City of Valley Falls considering higher court costs
by Clarke Davis
A trip to Valley Falls city court might get more costly if a suggestion by city Administrator Chris Channell gets council approval.
Court fees are now $55.50 with $20.50 going to the state. It is suggested that it be raised $20 to $85 plus the fine.
Channell said Judge Dennis Reiling had suggested the city make it the same as the district court, which is $98, but Channell said $85 is more in line with area cities.
He further suggested putting the $20 increase in a special equipment police fund for the purchase of tasers, video equipment, and so forth.
This drew an immediate negative reaction from Mayor Charles Stutesman and some council members who did not like the way that would appear to the public.
“We don’t want an officer writing tickets to justify his existence,” Stutesman said.
Shawn Jepson said he didn’t like the idea either that somehow an officer could profit from writing a ticket. Todd Harrington brought up waterboarding but failed to get a reaction.
The concern then shifted to the city receiving community service from those who cannot pay their fines and costs. Presently, those sentenced to community service report to the animal shelter operated by the Jefferson County Humane Society.
Lucy Thomas and Jo Tichenor both said they’d like to see the city derive some benefit from community service. They along with Jepson plan to meet with Judge Reiling on the next court date, Jan. 25.
The history of community service varies. The street department has received some good help in the past but utilities superintendent Daryl Courter said he had one person who sat in the street and refused to work. He had to call a police officer to escort the person off the street. Thomas also had a bad experience, telling about a woman who showed up to a job site at quitting time wearing a bikini.
Thomas wants the city to derive some good from those who can’t or won’t pay the court fees and hopes by meeting with the judge they can work out a better program.
Those who don’t pay the court fees can have their driver’s license suspended and a warrant issued for their arrest, according to Channell.
It’s only a matter of semantics, but Channell is going to call court fees, docket fees from now on. That, too, came as a suggestion from the judge to put an end to the argument put forth by those who pay their fine but don’t go to court.
Asked if equipping officers with Tasers was going to be back on the agenda, Channell said they came as a recommendation to the council by former police chief Gordon Bledsoe.
Police Chief Josh Pence said he is very familiar with Tasers, having been trained and equipped with them while on duty in east Topeka where he had to use one on several occasions.
In other business, the council:
- Discussed the recycling program expected to begin Feb. 1. The $1 charge will be assessed to every water meter, thus businesses and multi-family dwellings will pay just the $1.
- Held an executive session after which they voted to dismiss Jeff Church from city employment.
- Discussed purchasing a used highway patrol car.
- The city has new software for writing payroll and Channell intends to go to direct deposit soon.
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