FREMONT, OHIO (Toledo News Now) - Sandusky County is one step closer to consolidating two part-time district court positions into one full-time position after the Ohio House unanimously passed House Bill 433 Tuesday.
The bill would allow the county to consolidate the positions and has the backing of Sandusky County Commissioners. County Administrator, Warren Brown, said consolidating the two positions would save taxpayers at least $20,000 a year.
"The commissioners see no downside to creating a job that's cheaper than the current positions," said Brown.
Currently, Sandusky County has two district courts: One is located in Woodville and the other is located in Clyde. They each have their own part-time judge.
Under the consolidation plan, those part-time judge positions would be eliminated and one full-time judge would travel between the two district courts on alternating days.
However, local police chiefs have voiced concerns to commissioners about the plan.
"I'm strongly opposed to it. Number one: This isn't an issue of just consolidating judges. This is phase one of a two-phase project," said Gibsonburg Police Chief Michael Benton.
Chief Benton said he believes commissioners want to consolidate the actual court buildings into one central location, likely in Fremont.
Currently, if a Gibsonburg police officer has to make a court appearance, the officer would go to Woodville, just miles away from Gibsonburg. Benton said if the courts are consolidated, the officer would have to travel further for a court appearance and put public safety at risk.
"We're a small agency," said Benton. "When you run one officer on the street at time and he is sitting in the City of Fremont, your city is completely unprotected."
Brown said the county currently has no desire to consolidate the courts because it does not have the funds.
"I understand the hesitancy on the part of those who might be affected somewhere down the line, in the very, very distant future with the possible consolidation of the physical buildings," said Brown.
Brown said the county would conduct a comprehensive study to see if consolidating the courts would be financially beneficial before making any decision about consolidation.