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January 31, 2013

Board votes to consolidate justice courts

By JIM AUSTIN
Cooperstown Crier

---- — 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.

“It’s a sizable number,” he said.

The consolidation would not take place until the end of the justice term in March 2014.

In other action, the board:

• accepted the low bid of $97,921 from Midstate Industries of Schenectady for the Doubleday Field grandstand roof project.

• approved a permit application for the use of Main Street from Fair Street to River Street for the second annual Growing Community Harvest Supper from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. The Fire Hall will be used in the event of rain.

“I am happy to do anything I can to make this happen again,” Katz said.

• agreed to solicit bids for pay-and-display machines for paid parking on Main and Pioneer streets.

• set a public hearing for February on changes to the residents’ responsibilities for snow removal on village sidewalks. One of the changes would increase the cost to have the village clear sidewalks to $100 per occurrence. It would also lower the threshold amount of snow that requires residents to clear the sidewalks from 6 inches to 2.5 inches.

• approved a resolution to formally open Linden Avenue to traffic from the village line to state Route 28.

• approved the conversion of four two-hour parking spaces to 15-minute spaces on the east side of Pioneer Street immediately north of Stagecoach Lane. The board heard from business people in that area who were in favor of the change. Mebust commented that the board has been adding 15-minute spaces and she would like to see a review of the usage of all the 15-minute spaces in the village.

• set a public hearing for February on a motion from Ellen Tillapaugh to extend paid parking on both sides of Pioneer Street from Stagecoach Lane to the end of the business district.