$5.9 Million Makeover Includes Court Room Expansion in Toms River
Toms River–Residents will soon see relief to the overcrowding problem at the Toms River Municipal Court. Currently, at scheduled court sessions, not all of the defendants can fit in the courtroom. Lines extend throughout the lobby and outside to the porch area, which has become a safety issue for the standing-room only crowd, waiting in long lines to see the judge, mostly for traffic violations or other summonses. The current capacity is 60 seats, but there can be anywhere from 75-150 cases heard for night court.
Toms River Township Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher says that the court addition is necessary because of the growth of the township. “The original court facility was part of the police headquarters and was dedicated in 1975. At that time, the Municipal Court facilities were more than adequate for the needs of the community. As time went on and the population increased, it was apparent that the facilities could not keep up with the growth,” Kelaher stated.
In addition to the lack of courtroom capacity, the volume of paperwork overwhelmed space available for clerical staff. “I’m sure the public understands that the Municipal Court has jurisdiction over all Motor Vehicle violations within the township including violations issued by the Toms River Police Department and the New Jersey State Police in the township and on the Garden State Parkway,” Kelaher added. The Municipal Court also has jurisdiction over local ordinance violations.
The new court room facility will expand the present courtroom capacity from 60 to 200 seats.
Township Engineer Robert J. Chankalian says “There will also be improved security features, the bathrooms will be updated, and the court clerk’s facilities will be expanded.” Chankalian adds, “The 1,500 square foot addition allows the office area to be increased so that the Judge has his own office and no longer shares space with the court administrator. The conference rooms for the prosecutor and public defender will be relocated right off of the lobby for easier access, and will also be enlarged. Lastly, the lobby will be increased in size and there will be a small waiting area for people with children.”
The Oak Avenue Municipal Court expansion, costing $2.6 million, is funded by an earlier bond ordinance as part of the 2010 capital budget and is one element of a three-part project. The Court Room Expansion, the new Animal Shelter & Police Department Façade Improvements will cost a combined total of $5.9 million. The repairs to the police department include replacing the wall panels on portions of the Police headquarters that leak and are causing water infiltration issues.
It is anticipated the court room renovations will be completed on or about October 2013.