Closing village court mulled

Eric Sharlow takes the oath of office for town justice during a recent Massena Town Council meeting. He was accompanied by his wife, Debbie. Justice Joseph Brown administered the oath. A recent dissolution study recommended merging the town and village courts in Massena. Bob Beckstead/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — A dissolution study prepared for the village and town of Massena recommends combining town and village courts. But, Mayor Timmy J. Currier said, it’s not that simple.

He told village trustees this week that the New York State Conference of Mayors had issued a number of opinions regarding merging and dissolution.

“When it’s multiple towns and villages, it’s not permissible (to merge) in New York state,” Mr. Currier said.

He said the local complication was that a portion of the town of Louisville was in the village of Massena.

As a result, he said their only option was to look at the dissolution of the village court.

Mr. Currier said the town and village courts are currently operated jointly. The current town justices are Joseph Brown and Eric Sharlow. The village justice is Diana Dufresne, who had been appointed by the Village Board to replace Patrick Serguson. Mr. Brown also serves as acting village justice.

Mr. Currier said if one justice is off the other justice will cover for him or her. If someone has a question, they can contact either justice to get an answer.

Looking at financials, however, he said operating the village court has cost more than it has brought in for revenue.

For 2018-19, the cost was $115,561 and the revenue was $53,179, meaning a balance of $62,382. In 2017-18, the cost was $114,350 and the revenue was $41,477, leaving a balance of $72,873.

Although they could not merge the courts, Mr. Currier said they could look at dissolution of the village court. But, under state law, that can only be done at the end of a justice’s term. Mr. Serguson’s term was set to expire in 2022.

“So we couldn’t pass a resolution tonight and shut the court down tomorrow,” he said. “I will be providing more information and ask you to consider it. We’re serious at looking at the recommendations of the (dissolution) study and doing something. We’re looking at those and we’re talking to staff as we go.”

Mr. Currier said that although they had downsized so they weren’t doing too many things with too many people, “we have to look at ways to shrink the size of village government.”

Deputy Mayor Matthew J. LeBire said, by taking steps now, they were simplifying how much would need to be done if the village were to eventually dissolve.

“By doing any of these things now, not only is it simplifying things, we’re saving money as well. It’s one less complication when and if it actually comes,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(1) comment


Do it no excuses. Consolidate police into the county sheriffs dept..No more of all this management and sky rocketing costs to run a village police. Sheriff can hire some of the current police from villages. This would be real savings and help Villages like Massena get more done. Way it is the well is drying up. Do your job to save taxpayers from paying taxes or getting medicine.

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