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Town wants village help for safer court


CHATHAM–The Town Board wants to make repairs and upgrades to the Town Court, and because the courtroom the town uses is in a building owned by the Village of Chatham, the town needs the permission of the village to do the work.

At its regular meeting last week the Town Board adopted a resolution requesting authorization from the village to make the changes in the second-floor space it rents from the village at the Tracy Memorial. The building houses village government and both the town and village courts. Both town justices attended the December 19 meeting, saying that for safety reasons they want bulletproof glass doors and a window for the court clerk, as well repairs to the fire escape.

Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said he would draft a letter to Village Mayor Tom Curran. The town currently pays $1,500 a month to the Tracy Memorial Foundation to use the space. “Quite frankly, I don’t know why we are paying them anything,” Mr. DeGroodt said.

Town Justice Jason Shaw said that the court moved into the building decades ago with certain understandings involving safety. “Part of the understanding was that there were police downstairs; now there are no police downstairs,” Judge Shaw said. The village Police Department is headquartered on the first floor of the Tracy Memorial, but it recently shifted to a part-time operation.

A deputy from the county Sheriff’s Office is present as a court officer when Town Court is in session, but Judge Shaw said the deputy has a lot to do and can’t watch the doors. “We have 70 or 80 people who come to court from all over who don’t have to go through a metal detector,” said the judge.

The fire escape is also a major issue, making the building out of compliance with code. Judge Shaw said the fire escape had been discussed for months and he asked the board to draft a resolution to address the two safety issues and “let the village know what’s coming.”

The resolution the board drafted with the advice of Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea says that in lieu of paying rent the town would make the upgrades to the building, which is also used for the Village Court.

Board member Henry Swartz said he would talk to the Sheriff’s Office about safety measures that should be taken at the building, and he would also like to talk with the private security firm that installed surveillance cameras at Town Hall.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to do what we have to do,” said board member Jean Rohde, of the upgrades.

Earlier this year the board discussed construction of a new building at Crellin Park to house both the Recreation Department and the Town Court. Supervisor DeGroodt said that idea is still in the preliminary stages and though a committee working on it had met earlier that evening, the town does not yet have a plan to move the court.

At the meeting the board did discuss putting up a pavilion for the recreation program at by the pond at Crellin. Recreation Director Shari Franks said the old pavilion had to be torn down because it wasn’t graded properly.

Also last week the board appointed Ms. Franks deputy town clerk. The new position comes with no raise for Ms. Franks, just an added job title. Town Clerk Beth Ann Rippel said that the job of recreation director will be part of Ms. Franks’ duties as deputy clerk.

The board got information on energy from two different companies at the meeting. Michael Rogol of Photon Consulting discussed solar energy, telling the board, “I don’t think Chatham should adopt solar panels.” He said that panels are expensive and the town might not see a return on its investment in them.

Pat Manning, from Viridian Energy, had a different energy-saving pitch for the board. His company offers green energy through local service companies like NYSEG. Mr. Manning, a former assemblyman, said he has worked with several municipalities in Columbia County, pointing out that Hudson now uses Viridian and “is the first 100% wind powered city that I can find.” He said the energy bills for Town Hall and the Highway Department indicate to him that the town could save about 7% using his company as the electric power supply source. NYSEG would still continue to deliver the power and maintain the lines.

The board did not make any decisions on energy at the meeting.

The next Town Board meeting will be the organizational meeting Thursday, January 2 at 6 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com.


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