The Matawan Borough Council, the Hazlet Township Council and the Keyport Borough Council all introduced an ordinance that abolishes their municipal courts and creates a regional court system between the three municipalities at their respective council meetings Tuesday night.
The ordinance, if adopted, would establish the Joint Municipal Court of Hazlet, Keyport and Matawan.
The agreement eliminates each municipality's individual court, including the Municipal Court of the Borough of Matawan. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, any summonses, municipal court matters, or pending cases from all three municipalities would be processed by the Joint Municipal Court.
The Joint Municipal Court would reside in Hazlet, according to Matawan Mayor Paul Buccellato, as they have the largest and most up-to-date facility.
"Hazlet has video conferencing back to [the Monmouth County Jail], so transportation costs of prisoners are eliminated," Buccellato said.
The municipalities would share the cost of the services, however revenue generated from summonses and court fees would not be shared.
According to a mutual written agreement between the municipalities, Matawan would be responsible for 22.46 percent of the total cost.
Buccellato said that it would save the borough between $100,000 and $110,000 per year, which is higher than the original estimate of $80,000 saved per year.
"This is more than a shared service. It is a true regional agreement," said Buccellato.
Currently, the Municipal Court of the Borough is held in the same building as the Matawan Borough Police Department.
According to an article in the Independent in Oct. of 2007, the borough conducted a study to evaluate the cost to renovate the municipal community center to host a courtroom. The renovations were estimated to cost approximately $221,000, and the borough decided to look for other, less expensive options according to the article.
In addition to the high cost, Buccellato - then a councilman - noted that even with renovations, having the courtroom in the community center is a poor design because there is no specific room designated for holding prisoners, according to the article.
Matawan will hold a public hearing of the regional court ordinance in Matawan at the Oct. 18 council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
Hazlet will hold a public hearing on Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. at Hazlet Township Municipal Building at 1766 Union Avenue in Hazlet.
According to the Keyport Borough Council agenda, they will hold a public hearing of the regional court ordinance at Keyport's Municipal Building at 70 West Front Street in Keyport at their Oct. 4 council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
The councils may take action on the ordinance after the hearings. If the ordinance is adopted by all three municipalities, it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.