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Officials say no to court merger



Published: Sat, May 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Location and efficiency are two reasons cited for declining the offer to merge.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Officials in Campbell and Struthers said thanks, but no thanks, to an offer to merge their municipal courts with Mahoning County's area courts.

"We feel that if it's not broke, don't fix it," said Campbell Mayor John Dill. "I see no reason to consolidate."

Struthers Mayor Daniel Mamula echoed those thoughts.

"Both courts are operating efficiently and in the black," he said. "And they are convenient to the populations they serve. That's a very, very big issue."

The city leaders met this week with delegates from the county's corrections planning board, which is overseeing a move to consolidate the area courts in Austintown, Boardman, Canfield and Sebring.

The first step will be to convert those courts from having four part-time judges to three full-time ones. The Austintown and Boardman courts would each be assigned a judge, and Canfield and Sebring would share one.

Corrections planning board members had suggested that Campbell and Struthers be approached about joining into the plan because their judges are also part time. The meeting was to gauge their level of interest.

Youngstown was not included because its municipal court judges are already full time, said Mark Huberman, corrections planning board chairman.

What's improved

Dill said there was a time when Campbell would probably have taken advantage of the consolidation offer because the municipal court was a financial burden for the city.

But Judge John P. Almasy has streamlined the court's operation and gotten a grip on its budget, making it an efficient operation now.

The court is self-sufficient, operating solely on fines, fees and court costs collected from defendants, Dill said.

"This court is fair and it is run very, very efficiently," Dill said. "I see no reason to consolidate and send our people to Boardman or Austintown."

Besides citing the Struthers court's efficiency, Mamula said city officials are not convinced that the three-judge plan set forth by the county will work.

"The theory is one thing, but the reality is another," he said. "Let's face it, judges run the courts and you're not going to force anything down a judge's throat."

He credited Judge James R. Lanzo with operating a streamlined, cost-efficient court.

Huberman said the planning board should meet soon to resume talks on the consolidation issue.

bjackson@vindy.com




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