Council approves 60,000 for court
Several residents spoke out against any timber harvesting in city parks.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
GIRARD -- Calling the appropriation reasonable, city council voted to give Girard Municipal Court 60,000 for the rest of this year.
Mayor James Melfi said the appropriation Monday gives the court 800,000 from the city for 2006, the same amount as 2005.
Judge Michael Bernard of Girard Municipal Court and city officials have battled in court over funding.
Council members said testimony during court hearings about Girard's court funding was key to their decision. The council members said it was during court hearings that they learned the city's municipal court has more employees than some other municipal courts with similar or lighter caseloads.
Melfi has said the municipal court has to make many of the same cost-cutting decisions the city had to make upon entering fiscal emergency, such as layoffs, reductions in buying and possibly shorter work days.
Some council members said that during court testimony, they learned that a 2005 court survey showed the average employment of 33 municipal courts was 11 full-time employees and an annual caseload of 8,900 cases, while Girard Municipal Court has 151/2 employees with an annual caseload of 7,300 cases.
City officials have sought ways to cut costs to move the city closer to emerging from fiscal emergency.
Several council members suggested the judge use money held in several special fund accounts to cover the court through the end of the year. Zirafi said the court has about 250,000 in special fund accounts.
In other business, the council adopted a forestry plan, with amendments to prohibit timber harvesting in the cemetery and city parks.
Although the plan had many good points, several citizens were outspoken about their fears of the effects of timber harvesting.
They said any amount of money the city would get from the timber would not be worth the damage done by harvesting the trees.
Council also approved a mutual-aid agreement for Girard Police Department with other Trumbull and Mahoning County law enforcement agencies.
The law enforcement mutual-aid agreement establishes guidelines for officers from participating agencies to respond to events such as crimes in progress that are outside their own jurisdiction but within the jurisdiction of a cooperating agency.