BASCOM - Representatives from the Ohio Supreme Court Judicial and Court Services Division met with Tiffin Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp and Tiffin and Fostoria city councils to discuss the merging municipal courts at a special joint meeting Tuesday night at Hopewell-Loudon High School.
The Ohio Supreme Court studied the caseloads of Tiffin and Fostoria's municipal courts, and compared them to other courts throughout the state. Tiffin and Fostoria courts combined for fewer cases than the state average in 2011, said Stephanie Hess, manager of the case management section of the Ohio Supreme Court.
"It's pretty clear that one judge could effectively hear the caseload for both jurisdictions," Hess said.
If the two councils decide to merge the two cities' municipal courts, the Supreme Court will be available to assist them in forming a plan, said Jo Ellen Cline, government relations counsel of the Supreme Court.
"The Supreme Court doesn't proactively go out and ask for consolidations," said "If we're approached by a court, whether it's a part-time judge wanting to go full-time, or courts that want to consolidate to promote efficiency in their communities, we will support that effort."
Repp, who also has served as administrative judge in Fostoria since June, introduced some proposals of what a potential merged court would look like to the councils. He suggested it be called the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court, and it maintain two locations, one in each city: 215 E. Market St. in Tiffin and 213 S. Main St. in Fostoria.
"At this point we don't know what 2013 is going to look like," he said. "The last thing we want to do is to commit money for personnel and staff, that we don't have and we don't need."
In a letter submitted by the Fostoria Bar Association, the group strongly opposed the idea of merging the two courts.
The letter said it is important that Fostoria maintains its own court because "Fostoria's greatest deterrent to crime is a strong police force; and a court that is ready, willing, and able to handle the cases, enforce the punishment, and collect fines as expeditiously and economically as possible."
The meeting was informational for the two city councils, and there were no comments or questions taken from the public.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said after the meeting. "I think it's going to save Fostoria money; it's going to save us both money in the long run. As you see if we add in the workload for both courts combined, it's still below the state average. We both can't support our own court, we add them together and save money."
While Montz has taken a pro-merger stance, Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler said he's waiting to see what is best for the two cities.
"We're just glad to have people here from the Supreme Court and Judge Repp to give the information out, so the two councils have the information and make a clear decision on what's best for both communities," Keckler said.