by Mayor Tammy
I wanted to update our citizens as we move to the next step in the process begun long ago on providing a courtroom, or not, that was initiated in 1994. The Ada County Commissioners brought to life this ’94 court order that was long forgotten, frankly, because the issue was already addressed in the ‘90’s.
The county found the ‘order’ and sued our cities, Meridian and Garden City, in 2010 – to build a court facility or pay the county to use the facility our citizens helped pay for. Much has happened since 1994. Since then – voters said they wanted a consolidated courthouse in Ada county which opened in 2002 and is paid in full. Ironically, Meridian asked to house magistrate court services while planning for the new City Hall in 2004, but the county said no. Despite turning down Meridian providing a courtroom, the county continues to press the issue. Why?
It seems to be about money. They didn’t want a courtroom in 2004 and we have yet to find anyone associated with the courts that wants one now. Ada County says they are just enforcing an active court order, but they say that can be fulfilled if we just pay them money. The county wants us to pay $660,000 by using what we collect in fines and then some. These are the fines the city receives from infractions. That is, fines that are received after: fees are paid to the county for the court facility, the state, a court technology fund, and for the Idaho State Police POST Academy. The remaining amount of these fines we receive support the efforts of our law enforcement. How does paying the county fulfill a court order for a courtroom? It doesn’t. In fact we believe Meridian taxpayers already pay for the court system – just like all Ada County residents do – through your county taxes. They are asking you to pay again through your city taxes as well.
I’ve asked the Commissioners to tell me why county taxpayers in Meridian will have to pay this extra cost when all county residents don’t have to? They still can’t give me an answer. They will tell you that Boise pays. Boise was the only city in Idaho with a municipal court – even before the courts were consolidated. Boise’s situation is different.
On November 4, 2016 I will go before a panel of District Judges and testify on behalf of you. While I would like to be talking about whether or not a courtroom facility is even needed, we will not be able to do so. That’s because the court can order a city to provide a courtroom but they don’t have to justify why it’s needed. We can’t ask why, we just have to present a plan for providing a courtroom. So we will. We will present what we’ve found to make the most fiscal sense, even if we won’t know the problem we are trying to solve with such a plan. If the court demands we provide a facility, it will be one that is accessible and a more convenient service for our residents and police department.
We believe that this is something that could go away entirely if the Commissioners stood with us and testified that a facility in Meridian isn’t in the best interest of all county residents. Sadly, they seem entrenched with their position that they are just asking the court to enforce a 22-year-old order. They won’t work with us to define what the problem is that our plan needs to solve! One candidate running for Ada County Commissioner gets it and says it’s time to get out of these legal battles and find solutions – together! I couldn’t agree more!
I’m still hopeful for a resolution that is fair to all Ada County taxpayers. We will be discussing this more at our Town Hall on Wednesday, October 26 at 6:30pm at Compass Public Charter School. You are also welcome to attend the public hearing to show your support of the cities. That is scheduled for Friday, November 4 at 1pm at the Ada County Courthouse.
I still maintain what I’ve said along - we need to discuss what makes sense today. We are elected to lead. We should also be expected to come to the table and publicly have a conversation about how we, as two cities (Meridian and Garden City) and one county can move forward.
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