COLUMBUS - Henry County will get a second common pleas judge at a cost of $170,000 a year to county and state taxpayers after a unanimous vote yesterday by the Ohio House.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Hoops (R., Napoleon), goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be rolled into a separate bill creating a judgeship for Warren County that is further along in the legislative process.
The Henry County judge, presiding over a new division for domestic relations and juvenile cases, would be elected in 2004 and take office at the start of 2005.
The additional cost, $135,000 paid by the state and $35,000 by the county, would cover the estimated $116,000 and $29,000 annual salaries for the judge and a secretary plus benefits, respectively.
The county's sole common pleas judge, Keith P. Muehlfeld, said more staffing may be needed. The court also relies on a part-time magistrate.
The county expects to spend $27,000 in courthouse improvements. The courthouse was remodeled in 1998 with a second courtroom in mind. That area, on the fourth floor, is now used as a hearing room for the county commissioners.
“The bar association began to study this three to four years ago,” Judge Muehlfeld said. “We are one of only six counties with one judge overseeing all three divisions.
“With the increasing caseload over the past eight to 10 years, it became obvious we were really in need of a second judge,” he said.