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City Council meets together on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, as Councilman Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, listens in on the Council's topics at hand.

City Council: Fine and fee equity in courts ordinance passed

Athens City Council passed a one-reading ordinance and an ordinance that authorizes the construction of pickleball and tennis courts at its meeting Monday.

Council unanimously passed a one-reading ordinance that will support the Athens County Municipal Court in applying to participate in the “cities and counties for fine and fee justice” cohort for 2022-23. 

The ordinance will enable the court system to look into its fine and fee structure to ensure equality within the system, and Athens would be one of five cities to buy into the cohort, Council President Chris Knisely said. 

Councilman Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, questioned the purpose of the ordinance given the state currently has provisions that allow judges to exercise their expertise and take into account someone's ability to pay a fine or fee. 

“This is more about setting the social justice impact and ways to adjust and moderate court costs in a way so that it is equitable and to better ascertain how to make those adjustments in the most sustainable and fair way,” Councilwoman Sarah Grace, D-At Large, said. 

The pickleball and tennis courts ordinance was first introduced Feb. 14, but its passing was delayed due to budget reasons. According to a previous Post report, the initial ordinance requested $250,000 be appropriated for the project. According to the recently-passed ordinance, the city is now authorized to spend up to $328,500 for the construction of the courts, which will be allocated from two separate funds.

Swank urged the city to listen to local residents before beginning construction and said there is a disconnect between the plans for the project and what the “pickleball community” has said it needs. 

“The pickleball community is telling us we don't need lights, yet there are lights in those plans. The pickleball community ideally would like the tennis courts and the pickleball courts at one complex, but they're not,” Swank said. “We talk about increasing tourism in this town and pickleball is a way to do that, … yet we're not going to construct tournament-ready pickleball courts because of space limitations.” 

Despite raising those concerns, Swank voted to pass the ordinance. However, Solveig Spjeldnes, D-1st Ward, voted against the ordinance, though she did not provide reasoning behind that decision at the meeting. 

@mollywmarie

mw542219@ohio.edu 

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