STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- The final vote was taken Monday, approving an ordinance creating a municipal court for Stevens Point and the Village of Plover. Plover had already approved the matching ordinance. Stevens Point’s city council passed it after months of discussions and years of support by Police Chief Kevin Ruder.
Two citizens spoke against forming a municipal court. Most were in favor of the plan, including Police and Fire Commission President David Schleihs. Schleihs says everyone benefits from better service and flexibility. “Municipal courts can be structured in ways that schedule those hours at a more convenient time, and I think that’s the most important story here. The dollars and cents, you can make arguments all you want on them, but increasing services to citizens and increasing democracy to the citizens you represent is the most important thing you should walk away from here tonight with.”
Schleihs says the present circuit court system is too busy to handle many civil forfeiture cases, and it’s an inefficient use of staff time. “Right now, we’ve got almost an entire police sergeant’s position tied up with court stuff, trying to figure out the court schedule, the Mickey Mouse game of scheduling a whole bunch of city court hearings all in one day, and only being able to get to a fraction of it, and I think that is a colossal waste of the police officer’s time, as well as the city attorney’s time.”
One criticism from the audience was only hearing the pros of forming a municipal court, but none of the cons. City Attorney Andrew Logan Beveridge says he’s willing to deal with the only negative point he can find. “There’s been some references that we haven’t heard any cons, well I can tell you one con, and that’s from my own perspective, and that it has the chance of making me work a lot more evenings and have a lot bigger caseload. Despite that, I’m telling you I support this idea wholeheartedly, and I hope that you’d pass it.”
The proposal passed unanimously, although President Jerry Moore expressed concern that the council still has no projected budget plan showing the anticipated cost of the judge, municipal court clerk, and expenses. He is also concerned that the increased workload could force the city into the added expense of an assistant city attorney at some point.