On March 26 Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley, Cobb & Douglas Public Health Board Chairman Dan Stephens and Tom Charron, Cobb Superior Court’s administrator, asked the board to accept a state grant that would help fund the new court.
But commissioners Helen Goreham and Bob Ott said there were too many unknowns, such as what would happen if the state grant is not renewed for the second year.
The board tabled the request at that meeting, but is once again taking it up tonight.
Tonight’s vote will decide whether the board wants to accept a state grant for $53,615 to launch the program.
Chairman Tim Lee calculates the latest cost of the court at $215,413 per year. Of that amount, the county is projecting an annual state grant of $120,000, leaving the county to fund the remaining $95,413 from its general fund. Yet those numbers are liable to change based on the level of treatment a patient receives from the Cobb Community Service Board and state funding of the grant, Lee said.
“I have to say, I feel there are too many unknowns,” Goreham said.
Two weeks ago court officials told the board the program would save the county money. Yet during a Monday morning work session, Lee said that wouldn’t end up happening after all, a point Goreham picked up on.
“Today as it was discussed, it was stated that this does not save money for the county by instituting this special court,” Goreham said. “And in today’s economy, I don’t feel secure initiating a program that is going to cost the county revenue going forward.”
The court has been a goal of newly elected Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds.
Eligible people would not meet the criteria of being legally insane, but still suffer from some form of mental illness and could be prosecuted for crimes they commit. Those are typically “nuisance crimes” and include anything from disorderly conduct to trespassing.
Lee said Monday evening he was undecided on the best route to move forward.
“It may be better for us to wait until some things are defined a little bit better by the state, i.e., what parameters are going to be required by the evaluators which will impact significantly the biggest cost factor in the model so far,” Lee said. “So it might be worth waiting a couple of months before we go forward with it. It might be the best route for us to take short term. It may be premature right now.”
Tonight’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the board room at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta.