Municipal Court Ordinance Moves to Council
By Brandi Makuski
An ordinance to adopting a Stevens Point Municipal Court has passed the city’s Public Protection Committee, paving the way for final approval at this month’s Common Council.
The Council pulled the proposed ordinance out of the 2014 city budget because members said they didn’t have enough information on the costs associated with the new court, which would try cases against defendants ages 12 and up involving municipal ordinance violations such disorderly conduct, as well as speeding and OWI first offense.
“I can’t justify approving something for which we have no information,” said Alderman Jerry Moore last November. “I think it’s inappropriate to even ask us to include this (in the budget) without that information.”
City leaders had previously brought in District Court Administrator Ron Ledford to present the court’s function and other details to an informal gathering of Council Members- a meeting which Alderman Mike Wiza walked out of, arguing the ethics of such a presentation and discussion without the full Council. City leaders brought Ledford back a number of times since to answer questions, and Stevens Point Police Chief Kevin Ruder outlined costs associated with the court which include about $85k in start-up expense.
Ruder also said the new court would bring additional revenue of about $188k after expenses- higher than $125k the city currently receives from its share of county circuit court payments.
A city court would alleviate the county court’s schedule and make appearing before a judge a faster and more personal process, Ruder said.
Since then many Council Members say they’re better informed and are ready to vote next week. Putting the court back into the city’s budget will require a 2/3 supermajority approval.
“I’ve been somewhat outspoken against the municipal court, but there is a very large, compelling reason to support it,” said Alderman Roger Trzebiatowski. “As I dug into this more and more I found there are 236 municipal courts in Wisconsin, and there might be a few more in the past week or two. I think that speaks volumes on this, and I think we still have discussion about some of the finances, but I think we need to move forward.”
The city will operate the court jointly with the Village of Plover and will share operating costs with the village at a 75/25 split, a percentage which could vary annually to reflect the number of tickets written by each municipality.
The ordinance comes before the City Council in the courthouse Monday at 7 PM.