City says no to joining Sheboygan city court

by Emmitt B. Feldner

PLYMOUTH — They’re resisting the lure of the big city to the east and keeping Municipal Court right here at home.

Facing uncertainty over what the potential financial gain and cost might be, the City Council Tuesday turned down an offer to combine the Plymouth Municipal Court with the Sheboygan/Kohler Municipal Court.

“It ultimately would be a roll of the dice or a flip of the coin,” whether the city would come out ahead or lose in the consolidation, Director of City Services Brian Yerges told the council.

Yerges presented several scenarios outlining the potential gain for the city in revenue from joining the Sheboygan court.

Over the past three years, he explained, the city has realized an average of $22,627.91 in profit from the municipal court operations, 34 percent return on investment.

Based on Plymouth’s average of 838 cases a year in municipal court from 2007-2009, Yerges hypothesized what the city would have made if they had been in the joint court with Sheboygan and Kohler those three years.

The best case he presented was a return of $31,304.64 a year to the city.

“That’s good, but there are other things that factor into it,” Yerges advised.

He predicted that the judge of the combined court would likely be granted a pay raise with the increased caseload, and that would be determined solely by the Sheboygan City Council

Also, he noted, there would likely be overtime costs to Plymouth for officers traveling to Sheboygan for court sessions. It was in part because of those overtime costs for officers attending sessions in Sheboygan County Circuit Court that originally led Plymouth to establish its own municipal court.

“Is there going to be a session (of the new combined court) held here or will they all be in Sheboygan,” Yerges asked. “That’s uncertain.”

“In the several meetings I was in, it was my understanding we would have our own night (for Plymouth cases), but whether it would be here or in Sheboygan, I don’t know,” Mayor Donald Pohlman added.

Yerges also said the city would have no control over wages and benefits for court personnel in Sheboygan, as they would all be Sheboygan union personnel and contracts would be negotiated with the Sheboygan City Council.

The city could also potentially lose its position in tax intercepts for unpaid fines by becoming part of the combined court, Yerges cautioned.

“If you wanted to take the risk for the potential savings, you’d be locked in (to the combined court) for four years,” Yerges concluded.

Alderman Jack Fernsler expressed concern about giving that much control over Plymouth’s court cases to Sheboygan and their City Council. “I think we ought to stay where we are,” he stated.

The council agreed with him unanimously, voting to continue the city’s municipal court separately.

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