Marion County Commissioners voted 2-1 last week in favor of merging three justice courts, including one in Woodburn, into a new location in Salem.

The consolidation, which will take effect July 1, 2014, would save money, increase efficiency and provide more security, said Commissioner Sam Brentano, who voted along with Commissioner Janet Carlson in support of the move.

“We have an obligation to increase the security at our locations,” Brentano said. “Under the new plan, which will be one central location, we will be able to secure it properly.”

The courts in Woodburn, Stayton and Salem are the county equivalent of a city’s municipal court. Motorists who receive traffic violations from the Woodburn Police Department can still pay for them at the city’s Municipal Court at City Hall, Brentano said.

The county’s Health Department would take over the space currently occupied by the North Marion Justice Court. The county is looking at a potential location on Portland Road in Salem for the new North Marion Justice Court.

Most of the opposition to the move came from Stayton, which currently uses the East Marion Justice Court as its municipal court. The Woodburn City Council, which heard arguments for the consolidation back in September, voiced little opposition to the move.

Commissioner Patti Milne voted against the consolidation, citing a non-transparent process and loss of local control that will centralize services in the county seat.

“Here we are moving another piece of government to Salem,” Milne said. “When everything is so central to Salem, the outer lying communities are being disregarded.”

“You have the city limits, but people could be from anywhere,” Milne continued. “But you have people who maybe live just outside of the Woodburn city limits. It could be any number of violations or tickets. Nobody has really talked about those.”

Milne also criticized the effect the consolidation move will have on the electoral process.

The move will strip Steven Summers, an elected justice of the peace for East Marion Justice Court, of his responsibilities before his term expires at the end of 2014. Summers will continue to be paid through the end of his term.

“It is unconscionable the way he has been treated,” she said. “They say, ‘We’ll just strip you of your position.’ Excuse me? An elected official is being treated like that?”

Milne also views the centralization into one court of protocols and procedures as another example of eroding local control, she said.

“The bottom line is this process has been very poor,” she said. “There has not been transparency.”

Carlson said she would have favored the consolidation even if the county had enough money to keep all three locations.

“We’ll have a better facility, more consistent management and fairness for all the jurisdictions in Marion County,” Carlson said.

Jan Zyryanoff, North Marion Justice of the Peace who also runs the Municipal Court in Woodburn, said the number of cases that WPD feeds into the Justice Court is very small.

“As far as the number of citations and where people are going to have to go to court, I don’t think there is going to be a significant impact on the people of Woodburn at all,” she said.

Zyryanoff will keep her justice of the peace position, which will likely become a full-time position in Salem, she said.

“It’s a new position,” she said. “We are still trying to work out all the details.

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