Massena officials discuss court dissolution

Eric Sharlow takes the oath of office for town justice during a recent Massena Town Council meeting. Village officials are looking at dissolving their court, leaving the Massena Town Court to handle the cases inside the village. Bob Beckstead/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Massena village officials continue to discuss one of the recommendations of a local government reorganization study, even though it will be some time before they can act on it — the dissolution of the village court in Massena.

“We’ve been talking about this for a while. It’s been on the back burner for a couple of months for obvious reasons,” Mayor Timmy J. Currier told trustees Tuesday. “There are two ways to (dissolve village court), resolution or pass a local law. There really is no good mechanism to merge courts.”

The town and village courts are currently operated jointly in Massena. But merging the village and town courts wasn’t possible. An opinion by the New York State Conference of Mayors regarding merging and dissolution noted that it wasn’t permissible to merge the courts in New York when it involved multiple towns and villages.

The local complication is that a portion of the town of Louisville is located in the village of Massena, so their only option is to look at dissolution of the village court.

As a result, once the village court was dissolved, West Massena residents would no longer be included in the town court’s jurisdiction area. Since West Massena is in Louisville, those residents would have to attend Louisville Town Court.

Complicating things further is that village court can only be dissolved at the end of a village justice’s term. 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. Serguson’s term was set to expire in 2022. Mr. Brown also serves as acting village justice.

During a previous meeting, Mr. Currier had shared some of the costs of operating the village court, and it 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.

Mr. Currier said Treasurer Kevin Felt has provided a preliminary number of how much the village would save by dissolving the court. Trustees will receive more information for an upcoming meeting.

“As soon as we get that information, we’ll give it to you in advance of the meeting,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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