Washington Court House Municipal Court Judge Vic Pontious is running for re-election in the judicial race Nov. 7.
When asked why he wants to continue serving as municipal court judge, Pontious said he wants to support the community.
“I hope to be able to develop the programs we have. We are working with good programs but we continue to modify and work with them and try to make them better than they are now,” said Pontious.
The court receives over $100,000 a year in funding from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said Pontious.
Prior to 2015, Pontious said the court received just $4,700 a year.
“We were audited in 2015 by the ODRC, which monitors the probation departments in Ohio. After that audit they said we did very well and asked us if we wanted or needed anything,” said Pontious. Pontious said yes and said the court needed another probation officer.
“They gave us additional grant funding — over $70,000. In 2015 we hired another probation officer so that has helped a lot,” said Pontious.
There have been about 1,000 more criminal and traffic cases filed this year in the municipal court, according to Pontious. With another two months remaining in the year, Pontious said over 5,200 cases were filed in the court by the end of September. In 2016, the total number of cases filed was 5,118 cases.
“We have over 800 people on probation,” said Pontious.
Pontious said he attributes the rise in the number of cases filed in court this year to increased enforcement and the hiring of additional officers at the Washington C.H. Police Department.
Some of those 800 people on probation are performing community service and Pontious said each year about 20,000 hours of community service are performed in the city.
“Last year, there was about 40,000 hours of community service performed,” said Pontious. He said the court probationers have performed community service across the city in a variety of different ways. For example, probationers have been sent to clear snow from the sidewalks and driveways of elderly people who signed up with the aging commission.
Along with community service, Pontious said he has implemented an evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy called Thinking for a Change.
“This past summer [the ODRC] audited us again. That was a little bit concerning because we heard the ODRC was going to cut programs that were not working well, and continue to fund the programs that were working. What they did was they decided to continue funding us at 100 percent for another two years,” said Pontious.
He said the ODRC has shared how the court uses the behavioral therapy with other courts throughout Ohio.
“We have been awarded by the ODRC. I see it as, they’re looking at us and saying, ‘You’re doing great’ but I think we need to stay in front of that and keep working with that and also, work with other community groups. I like the idea of working with the prevention, the offensive team, the schools, the churches. And of course we’re working with law enforcement, we talk with law enforcement every day about these things. And of course treatment. So the court actually works with all three, and I think the court has an important role with all three,” said Pontious.
Pontious faces off against a local attorney, Steve Eckstein, in the upcoming judicial election. In this year’s Republican primary election, Pontious defeated Susan Wollscheid.
Reach Ashley by phone at (740) 313-0355 or connect on Twitter by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton