Now that the new system is in place, the focus is on finding a centralized location for it.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Columbiana County's new municipal court system has been operating for about a month, and its judges say the transition is going well.
"So far, so good," Judge Robert Roberts said.
"I don't think we've missed a beat," Judge Mark Frost said of the transition from an area court system to a municipal one.
Under the old system, there were three part-time judges overseeing courtrooms in Salem, Lisbon and East Palestine.
Now there are two full-time judges handling cases in the same courtrooms.
The county switched to a municipal court with the intent of improving the justice system. That's being accomplished by easing caseloads through the use of two full-time instead of three part-time judges.
Judge Roberts said court operations are running without a hitch under the new arrangement.
Looking for location: But, he added, "it will be smoother when we're in one facility."
A goal of the new municipal court system is to place the court operations in Lisbon, Salem and East Palestine under a single roof.
Judges Roberts and Frost, with the help of a committee of area attorneys and government officials, are scouting for a location.
The judges, who will make the final decision, say the facility is likely to be in or near Lisbon to ensure that the municipal court is centrally located in the county.
A search has produced three suitable sites; two are in the village and another is in Center Township.
The judges declined to identify the locations.
They said they expect a decision on a site within a few weeks.
New building: Although renovating a building into a court has been considered, Judge Frost said it appears the court will be put in a new building.
Renovation would be too expensive, given the state of buildings in the area targeted for the court, Judge Frost said.
He noted that a court facility must have many features, such as security, prisoner holding facilities and ample parking, that probably are best met through new construction.
A cost estimate for a new building has yet to be developed.
Finding: Judge Roberts said a loan probably will pay for the project.
Revenue from a $10 fee that's attached to court costs for criminal and traffic cases would repay the loan.
That fee has been collected since mid-1999 and has produced a fund now totaling more than $330,000.
The money already collected will likely be used to buy land, prepare the site for construction and hire an architect, Judge Roberts said.