Closing a Courthouse to Save Money

November 2007

It's rare that I agree with El Paso County Commissioner Doug Bruce, but he's right on this one. In an effort to save money, the Colorado Springs courthouse and the Robert L. Russel building which houses the District Attorneys' office and several agencies will close an additional two workdays in December. The 340 staff members will be paid for the missed days as if they are on administrative leave. Beginning in March, 2008, the buildings will be closed on the last Friday of every month.

Commissioners decided to shut down most county office buildings last week, Christmas week and the Fridays in between to save on utilities and labor costs. Signs on the courthouse doors explaining the closures state that the county has a more than $4 million shortfall in this year's budget. ....Beyond utilities savings, the county expects to ultimately save more than $2 million in forcing employees to use leave time during the closures.

Among those affected:

CASA officials use the courthouse for supervised visits and exchange, involving children of domestic violence cases or those involved in custody battles, because of the security the courthouse offers. ....The days before and after Christmas are some of the busiest child-exchange times because people want to be with their kids during the holidays. "This could be a huge burden on families," she said. "It's a way they might not be able to get as many visits as they need." Strewler estimates about 29 families use the Friday night exchange times and about 60 families use the facility for weekend visits.

Doug Bruce points out:

The potential for increasing the court's backlog of criminal and civil cases is unjustifiable, Bruce said. "If somebody is in jail, it is not a legitimate excuse to say you aren't going to get a speedy trial or a prompt arraignment because the county has wasted money all year and had to come up with $100,000," Bruce said.

Just hope you don't get arrested in Colorado Springs on the last Thursday of the month....you won't see a Judge until Monday.

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