The Matawan Borough Council this week discussed joining a regional court system with neighboring municipalities and agreed to place the idea on its Sept. 20 meeting agenda. (See Poll below.)
According to Borough Attorney Pasquale Menna, the agreement would be between Matawan, Hazlet and Keyport. The Hazlet Municipal Court would host the court system because it is the most up to date facility, according to Mayor Paul Buccellato.
The move, discussed at Tuesday's work session, would save money, according to the council, because of the shared services. For example, there would only be one judge rather than three. Since it is a regional court system, the judge would have to be appointed at the state level, according to Menna.
"This is something that is not new, other areas are doing it," Buccellato said. "Matawan is looking at it for major cost savings."
The savings are estimated at $80,000 a year for the borough, with Hazlet and Keyport also saving approximately that much each.
Although the court costs are shared, the court revenue is not, according to Menna. Each municipality would still retain their own revenue from tickets and court fees.
According to an article in the Independent in Oct. of 2007, the borough conducted a study to evaluate the cost to renovate the court room in the municipal community center. The renovations at $221,000, and the borough decided to look for other, less expensive options according to the article.
In addition to the high cost, Buccellato - then a councilman - noted that even with renovations, having the courtroom in the community center is a poor design because there is no specific room designated for holding prisoners, according to the article.
At that time, according to the article, the council settled for having Menna contact neighboring communities to inquire about renting or leasing courtrooms and court services, however they did not end up selecting that as a solution.
No final decision was made regarding the regional court system, however the council did agree to draft an agreement that would be discussed at the council's next regular action meeting on Sept. 20.