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January 31, 2013

Board votes to consolidate justice courts

The board of trustees voted Monday to consolidate the village justice court with the town courts in Middlefield and Otsego. The vote came after only one comment was received during a public hearing earlier in the meeting.

The comment came from Lou Allstadt, a member of the Friends of 22 Main, a group involved in planning the rehabilitation of the municipal building.

Having the court in the building significantly reduces the space available to other activities, he said.

“It makes it harder to reorganize this floor,” Allstadt said.

By consolidating the courts, the village could avoid costs associated with providing appropriate space for the village court, he said.

Trustee Dr. Cynthia Falk told board members that while there may be some cost avoidance with consolidation of the courts, it would also mean they would not receive funding that is available from the Office of Court Administration for remodeling the court.

“The usage of the building is interesting, but I don’t think it is relevant to whether we want a village court. I do worry about losing that,” said Trustee Lynne Mebust, adding that she was disappointed they had not heard more from the public.

Mayor Jeff Katz said the minimal feedback he had received from the public had been positive. There doesn’t seem to be a strong attachment between the residents and the court, he said.

Village attorney Martin Tillapaugh said that because the village is in the towns of Otsego and Middlefield, people could be sent to one of the two courts, depending on where the incident takes place.

The board voted unanimously for the consolidation. Trustee Ellen Tillapaugh, whose husband Gary Kuch is the acting village justice, abstained.

The board’s decision is subject to permissive referendum. Village residents have the opportunity to petition to put the matter on the ballot for voters to decide. A petition must have the signatures of 20 percent of registered village voters, according to Tillapaugh.

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