Village asked to keep court open

The Northern New York Landlord Association is asking Massena village trustees to consider not dissolving village court when the current justice’s term expires in 2022. Bob Beckstead/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — A member of the Northern New York Landlord Association says they already face problems with the current changes to the eviction process, and there would be more problems if the village of Massena dissolved its court.

David LaBelle, who was accompanied by President Dennis Kemison, said they were at Tuesday’s Massena Village Board meeting on behalf of the Northern Landlord Association.

“There’s kind of an urgent matter for us coming up, the possible dissolution of the village court,” Mr. LaBelle told trustees. “The reason it’s a problem for us is, as most of you probably know, there were changes to state regulations governing rent evictions and so forth. We’re in a world of trouble already. We tried discussing with state officials what this was doing to us. We didn’t get any kind of positive response.”

He said the rent eviction process has been extended from four to six weeks up to 12 weeks, causing more issues for landlords.

Now, he said, if village court was dissolved and all cases were handled by the Massena Town Court, it would double the court’s workload. That would create more of a wait for legal issues that needed to be resolved.

“We’re asking if you could review this decision. We would ask to be informed of any ongoing deliberations in this matter as well. If we can’t gain some support at the local level, we’re in a world of trouble,” he said.

“We’re aware that it’s not on the agenda to do anything immediately. Like any people in business, we have to be able to project things into the future. In three years, four years, 10 years from now, this could make a difference,” Mr. LaBelle said.

Deputy Mayor Matthew J. LeBire suggested that, if village court was dissolved, another town justice could be added to take care of the extra workload.

“We certainly will contact you when and if that gets put on the agenda. We certainly appreciate your concerns and understand them,” Mayor Timmy J. Currier said.

A local government reorganization study had recommended merging the town and village courts, which can’t be done because of the geography of the village.

A portion of the town of Louisville is located in the village of Massena, and an opinion by the state Conference of Mayors regarding merging and dissolution of courts noted that it wasn’t permissible to merge the courts in New York when it involved multiple towns and villages.

That leaves dissolution as the alternative, but that cannot happen until the end of the current justice’s term.

The current justices are Joseph Brown and Eric Sharlow for the town court and Diana Dufresne for the village court. Mr. Brown also serves as acting village justice.

Ms. Dufresne had been appointed by the Village Board to replace Patrick Serguson following his retirement.

That term does not expire until 2022, and Ms. Dufresne has been nominated by the Massena Democratic Committee to run on this November’s ticket to finish out the term.

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