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Village to Add Court Services

Posted on 12 December 2008

In an effort to economize Sag Harbor village functions and maximize efficiency, the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees presented an array of revenue generating and cost-saving ideas at this month’s board of trustees meeting, on Tuesday, December 9.
The village is looking into hiring Fundamental Business Service, Inc. (FBS), a data management and consulting business, to collect revenue from a three-year backlog of some 6,800 unpaid parking tickets. Presently, either East Hampton or Southampton Town, depending on the side of the village where the ticket was issued, is required to send out one notice of an unpaid parking ticket, however, after this they are not required to send out further notices. (The towns send out the notices and are responsible for the administration aspect of unpaid tickets because they process these tickets.) Almost four years ago, the village hired FBS to transcribe all the records of parking summonses. It was around this time that the village also purchased software that has the capability to track outstanding tickets. This software can be updated at no additional cost to the village.
For his services, Dennis Farrell, the FBS representative who will work with the village, will be paid 30 percent of commissionable fines and penalties. The board is expecting a proposal from FBS on the collection process shortly, and once the board signs off on it, they will begin to recoup the outstanding funds. The collection of this money could translate into substantial revenue for the village. On a side note, the board is also exploring a way to allow people to pay their parking fines in Sag Harbor, since now they must travel to the Southampton Town Police Department.
In another effort to acquire revenue, the board is looking into creating legislation which would allow village police to write vehicle and traffic violation tickets, for certain offenses, under village code instead of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Now, revenue from parking violation tickets are shared between the state, the town and the village, with the village receiving a percentage of these funds. With vehicle and traffic violations, however, income generated from the tickets are shared only between the town and New York State. Despite the fact that village police officers are putting in the time and effort to issue those tickets, the village isn’t currently receiving any revenue from these tickets.
Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris added that Southampton Town justices were dismissing approximately 43.8 percent of the tickets issued in Sag Harbor village.
“I am sure some of these tickets were dismissed upon merit, but this rate seems very high,” said Ferraris.
Ferraris also introduced the idea of holding occasional Southampton Town Justice Court sessions for parking and vehicle and traffic violations in the village. The town justice court will be moving from their current facilities in Southampton Village to Hampton Bays in two to three months, creating what he feels will be a burden for local residents.
“All of the logistics haven’t been worked out yet. It is just theoretical at this point,” said Ferraris.
The village is also in the process of enacting video arraignments for the Southampton Town Justice Courts. As Sag Harbor Police Chief Tom Fabiano explained, defendants would be held in a holding area in Sag Harbor with a television hooked up to a live-feed to a monitor in the Southampton courtroom. Currently, a village police officer is required to transport and accompany a defendant to court proceedings. Video arraignments would cut down on the amount of time police officers are away from the village, which would be useful, Fabiano noted, considering the court’s move to Hampton Bays.
“Our officers will have to travel to Hampton Bays, and in the summer that will be really difficult,” said Fabiano. Video arraignments have already been installed in the Brooklyn court system, and, according to Ferraris, the village will be a test case for Suffolk County.
Village attorney Fred Thiele, Jr. reported that Southampton Town is in the process of writing a grant application which will be submitted to the state in the next couple weeks. The grant money would help offset the costs associated with purchasing video equipment, which is minimal compared to the costs of transporting defendants to Hampton Bays. Thiele expects that the town will receive an answer to the application in the coming months.
The first item of old business on the agenda concerned the adoption of the special events permits procedure law. The law would require that people holding large events or parties in the village receive a special event permit. A public hearing held in mid-November revealed that many Sag Harbor residents were in favor of the new permit procedure. At this month’s board meeting, the law was passed.

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