Finally approving one of the most-debated topics in County Commission history, the commission on Wednesday morning voted 8-1 for a new setup for the judicial commissioner program.
There will be four judicial commissioners instead of three, and the pay rises to $63,000 for the chief judicial commissioner and $58,000 for the other three.
Annual cost of the program, which places an attorney at the County Jail on nights and weekends to set bonds, rises to $411,000.
The commission directed that the new judicial commissioners only have one-year terms. They currently have four-year terms. Those expire at the end of October.
Commissioner John Brooks said he will draw up an application form and set up a process for commissioners to review applicants.
Among those mentioned as possible candidates are Bob Davis, Yolanda Mitchell, John McDougal and Steve Goldstein.
Current judicial commissioners are Bob Meeks (chairman), James Anderson and James Purple.
Commissioner Curtis Adams had discussed ending the program because he said the General Sessions Court judges are not willing to oversee it. But he wound up voting in favor. Commissioner Richard Casavant was opposed.
New Commission Chairman Bill Hullander opened the meeting by submitting a new resolution that would have kept the current system in place until next March 1. He said that would be time for the commission to submit to legislators proposed changes in the law dealing with judicial commissioners here.
Chairman Hullander said he was concerned about possible elimination of the program after finding out that those at the jail who do not get bonds within 48 hours must be released on their own recognizance.
However, Commissioner Greg Beck said seven months of hard work had gone into drafting the new program. He said, "We have fixed all the problems that we had. I think we have something good that we can work with."
Commissioners said they still can ask legislators to amend the current law dealing with judicial commissioners in Hamilton County.
General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon said after the vote, "Criminal justice is one of the core responsibilities of county government. It is one of our most significant cost centers to local
property taxpayers and one of the most crucial elements in protecting our quality of life.
"The Hamilton County Commission met its statutory responsibilities in maintaining the judicial commissioner program. The commissioners are to be commended for continuing the program and for making the necessary modifications to improve the efficacy of its purpose."