2007-05-12 / News

Kirkersville could lost Mayor's Court

By Scott Rawdon

KIRKERSVILLE- Kirkersville Mayor Bennie Evans has mixed feelings about proposed state legislation that would abolish mayor's court for Kirkersville and all other Ohio mayor's courts in similarly sized villages. "It can be a downfall for a small village," he said.

According to a Ohio Supreme Court press release, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer and State Representative Larry Wolpert of Hilliard introduced legislation to restructure mayor's courts in Ohio and replace them with community courts in an effort to stop potential conflictsof interest and the use of mayor's courts as a revenue source.

The measure, House Bill 154, would prohibit communities with less than 1,600 residents from having a mayor's court. Those currently in existence would be phased out by Jan. 1, 2008 and all court cases would be transferred to the local municipal court. In areas with a population greater than 1,600, the mayor's court would be replaced by a community court, which would be run by a magistrate appointed by the court. Currently, mayors preside over mayor's courts, although some use a magistrate.

Wolpert said these changes are necessary to avoid conflictsof interest when a mayor is responsible for handing out fines that contribute to that mayor's village budget.

"Even the appearance of a conflictof interest undermines confidence in the judicial system," said Moyer in the release. "Those judging cases and imposing fines should not also be overseeing the budgets where those fines are deposited."

Ohio and Louisiana are the only states that still allow mayor's courts. Ohio currently has 336 municipalities with mayor's courts. Of those, there are 142 that would be eliminated under House Bill 154, with the remaining courts being restructured into community courts. Wolpert also sponsored legislation during the 125th General Assembly that prohibited mayor's courts in communities with less than 100 residents.

Evans said a disadvantage to HB 154 is officerswould need to be available to appear at local municipal court, which would take them away from their duties longer than appearing at village mayor's court, and villages would retain only half the revenue from fines under HB 154.

Hearings on HB 154 will begin in the near future.

In other Kirkersville news:

+ Officer John Rickert resigned, citing personal reasons. Evans said the officerwould be replaced, eventually.

+ Village Engineer Gary Silcott, senior associate with R.D. Zande & Associates, Inc., said the village is still working with the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District possibly to provide public water to commercially zoned land south of I-70. The village also continues to negotiate with SWLCWSD to determine what is necessary to provide water service to the residential areas of the village. Silcott was clear, however, that it is not decided whether public water service will be available. The village is only exploring the possibility. "We don't want to force it down people's throats," he said. Village officials believe more information will help residents determine whether they want public water.

+ Evans said Kirkersville should retain its traffic light at US 40 and Outville Road; the Licking County Area Transportation Study had plans to remove the light, but those plans changed. Evans said that light will need some upgrades.

Matthew Hill, planner for the Licking County Area Transportation Study, said Wednesday that his department his investigating whether federal funding is available for those upgrades.

+ Kirkersville will participate in the "Longest Yard Sale" May 30 through June 4, which is a community yard sale to stretch the length of US 40 through Licking County.

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