FREMONT — Proposed state legislation would consolidate the Tiffin and Fostoria municipal courts, a move supporters said would save money while maintaining court operations in both communities.
State Rep. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont) introduced a bill this week to abolish the two courts and establish a Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court.
Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said merger discussions began after Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Barbara Marley died in April, 2012. Since July, Tiffin Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp has served as Fostoria’s visiting and administrative judge. Both Mr. Montz and Judge Repp support the consolidation, which if approved could begin by Jan. 1.
“We were able to work out something like this to save both communities money,” Mr. Montz said.
Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler said it would save his city at least $200,000 a year. He suggests using the savings to support police and fire departments. The plan would save the state money because it would consolidate staffing, Judge Repp said.
“I’m not quite sure what the manpower makeup is going to look like after the consolidation,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be downsized.”
Judge Repp estimated the consolidation could save the state about $100,000. The courts would maintain service at both locations. Officials envision a schedule similar to the one Judge Repp keeps — about three days a week in Tiffin and two in Fostoria, depending on the caseload.
Judge Repp said the offices in both sites would be open 40 hours a week for people to pay a fine or obtain documents.
The proposal has critics, including Linda Bourne Davis, a Fostoria voter and landlord. Among her concerns are delays to process cases and the loss of local control. “I think it’s essential that both cities need a full-time court,” she said. “We don’t want to vote for somebody from Tiffin. It’s a local judge, a local city. ... We want a local court.”
Judge Repp, who has been judge since 2001, is seeking another term in November. If the proposal is approved, voters from both Tiffin and Fostoria would elect one judge to the new combined court. Mr. Keckler said a Fostoria attorney “still could run to be the judge.”
Mr. Montz called both municipal courts “underutilized” compared with statewide averages. Fostoria’s court handles about 3,200 cases a year; Tiffin averages 6,000 to 9,000 annually, Judge Repp said. He said the statewide average is 12,000 cases for a municipal judge.
Mr. Damschroder, who introduced the bill Wednesday, expects an initial hearing next week.
Contact Vanessa McCray at: email@example.com or 419-724-6065.