Today will be a busy day at the polls and for Effingham County commissioners.
Commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. for a series of workshops, including a proposed alcohol ordinance, cost benefit analysis of the Effingham Prison, a possible noise ordinance and a proposal on combining the probate and magistrate courts.
One of the issues is whether the new judge created by combining the two offices have a certain amount of qualifications. For a county with a population of at least 96,000, probate court judges must be an attorney who has practiced law for seven years.
The issue first came before the commissioners at their Jan. 3 meeting. County staff talked with the probate judge Frances Seckinger and chief magistrate Preston Exley.
“They felt the responsibilities of the two offices were too different,” then-county administrator Ed Williams said at the Jan. 3 meeting.
Magistrate courts issue warrants, hear minor criminal offenses and civil claims of $15,000 or less. Many county ordinance violations, cases between landlords and tenants and bad checks come before magistrates. Magistrates also hold preliminary hearings and issue search warrants and arrest warrants.
Civil cases argued in front of magistrates are usually done by the parties and not by attorneys.
Probate courts have jurisdiction over wills and the administration of estates. Probate judges can commit incapacitated individuals to a hospital or appoint legal guardians for people. They also issue marriage and firearms licenses.
More than 20 counties have combined the probate and magistrate offices, Williams said, and all but one has a population of under 15,000. Newton County, east of Atlanta and with a population of 91,000, has combined the two offices.
Commissioners also will go over a contract proposal from Saussy Engineering for repairs to the sheriff’s administration building and the jail. They also will consider naming Assistant County Administrator David Crawley as the interim county administrator and county planner George Shaw as the interim zoning administrator.