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Arson Victim Addresses Court
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 • Posted November 21, 2012

Joe Burnes, who owns property in his hometown of Kingsland, was one of 21 property owners whose property was targeted by the recent suspected arson fires in the Kingsland area. Burnes, concerned that not enough was being done to solve the crimes or prevent more from occurring, addressed the Commissioners Court on Tuesday, asking what, if any, aid the Court could give to the Sheriff’s Offices in the investigation of the fires.

Burnes, a graduate of suggested that the Court declare the situation an emergency and allocate funds from the county’s reserves in order to provide the Sheriff with additional resources to help solve these crimes. Burnes admonished the Court for making cuts to the sheriff’s budget, and implored the Court to reconsider. He specifically requested that more officers be assigned to patrol the Kingsland area, to act as a deterrent to crime.

Judge Wayne Brascom explained that cuts were required across the board for all departments, in order to avoid raising taxes for property owners. He also said that one of the things that would help prevent future crimes is for people to report suspicious activity. The fact that Kingsland is unincorporated also plays a role in the lack of law enforcement; more than fifty percent of calls to 911 dispatchers come from the Kingsland area, and the only law enforcement in the area is the sheriff’s office. Without their own emergency personnel, the area must rely on Volunteer Fire Departments for fire protection.

Commissioner Johnnie Heck suggested that one way to increase emergency responders would be to create an Emergency Services District that would be able to collect a tax specifically to provide those services.

Burnes agreed that apathetic property owners were at fault as well, but would like to see the Court help the sheriff’s department if it can.

Sheriff Bill Blackburn said that the investigation was ongoing, but the department believes that they have the suspect, and have recently received information that could lead to solving the crime completely. He also told Burnes that if there were something that the department needed, the Court would respond positively, and make sure they got it. At this time, though, Blackburn said that nothing else is needed in the case, except time.

In other business, the Court accepted a Memorandum of Understanding from the City of Llano, which outlines the wishes of how a $15,000 contribution by the City to the Llano Branch Library is to be used. The Court also accepted $9,883 in donations to the Library.

The court passed two resolutions; one supporting an Emergency Drought Order for 2013 by LCRA, and the other for the 2013 Llano County Indigent Defense Grant Program.

Fred Thurman was appointed as Llano County ESD #1 Commissioner, replacing outgoing Commissioner AW Bishop. Thurman’s two-year term will begin January 1, 2012 and end on December 31, 2014.

Commissioners accepted an anonymous donation to the Sheriff’s Office in the amount of $4,000 through the United Way in Massachusetts. The money will go to deputy protection, such as protective gloves.

Brian Walden and Randy Leifeste were appointed to the HOT Committee to represent Precinct 4.

The Court tabled the consideration of reinstating the Burn Ban until the next meeting.

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