Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
With the opening of the new Justice Center, Gardner city council approved recommendations to increase the hours at the municipal court to meet growing demand for court services.
The council, during its July 1 meeting heard that court transactions have increased 41.3 percent since 2014, and dockets have reached over 300 defendants.
“This creates an average wait time in excess of three hours,” Amy Foster, business services manager, said.
She said that the increased workload has forced police officers to issue citations with court dates three months out, and the court has been granting continuances of up to three months.
The council approved amendments to chapter 10, section 107 of the municipal code to allow for 12 additional court nights per year and extending daytime court hours.
“The new Justice Center completion will allow for these additional dockets without affecting city hall and previous space issues,” she said.
She said the additional hours will cost a maximum of $23,805.48, but she reminded the council that court services are primarily funded by the fines the court levies out.
In the consent agenda, the council approved a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for each of the past five years for the municipal judge and an additional $528.09 for each of the additional 12 court dates per year.
Municipal prosecutors will see a 3 percent cost of living adjustment in their pay for the last three years and an additional $500.54 for each of the 12 additional court dates per year.
“The appointed municipal court judge has received the same compensation rate since 2014 and the municipal prosecutors since 2016,” Foster said.