Register Of Deeds Office Could Relocate To Make Room For Public Defender

Plans are moving forward for office renovations to the Historic Howell Courthouse.

The Board of Commissioners recently approved a resolution appointing Karen Groenhout as the Livingston County Public Defender. Administrator Ken Hinton says the county originally had a Public Defender Administrator and all contract attorneys provided services. Groenhout’s position is consistent with the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission’s approved plan for indigent criminal defense, but Hinton says now the county will need to hire attorneys, a staff investigator, paralegals or administrative help as part of that. Hinton says they are targeting the end of the year to have attorneys hired that will handle misdemeanor offenses and representation of first appearance; however, the county will still contract attorneys for felony defense.

Hinton says the increase in staff and county employees meant additional space was needed for the Public Defender office. The county’s 2019-2024 Capital Improvement Plan includes renovations to the Register of Deeds office space in the Historic Howell Courthouse. The scope of the work includes relocating the Register of Deeds office to the third and fourth floors of the courthouse to allow the Public Defender office to occupy the lower level.

The full move of the Register of Deeds office, which includes furniture, fire-proof records storage, and carpet installation, is expected to cost about $95,000. $60,000 from the Capital Replacement Fund was previously appropriated in the county’s 2019 budget; leaving an additional $35,000 needed to complete the relocation of the Register of Deeds office. On Monday, the General Government and Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the transfer of the additional funds. The resolution must also receive approval from the Board of Commissioners. (DK)

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