When Rockford’s court opens for business, it will be just one day a month and only handle small claims cases, according to Rockford City Manager Michael Young. Young said the court administrator, Donna Gilson, informed Rockford’s police chief of this latest news in the five-year saga of court consolidation. Rockford and Kent County are in a lawsuit over the issue of whether the former Rockford court can be consolidated to one location. Rockford believes a ruling that said a court must be located here, Kent County believes the presence of a court can be less than a full-service court with a judge. The case has gone through appeals and Rockford has asked the state supreme court to hear the matter. “It’s time to move on,” said Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio. “Two out of three decisions said what the county is doing is legal and appropriate.” The remodeling of the former court building here in Rockford is nearly, if not already, complete, and Young said he has not heard when it will be open for business. He said he has not been informed by the county what hours it plans to operate since a letter last July. At that time the county proposed a magistrate in the court building all day Monday, and half days Wednesday and Friday. It could handle small claims, informal traffic hearings, payments on criminal cases, traffic tickets and/or payment of small claims filing fees. “We already weren’t happy about that,” Young said. He said the county spent at least $55,000 remodeling the building, which it sold to the City for $20. In the transfer agreement the county retained use of a portion of the building for a court presence. “Why even do it?” Young said of offering a one-day-a-month court. “It defies logic.” He said this action proves the need for the supreme court to spell out exactly the terms of a court requirement according to the state constitution. “The court does say you have to have a court presence here,” said Young. “Apparently the county is going to have the absolute minimal presence possible.” Delabbio said Judge Smolenski is within her rights as chief judge to decide how much court presence Rockford will have. “It’s really up to the […]
City of Rockford
Hens, ice rink maybe coming soon to Rockford A local resident has asked the City of Rockford to revitalize ice skating in the old mill pond located off Rum Creek Trail between Monroe and Courtland streets in downtown Rockford. A City skating rink near the Community Cabin was closed last year due to repeated vandalism of the liner, which cost several thousands of dollars to replace. At the Monday, January 11 City Council meeting City Manager Michael Young said the City is considering flooding the pond using a fire truck and having Department of Public Works supervise the safety of the pond. There are bathrooms for public use at the Cabin and the City may decide to light the pond. Also at the meeting Young told council and guests that the City is closer to approving a fowl ordinance that would allow hens to be raised in City limits. Last year a resident asked about having a few hens for his family for fresh eggs. “We are at the point where we have a draft,” Young said, of the ordinance. He said the City has been taking the best of other municipalities fowl ordinances and will likely have a document to vote on soon. Young said the ordinance is stricter than most he’s seen in terms of what the coop must look like. Roosters will not be allowed.
Next up is consideration for Supreme Court decision The City of Rockford’s most recent attempt to keep a full-service court in town was turned down by the Michigan Court of Appeals, but City Manager Michael Young hopes the Michigan Supreme Court may see things differently. “We expected this,” Young said of the decision, reached months after the appeals court heard the case on October 6, 2009. Young is more hopeful the Supreme Court may have a different ruling. He said a 1970s case similar to this saw a split decision on court consolidation. Another town fought to keep a court presence from consolidation was denied because the town, Centerline, did not warrant enough judicial business to keep a full court busy. This is not the case for the Rockford court, which was among the busiest in the state. “We filed a petition to bypass the court of appeals,” Young said. He stated that the appeals court did not have the authority to overrule a precendent set by the Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court may not chose to hear the Rockford case, Young hopes it will. The City has 45 days to file an application to go to the state’s highest court. It could hear the case possibly within months. Two years into the battle to keep the court in Rockford, the City has spent about $40,000 on the case. Young said the cost of going on to the Supreme Court is very minor. He believes the case has been a valid use of taxpayer dollars because so many people consider this is an important issue. “We consulted with our attornies prior to doing this and they said it wouldn’t go over $50,000,” Young stated. Currently Kent County is remodeling about one-third of the Rockford court building and plans to have a part time magistrate work from the space. The City purchased the building in late 2009 for $10 with free rent for the County for 75 years. Should Rockford win its bid to move a full-time judge back to the location, the property will immediately transfer back to County ownership, according to the transfer agreement. Staff vacated the building late last year to a consolidated courthouse in Grand Rapids township. “We are not like […]
The City of Rockford will buy the former 63rd District Court building at City Hall for 10 dollars and allow Kent County to lease a portion of it for up to 75 years. The Kent County Board of Commissioners approved the deal on Tuesday, Dec. 15, after Rockford City Council did late last month. “One of the stipulations is, if we win our lawsuit, that building immediately reverts back to county property, so they can bring the court back,” said Rockford City Manager Michael Young. “Our main focus is on bringing the court back to Rockford.” The City has had a long understanding to have the right of first refusal if the building were to come up for sale, and Young said he believes the city should control the building at 105 Maple Street. Both the court building and City Hall were built after removing residential homes from the block. The City believes a court presence is required by law in the city and hopes to have recently moved Judge Servaas back in residence in the Rockford court building. Servaas and the former staff of the court are now working in a new court building in Grand Rapids Township. Kent County contends the presence of a part-time magistrate fulfills the legal requirements for a court presence in the City of Rockford. A judge ruled that a court presence was required, but failed to define what the phrase actually means. A suit is currently in appeal, asking for a full court to be reinstated. Young said he is surprised a ruling hasn’t yet been produced, but said he is hopeful because it has taken so long to rule. “If it was cut and dried, we probably would have heard by now,” he said. Young also said gaining control of the building will also make it easier to reinstate a court presence. “If the county put something else in there, like the health department, it would be harder to bring the court back,” he said. Nonprofit organizations such as the Rockford Chamber of Commerce or the Rockford Area Arts Commission may eventually be housed in the portion of the building the county will not use.
TAKE CARE IN FALL CONDITIONS—An accident on the corner of Monroe and Division on Friday, October 23, was blamed on wet and slippery conditions. “It’s a typical case of sliding and bumping into each other,” said the Rockford officer in charge of the scene. A young driver injured her hand after rear-ending the vehicle in front of her. She was very distraught, but no serious injuries were apparent. An ambulance was not called to the accident, although both vehicles were towed by River Valley Auto. “This is our second one of these today,” the officer said. We’ll be seeing them all season.” In addition to the Rockford Police, Michigan State Police responded to the accident. Both vehicles were heading eastbound on Division when the accident occurred. Speed was not a factor.