CHATHAM – The future of Town Court was on the Town Board agenda last week as the board discussed continuing to use the Tracy Memorial Village Hall and the possibility of building new courtroom facilities as an addition to the current Town Hall on Route 295.
At the regular meeting last Thursday, January 16, with village Mayor Tom Curran and village Business Administrator Barbara Henry in the audience, Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said he supported asking the town’s engineering firm to look into expanding the current Town Hall to make room for the court. “I think we are sitting on a pretty good building right here,” he said of Town Hall.
Board member Bob Balcom suggested a resolution that would start the process of a Town Hall expansion, but his motion also included looking into upgrades at the Tracy Memorial in the village.
Mr. DeGroodt said he only supported the expansion of Town Hall at this time.
The supervisor mentioned several times that the village needed to work out its relationship with the Tracy Foundation, which controls a trust set up by the Tracy family in the 1920s to help the village maintain the Tracy Memorial, commonly known as the Tracy. Until two weeks ago the Tracy Foundation received monthly rent payments from the town for use the second floor courtroom and offices.
It was only in the last month that the Village Board learned that the village, not the Tracy Foundation, has always owned the building century-old building. But the foundation had acted as landlord, collecting lease payments and paying for maintenance of the brick structure that houses village government including the Chatham Village Police Department as well as Town Court.
At the January 9 Village Board meeting, the Tracy Foundation gave the village $129,000 in back rent. The Village Board’s lawyer is now working on a new lease for the Town Court facilities at the Tracy. Town Attorney Tal Rappelyea to his board January 16 that he had not yet seen the proposed lease. The last lease between the foundation and the town expired in 2006.
“It’s a beautiful building,” said Board member Maria Lull. Though she acknowledged there were issues to work out for the both municipalities to continue using the building, she said, “If we can help the village by continuing to be tenants, that would wonderful.”
For the time being, the Town Court has to remain at the Tracy and the town will rent the space from the village. The town is paying for installation of security doors, a monitoring system and a panic button that would alert authorities if there was an immediate security issue for the clerks and the judges. The total cost on those security measures would be about $5,600. Supervisor DeGroodt suggested at the meeting that the village would pay to install the doors.
Mr. DeGroodt also said that the town is willing to pay for all the security upgrades, since the Village Board has agreed to pay for repairs that will fix the fire escape leading from the town courtroom. Though he doesn’t know what the future of courtroom in the Tracy will be, he said, “Our people are in the now” adding that they need the new security features now.
Mr. Balcom brought up the fact that the courtroom does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since the courtroom is upstairs and there is no elevator. “I like our court but it’s not ADA compliant,” Mr. Balcom said at the board meeting.
Town Board member Henry Swartz said of the Tracy that for now, “We are going to continue to rent.”
At the same January 16 meeting the board dissolved the Recreation and Courthouse Committee it created a few months ago to look into building a new space for the court and the recreation program at Crellin Park. The Town Board plans to hold a workshop meeting Thursday, February 6 at 7 p.m. to discuss the future home of the Town Court.
Also at the meeting the board:
•Adopted a motion asking the federal government for health and environmental reviews before treated water from the Dewey Loeffel Landfill federal Superfund site in the neighboring Town of Nassau is released into the Valatie Kill, which flows south and west into Kinderhook Lake
•Heard from Mr. Swartz talked about town that Chatham resident Kim Gretchen is collecting information about broad band Internet service speeds in the North Chatham and Chatham Center area. Those interested in reporting their Internet speed can contact Ms. Gretchen at firstname.lastname@example.org
•Discussed contacting the state Attorney General’s office about the garbage pick-up issue. Ms. Lull said that garbage cans and bags sat out for 13 days recently due to the holidays and snowstorms
•Heard Mr. Swartz read from a letter from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC, a Kinder Morgan company, to board members about exploring the extension of gas pipelines through parts of Columbia County. The letter, dated January 9, says the company will be contacting landowners in the coming weeks and the company will hold outreach meetings about the project.
The next Town Board meeting will be the workshop session Thursday, February 6 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email email@example.com.