Owen County officials are working to put a price tag on a circuit court expansion the state legislature approved earlier this year.
At budget hearings last week, the County Council declined to appropriate any money for the addition of a new court as a part of the 2014 budget.
They plan to hold a special session in October, once the committees have completed their analysis and cost evaluations. At that meeting, the council could appropriate money to get the court up and running as soon as the new judge is elected in November.
County Council member Anton Neff says biggest challenge will be finding money for the new court’s support staff in the 2015 budget. Neff says if the county hires four employees, with benefits, it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Now that it’s a reality and it’s going to be coming we want to make sure its adequately staffed,” Neff said. “We want to make sure that we have a place for the court and fortunately we do have a little bit of time before 2015 to see that that happens.”
Lori Quillen is currently the only Owen County Circuit Court Judge. She says her extensive caseload is something that should have been addressed years ago but she’s grateful to finally receive help from the state. She anticipates sharing her work equally with the newly elected judge.
“I believe what will happen is one court will maintain probably all the criminal court cases, guardianships, estates which is probate as well, all the traffic court, all the miscellaneous search warrants and those kind of matters,” Quillen said. “The other court will be located for civil, small claims, divorces, paternities and those kind of things.”
Depending on the findings of the expansion committee, Quillen says the new court may share space with hers in the Courthouse or be located in adjacent property recently acquired by the county.
The state legislature created the second court in Owen County earlier this year. As a part of that legislation, the state will pay for the salary of the new judge.