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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

County’s court consolidation feels like a power grab

Last week we ran an article about the county’s plan to have a county court. (Courtesy Photo)

Last week we ran an article about the county’s plan to have a county court.

That’s nice. For them.

I am not for the homogenizing of our county. This is just one more step to eliminating the municipalities and ceding all power to the county.

No, thank you.

I am not for putting more layers between me and the people who make the decisions about my day to day life.

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson is a nice guy. I will give him that. But the next executive? We don’t know who he or she will be.

Maybe he or she will want to make their name by consolidating all the police departments under the sheriff.

And power grabs are never attractive. The court consolidation feels like one.

What’s next? Is the county going to strip us of our library?

I am not supportive of giving up a little bit of Hammonton’s autonomy one shave at a time.

At the end of the day (or decade), Hammonton would become part of one larger municipality with no character.

Hammonton has taken positive steps with the formation of its joint municipal court with Folsom, Buena Vista and Egg Harbor City.

It is amazing how the county knows where Hammonton is when they want something. It sometimes feels that the western side of the county is ignored in favor of the larger municipalities like Atlantic City and Egg Harbor Twp.

The county officials spoke about having kiosks in municipal buildings.

Super. So Hammonton Town Hall will have the traffic but not the decision making. Will the county pay for wear and tear on our building? Who is responsible if the kiosk is damaged? If the internet goes down? Or if they cannot accept money?

I am worried that if courts are consolidated across the state we will see the formation of “justice deserts” as we have seen with “food deserts” in urban area (meaning there is no grocery store carrying affordable fresh food) or “news deserts” (areas where there are no local news outlets).  Although I am sure Denny would be OK with a “news desert” in Hammonton.

These “justice deserts” could adversely affect minority and impoverished areas.

There are some people in this region who do not have bank accounts or credit cards due to their financial situation.  How are they going to pay at a kiosk?

Or if they have to go to court in Mays Landing, how are they getting there? Has the county studied the potential impact on minority and the impoverished populations of the county?

Also, there is something to be said for having a judge who knows the municipality he or she serves.  Same for prosecutors and public defenders. They know the towns and its quirks.

And if a police officer has to go to court for some reason, I would think the officer would waste half a day or more traveling back and forth and waiting in court rather than just walking across town hall when the case is called.

Then if there is a need for a conflict court, where do you go?

Ocean County? That seems a bit far.

Also, Hammonton does not share the same state officials as the majority of the county. We are treated like unwanted Piney cousins. In the time of the newspaper’s existence we have moved districts twice: once from Burlington to Ocean County people, then back Burlington County people.

Most of Atlantic County has Chris Brown, John Armato and Vince Mazzeo as their state reps. Hammonton has Dawn Marie Addiego, Ryan Peters and Jean Stanfield.

So why would we want to be in a county project where we are not represented by the same people on the next level up the ladder? It doesn’t make sense to me.

There would be a discord with the higher ups the bureaucratic food chain.

Hammonton, for now, is better off keeping its autonomy and working to serve the municipalities on this side of the county. I recognize the joint municipal court may not last forever. Mullica Twp. joining the town seems to be on hold, and we all know how alluring the sales pitch of saving money can be to elected officials.

Take a look at the municipal services we have. Then imagine if we allowed the county to run them.

Did the trash truck accidentally skip your house? Instead of calling Scott and the highway department, you would have to call the county and wait for them to respond. Need to get a marriage license? Have fun driving to Mays Landing and standing in line with everyone else.

Let’s see how this county court goes before we sign our town away to save a few bucks.

Gina Rullo is the editor-in-chief of The Hammonton Gazette.


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