An 11th hour push to table a bill that would consolidate the judgeships of the Sandusky County Courts in Clyde and Woodville had no effect on state legislators.
The Ohio Senate voted May 24 to approve Sub. House Bill 433 by a 31-0 vote. The House voted nine days earlier to approve it’s version by a vote of 96-0.
The Sandusky County Commissioners threw their support behind the bill after holding a special meeting May 14 to hear comment on the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Rex Damschroder (R- Fremont).
The village councils in Woodville and Gibsonburg had approved resolutions opposing the bill and the Sandusky County Bar Association voted down a motion last June to support it.
It establishes a county municipal court and makes no mention of consolidating the current sites of the courts into one location. But opponents fear that it could pave the way for a merger into the Fremont Municipal Court system.
Gibsonburg Police Chief Michael Benton contended in the meeting before the commissioners that they plan to eventually further consolidate the courts and referred to testimony before the House Local Government committee by Warren Brown, county administrator, that a study of such a consolidation could be considered.
The bill will:
• Abolish the Sandusky County courts and replace them with the Sandusky County Municipal Court, effective Jan. 1, 2013.
• Create a full-time municipal judgeship for the new court – with the judge to be elected in 2013 for a six-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
• Require the two part-time judges of the defunct court to serve as part-time judges of the municipal court until Dec. 31, 2013.
An analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission projects the state would save about $9,200 annually on its share of paying for one judge’s salary and benefits compared to two part-time judges and the county would save about $23,316.
Chief Benton said the projected savings could be more than offset by the need for the court to hire a magistrate as one full-time judge wouldn’t have the scheduling flexibility of two part-time judges.