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Dixon to roll out municipal court this summer

DIXON – The city plans to move forward with establishing a municipal court following delays from the coronavirus pandemic.

The City Council began discussing creating a municipal court about a year ago to address code, building and some vehicle violations through a quasi-judicial process with the goal of cutting down on legal fees, bringing in more revenue and increasing code compliance, as well as making enforcement easier.

The court was going to roll out earlier this year, and city Building Official Tim Shipman said they're ready to start the process and likely launch the program in July.

The hope is that violations will be remedied faster, without having to go through the formal court system.

"We think we're going to get more compliance from this," Shipman said.

Similar to Sterling and Rock Falls, the municipal court will be for noncriminal violations that can be wrapped up in one administrative hearing rather than a lengthy court process; fines that aren’t paid will be sent to collections or to circuit court.

It also will handle nonmoving traffic violations, housing, building and zoning code violations, and engineering and health safety violations.

Attorney Paul Whitcombe was appointed administrative hearing officer; he will have the authority to issue determinations in the municipal court.

The backup hearing officer is retired Whiteside County Circuit Court Judge Tim Slavin, who's been hearing officer for the Sterling-Rock Falls municipal court since it started in 2010. Both will be paid $750 a day.

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