Saline City Council Supports Plan to Expand Saline District Courthouse

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Saline City Council is throwing its support behind a plan to expand the 14A-4 District Courthouse on Maple Road.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is considering a proposal to expand the Saline courthouse and make security improvements at the Chelsea courthouse.

The county plans to spend $4.8 million on the projects, which include a $400,000 solar component. Funding for the project consists of $655,000 from the District Court Improvement fund, $522,000 from the district court's contributions to the county's capital reserves, and $3.2 million from the capital reserves to be paid by the district court.

According to the county, expansion is needed for the district court to meet current and future operational needs and the county's capital reserve fund can fund the project.

At Monday's special council meeting, council voted 6-0 to approve a resolution supporting the expansion of the Saline courthouse.

The 14A-4 courthouse in Saline and 14A-3 courthouse in Chelsea handle criminal misdemeanor and civil infraction cases for their areas. The Saline court also handles small claims, general civil matters and landlord/tenant issues for both northwest and southwest Washtenaw County.

Mayor Brian Marl and Councillor Dean Girbach attended the Washtenaw Board of Commissioners meeting Oct. 19 and spoke in favor of the proposal.

"I do think our district courthouse, based on caseload, needs to be expanded. I also think there are safety improvements that can be performed on-site," Marl said.

Marl said the courthouse expansion would happen as the county conducts a feasibility study on the Chelsea courthouse.

"If a change is made or if that facility needs to be shuttered for a finite period of time I suspect services will be relocated to Saline," Marl said.

Marl said he strongly supported the resolution and wanted council to pass it before the county commissioners take action next Wednesday.

The motion to pass the resolution was moved by Councillor Dean Girbach and supported by Councillor Janet Dillon. Council supported the resolution by a 6-0 vote. Councillor Jack Ceo was absent.

Girbach said he agreed the county needs an expanded courthouse and said there are security concerns - particularly in domestic abuse cases where victims and suspects should be kept apart.

Girbach said expanding the courthouse will also have an economic impact with more employees visiting local businesses and restaurants.

Marl said the city went about 10 years without district court services until about 2010.

"It was a great inconvenience to our residents and directly impacted their quality of life, so I understand the importance of having these services and providing these services in a robust manner within the corporate limits of the City of Saline," Marl said.

Marl and Girbach said they hope the expansion of Saline's courthouse doesn't come at the expense of residents in northwest Washtenaw County.

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