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November 25, 2014

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New entrance for traffic court to cut lines at Justice Center

Long lines stretching from the Regional Justice Center and along Third Street in downtown Las Vegas are common, a byproduct of tight security.

Even those simply wanting to pay a traffic fine must take off their shoes and empty their pockets before passing through metal detectors.

That could change soon with construction of a separate entrance to the traffic court customer service windows that would allow almost half of visitors to the courthouse to bypass the long security lines.

The $820,000 project received the go-ahead from the Clark County Commission today as part of a $29 million capital budget approved unanimously.

There’s no timeline for completion of the new entrance. But County Manager Don Burnette told commissioners that when finished, it could reduce the number of people going through the main security checkpoint by up to 40 percent.

The new space would be modeled after the marriage license bureau office that’s also at the courthouse but has a separate entrance that doesn’t have access to other parts of the building.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani applauded the changes as a much needed improvement to cut down on lines and stop wasting people’s time. Still, she said, she’d like to see other options explored to allow people looking to pay a traffic fine to skip the courthouse entirely.

“Why in the heck do we make people that get a traffic fine have to risk losing their job by standing down there for hours?” she said. “Why don’t we have a different way of being able to pay it online, by check, by app, by something rather than making people do a cattle call?”

A total of 24 capital projects were funded as part of the budget approved today, including $2.7 million for rehabilitation at several parks, $8 million for information technology infrastructure and $3.1 million for non-routine maintenance at county buildings.

The total $29 million in capital funding comes mostly from savings the county received after renegotiating workers compensation payments in its most recent contract with firefighters.

It’s the first time the county has had money to devote to capital projects in more than two years due to steep budget cuts brought on by the recession, but it pales in comparison to the county’s needs.

“Across the entire organization, we should be spending $60 million to $70 million per year on capital just to keep up with depreciation of our assets,” Burnette said. “Obviously, $29 million is nowhere near that, and it’s coming after several years of no capital.”

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