Budget cuts force county closures during noon hour

State budget cuts have taken a lunchtime bite out of services provided by Jackson County Courts, officials say.

Effective Nov. 1, the Jackson County Circuit Court began limiting public services during the noon hour at the Justice Building, 100 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

Five of the seven public windows will be shuttered during noontime, said Jim Adams, Jackson County Circuit Court administrator. One accounting window and one window for civil cases will remain open for the public to make payments, enter pleas to minor traffic violations and file civil cases, including protective orders. All other court services, including phone service, will be discontinued during the noon hour, Adams said.

"It saddens me we are having to limit access to justice," said Adams. "But we just don't have the depth of staffing any more. We had to cut back on the noontime services."

Adams said substantial reductions in the state's operating revenues have resulted in staffing cuts and reduced operating expenses. The latest cuts lopped another 1.54 percent from the courts' budget, making a total loss of 11 percent since June 30, 2009, he said.

During the same time, the demand for court programs and the number of cases filed have generally increased, Adams said.

All state agencies' employees have been ordered to take between 10 and 14 days of unpaid furlough time. The combined effect of the staff reductions, budget cuts and furlough days required the reorganization of services, he said.

Another courts service cut earlier this year because of budget woes was the "facilitator program," which provided a self-help guide for those going through a divorce and needing to work out child-custody issues and visitation schedules, Adams said. Statistics show 80 percent of couples going through divorces are not represented by an attorney.

"That program was a way to help guide them," Adams said. "And if we're cut any deeper, we'll have to take a look at what other services we'll have to discontinue."

Sanne Specht is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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