4 Towns Seek To Share 1 Judge Position
SHERMAN — Home Rule Legislation has been sent to Albany asking the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve the consolidation of town courts for Clymer, French Creek, Mina and Sherman. Mark Persons, Sherman town supervisor, told The Post-Journal that all four town boards have hosted public hearings and approved resolutions to share one justice.
A committee was formed to design an uncomplicated agreement to facilitate and enter into an inter-municipal agreement allowing the towns of Clymer, French Creek, Mina and Sherman to jointly operate from single justice court facility with one duly elected justice serving all four towns and to have the court located in the Mina municipal building, providing cost savings to all the towns.
“All the documentation has been forwarded to state Sen. George Borrello and Assemblyman Andy Goodell,” Persons said. “We’ve asked them to take it up with the state Legislature in Albany. Hopefully the Home Rule Legislation will be approved and then signed by the governor. We’ve done our part and now we are relying on Albany to pass the Home Rule Legislation.”
If approved by the state, the four towns will continue to maintain separate finances and case reporting of their court and retain their portion of fines levied as New York state law requires. The towns will enact a shared-facilities agreement between them establishing that the Mina Town Court be the physical location for all four courts.
Each town will be responsible for the annual cost as follows: Clymer will fund $4,200 for the justice salary, $2,500 for court clerk salary and $1,500 operational expenses payable to the town of Mina; Mina will fund $7,000 for the justice salary, $6,000 for court clerk salary and $3,400 for operational expenses; French Creek will fund $2,500 for the justice salary, $2,000 for court clerk salary and $1,500 for operational expenses payable to the town of Mina; and Sherman will fund $6,700 for the justice salary, $8,300 for the court clerk salary and $2,300 for operational expenses payable to the town of Mina.
“Basically if you look at the current situation, we’ve analyzed the current cost and projected cost,” he said. “We will re-evaluate every year to see if it needs adjusted.”
Persons said anyone in the four towns will be able to run for the elected justice position. Denis Cooper is the town justice for the towns of French Creek and Mina, and the acting justice in Clymer. Currently, Sherman has an interim town justice, Christopher Penfold, following the resignation of James L. Van Volkenburg in February and Doug Neal in December 2020.
Persons said if the Home Rule Legislation is approved and signed into law by Aug. 1, the justice position will be up for vote during the November general election. If the legislation is approved after Aug. 1, the justice election will take place in 2022.
Persons said officials from all four towns have worked well together in the past, which is one reason why they want to consolidate the town justice position.
“We’ve shared an assessor program for a number of years now. It’s worked well,” he said. “We saw this as another opportunity to have regional benefits. Mina has a wonderful facility already in place, and it opens it up for a bigger pool for judge candidates.”
At the start of the year, French Creek and Mina started sharing a town justice after Home Rule Legislation was approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.