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December 13, 2012 9:19 am

EDITORIAL: Keep the Powell Circuit Court open

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Concerning the Wyoming Supreme Court’s decision to close Powell’s Circuit Court, we’d like to offer a dissenting opinion.

We’re left scratching our heads, wondering how it makes sense to close a valuable and productive court for savings that are said to total just $6,000 up front.

 

 

“That’s it,” said Rep. Sam Krone, R-Cody, who serves on the Legislature’s judiciary committee. “It’s such a minimal amount, and it’s such an important thing for people to go over and do their court business there instead of having to drive over to Cody.”

We agree with Krone and other local officials — the case to close the court is a weak one.

The state’s savings in the face of a $28.5 million judicial budget border on negligible, and in the long run, it will cost local citizens and governments more in time and money.

For years, the satellite courtroom located in the Park County Annex north of town has served thousands of residents in the Powell area. From handling misdemeanor offenses to traffic citations, the court plays a vital role in this community. Last year alone, the Powell Circuit Court handled more than 2,100 filings, more than 400 requiring appearances in person.

Consider the many inconveniences the closure poses for Powell residents dealing with a citation. Employees would have to take an extra hour off work to drive to and from the Cody courthouse. Students from Powell High School and Northwest College would miss more class time. The potential closure poses logistic issues for students who don’t have a car. For other residents who have lost their driving privileges, Cody court appearances would be difficult.

Many residents who must appear in court are already in a difficult spot and adding distance only complicates the situation.

The closure would create headaches for law enforcement as well.

Officers frequently use the court for local cases. Currently, it takes just minutes for local officers to drive to the annex. If the court closes, officers will spend more time driving to Cody, and the city also will have added fuel costs.

Another issue is how the Park County Courthouse in Cody will fit Powell’s Circuit Court cases and documents. As a newspaper, we should add that we appreciate having those public records more readily accessible.

Park County Commissioners recognize how important it is to keep the Powell Circuit Court open, and even went as far as offering to pay the cost to keep it operating. Apparently, the state declined that offer.

In the end, it makes you question the state’s goal if it is proceeding even if the court’s costs could have been recouped.

Considering these are the same court administrators who asked the Legislature for — and received — judicial pay raises totaling $1.51 million earlier this year, we have to question how closing the Powell court is a priority.

It may be close to a done deal, but we ask court and state leaders to reconsider their decision.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link December 14, 2012 10:49 pm posted by clipstein

    ah shuckey darn and old saying you take care of what you have and it will take care of you. maybe if you had taken care of it it would have taken care of you instead of wasting the many millions you have wasted

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