Winslow residents who want to argue a traffic ticket or ordinance violation will be doing so in front of Justice of the Peace Alison Kolomitz as of Sept. 1.
City Council voted 6-1 last Tuesday to sign the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Navajo County, with Council member Judy Howell dissenting. The decision effectively abolishes the need for a city Magistrate Court and turns over jurisdiction of all city cases to the Justice of the Peace Court. Dale Patton remains city prosecutor.
Council voted in July to give the county control of the city court to save about $57,000 in salaries. According to the IGA, the city will pay Navajo County $32,500 each year for expenses. The city contracts with Kolomitz separately and agrees to pay her $20,000 for handling the city caseload.
The $52,500 is less than half of what Council proposed in the 2005-06 budget to fund the city court. Before deciding to hand over control of the court, $117,009 was earmarked from the General Fund of which $15,285 was operating expenses. The remainder was salary and benefits for two positions.
Judge Marjorie Herron retired at the end of July. The other position was for Associate Magistrate Claudia Smith, who also performed clerk duties and has been the interim judge since Herron retired.
Based on numbers for the 2004-05 fiscal year, the city court runs a deficit. Human Resources Director Sheri Lancaster said as of the end of May, revenues from the court were about $88,000 but expenses were $94,500. Revenue projections for next year were $99,000 or $18,000 less than the budgeted expenses.
Revenue is generated through tickets and fines. From April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005, 1,380 cases were filled in Winslow Municipal Court, according to reports by Herron. Under the IGA, the city still receives fines and fees related to city cases.
Mayor Jim Boles said the money the city saved would be used to hire another police officer.
"The biggest advantage is we should get the same services, but it's saving the taxpayer around $50,000 or $60,000 a year," he said.
Kolomitz said the city is not really losing its court but is consolidating its services with the Justice Court.
"For clarification, there is still a city court. It's just now located within the Justice Court Building. All of the cases will be heard here," she said. "There will be certain days set aside specifically for the city court criminal cases, but traffic thingsŠ have the same officers so there's no reason to split that up."
Kolomitz began her legal career as clerk to Herron in 1991. In 1995, she went to work for the Justice Court and was elected Justice of the Peace in 1998. She is up for reelection next year. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to serve the city again.
"I'd like to thank the mayor, Council members, Dale Patton, Sheri Lancaster and the staff who worked to put the IGA together," she said. "I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Margie Herron, who gave me my first job in the court system.
"This Intergovernmental Agreement benefits both the city and the county. The Justice Court staff and I are up for the task and look forward to being in partnership with the City of Winslow. I, myself, look forward to working for the city again. I think both courts in the same building will be beneficial to the public."
Smith said she was in the process of packing court files but did not say what her plans are for her career.
"I'm a person whose future is yet to be defined," she said.
The city's contract with Kolomitz expires June 30, 2007 and may be extended for two years. The IGA expires June 30, 2015 unless either agency decided to terminate it before that date.