Talks are underway exploring the possibility of criminal cases in The Dalles Municipal Court being turned over to Wasco County for handling, the Wasco County Commission heard March 6.

Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley told the commission no decisions have been made. Traffic tickets would still be handled by the city.

Nisley estimated the city court hears 200-300 criminal cases annually. One avenue being explored is whether to limit the number of cases the county chooses to prosecute.

“What we’d have to do is evaluate those cases and see whether or not some cases could go unprosecuted,” Nisley said. “That’s not something that would be decided quickly; any decision there would require a great deal of analysis.”

The idea of the municipal court closing is not new; Nisley had been approached by the city twice before about it. The feeling this time differs, however, he said.

“This is the third time the city has approached me about this issue,” said Nisley. “I get a feeling that they (the city) are more inclined to close the court down this time. I think the city attorney may be retiring, which plays a factor.”

Nisley mentioned a proposal from The Dalles to offer $80,000 to offset the workload increase for the county. Nisley recommended any such money be used to hire a paralegal to assist in handling the influx of cases and paperwork.

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