Chester court cost increase discussed

CHESTER–Here’s another reason not to talk on your cellphone while driving through Chester–court costs might be going up.

Chester City Council discussed the possibility with Municipal Court Judge Curtis Parkins at Monday’s regular meeting.

“A lot of cities are adding an extra $10 on their court costs and designating that that goes to a law enforcement equipment fund,” Parkins said.

Parkins said he recently attended a municipal judges’ conference in Charleston at which the trend was discussed. Such a measure would bring the court cost total to $82–$20 of which would stay with the city.

“That would take the onus off the city, if (police Chief) Todd (Murray) wanted to buy a new radar unit or something like that,” he said, noting that the revenue could not be used for vehicle maintenance or insurance.

Depending on the number of citations written, an increase could bring in an additional $300-$400 a month, he said.

“The city’s sort of strapped for money, and it would help out in that respect. … I think it would be a good deal for the city,” he said.

City Solicitor April Raines said council would have to pass an ordinance authorizing the increase and that she would research the matter.

West Virginia cities are permitted to charge court costs to cover court operating expenses, as long as the amount is not considered excessive, Parkins said.

Also Monday, council tabled action on a new phone system for the Chester Municipal Building. The city recently received a monthly quote of $494 from Comcast for the system, which includes 12 phones. The city’s current monthly bill is $225, said City Councilman Mike Dotson.

Council has been looking for a way to add three extension to the city building and overcome glitches in the phone system.

The three-year deal with Comcast, if approved, includes a one-time activation fee of $253 but no other up-front costs, Dotson said. It would cover the monthly leases on 12 phones, maintenance and three dedicated fax lines, he said.

“They replace anything we have a problem with,” he said.

The fax line for the clerk of court’s office would be covered by the court, reducing the city’s monthly bill by $30.