SMRYNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – It has been a heated debate that has been playing out in Smyrna, and taxpayers are at the center.
During a Town Council meeting this week, councilmembers voted to give residents the right to decide whether to maintain funding the Smyrna General Sessions Court or move the functions to Rutherford County.
“The decision you’re making is to shut down our local General Sessions Court which would require officers to also go to Murfreesboro to take out the warrants and to attend court; neither of these things are happening today in Murfreesboro,” argued one resident during the open comment period.
The concerns about the court began after new Smyrna Police Chief Jason Irvin took office in 2022, according to Mayor Mary Esther Reed.
“Some of the main concerns is the safety and liability of our police officers. Currently, our officers transport the inmates to and from the county jail in Murfreesboro to our Smyrna General Sessions Court, as well as they have to book the inmate, they have to serve warrants, and extradite the criminals and by moving this back to Rutherford County, it’s going to eliminate that concern for our police officers,” said Reed in a phone interview.
However, many residents raised concerns and questions about the possibilities during the council meeting.
“Several of you have still tried to say that General Sessions is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year; this is just false,” said another resident.
Right now, Smyrna is in a unique position as the only municipality in the county that operates its own General Sessions Court, while Murfreesboro, La Vergne, and Eagleville use the Rutherford County court system.
“Having our own general sessions court might make us different from other Rutherford County communities and other communities in the state, but that’s a difference that I welcome because it makes Smyrna a better place to live,” said one resident.
“Based on these findings, I believe it is crucial to provide our citizens with the opportunity
to decide whether they want to continue funding a duplicated general sessions court
system. Currently, Smyrna residents are paying both town and county taxes to support the
Smyrna General Sessions Court,” said Reed.
In a 5-2 vote, the council is putting the decision in the voter’s hands. Residents will now decide if they want the town to eliminate the general sessions court for criminal cases.
“We have to make a vote based on what we think 55,000 citizens want us to do. We have to make that choice. This time, we don’t have to do that. They can go to the ballot box and cast for themselves what do you want to see done, and guess what, if they say we want to keep the general sessions court, that’s what we’re going to do, but if they say to us, ‘This is not an expense that we want our tax dollars going to,’ then we are going to move on to the next step in the process,” Reed said to the crowd of residents during the Town Council meeting.
If residents decide to turn over the general sessions court, the money that is freed up would go to adding additional police officers on the streets.
The municipal court will continue to operate and serve the people of Smyrna.