CONNELL -- Connell's desire to hire Franklin County to provide its municipal court services could save the city $35,000 to $45,000 annually and keep a county deputy prosecutor on the job.
The city and county are working on a proposal under which Connell would hire Franklin County District Court, the county prosecutor's office and the bicounty Office of Public Defense instead of operating its own municipal court.
"It looks like it's going to save the city a good bit of money," said city administrator Steve Taylor.
And County Prosecutor Steve Lowe said the proposal would allow his office to keep a grant-funded deputy prosecutor whose job otherwise will end in October.
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The county prosecutor's office has a deputy prosecutor and one support staff dedicated to county district court, which would absorb Connell's cases into its caseload, he said.
Connell's total caseload is about 3 percent of District Court's, said District Court Judge Jerry Roach. That can easily fit into existing dockets without adding staff, he said.
Connell handled 362 cases in 2009, while District Court has averaged about 900 cases a month so far this year, or about 10,800 cases in 2010 if the trend continues.
Eric Hsu, indigent defense coordinator for the bicounty Office of Public Defense, said Connell's cases should fit in the office's caseload. Franklin County contracts with area attorneys for public defense.
Many previous Connell Municipal Court cases have not required public defenders to be appointed, he said.
Connell Municipal Court is held one afternoon a month, and the city hires area attorneys to serve as judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys, Taylor said, paying out $80,000 to $85,000 a year.
Besides paying the county to take on the court, jail costs may increase by $2,000 to $3,000, Taylor said.
The city no longer would need a court clerk, but that person is leaving this fall, so a change would not mean layoffs, Taylor said.
Connell also could benefit from county programs the city lacks, such as probation supervision, work release and electronic home monitoring, he said.
The change also should allow better enforcement of city warrants, since its warrants would appear on the state system, Taylor said. And Franklin County can confirm warrants to out-of-area jurisdictions in 10 minutes, while the city can't.
Both the county and city say the agreement is moving along.
"Things are moving ahead in a positive direction," Roach said.
The county also has to look at redistricting as part of the process, Lowe said. Currently, District Court has a single district -- unincorporated Franklin County. Other courts that cover more than one jurisdiction usually have more than one district.
Taylor said the city hopes to have the county take over its court as early as September.
The city council and county commissioners both have to approve any agreement.