Nichols and Neupert are seeking budget authorization for three to five years.
Operating cost for a full-time court coordinator, a part-time administrative assistant, startup expenses for supplies and a workspace within District Court 1 offices are estimated to run between $150,000 and $250,000 annually, Nichols said in his presentation, available in the work session agenda packet on the commissioners meetings’ web page at clallam.net. Commissioner Randy Johnson said five years made more sense than three to judge the program’s impact, recalling board discussions of a mental health court program in 2020.
Neupert noted the broad support among those in the room, “folks that might not otherwise all agree that today really is Monday do agree that this is an effective proposal for Clallam County.” “We’re doing everything we can to set this up for success,” commissioners’ chair Mark Ozias said.
Sill said after the board’s morning work session that he expects to have the resolution in hand for the commissioners’ consideration by late fall.
The pitch by Neupert, the District Court 1 judge who will preside over the program, and Nichols, the prosecuting attorney who makes criminal charging decisions, resulted in commissioners directing county Administrator Rich Sill to draw up a budget resolution, which does not require a public hearing for board passage.
The fund, which covers expenses for the county’s drug court and juvenile services court, also has expenditures of $1.2 million to non-county programs such as Peninsula Behavioral Health, Lane said in a separate interview.
He said the fund had an ending balance of $2.6 million in 2020 and will have a projected ending balance of $2.5 million in 2021.
County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane said he can determine the precise impact of the expenditures on the fund once he receives more precise information about the program.
The court’s operations would be funded with reserves from a 15-year-old one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax fund for substance abuse, mental health and therapeutic court programs known as The Hargrove Fund, established under legislation sponsored by former 24th District state Sen. Jim Hargrove.
“I was pretty, what do I want to say, pretty succinct, in why do we keep studying this? We need to either get on with it or drop it, and that’s exactly where you’ve taken this, so I appreciate it very much,” Johnson said.
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