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updated: 1/18/2012 7:06 PM

Weekend Cook County court closings under scrutiny

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A proposal to have Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans present alternatives to closing the county's suburban courthouses on weekends is headed for a county board committee debate.

The county board Wednesday moved the issue to a future committee meeting instead of voting on the measure outright.

The proposal calls for Evans to present cost studies of alternatives by March 1. Board President Toni Preckwinkle said even with the delay, that timeline is still feasible if the board chooses to move forward. Preckwinkle supports the plan to consolidate all weekend court business to the courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue on Chicago's southwest side.

The county estimates the change would save $1.9 million this year.

"We accepted the chief judge's budget proposal and continue to support that effort," Preckwinkle said after Wednesday's board meeting. "It's expensive to keep all those courthouses open on the weekends."

The plan calls for courthouses in Rolling Meadows, Markham, Skokie, Bridgeview and Maywood to close on Saturdays and Sundays. Currently, only Bridgeview has been closed on weekends; no exact date for weekend closure has been set for the others. An eclectic bipartisan group of commissioners is seeking alternatives to full closures.

Suburban law enforcement officials have complained about time, cost and safety issues they claim would result from having to transport arrestees from the suburbs to the city every Saturday and Sunday.

However, Preckwinkle said the new system Evans and his staff have implemented seems to be working well. She said now police officers can drop off weekend arrestees and don't have to stay with them in court throughout the bond hearing process.

No date for the committee hearing has been set.

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