June 29, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Medina Muncipal Court expansion eyed by city council

MEDINA — City Council took up an issue Monday that has been discussed for more than 10 years — whether to expand the Municipal Court.

Council President John Coyne said Council members have come to a consensus that the city does not yet need a second judge but it does need an improved court facility.

Coyne said talks on enlarging the court have stalled in the past because the idea had been tied to adding a second judge, which he said the city does not have the operating money to fund.

He said, though, that the city needs a bigger court building.

“It’s very cramped, and it’s very difficult to get everything that needs to be done accomplished,” Coyne said.

Municipal Court Judge Dale H. Chase said he disagrees with Council, and that he thinks the court needs a second judge, but acknowledged that he would be willing to work with Council to expand the building at 135 N. Elmwood Ave.

Dale H. Chase

He said about $3.4 million for construction is available from the court’s special projects fund, which comes from court fees.

An idea to combine the Municipal Court with the county court system was discussed in previous years but abandoned.

Chase, who attended the meeting, said: “When we started talking about this, I had dark hair.”

The remark drew laughter. The judge’s hair is now snow white.

In other action Monday, the Finance Committee approved purchasing in-car video cameras as well as 20 body-worn cameras for city police officers for an estimated cost of $73,060.

Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said the new cameras will help with prosecutions and save trial time.

Coyne said he agreed with buying new car cameras but wasn’t sure about cameras mounted on police officers’ uniforms because of possible privacy issues.
In voting against the proposal, Coyne also said he wanted to make sure there was a protocol in place to deal with officers who might neglect to turn the cameras on.

The Finance Committee approved buying three new Ford Interceptor police sport utility vehicles at a cost of about $33,209 per vehicle.

Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the new vehicles will have more room than the sedan model for equipment — such as trauma bags, ballistic vests and helmets that officers carry in order to be prepared for an active shooter situation.

Councilman Mark Kolesar, 3rd Ward, said he would rather not see the city’s police fleet replaced with SUVs, and was the only member to vote against the idea. The department already has two sport utility vehicles.

The purchases still must be approved at a regular Council meeting.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.