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Mayor wants to add day of court

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

FOREST PARK — Adding another day of traffic court would mean doubling that department's budget, said City Manager John Parker, but if the revenues will support the move, it can be done.

Mayor David Lockhart proposed the addition during recent budget talks for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The new budget request for judges and solicitors remains at the 2012-2013 level, $132,297.

"It would double that budget to add a day," said Parker. "But I can do anything you're willing to pay for. It is a crowded court."

Lockhart said the goal would not be for police officers to write more tickets to justify having another day of court.

"If we could get half the number of people in there each day, instead of everyone all at once on one day, that's what I'd be looking at," he said. "I realize we probably don't have the money to look at that right now but it'd be nice."

Parker said the costs rise with each employee required to work that day's court session.

"It would also require two more clerks in the police department," he said. "The additional clerks and the increase in court personnel — that's a fair sum."

Lockhart said easing the court crowds may also help reduce the misperception of Forest Park as a speed trap.

"I think the police officers will tell you most days, the biggest part of their jobs is routine traffic stops," said Lockhart. "They do more of those than anything else, I'm sure. I think Forest Park has a perception problem as far as writing tickets."

Lockhart said spreading the citations between court sessions would lessen that impression. In addition to being mayor, he is a defense attorney who sometimes represents traffic cases.

"No one is happy to go into court," he said. "I think we should see exactly what we need to do to work with the prosecutor on this."

Parker concurred.

"I'll see if we can have a couple extra courts to catch up on the backlog, to relieve the pressure," he said.

Lockhart said speeding up the process could help with the flow of revenue.

"Delays in adjudicating cases are delays in getting money from traffic citations," he said.

But Parker, a former law enforcement officers, stressed that tickets are not written to pad the city's coffers.

"The funds received are a by-product of the citations," he said. "The main reason for writing a ticket is safety."