By Michelle Guffey

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON The Bell County Commissioners met Monday to consider a recommendation of the Board of Advisors of the Central Texas Narcotics Task Force to withdraw from the grant program of the Criminal Justice Division of the governors office and to continue to operate on its own.

Sheriff Dan Smith spoke before the commissioners to ask County Judge Jon Burrows to sign a letter agreeing with the task forces intent to separate from the federal grant process and to continue utilizing forfeiture funds.

We are seeking permission to go on our own, Smith said.

Recent changes in federal funding are requiring the task force to merge with the Lampassas County Drug Task Force.

Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza attended the meeting in support of the separation.

Forcing us to merge would mean the seizures were a part of ... the funds would be spent in places where there was no help (in the seizures), Garza said. This is the only alternative that we have.

Smith said that because of good management of the board of directors of the CTNTF, there is currently $516,000 in the forfeiture account. The CTNTF can operate for two to three years on those funds.

Judge Burrows said the county really only has three options.

We can one, do nothing and pick up Lampasas extra costs; two, have no drug investigation, which is not an option; or three, to withdraw and operate on our own, Burrows said.

Smith said several other regional task forces have already been granted independence. The Criminal Justice Division must approve the task forces request, and the letter is one of their requirements.

Senator Troy Frazer is one of three senators who stand with us, Smith said.

The commissioners also recognized Victim Assistance Coordinator Jill Hargrove from the District Attorneys office for receiving the Pioneer Award from the Texas Crime Victims Clearinghouse.

Garza told the commissioners that Hargrove has been with the D.A.s office for 20 years.

Victims (she has helped) would say that what was sent to them was an angel and her name was Jill, he said.

Hargrove received a standing ovation in appreciation for her service to the county.

The commissioners also approved:

n the plat for Mills Creek Spring, Phase 5, a 34-lot, 24.924-acre subdivision in Salado.

n releasing a letter of credit No. 440, First State Bank Central Texas, in the amount of $30,265 for improvements in Heritage Subdivision, Precinct 2.

n the plat of The Oaks of Cedar Ridge, Phase 2, a 2-lot, 10.946-acre subdivision off of Oak Ridge Drive, Precinct 3.

n authorizing the county auditor to advertise for requests for proposals for employee health and dental insurance.

n authorizing the county auditor to advertise for qualifications for a licensed asbestos consultant agency and licensed mold assessment company.

Later in the day, the commissioners began what will be a succession of meetings over the next couple of weeks with county elected officials and department heads to hear budget proposals.

We take this opportunity to sit down with each department head to try to do a general walk-through and have them ask questions, Burrows said. We seldom make any decisions now.

Burrows said the commissioners try to look for consistencies within the budget that would show those types of things have been covered before.

Burrows said the commissioners often circle around those discussions to try to get a view of the big picture. Each presentation from department heads builds on the one before.

On Monday, Mark Meyers, representing the Building and Grounds Department, and Richard Macchi, representing the Road and Bridge Department, presented their proposals.

Meyers requested 19 new personnel for the department. The personnel are needed to help support some of the new and upcoming county buildings in the county, including the Killeen Courthouse Annex, county records and district courts clerk, communications center, Bell County Museum and the new district courts complex.

Meyers also requested an increase in overtime pay for the emergency on-call to $15 an hour up from $12 an hour. The last time the overtime rate was raised was in 1992.

There was also a request for new equipment for the new district court facility with a total estimated cost of $23,900. The equipment would include groundskeeping equipment such as a riding mower, walk-behind mower, Weed Eaters, mowers, blowers, dry cleaning floor (district court and courthouse annex) and a hydro-retriever floor scrubber.

This is all to get the new district court facility up and running, Meyers said.

Macchi also submitted requests to the commissioners. His department needed no new personnel but Macchi did put in for pay increases for two employees.

There was also a submittal for an extra chair and a new printer to lease and a copier all totaling $2,250.

No major changes were offered to the proposed budget for the road and bridge department. However, Macchi did warn that as fuel and asphalt prices continued to go up, the impact on Precinct 4 would become more serious.

Precinct 4 has fewer roads than the other precincts but they do have very high traffic levels. There were few funds available for construction or reconstruction of the roads.

Precinct 4 encompasses most of Killeen.

Contact Michelle Guffey at

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