Police chiefs from western Montgomery County made a show of force at Tuesday’s county commission meeting amid rumblings their half of the county might lose its municipal court, upping the cost of transport and hampering citizens’ ability to reach the courthouse.
“Instead of hearing rumors, we are coming to you because hopefully you can help dispel those rumors,” Douglas Jerome, Brookville’s police chief, told commissioners.
The rumor heard by Jerome and the other chiefs – those from Clay Twp., Clayton, German Twp. New Lebanon, Perry Twp. and Trotwood – is that all county municipal court activities would be consolidated in Huber Heights.
The county has been looking for years at the municipal system’s caseload, which has declined. The combination of fewer cases, a lack of bus service to New Lebanon, and an expiring building lease has prompted the search alternatives, commissioners said.
The Municipal Court of Montgomery County currently has a Western Division courthouse in New Lebanon and another in Huber Heights housing the Eastern Division.
The Western Division serves Brookville, Clay Twp. Farmersville, Jackson Twp., Jefferson Twp., New Lebanon, Perry Twp., Phillipsburg, Trotwood and Verona. The Eastern Division serves primarily Huber Heights and Riverside.
Jerome said moving all activities to Huber Heights would double the distance to more than 17 miles from Brookville.
“With fuel and just the basic delivering of court paperwork everyday, it would impact me $4,500 a year,” he said. “That has nothing to do with court transports, subpoenas for officers, responding to court. I think those numbers are going to be well above that. I think the impact to our department I would estimate probably to be $20,000.”
Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley said no permanent decisions have been made, but it appears the county will extend the New Lebanon lease into 2020 to buy time. But it’s unlikely the court will stay where it is beyond that.
“My instinct is New Lebanon is probably not the best location for the court, that we need to look at trying to find a way to deliver services that serves the needs of the chiefs of police, the police forces and the communities,” he said.
Michael Colbert, assistant county administrator for Development Services, said no plan would get approved without a municipal court presence on the western half of the county.
“We are going to work with our stakeholders to come out with a process we feel is in the best interest of the whole county,” he said.