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Cook County courthouse closure plan not panning out

Monday, April 02, 2012
Daily Southtown
by CASEY TONER

Four months after Cook County officials announced a plan to close all suburban courthouses on weekends, four out of the five remain open on Saturdays and Sundays.

The closures were expected to save the county $1.9 million this year, with local police required to take arrestees potentially facing charges to a single location: the Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street and California Avenue in Chicago.

Since the announcement in December, only the Bridgeview courthouse has been closed on weekends.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Timothy C. Evans, who supported the closings laid out in Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s 2012 budget, wrote in a letter in February that the courthouses would remain open indefinitely.

Preckwinkle spokeswoman Liane Jackson said there never was a time line to close the courthouses. She said the eventual closings still will result in cost savings, but maybe not the projected $1.9 million.

“We hoped it would be done as quickly as possible and we still hope to accomplish this quickly,” Jackson said.

Jackson said Preckwinkle is considering several options that might satisfy the concerns with the closures. Local police had taken issue with the plan, with William Joyce, president of the South Suburban Association Chiefs of Police, saying transporting arrestees that far would tie up local police resources and result in additional overtime for officers.

County Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) said he is working with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Preckwinkle on a proposal that would keep the courthouses in Maywood and Markham open on the weekends just to hold those accused of crimes.

Sheriff’s officers then would take the suspects to the Criminal Courts Building, and the county would bill the respective municipalities, Silvestri said. He estimated the fee might be anywhere from $25 to $50 and said the issue might go before the board at its April 17 meeting.

“We’re trying to get the system to work so that the suburban (police) won’t have to go to 26th and California,” Silvestri said. “In the spirit of compromise, we have to figure this out.”

Joyce said he supports Silvestri’s transport plan but not the fee, which he called “ridiculous.”



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