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Mville court moves to larger quarters
MARYSVILLE The Marysville municipal court will move to new quarters next week and will add a part time commissioner to help Judge Fred Gillings handle an increasing load of cases from Arlington, Lake Stevens and Marysville.
Starting July 2 the court will be held at the red brick building at 1015 State Avenue, just south of City Hall. The new digs will provide about 10 times more space available to the court, which currently uses the City Council Chambers during the day. Parking has been tight at the building even with an additional $1 million parking lot added a couple years ago.
The 16,000-square-foot building will provide two new courtrooms and more space for court workers, who also process passports and perform other judicial functions for Marysville, Arlington and Lake Stevens. Those cities contract with Marysville for jail and court services and business is booming, so much so that the current part-time judge will get some help. Judge Gillings appointed Lorrie Towers as court commissioner, according to Suzanne Elsner, court administrator. The commissioner will hear the same type of cases. Towers was selected from a field of 19 applicants, according to Elsner.
We just needed another body to help with our filings, Elsner said.
Gillings is restricted by law to 32 hours per week, and the commissioner will work up to 25 hours. That may become a moot point in 2010, when the city plans to switch to a full-time, elected judge. Gillings is not a Marysville resident but would still be able to serve if elected, as municipal court judges are exempt from residency requirements.
The court staff will also grow. Currently there are six workers in addition to Gillings, Elsner and a probation officer. The City Council approved two more positions. Most people dont realize the volume the court handles, Elsner said. Last month the court processed 1,115 filings: 636 traffic infractions, 28 non-traffic infractions, 247 criminal traffic infractions, 141 criminal non-traffic infractions, and 53 parking tickets or animal control citations, for all three cities.
Annual growth in the caseload has been dramatic, from 3,690 filings in 2001 to 10,760 in 2005. This year the court is on track to pass 11,000 filings. Marysville makes up the bulk of that: for example in 2006 Arlington had 2,195 and Lake Stevens 1,413. Most of these cases plead out or dispo in court parlance. There have been seven jury trials this year, and no bench trials, out of 5,116 filings through the month of May, Elsner said.
The new courthouse will cost the city $28,000 a month to rent, with a three-year lease. The city will spend a total of $525,000 to convert the former insurance building. That total includes $225,000 of tenant improvements to the building, which will have several secure features for the safety of the public, according to facilities manager Mike Shepard. A three-bay garage will serve as a secure transfer area for prisoners, and the wide hallways will feature benches for the public. There will also be private meeting rooms for attorneys and clients, who now meet in the halls, Shepard said. An additional meeting room will be carved out of the northeast corner, to be used by other city departments.
The dual courtrooms will be similar and feature flat panel TVs for video arraignment of suspects from the city jail. They will also be used for graphic displays of evidence, possibly, Shepard said.
We are building in that capability but it wont be available by July 2, Shepard said.
One courtroom will be 1,700 square feet, the other 1,400, with the same configuration of raised dais, judges bench, witness stand and clerks station out front. The larger room will have a jury box, he added.
There will also be separate holding cells for men and women and security cameras throughout the building. The metal detector now used at City Hall will be brought to the entry way, where four customer service counters have Plexiglas bandit barriers. About 150 parking stalls will be available.
For Mayor Dennis Kendall the new courthouse provides needed space for a growing city staff while also giving breathing space while Marysville decides when and where to build a new city hall campus. Ideally the city would like to contract with a developer who would build a custom-made campus to specifications and then lease it back to the town over a period of decades. A given is that the police department administrative headquarters would move to a new city hall, but the jail would stay at the Public Safety Building on Grove Street. There wouldnt be enough room there for the court, Kendall said.
Ideally I would have loved to have had the foresight to have it part of the police department, because thats where the jail is, Kendall said.
Its too early in the game to know whether the municipal court would be included in a new city campus and its not likely that the Marysville Fire District will relocate from their Grove Street headquarters.
The court budget will increase regardless of where it is housed but it wont tapped city general funds.
It will be self-sustaining, Kendall said. It will be funded by the folks that are taking advantage of our courts, shall we say.