Pitch to offer van services for court appearances met with lukewarm response

By Jean Matheson


Some Walworth County officials are concerned with what they say are the growing number of people with suspended or revoked drivers’ licenses who persist on driving anyway.

At a meeting of the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee on July 20, two officials proposed establishing van service to take these people to Elkhorn for court appearances.

Dr. David Thompson, deputy director of the county’s Health and Human Services Department, and Clerk of Circuit Courts Sheila Reiff suggested that, as a start, the buses serve people in Delavan and Lake Geneva.

The proposal received a lukewarm reception from committee members.

Circuit Judge Robert Kennedy said people usually receive a week or more notice for a court appearance – plenty of time to find a ride.

“All you’re going to do is give them a ride to the courthouse,” he said of the bus transportation proposal. “When they get home, they’re going to drive away.”

Kennedy said he had observed people park their cars in the parking lot of Lakeland Medical Center, across the street from the courts building, hoping to avoid being spotted as having driven to court illegally.

Sheriff David Graves, however, said he was generally “positive” about the van proposal if it could free his deputies from having to chase down illegal drivers and, instead, concentrate on more important responsibilities such as court security.

Graves said the problem remains of people ignoring court orders on driving.

“The judge says you can’t drive and they will walk right out and drive away,” he said.

County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell said she could foresee people just driving to the van pickup spots in Delavan and Lake Geneva and parking there.

Asked how much van service would cost, Thompson said he had no exact figure.

But, he said his department could provide two vans and people to drive them and he would come up with an estimate on other costs.

The committee said it would explore the van-to-court proposal at future meetings.


Officials consider creating law against public intoxication

Also expected on the agenda at future meetintgs will be a suggestion by Thompson that the county or various municipalities in the county explore enacting ordinances to deal with public intoxication.

Thompson said he had met recently with officials in Jefferson and Dodge counties to discuss ordinances that would “save money for hospitals, police departments and local officials.”

The city of La Crosse, for instance, in 2007 adopted an ordinance that prohibits conduct associated with public intoxication and provides penalties for such conduct, he said.

According to the ordinance, La Crosse “annually experiences individuals who are victims of criminal damage to property, sexual assault, domestic violence, battery, accidental drowning and/or homicide related to persons in the state of intoxication.”

People found violating the ordinance are, on a first offense, issued a warning if they agree to complete an alcohol education program sponsored by the police department.

A second and subsequent violations would bring a $400 fine, plus costs.

Several committee members suggested that, as a pilot program, such an ordinance be tried first in Whitewater, which is similar to La Crosse in being the site of a University of Wisconsin campus.

“Whitewater might be a good parallel to La Crosse,” said County Administrator David Bretl.

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