Contact Justin Cox at or call (254) 501-7568

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