Mecklenburg County wants second magistrate's office; will Charlotte join others to help with funding?

Help for domestic violence victims

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - From prosecutors to police to Mecklenburg County and Charlotte city leaders- domestic violence has been identified as a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

Now, a county official says he's "surprised" that a proposal to help lighten the caseload of magistrates in uptown Charlotte is getting a possible no from Charlotte.

"It is such a good deal I can't imagine why they wouldn't do it," said Commissioner Jim Puckett.

There's only one magistrate's office in Mecklenburg County. County officials say they would like to open a remote magistrate office in north Mecklenburg County.

"We don't have enough magistrates right now. It gets crowded downtown in the one magistrate's office that we have so having two separate location really does help splitting up the case load," Puckett said. "It also allows you to separate – if the domestic violence charge being charged – for example you could separate a husband and wife in two different magistrates' office and not have to put them together in a really hostile environment."

Puckett added, "there are a lot of victims I think are leery about leaving their homes and going all the way down to Charlotte for the time it takes. Whereas, if they just had to go to Huntersville they would be much more incline to seek the help they probably need."

According to Puckett, Huntersville Police Department would house the remote magistrate office. It would have five positions so that the office can stay open 24 hours a day.

Court officials would ask the state to fund three of those positions. Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson have agreed to team up and pay for another position. Mecklenburg County and city of Charlotte would each pitch in about $35,000 annually for the fifth position.

But Puckett says the county manager informed commissioners that Charlotte's city manager says he's not recommending it in his budget.

"Not frustrated. This is just part of the budget process and you have to set your priorities. It is a very small increment into the city budget with a very huge impact so I think it's just a matter of them not having full understanding of the details," said Puckett.

Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones told WBTV "there has been no decision made on that request at this time. We introduce the budget on the 7th of May and that's when we will have the different opportunities that come out in the budget."

Jones says "I talked to the county manager about some opportunities, some things we can do collaboratively and one of the things we talked about is the city can find additional funds for Safe Alliance but that's where we are right now. Still a fluid process."

"All of that is helpful because domestic violence is on the rise, but this is just one of those issues where it has an immediate impact the day we open the office," Puckett said.

Puckett says he hoping Mayor Vi Lyles and other council members come to understand the importance of helping fund the position so they can open the second magistrate's office.

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