Macomb board approves court agreement

By: Robert Guttersohn | C&G Newspapers | Published April 3, 2013

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The second hurdle in the building of a new 41-A District Court has been cleared.

The Board of Trustees approved, at the March 27 meeting, an interlocal agreement between Macomb and Shelby townships, where the court currently resides. The vote was unanimous.

The agreement spells out how the two municipalities will finance the legacy costs of the court’s current employees. The Shelby Board of Trustees approved their end of the interlocal agreement earlier in March.

Despite the three years of negotiations between the two communities leading to the approval of the agreement, there are many more hurdles to clear before Macomb breaks ground on a new courthouse.

“Nothing in here binds Macomb Township to build a new court,” township Clerk Michael Koehs said of the interlocal agreement.

If a new courthouse is built in Macomb, Shelby assumes the health care and severance costs of the employees, based on the percentage of their career worked in Shelby. For example, if an employee worked 10 years in Shelby, 20 years in Macomb and then retired after 30 years, Shelby would pay a third of the employee’s health care premium. Any benefit increases made by negotiation while the court is in Macomb would be paid for solely by Macomb.

Among Shelby, Macomb and Utica, the court serves one of the largest groups of population in Michigan but currently shares a former elementary school building with a senior center and the Shelby Township Library.

In addition to approving the agreement, the Macomb board also authorized accountants from Plante Moran to comb through the court’s books to ensure there are no unforeseen financial issues.

He said the board authorized the accounting firm to do the same three years ago, when negotiations on the interlocal agreement first began. Koehs said it took Plante Moran 30 days to go through the court’s books last time.

Trustee Dino Bucci, who threatened, at the March 13 meeting, to table the interlocal agreement if he was skeptical about it, said he felt confident that Macomb was not being pressured into building a new court by approving the agreement.

“The representatives from the court … they made it exceptionally clear to us that, if we don’t like this situation, by no means are we obligated or forced to do so,” Bucci said. “Our goal here … is to make sure we don’t spend one township dollar in acquiring this court and bringing it here to Macomb Township.”

The board also authorized its legal counsel to draft another interlocal agreement among the court, Shelby Township and Utica — the two other communities the court serves — stating that the court will stay in Macomb for the life of the bonds that Macomb would issue if it decided to build the court.

“That should probably be done as soon as possible,” said Larry Dloski, Macomb Township’s legal counsel. “Because if they don’t agree to that, then it’s probably a dead issue.”

Koehs said that some residents are misinformed about the court, and that if the board decides to build the court, it will host a town hall meeting to ensure the residents of Macomb understand why the board made its decision. But, he said, the board hasn’t even yet decided to the build the courthouse.

“This township board who’s been studying this for three years is not ready to make a decision,” Koehs said. “How these folks got all the information they need to make a decision is beyond me. But everyone is entitled to their opinion.”