WARREN -- Within a couple of hours after Trumbull County commissioners approved the consolidation of Central and Eastern District Courts on Wednesday, Judge Tom Campbell was contacting state legislators to find someone to sponsor a proposal that would finalize the deal.
Campbell, the part-time judge in Central District in Cortland, has made it clear that time is limited to get the measure approved by a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate in Columbus.
The judge said he is banking on support from state Reps. Thomas Letson, D-Warren, Sean OBrien, D-Brookfield, and Casey Kozlowski, R-Pierpont, and Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard. He also has been in touch with legislative liaisons at the Ohio Supreme Court, which also supports the consolidation effort.
There could be an attempt to attach Trumbulls consolidation move to a similar one in the Sandusky area already introduced at the state level.
Commissioner Paul Heltzel said after the vote that the cost savings is what convinced commissioners to support the move.
The unanimous vote by the commissioners at their regular Wednesday meeting followed the second of two public hearings Tuesday night. Last week, Campbell delivered his plan to residents in his court.
Tuesday, Campbell pitched his consolidation plan to those in the attendance at a Brookfield location, where a straw vote showed the public favored consolidation by a 56-16 vote.
Brookfield police Chief Dan Faustino said at the hearing that he favored consolidation, but he would rather see the only court in the combined district be located in Brookfield. Half the volume in Eastern District Court comes from Brookfield police cases, he said.
Since commissioners are the courts actual funding agent, the location of the court is their decision. Campbell has pointed out that the county could save nearly $60,000 a year in rent payments for Eastern District Court. The Central Court building is owned by the county and commissioners said it could be paid off within a couple years.
A combined court jurisdiction would serve the City of Cortland along with the townships of Greene, Mecca, Bazetta, Gustavus, Johnston, Fowler, Kinsman Vernon, Hartford and Brookfield.
Campbell has said more than $27,000 would be saved annually by combining the two part-time judgeships into one full-time position, including retirement and health benefits. Eastern District Judge Ronald Rice is leaving to become a Trumbull County Common Pleas judge and is unopposed in his race this fall.
Campbell told those at Tuesdays hearing that both courts now employ 11 full-time and eight part-time employees and that could be reduced mostly through attrition to eight or nine full-time and four or five part-time employees.