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City considers raising court fees

Increases for certified dispositions, records would help city recover some labor costs

POSTED: June 7, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Hinesville Municipal Clerk of Court Mary Dowd asked the city council Thursday to consider raising fees for certified dispositions from $2 to $5 and establish a $25 fee for court records.

Dowd said the fee increases would help recover some labor costs to the city and bring Hinesville more in line with court fees charged by other Georgia cities. She added that court fees have remained the same since she began employment with the city in 1983.

“For the period of April 2010 through the end of April 2011, our office provided 145 certified dispositions,” Dowd told the council. “Of those, 113 were paid for by individuals or attorneys. We do not charge other law-enforcement agencies.”

Dowd compared Hinesville’s current fees with those of other cities of similar size around the state. Perry charges $6; Cartersville, Griffin and nearby Richmond Hill charge $5; and Dawson charges $3, she said.

A court disposition includes the violator’s name, citation number, date of offense, final outcome of the case with the sentence and the court date, according to Dowd.

“There are some cities that charge $10,” she said. “I think that’s a little high.”

To help recover the costs of retrieving court records, which can include an average of three to four and a half hours of audio recordings of court sessions, Dowd suggested following the same procedure as charging for open-records requests.
She recommended not charging for the first 15 minutes of research. If research takes longer, Dowd advised charging an hourly rate “not to exceed the salary of the lowest-paid, full-time employee qualified to carry out the request and 25 cents per page.” Dowd said her lowest-paid employee earns $16.85 an hour.

She said Alpharetta, Byron and Hahira charge $25 for court records and audio recordings, Port Wentworth charges $15, Rome and Stone Mountain charge $10, Griffin charges $5 and Emerson’s fee is based on the Georgia Open Records Act plus the cost of a CD or cassette.

Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas told Dowd he and the council would consider raising court fees if increases were in line with what is charged for a Georgia Open Records Act request. The issue was tabled.

In other city business:

• The council authorized the community development department, on behalf of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, to apply for a $25,000 Wells Fargo Foundation Homeownership grant. The grant would subsidize the cost of rehabilitating five owner-occupied homes in Hinesville at $5,000 each. The grant provides funds to local nonprofit housing organizations to improve owner-occupied homes for low- to moderate-income families, city grant writer Michelle Lane said. The city would not be required to match the grant, Lane said.

• Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards informed the council that the city will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. June 7 at city hall to discuss acquiring right-of-ways for the Frank Cochran Drive widening project. Seven property owners have been notified of the meeting, Edwards said.

• Edwards also informed council members that the mayor was elected to serve as vice chairman of the Coastal Regional Commission Council for a two-year term.

 

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