Photo by Rachel Slade
Cities became first in Texas to combine operations in October
In an effort to increase efficiency and minimize costs, the cities of Colleyville and Keller this month became the first cities in Texas to combine their municipal court operations.
“We’re always looking for efficiencies where we can do things better,” Colleyville Mayor David Kelly said.
The merge was inspired by a previous arrangement between Colleyville, Southlake and Keller to combine the dispatch and jail operations, Kelly said. Those joint services have been offered since Oct. 10, 2010.
“It provided us some better services and also, by combining them, has provided for more efficiency in terms of the value provided and also the savings ... to our residents,” Kelly said. “So we kept looking [at] what are other areas that we could again improve on these efficiencies, and the courts seemed the logical next step.”
Colleyville officials said they believe this new step will not inconvenience Colleyville residents as the court functions will remain in the city.
“For all intents and purposes, nothing will change for a Colleyville citizen,” said Mona Gandy, the city’s communications and marketing director. “But because it’s a shared court and a shared partnership, we want it to work for Keller as well and for Keller citizens.”
Background and transition
This true joined municipal court is the first of its kind in Texas.
“We had to get approval by the state of Texas to do this,” Kelly said. “So our state representative, Vicki Truitt, helped us get legislation passed that would allow two or more cities to combine and have a combined court.”
That legislation was House Bill 984, which allows municipalities or cities that share a border to establish concurrent jurisdiction of the municipal courts.
The bill also specifies that the combined court can only hear cases that result from “an offense committed or conduct that occurs on or after” the date the municipalities agree upon. For Colleyville and Keller, that date was Oct. 1. However, Keller will not have any court dates at the newly consolidated court until late November, Gandy said.
Although the court was combined Oct. 1, the decision and groundwork for combining the courts have been a work in progress since the legislation was approved on May 19, 2011.
“It’s the behind-the-scenes stuff that’s taken a year to work out, and I think in the last two months, the two staffs have met every week just to make sure — you have to be so certain the [fit’s right] when you consolidate these things, and then you’ve got to be sure all aspects of that fit work out through the process,” Gandy said. “It’s much more than just having people go to a different building.”
How it works
Judge Michael Newman will preside over the combined court.
“He’ll hold court for Colleyville residents at certain times and hold ... separate court for Keller residents at certain times,” Kelly said. “But it will just be in one facility, which will be the Colleyville Justice Center.”
For people who have received a ticket in Keller after Sept. 28 who want to contest their ticket, they must come before Newman in Colleyville.
However, if they want to pay off the ticket instead, they can either pay online, in person at the municipal court or send in a payment. Eventually there will be a 24-hour option in Keller for paying fines or citations as well.
“There’ll be facilities still to pay it in Keller if you’re a Keller resident — a kiosk there,” Kelly said.
A penny saved
Because the new joint court system requires only one staff and one building as well as using one judge for the case load, the money is saved in staff and operational costs.
“It saves ... dollars for both Keller and Colleyville,” Kelly said.
The merger also saves Keller the expense of constructing a new municipal court building. Keller expects to save $146,000 in annual costs, according to a news release by the two cities.
“They were going to have to – because of their city growing – they were going to have to [build] a new court facility,” Kelly said. “They had just run out of room, and we have a very nice court facility we built.”
For Colleyville, the amount saved—which will go back into the general fund—will be nearly $53,000 annually, Gandy said.
“It helps us keep providing city services without increasing costs to taxpayers,” Gandy said. “So they may see … a trail come online sooner because of this. They may see different programs available in the library or better technology that suits them, that lets us better serve them.”
For more or to pay a bill online, visit www.colleyville.com/municipalcourt.html.