District court seeks increase to maintain courtroom

The Marion County Commission reviewed the 2002 judicial budget as part of the agenda at this week’s regular Monday meeting.

Judge Michael Powers, along with several staff members of the county and district court, came before the county commission to present the 2002 budget, with a figure of $86,227, up from last year’s $82,000.

Powers said each county in the district is assessed an amount per case number to pool for the district’s costs.

This year Marion County’s cases were up 7 to 9 percent, and the amount set for the county would be $9,094, which is included in the $86,227 total.

Powers explained the 2002 budget figure did not include administrative salaries, but covered local operating costs for equipment and also the wages of court reporters, transcriptionists, probation officers and other staff members.

He said there was a consolidation of the judicial system in 1978, at which time the present system was set up, which allows the county to help cover costs and the state pays the administration salaries, thus keeping officials independent of county interests.

“So, you are saying it costs the county $77,000 to keep a courtroom going in Marion County?” Leroy Wetta, county commission chair, asked Powers, who said that was about the correct figure.

Powers went over the increases and pointed out one line increase of $3,000 for microfilming.

The judge said it was the nature of the business to generate a large amount of paperwork, most of which cannot be destroyed.

“Since we do have a finite amount of space, we have microfilmed papers so that people can see the papers if they want to,” Powers said, “and the originals are stored in the salt mines.”

Based on time, space and expense, Powers said the department preferred to store records on compact discs for use on the computer CD-Rom.

He said Jan Helmer, clerk of the district court, had set a timeline goal to take the information currently in microfilm and put it on CDs, as well as put current information on the discs. Powers said it would be cost prohibitive to put all the past records on CDs at once.

The current microfilm reader, Powers said, was an older machine that could need replacement costing in excess of $9,000.

“This line item could be cut back this year,” Powers said, “but it will be back next year.”

In other judicial business, Powers said a court trustee system had been established in 1989 for the collection and distribution of child support monies.

This program did not cost taxpayers money since there is a 2 percent handling fee charged on in-coming funds.

In the initial stages of the program, Powers said there were some problems, but the system seems to be running more efficiently at this time.

The trustee’s program is being reviewed for consideration to aid counties in the collection of other fees and fines since it had proven effective with the child support funds.

Following the discussion, commissioner Howard Collett reminded the commission that Geary County had originally been financing the the Juvenile Detention Center, but had been keeping offenders at home instead of at the center.

An expansion has left the participating counties with $354,482.27 left to pay as of June 19.

In order to cover the costs, counties are being charged approximately $33,000 per year-over four quarters-to make up the necessary funds.

The county can decide next year whether to continue services with the juvenile facility, or to seek services elsewhere.

Later in the meeting, County Attorney Susan Robson said she had done some research of Kansas statutes to determine the outcome of the arched bridge stones currently being stored in the county.

She said with a unanimous vote of commissioners to give the stones away, or to sell them, and a publication of their plans for two consecutives weeks in the official county newspaper, the stones could be distributed or sold.

Collett made the motion to sell the number of stones required to complete the memorial project in Marion County Park and at the new library site to the city of Marion for the price of $1.

The motion passed unanimously.

The issue of the stones, which had been taken to the Marion Country Club, was brought up.

Commissioner Bob Hein said, “I think we should just let them have those stones.”

Collett said: “I believe Mr. Kelsey acted in good faith when he gave those stones to them, and we need to stand behind him and leave it alone.”

A reference was made during the discussion that some of the stones at the Country Club had been marked as being in excellent condition in terms of craftsmanship and condition after the demolition of the bridge.

The motion was made to sell the stones already in the Club’s possession for the amount of $1 to the club. Motion passed unanimously.

In other business:

n?County Clerk Carol Maggard said she had received requests via telephone and mail for fireworks display permits. The cut-off date was June 15, and commissioners supported her writing letters explaining the reason the requests were being denied.

n?David Brazil, Planning and Zoning director, reported the final work session, without the consultant, is set for July 12 for the comprehensive land use plan. A meeting date will be set at that time for another meeting with the consultant and the public.

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