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St. Croix again asks for fourth judge

Citing new statistics, the St. Croix County Board voted Tuesday to renew its request for a fourth judge.

In 2005 when the county first asked the state for another judge, a caseload analysis indicated St. Croix should have 4.4 judges, but numbers updated at the end of 2006 bring that to 4.76, said Judge Scott Needham.

"The matter, in our opinion, has become more critical," said Needham, speaking for himself and the county's two other judges.

A recent study indicated the state needs 18 more circuit court judges, and St. Croix was ranked 11th in need, said Needham.

He said the state's chief judges are asking the Legislature for seven more judges, including one for St. Croix County.

Judges and their court reporters are paid by the state, which also allocates funds to help fund county courts. But if the county gets another judge, it must commit to provide facilities and support staff.

The clerk of court will no doubt ask for more staff, and extra equipment and furniture will be needed, said County Board Chairman Buck Malick. He said that it's doubtful the county could reduce the number of court commissioners, and the amount of fines and fees collected won't likely increase when another judge is added.

"The commitment (to pay extra court costs) would be at the expense of things the county might otherwise do," said Malick. "It would be foolhardy to assume otherwise."

The Government Center already has four courtrooms so another is not needed, added Needham.

Time-off donations

In other business, the board approved a policy that will allow employees to donate unused paid time off to fellow workers who have used all their PTO due to their own or a family member's life-threatening health problems.

The policy will permit workers to donate unused PTO in minimum increments of two hours. Each employee can donate up to 12 hours a year.

Although requests for participation in the program will be confidential, PTO contributors will specify who may use their donation.

Finance Director Michelle Pietrick said the program shouldn't cost the county more money than it would have paid anyway. Departments budget 2080 hours of pay annually for each fulltime worker. That includes time-off pay. Each employee is allowed to accrue up to 320 hours, a bank that can be cashed out at retirement.

The change was prompted when county workers looked for ways to help jailer David Dykes, whose infant son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Non-union employees may begin donating PTO now, but unions must approve the policy before their members can participate.