Earlier this week, Special District Judge Sandy Crosslin and District Court Clerk Lesa Rousey announced a plan to help area residents who owe fines and are desperately trying to figure out how to pay them without winding up behind bars or with underwater credit scores.

Their program could be a godsend for hundreds of people, and these two women – and anyone else involved – should be commended with every sigh of relief breathed across the region.

A quick look at the On-Demand Court Reports site (www.odcr.com) reveals the names of countless area residents who have racked up finds and in many cases are the subject of warrants for failure to pay. Many are good people who may have had an unfortunate encounter with the law – maybe something as basic as a speeding ticket – but because of financial straits, couldn't afford to pay the fine. And in many cases, they simply haven't known how to proceed, or where to turn, without making their circumstances more dire.

On Friday, March 6, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., these folks can get their situations squared away with the court system, by dropping by the third floor of the county courthouse. It probably won't be difficult for a person unfamiliar with the setting to find the precise spot; it'll be the one where dozens of apprehensive-looking fellow citizens are waiting.

But Crosslin wanted it made clear that, despite the scary-sounding listing of a "warrant," those who show up that day have nothing to fear. They won't be picked up, they won't be cuffed and stuffed in jail. They'll just get help setting up a payment plan so they can put these particular problems behind them. She did stress that if they get into trouble with the law again before this date, all bets are off, since their warrants are already outstanding. In other words, be careful when driving to the courthouse, and keep your noses clean between now and then!

The payment plans will be established according to individual budgets, and Crosslin and Rousey and anyone else involved can be trusted to be reasonable and listen to the concerns of those affected. Employment status and other concerns will be taken into account, as well as family circumstances.

Being in debt – especially in a manner that runs one afoul of the law – is never fun, and it's always a source of terrible stress. This is the best opportunity in a long while to set things right in a relatively painless manner. If you or anyone you know could benefit from this relief plan, spread the word. It will be worth your time.

All Cherokee County residents should all be grateful for these public officials, who are going above and beyond the call to make life better for all of us.

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