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Council reconsidering decision on rejecting $5 city court fee

Monday, August 25, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville City Council on Tuesday will reconsider its recent decision not to levy a new fee on people convicted in city courts.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly adopted legislation letting localities assess a fee of up to $5 on all criminal and traffic cases to cover operations and maintenance costs for an electronic court summons issuance system.

The system mostly is used when police issue tickets for traffic violations, but the fee would be imposed on both criminal and traffic convictions, said City Attorney Eric Monday.

On June 24, in a 4-1 vote, the council adopted an ordinance on first reading that would have let the city charge the full $5. But when the ordinance came up for adoption on second reading — which would have made it official — on July 8, it was defeated in a 2-2 vote.

Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge opposed the ordinance both times. She has voiced concerns such as not knowing if the fee actually is needed to keep up the system and, if it is, how much the city would need to collect from it.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Police Chief Sean Dunn will present more information on the cost and impact of implementing the fee, Monday said.

Councilman Danny Turner originally voted for the ordinance, but he voted against it the second time because he wanted to see a lower fee assessed.

Councilman Mark Stroud, who favors imposing the $5 fee, was absent from the July 8 meeting because of a medical problem. Had he participated in the second vote, Stroud would have voted for the ordinance, and the fee would have been enacted in a majority 3-2 vote.

Stroud, a retired deputy with the Martinsville Sheriff’s Office, asked for the ordinance to be reconsidered.

“Maybe someone didn’t understand” why the fee is needed, he said about why the ordinance was defeated on the second vote.

There are various costs associated with convictions and, generally, it should be the people convicted who should pay those costs, Stroud said.

Law-abiding citizens should not have to subsidize the system, he said. Vice Mayor Gene Teague made a similar remark during the July 8 council meeting.

The council will reconsider the ordinance when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the municipal building on West Church Street uptown.

Also Tuesday, the council will recognize city employees who will receive longevity of service awards through September. Listed by their lengths of service, they are:

• 35 years — Jean Nunn of the circuit court clerk’s office.

• 30 years — Terry Agee of the public works department and Rhonda Gregory of the central garage.

• 25 years — Randy Craig of the telecommunications department.

• 20 years — Robert Fincher of the police department and Donnie Brooks of the armory.

• 15 years — Vicky Belcher of the victim witness program, Chad Dodson of the maintenance department, Richard Reeves of the utility billing department, Dean Comer of the sheriff’s office, Randy Martin of the parks and recreation department and Ruth Easley of the revenue commissioner’s office.

• 10 years — Ernest Barger of the wastewater plant, Carol Schmidt of the revenue commissioner’s office, Jeremy Purvis and Amber Fulcher of the police department and Dennis Napier and Stephan Marquardt of the central garage.

• 5 years — Terry Layman of the wastewater plant.

Other agenda items will include:

• Considering a resolution to set the allocation percentage for personal property tax relief for qualifying vehicles for tax year 2014.

• Hearing reports on nuisance ordinance enforcement, parks and recreation activities and attempts to reform statewide redistricting efforts.

• Considering approval on second reading of an ordinance repealing Chapter 20 of the city code, which pertains to swimming pools.

• Presenting a proclamation pertaining to National Baby Safety Month.

• Considering routine-type budget amendments, and

• Hearing business from the floor.


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