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Verdict: Court Sevices Return to Watsonville

Traffic court will gets the green light in January; misdemeanor court convenes in July.

will reopen in Watsonville in 2012, city and court officials announced Thursday.

"This will also provide greater service and convenience to residents of Watsonville and South County," Watsonville Mayor Daniel Dodge said in a prepared statement. "It will improve public safety by allowing our Watsonville police officers to stay closer to Watsonville and less time out of service."

Dodge, other city officials and court leaders met Thursday to discuss bringing adult court services that were axed in Watsonville last summer back to the state-of-the-art courthouse that opened less than four years ago.

During the meeting, Presiding Judge Almquist announced that Traffic Court will be restored to the downtown Watsonville courts in January 2012. Misdemeanor court services will be restored to the downtown Watsonville courts in July 2012. All current services in the downtown Civic Plaza court facilities will be retained including: Family Law, Self-help Center, Small Claims, Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile Dependency.

Court operations in Watsonville were altered dramatically in July 2010, when traffic, misdemeanor and felony cases were eliminated from the facility. The change relocated all juvenile and family law matters to Watsonville, an effort that was part of a $1.9 million cost-cutting measure.

Local officials railed against the decision to shift court services to Santa Cruz since the proposal was announced about 18 months ago. The Watsonville Police Department, in particular, has been against the change, citing problems getting witnesses to court and the time commitment required of officers who must go all the way to Santa Cruz to testify.

Dodge stated bringing court services back to Watsonville has been a personal goal since he was elected.

“This will help save our community members and police officers from having to make the sometime hour-long trip to Santa Cruz," Dodge said in a prepared statement. "Our downtown businesses will benefit with more court employees and residents in the downtown area."

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