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New Juvenile Court attorneys to cost Pulaski County $25,000 next year

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Dec. 8, 2008) — County commissioners will have to spend substantially more money next year for public safety items than they had expected.

During their Monday morning meeting, commissioners received a report from Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall that based on state regulations and court cases, the juvenile justice system of the 25th Judicial Circuit must hire two attorneys for parents who cannot afford legal counsel. That’s expected to cost $70,000; the attorneys will be hired on a contract basis.

“They mandate that we hire these people, but they don’t send money down to do it,” Ransdall said.

The four-county circuit includes Pulaski, Texas, Phelps and Maries counties and its juvenile court system had been expected to cost $303,991 next year compared to $303,660 for 2008, apportioned across the circuit’s four counties based on population, but will now cost $373,991. Next year, Pulaski County will have to pay 36 percent of the additional $70,000 cost, roughly $25,000.

“That’s a lot of money for this county,” said Commissioner Dennis Thornsberry.

“And Maries County will use it the most,” added Ricky Zweerink, who will succeed Thornsberry in January as the western district’s county commissioner.

Ransdall said he’s questioned the apportionment of court costs across the four counties, noting that Fort Leonard Wood’s territory isn’t under the jurisdiction of the state court system.

“I raised that question with the judge in a rather lively conversation. If you run a stoplight at Fort Leonard Wood, you go before a federal magistrate, so the criminal portion of what happens out there does not affect us at all,” Ransdall said. “But our civil caseload is much, much higher because if they want a divorce or there is a custody case, they come here.”

Data from the 2000 federal census shows that Pulaski County had a population of 41,165 eight years ago, of which a third — 13,666 people — lived on Fort Leonard Wood. Of the other counties in the circuit, Phelps County had 42,289 people, Texas County had 23,566 people, and Maries County had 9,099 people.

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