As far as Macomb Township is concerned, the 41-A District Court will remain in Shelby Township.
Citing Shelby’s lack of assurance in regard to claiming responsibility for the court’s legacy costs (retiree health care), the Macomb Township board of trustees voted to close the and dissolve the finance and construction committees created during relocation talks at Wednesday's meeting.
“We found out that there is a liability for the cost of employee pension health care–retiree health care–and that retiree health care is a considerable amount of money,” said Clerk Michael Koehs. “All we wanted was to say that if Macomb Township built a new courthouse and we opened it up on Jan. 1, 2020, that’s the day we would start being responsible for (any costs) incurred after that date. Before that date it’s the current control unit’s responsibility, which is Shelby.”
Some 14 months after relocation talks began, Koehs said he has still not received anything from Shelby Township that acknowledges its responsibility for these costs.
“We did not want to end up in a court battle when they refused to pay it, saying that it’s (our) responsibility because (we) have the courthouse and running the risk of the judge saying, ‘Well Macomb, you took the courthouse so now you have responsibility for the thing and now the bill is yours,' so our people are now responsible for paying it," he said.
Koehs added that without confirmation that the costs run up by Shelby would not be passed on with relocation, as far as Macomb Township is concerned, the project has been terminated.
This decision was met with some confusion by Shelby Township Treasurer Paul Viar, who said it was his understanding that Shelby had agreed to pay the legacy costs but was waiting for negotiations with court employees to be finalized before naming the legacy cost total.
“The press seems to know more than the people in it,” Viar said. “How in the world can we make legacy costs when we have no idea what they are?"
Koehs said although the project has been closed and the committees dissolved, should Shelby offer a resolution supporting relocation or give confirmation on the cost issue, the project would be reopened and the committees reinstated.
“We’re not trying to pressure Shelby, we’re just saying, we’re not going to keep this floating,” Koehs said.
Shelby Township Trustee Lisa Manzella said while she has always felt the court should remain in Shelby, she understands Macomb's frustration on this issue.
"They are accustomed to making decisions and finding solutions in an efficient
manner," Manzella said. "The ball is back in our court. We need to solve the problem, not be the problem."
Initial relocation talks were sparked when 41-A District Court judges approached Macomb Township and asked if the township would be in any position to help secure a safer facility. As Macomb could not enhance Shelby Township’s property, Koehs said building a new courthouse was the only option.
Within a month, the city of Utica had offered a resolution stating its support of relocation, but to date, Shelby has made no such resolution.