Council meetings won’t relocate

Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — City Council meetings will be staying right where they are now.

Council members had no interest in moving their meetings down to the first floor when the new city court facilities are finished in City Hall.

Earlier this month, City Manager Rick Finn said plans were to move council chambers down to the first floor where a second courtroom will be added.

But he confirmed on Monday night that council members wanted to stay put.

“It’s up to council,” he said.

The state Office of Court Administration said it would have allowed the city to share the new first-floor city court facilities for council meetings and other public meetings held in the Washington Street building.

The city manager said it was discussed when court officials were in town to discuss the project, so council members should have been aware of the situation.

Looking back at how it came up, Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said she and her colleagues were given the relocation as an option. They were taken by surprise a decision had been made.

“It was an idea to share space if we needed more space,” she said.

The state court administration is pushing the state-mandated project because it requires separate courtrooms for each of the two full-time city judges.

The project is projected to cost the city about $3 million. A consultant is designing the project, which will go out to bid in December of next year. Construction is slated for the spring of 2021.

The public will have to go through security scanning equipment to get into City Hall after renovations are completed. State court officials were adamant about security for the entire building.

The state is working with the city to allow for security during council meetings. A city police officer might be trained to run the security equipment, Mr. Finn said.

State court officials said the city can still use the new court facilities if there’s an instance when the elevator is out and people cannot get up to the third floor, Mr. Finn said.

He had been worried about that situation occurring.

Once plans are finalized, City Hall will undergo a major reconfiguration. Plans call for turning the second floor into a customer service center with the codes office taking over the already departed water department and the city clerk being located in the same proximity. The second courtroom will be located on the first floor.

Court administration officials also have said the second courtroom is needed for separate opioid and veteran courts and for additional domestic violence cases that the city’s two City Court judges will handle.

The court project has been in the works for several years.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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