North Bend looks to Issaquah for court

A roller coaster ride of changing price estimates nearly derailed North Bend's switch from King County to Issaquah for municipal court service.

North Bend Council-member Karen Tavenner urged the council to postpone a vote on the switch until they had time to review the latest figures.

"We have been given a lot of information in the past month that has flip-flopped," she said. "I would like time to look over the new information."

However, the rest of the council members felt they had enough time to understand the numbers. Her motion to table the contract was not seconded and the council voted 4-1, with Tavenner dissenting, to approve the switch to Issaquah, effective Jan. 1, 2007.

Stanley Lewis, city accounting and technology coordinator, said the issues Tavenner brought up had been resolved. In short, by switching to Issaquah, North Bend stands to save money, he said.

The money confusion resulted from a $1,500 advance the county had given the city at the beginning of the year on anticipated revenue from the old county contract. The advance was larger than what was actually collected, so the city had to refund $108, Lewis said.

Were the city to stick with the county, costs of municipal court service will only increase, said Mike Kenyon, city attorney.

The best estimate puts a price tag of about $48,000 per year on municipal court service North Bend would have to pay King County were the city to sign the proposed new county contract, Kenyon said.

Currently, the city operates on a two-year stop-gap contract set to expire at the end of the year. That contract uses a formula charging cities the full cost of court services. Prior to 2004, the county charged cities a flat fee and gave cities 65 percent of fines collected. Though the county still sends North Bend money collected on fines, that's all from cases filed before 2004 and will go away as soon as the old cases are resolved, Kenyon said.

The new contract with Issaquah closely mirrors the flat fee contract. It will cost about $18,000-$20,000 per year to use Issaquah's court. After the first year, when North Bend will have additional start-up costs, there is the potential to recoup much of the operating expenses and the municipal court potentially could pay for itself, said Elena Montgomery, North Bend city treasurer.

Snoqualmie also chose to switch from King County to Issaquah to provide municipal court service. Beginning in 2007, North Bend and Snoqualmie residents with new municipal court cases will go to the Issaquah City Hall rather than King County's Issaquah courthouse.

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