2013-11-01 / Front Page

Moorpark off the hook to pay for courthouse

By Gabrielle Moreira

OPEN FOR SERVICES—The City of Moorpark is relieved of paying toward the cost of maintaining the local courthouse—for now. OPEN FOR SERVICES—The City of Moorpark is relieved of paying toward the cost of maintaining the local courthouse—for now. Six Ventura County cities will not have to foot the bill for the Simi Valley courthouse this year thanks to a $1.1-million budget surplus.

The surplus is the result of $60 million in funding statewide from the state Legislature, said Robert Sherman, assistant executive director for Ventura County Superior Court. The Ventura County courts receive almost 2 percent of those funds, which came out to $1.1 million this year.

The annual cost to maintain the Simi courthouse is $275,000, with $50,000 coming from the county. With the new funds, the cities of Simi Valley, Camarillo, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Ventura and Oxnard no longer have to pay a total of $225,000 to help keep the courthouse open.

Mayor Bob Huber heard the good news Sept. 24, after attending a morning meeting in Ventura with Presiding Judge Brian J. Back and former Presiding Judge Vincent J. O’Neill.

“If the courthouse were to close, it would have meant 17,000 people (annually) would have to go to Ventura,” Huber said. “I’m pleased to hear we won’t have to worry about any of that this year.”

But next year may be a different story, he said. It all depends on the money the county court system receives from the state for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

In July 2012, the six cities were asked to fund the part-time operations at the courthouse after five years of state budget cuts.

During those five years, the California court system lost more than $600 million in funding, and the Ventura County courts reduced staff by more than 20 percent and imposed a hiring freeze.

O’Neill, former City Manager Mike Sedell, and Supervisor Peter Foy, who represents the 4th District that includes Simi Valley, teamed up to inform the East County about the impacts of a possible closure. One of the most severe impacts: The main courthouse would be flooded with those additional 17,000 cases each year.

The trio eventually convinced the six city councils and mayors to fund the courthouse for one year.

Huber said each city was asked to make a two-year commitment, but instead the six cities agreed to revisit payment at the end of the fiscal year.

The courthouse, located at 3855 Alamo St., provides small claims, infraction arraignments and rental property dispute services two days a week.

Huber said the court system looked over the volume of cases handled for each service and figured out there were not enough property cases. Those services will be moving to the main courthouse at 800 Victoria Ave. in Ventura.

The collections window will remain open five days a week from 8 a.m. until 4:45 p.m., and court services will be available Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

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