Muni court numbers steady

Marietta Municipal Court’s move to a new location meant little change as far as spending, revenue and case loads were concerned in 2012.

The numbers were recently released in the court’s annual report.

“Nothing really sticks out this year. But that’s generally a good thing,” said Municipal Court Administrator Jason Hamilton.

The court spent $769,613.14 of its total general fund budget in 2012. It’s a $5,036 increase over 2011’s spending, or less than a 1 percent increase.

In addition, the court stayed comfortably within the $778,720 budget that is appropriated by Marietta City Council, said Hamilton.

“It’s good to see what was spent was just a little less than the budget,” he added.

It is even better to see considering the court had approximately $71,000 less in its general fund budget than in 2011.

A variety of things factor into that budget, said Hamilton. The lower number could be because a couple of retirements in 2011 meant the court would need less funding for salaries in 2012, he added.

While civil cases continued a downward trend, criminal cases rose slightly in every category – felonies, misdemeanors, OVIs and traffic violations.

In all the court handled 8,976 criminal cases, the highest number in four years.

“You don’t want to see people get in trouble, but it does mean higher court costs and fines revenues,” pointed out Hamilton.

The court was able to pay approximately $6,700 more toward the general fund this year.

One number that did stick out was the amount of court-ordered community service hours.

“By far the biggest change has been the community service project,” said Municipal Court Judge Janet Dyar Welch.

The court ordered more than twice as many community service hours in 2012 as it did the previous year and many of those hours were put toward the fire hydrant painting community service project, overseen by Probation Officer Melanie Ferrell.

The project started out as a way to do something beyond typical community service assignments, particularly something that would have a measurable impact on the community, said Ferrell.

Those assigned to the project repainted more than 700 fire hydrants within the city, color-coding them according to the pressure of water they released, she said.

“We started out with maybe four people and by the end there were probably about 45 people who participated,” she said.

The move itself was another reason the court-ordered community service jumped from 2,330 hours in 2011 to 4,920 hours last year, said Marietta Chief Probation Officer Dale Wilson.

“We used a lot of people on community service to help us move here and to help us dismantle this building when we were getting ready to remodel,” he said.

The move and community service project provided more opportunity for offenders to perform community service in lieu of jail time or in order to pay off fines, said Hamilton.

While the move has not had a direct impact on the court’s caseloads or revenues, it has made a significant impact on those people who use the court, said Welch.

“It doesn’t really change anything substantively. It means you don’t have victims sitting across a 10-foot hallway from the person who victimized them. It’s more accessible, safer for the public,” she said.

The move has also streamlined the process for adult probation, which is now in the same building as the court, said Wilson.

“We weren’t in the same building before. People who were in court had to come across the street for their probation. It works a lot smoother here,” he said.