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Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Washtenaw County wants Chelsea to close its district court

By Amy Biolchini

In an effort to curtail county spending, Washtenaw County Commissioner Rob Turner has asked the city of Chelsea to consider closing its district court.

Turner approached the Chelsea City Council this week and announced that the county was seeking ways to save costs after it ended up paying out more money than it anticipated this year for animal control services, Sylvan Township loan defaults and for the police dispatch consolidation with Ann Arbor.

“I don’t want to do anything drastic or anything to hurt the city of Chelsea, but I do think there’s a possibility that both units of government can benefit,” Turner said.


The 14A-3 District Court sits at 122 S. Main St. in Chelsea and is one of four 14A District Court locations in Washtenaw County, the other three being in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline.

The 14A District Court hears misdemeanor cases, civil cases for disputed amounts less than $25,001, traffic offenses, summary proceedings, arraignments and preliminary exams. It serves the entire county, save for the City of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Township.

Out of all of the county court locations, Chelsea is the most remote and has an aging structure.

Washtenaw County commissioners and administrators had been talking about closing the court in Chelsea for about a year, Turner said.

“Chelsea is way on the far west end,” Turner said. “It would save a lot of money if we could move it to Saline.”

Saline’s 14A-4 District Court is a larger, newer facility with more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, Turner said.

“We’re looking for ways to consolidate and that’s what the state has told us to do,” Turner said.

The county has already consolidated its juvenile court operations by moving them from a facility on Platt Road to downtown Ann Arbor.

In order for the 14A-3 District Court in Chelsea to close, the city government would have to put forth its own resolution and approve it. The county cannot force the court to close, Turner said, or it would have been done a long time ago.

“The ball is in their court,” Turner said.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

Another reason to vote out Turner. Turner believes that the taxpayer serves the government. Closing the Chelsea Court will cost citizens of his district millions in out of pocket costs, prosecutions will be less effective and there is no alternative use for the building. The County made a huge committment to Chelsea when the Court was refurbished less than 20 years ago. Turner is listening to the Ann Arbor Commissioners for direction, not the citizens of Western Washtenaw.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

The county's budget is no different from our own family budgets. When your income drops, you have to either give up something or find a way to increase your income. I wish we didn't need to consolidate services, but we can no longer afford everything. Thank you, Mr. Turner, for trying to help balance the county budget.

ronald sharp

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

Making the attorneys drive further to get to court means they will be spending more time on each case which translates into higher fees for clients. This is a bad idea for those in the Western part of the county. (Also it's a beautiful historic buidling that should continue to be used as is)

Jeff Frank

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

To echo Mr Kinsley a bit... is the county going to reimburse the citizens of Chelsea and the rest of Western Washtenaw for the extra drive time required when we need to visit the court? How about reimbursing the city, and by extension its citizens, for the extra time (likely at time and a half) and gas that officers will incur by having to drive 20+ miles each way to the court? Geographically, the court makes sense where it is and closing it will serve to cost the citizens of the area at least as much as the county saves.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

OK so the article says why the county wants it closed, but why would the city of Chelsea choose to do so? What are the benefits? So that the employees who aren't let go can go sit in a cushy new Saline building? "The state has told us to consolidate" what does that mean? "Remote"???? I think the writer has never been to takes less than 10 minutes to get from West Ann Arbor to Chelsea and its all highway. However, to go from Chelsea or Dexter to Saline, it takes 30 -50 minutes depending on the time of day. There is no direct route to Saline. I rarely go to Saline because it's just too cumbersome to get there. If you are headed to the east outskirts of saline, it's a little less painful but still lots of lights and waiting. This article lacks depth and what is there is very one sided.

Frank Grohnert

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Sounds like Mr. Turner is trying to cut services in Western Washtenaw Co. without anything in return. Wasn't he elected to represent and fight for the interests of the citizens of the 1st District, instead of being a spokesman/advocate for whatever the County Commissioners tell him to do? Recently he tried to convince the taxpayers of Sylvan Township to pay 4.75 mills more. Now he wants to cut a vital service in Chelsea that is used by thousands of residents in the surrounding area of Western Washtenaw. Come one Mr. Turner, you can do better for us. Otherwise, please retire and let someone else be our representative.

Rich Kinsey

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

That is a really bad idea. The citizens of Chelsea and the Chelsea Police Department would bear the brunt of that expense. When 15th District Court moved out of City Hall the first time, it wasted a lot of time for officers and detectives. It had been so easy when the court was in the same building--it really saved a lot of travel time. I am glad the court is back in the same complex as the police department. As for Chelsea, their police department is rather small and moving the court would mean officers adding an hour of drive time to every one of their court interactions. Furthermore the court is handy for Western Washtenaw County residents. The courtroom itself is also one of the most unique, stately and impressive in the state for a "small" courtroom. My only complaint of this fine courtroom is that the armed chairs near the prosecutor's table do not accommodate uniformed officer's gunbelts. This can cause some high comedy and perhaps an officer safety issue, if an officer stands too quickly.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

That's what we need another vacant building in downtown Chelsea.

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, May 24, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

yes, why build saline? duh.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

So, if court has one too many buildings, why were millions spent to build a new building in Saline? Another big waste of YOUR tax dollars.


Thu, May 24, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

This happened in Saline say ten years ago? Ask them how they liked it and how the officers of that region liked it as well as how often offenders got off due to officers inability to arrive to contest. If you notice, the court was re-built just a few years ago in Saline. I suggest any effort to close is tied to a condition to reopen by a given date and to start the allocation fund to do such.