Director: Merging Municipal, State courts not good idea

Municipal Court Director John Pattan told members of Macon City Council’s Appropriations Committee Monday that merging Municipal Court with the State Court of Bibb County or Magistrate Court would be disastrous for city taxpayers.

The question about merging the courts came after state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, included a provision in his consolidation plan to abolish the Municipal Court within six months of consolidation. The Municipal Court’s powers and responsibilities would be given to State Court, according to the proposal.

Pattan presented several pages of research showing up to a $1.6 million cost above the current tab to taxpayers in the event of a merger.

He also noted that only one of the 159 counties in the state has consolidated its Municipal Court.

“Even if we were to pioneer it here, the chance of success is very, very small,” Pattan said.

The fact that only one county has consolidated its Municipal Court operations, Councilman Tom Ellington said, speaks loudly to him.

“That one fact stands out above and beyond the others,” Ellington said.

Councilman Mike Cranford said he is disappointed that state legislators hadn’t talked to city officials before proposing the abolition of Municipal Court, which generates revenue.

“I am 100 percent against trying to merge the Municipal Court with the State or Magistrate Court,” Cranford said.

The councilman also noted that plans for the new county courthouse, which Bibb County officials want to pay for with a proposed special purpose local option sales tax, includes space for the Municipal Court.

Cranford said he’s afraid the city would get into a situation similar to its arrangement at the county jail.

Pattan said the county recently billed the city the full 24-hour rate for a woman who was only in the jail for 13 minutes. He also said that this year the Municipal Court is ahead of last year’s collection rate.

To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.