Should Barrington set up its own municipal court?
The enabling legislation is in place; it was approved last week. The legislation “gives us the ability to pursue” a court, Town Manager Peter DeAngelis Jr. said.
But does it make sense to move forward?
DeAngelis expects to get an answer to that question within the next few weeks, probably by the end of July. He will be completing an “administrative review” to determine first if it “is a net revenue gain,” he said.
A municipal court will definitely provide more revenue while making it more convenient for the police department to handle violations of taffic laws, the dog ordinance, harbor violations, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and minimum housing and zoning laws. But is the gain worth it?
There is no money in the budget for a court to be set up in the next fiscal year that starts on July 1, DeAngelis said. But that doesn’t mean the town will put off setting up the court if it makes sense.
“It could go into effect sooner,” DeAngelis said. “We’d have to find money within the budget to do it.”
Barrington also needs to approve a local ordinance to set up the court, he said. The ordinance would need a public hearing, which will give residents a chance to weigh in on a municipal court.
DeAngelis said Barrington is surrounded by towns with municipal courts, including East Providence, Warren and Bristol. The courts seem to work for them.
Under the enabling legislation, the Town Council has the power to appoint a judge and enact ordinances governing the personnel, operation and procedure of the court and establish a schedule of fees and costs. The court could impose sentences up of to 30 days and fines of up to $500.
Municipal courts in towns the size of Barrington in Rhode Island usually meet once or twice a month. A local attorney is appointed judge in most cases.
Barrington is one of about 10 cities or towns in Rhode Island that do not have a municipal court.