Arguing that the current economic climate is the wrong time for Sag Harbor residents to contend with the expense of a village justice court, former village board member Marshall Garypie blasted the current board of trustees for even entertaining the idea.
“I don’t think this village, with the economic times we are in right now, needs another level of government,” argued Garypie. “I have a problem with how this thing will be financed, if there is a real need for it.”
Garypie, the only resident to speak during the village’s first public hearing on the creation of the office of village justice – not the creation of the village justice court – questioned how the village would cover the expense of setting up a court in Sag Harbor. He also wondered how Sag Harbor would contend with parking issues and questioned whether the village has worked hard enough to convince the Town of Southampton to establish a satellite court closer to East End villages like Sag Harbor and Sagaponack, as well as the hamlet of Bridgehampton.
The public hearing, held on Tuesday, February 9, is the first step the village has taken in renewed hope of establishing its own justice court to handle all misdemeanor crimes and violations, which include traffic infractions and village building code violations. The village has sought to create similar courts several times, most recently in 2007, when faced with lawsuits and promises from the Town of Southampton that their court would expand and stay at its Southampton Village location, Sag Harbor officials put their plans on hold.
However, despite the addition of a fourth justice, proceedings have not sped up, argued Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, and faced with the relocation of the justice court to Hampton Bays, Sag Harbor Village police officers now spend as much as four hours a day simply traveling to and from court.
On Tuesday night, Garypie argued the concept of a justice court should be placed in the hands of Sag Harbor Village residents, via a referendum. Deputy Mayor Tiffany Scarlato reminded Garypie that the village cannot force a referendum on an issue like the creation of a justice court, which is subject to only a permissive referendum – one brought to village residents by their peers through a petition.
Noting that a majority of villages in the town already have their own justice court, Gilbride said the goal was not to make money, but rather to give more jurisdiction to the village and make it easier on residents who need to go to court to handle violations or misdemeanor crimes.
“Brian, you know how government works,” said Garypie. “Once you get one foot in the door, it escalates.”
He also asked if the village had proof the cost of the court would break even with revenues generated by it.
“I haven’t,” admitted Gilbride, although he said all the figures he has seen shows it would. Scarlato agreed to have a financial analysis completed by the next village board meeting.
“I will tell you, it does create a problem – what we have now,” said Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, urging the village to complete its analysis, but also adamant that his department’s time, and therefore village tax dollars, are spending an awful lot of time on the roads in East Hampton and Southampton these days.
In related news, the village was turned down for a state grant that would have enabled them to set up video arraignments in Sag Harbor for Southampton Town court cases.
In other village news, business owner Nada Barry approached the board questioning the planning process for the expansion and restoration of the John Jermain Memorial Library, for which school district voters approved a $10 million referendum this summer.
“The planning process that is going through our boards is much too slow for a couple reasons,” said Barry, citing a lack of quorum at a December planning board meeting. Barry said the delays were costing village taxpayers money ultimately as it is a publicly funded project and could be devastating to the project as a whole.
“I see it as a general problem in the village,” she said.
Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said the library has issues with sewage disposal –that their plans call for them to hook up to the village sewage system, which would require the extension of that line, in order for their project to comply with Suffolk County Health Department standards.
“We have spent a fair amount of time working with them to help them expedite the issues that are really Suffolk County Health Department issues that involve us because of the sewer line,” he said.
However, trustees did agree to advertise for alternates for the zoning board of appeals in the wake of Kathy Radziewicz’s resignation, which was accepted with regret, and for the planning board. The ZBA, planning board, harbor committee and historic preservation and architectural review board have all been without alternates for the last year.
Lastly, the board agreed to allow the yacht Kisses to dock on the west side of Long Wharf for 11 days at the end of June into the July 4th weekend and for 11 days in September.
Village Harbor Master Bob Bori suggested suspending the rental of the west side of Long Wharf for the remainder of the summer season.