The Skagit County Board of Commissioners approved four temporary positions Wednesday to address a backlog in the justice system caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These positions will be paid for with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The positions — a superior court commissioner, a deputy prosecuting attorney, a legal assistant and a district court probation officer — will hopefully speed up the filing and processing of cases, county Commissioner Lisa Janicki said.

The court commissioner position was approved for three years, and the other positions through 2022.

Together, these positions will use about $500,000 per year of the county’s $25 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, which is designed to be used to respond to the pandemic.

The relief funding for these positions can only be used as long as there is a pandemic-related backlog, said Deputy County Administrator Kayla Schott-Bresler.

The commissioners also discussed the decision to fund a $93,379-per-year environmental health specialist to help with COVID-19 education at least through 2022, and agreed to pay $25,000 to the Edison Clean Water District to fund a study on water intrusion into the wastewater system.

So far, about $22 million in relief funding has been committed.

Pandemic-related suspension of judicial proceedings over the past 18 months have built up a backlog of cases, and those in the county’s law and justice systems have told the commissioners they need help addressing the backlog.

Schott-Bresler said these new positions will likely identify other bottlenecks in the justice system, and the commissioners may have to fund positions in the Public Defender’s Office or Clerk’s Office so they can keep pace with the offices benefiting from the new hires.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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