June 6, 2009 in Washington Voices

City to pay for study of court system

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane Valley will spend up to $49,830 to study a court system with which city officials say they’re happy.

It’s part of the City Council’s decision to study all its contractual relationships with Spokane County after county commissioners announced in December they would cancel the city’s contract for snow plowing.

The city contracts with Spokane District Court for municipal court services, and with various county agencies for related court services such as probation supervision.

City Manager Dave Mercier said he discovered that several other Washington cities had commissioned Anne Pflug, research project manager for the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development to analyze their court options. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mercier proposed that Spokane Valley also hire Pflug, and no one objected.

No formal action was required because Mercier has discretion to spend that amount of money without council approval.

Councilman Bill Gothmann said the cost of a study should be in proportion to the cost of the services being studied, and Mercier said the study would cost about half a percent of the estimated $9.2 million the city would spend for court services over six years. That’s the amount of time, under state law, the city would have to wait to form its own court if it doesn’t cancel its District Court contract by the end of this year.

Councilman Dick Denenny said Pflug seems “more than capable,” and the study would require expertise he wouldn’t expect city staff members to have.

“This, I think, would be money well spent,” Denenny said.

Mercier said staff members would be “carrying a lot of the water” for the study to keep the cost down.

He said Spokane Valley has three basic options for court services: maintain its contract with Spokane County District Court, join the new Spokane Municipal Court or form its own municipal court.


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