Courthouse fees, Obici House lead agenda

Published 11:06 pm Monday, June 29, 2009

The City Council will consider adding a $2 courthouse maintenance fee to civil cases in Suffolk’s courts when it meets Wednesday.

The council will meet for a work session at 4 p.m. in City Council chambers, 441 Market St. The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m.

The courthouse maintenance fee currently is charged in criminal and traffic cases in which a defendant is charged with violating any statute or ordinance. Recently, the Virginia code section allowing the fee to be assessed was amended to allow it to be imposed on civil actions filed in the general district or circuit courts, as well.

“It’s a user fee,” said Randy Carter, clerk of the circuit court in Suffolk. “I think it’s a fair thing for the people using the courthouse to help pay for the upkeep of it.”

The fee goes to the city treasurer to help pay for upkeep, maintenance, landscaping, repairs, utility bills and other expenses related to the courthouse.

In civil cases, the fee initially would be charged to the plaintiff, the person or entity bringing the case to the court. If the plaintiff were to prevail in the case, the defendant would be required to reimburse the plaintiff for his costs as part of the judgment in the case, Carter said.

He added that charging the fee in civil cases makes a better revenue stream than in criminal cases, because the fee will be collected up front. In criminal cases, the fee is not charged until the end of the case, and often it never gets paid.

During the council’s work session, members will discuss the Obici House renovation and reuse request for proposals, as well as resolving several street name conflicts in the northern end of the city.

The Obici House discussion will center on the draft request for proposals, which council members made suggestions for at their June 17 meeting. The street name conflicts involve portions of Townpoint Road, which became disjointed with the construction of Interstate 664, and College Drive, which was relocated to a new alignment, creating two roads by the same name.

During a closed session between its work session and regular session, council also will conduct its annual review of the performance of City Assessor Sid Daughtrey. Daughtrey, formerly an assistant assessor, was elevated to the position after his former boss, Maria Kattmann, was fired in May 2008 over numerous assessment appeals that resulted in about 74 percent being lowered.