Brown County Commissioners Court members approved Howard Payne University’s Mims Auditorium Monday as a location for court proceedings beginning July 27 through the end of the year.


"Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we have been prohibited from having any in-person jury trials since March," 35th District Judge Steve Ellis told commissioners.


"Without the jury trials being viable, we are unable to move the majority of the really tough cases, the hard cases, criminal and the civil docket, those that are unable to be settled. We’ve not been able to have any jury trials because of the pandemic. Yet we’ve now been authorized to have one on the 27th of July so long as we follow all of the things that we’ve already put in place."


In other business Monday, commissioners:


• Approved a $28,000 annual salary for new Emergency Management Coordinator Darrell Johnston and a $29,000 annual salary for new court coordinator Stephanie Upfold.


• Approved the creation of a budget line for the Brown County Chaplain Emergency Services program. Commissioners also approved accepting a $150 donation to the program from Forbess Insurance.


• Agreed to leave the burn ban in place.


• Heard an update on COVID cases from Brownwood/Brown County Health Administrator Lisa Dick.


"As the state has opened up, I think we can all agree that we have seen an increase in cases here in Brown County, and I feel we’re at a point where we have some choices to make," Dick said. "I feel that we can act like other communities and we will have the same results that they have. Some communities are a little bit more further long in the process of this pandemic than we are and I don’t want us to follow what we’ve seen happen, which is continued cases and continued deaths.


"I don’t think that it’s the government’s responsibility for us to control this, but I do think that it’s an individual’s responsibility. So I want to just encourage everyone to continue to social distance. If you can’t social distance, then wear a mask when you’re out in public.


"I encourage you to plan ahead so that you don’t have to be out in the public as much as possible, just decrease that amount. So that may mean making lists and planning for meals, and looking to see what your future is going to look like if you can’t go out as often. If you are sick, don’t go out except to receive medical care. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. We’re all friends and neighbors here, and don’t hesitate to step in and help where needed."