The Shelby Township Board of Trustees approved a Tuesday evening that will allow Macomb Township to assume responsibilities for the construction of a new 41A District Court if the two towns can agree on employee retiree costs.
"This resolution is not saying the court is going to Macomb. There are a still a lot of ifs ands or buts," said Trustee Lisa Manzella before the unanimous decision was made.
Consultant John Kaczor with Municipal Analytics told the Board in a brief financial presentation that the courthouse has not made Shelby money for years and will continue to be a financial strain.
"The total revenue generated, less total operating expenses of the court is a negative number," he said.
Talks to build a larger courthouse, which serves, Macomb, Shelby and Utica have been in the works for years. In Tuesday's meeting, Shelby Township attorney Rob Huth said the court has threatened legal action if the Township does not make a move.
Through a feasibility study, Macomb has said it will make money by constructing a new building, and Shelby has said it will continue to lose money if the proposed $5 million court is constructed in Shelby. Kaczor said Macomb's audit used a different scale than Shelby to determine operating costs.
"We’ve got enough down the road to worry about without the court," said Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis. "I like the court and like the judges, but we have to look at the numbers and the numbers are doing the talking."
Kaczor told the Board that there are two possible financial outcomes:
- If Shelby Township decided to build a new courthouse it would cost the Township $450,000 in operating deficits, with the new building costs and retire health care included.
- If the court is not located in Shelby, the Township would collect revenues from the tickets it writes, and that revenue is between $250,000 and $289,000 a year. That money could be used to pay Shelby's existing retiree health care costs.
“I will not put the people of Shelby at risk for a tax increase to build a new courthouse” said Trustee Michael Flynn.
Before the vote was taken, several audience members pleaded with the Board to reconsider the economic ramifications on the surrounding businesses if the courthouse moves out of Shelby. On two occasions during the public discussion regarding the courthouse, a Shelby Township police officer was asked to calm the speakers and even escorted one back to his seat.
In January, on the upcoming presidential primary, asking the public to vote on whether the courthouse should move was voted down by the Macomb County Election Commission.
The new resolution states that Shelby will continue to pay legacy costs for already retired court employees. The next step is to determine a cost share agreement between Shelby and Macomb, based on a numerical formula to determine pension costs for current employees who have yet to retire, according to Huth.
“From here, it would be out of Shelby’s hand and up to Macomb to move forward,” said Huth. “We in Shelby can’t force Macomb to do it.”