Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Village Justice Court"

Sag Harbor Village Officials Say Justice Court Will Likely Cost Nothing

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As the Village of Sag Harbor moves closer to establishing its own justice court, this week the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees unveiled a draft budget for the court, and after matching those figures with projected revenues, said it should break even at the very least, and may even make the village close to $8,000 in additional revenues.

During its Tuesday, March 9 meeting, the draft budget was unveiled by trustee Tim Culver, who researched the cost of creating and operating a justice court in Sag Harbor by looking to villages who already run their own justice courts, including Southampton Village, Quogue and Westhampton Beach.

Culver’s draft estimates the village will need to spend $125,600 annually in contractual expenses, which includes the cost of a village justice, as well as an associate justice, a clerk and court officers, as well as equipment, software, stenographer services and the time of the village attorney. The judge, an elected position, is slated to receive a $25,000 salary, with an associate justice, who would take the bench should the elected justice be unavailable, expected to earn just $10,000 annually. In addition to these contractual expenses security and medical staff are also budgeted at $5,050 annually, translating into an overall $71,050 staffing budget – a majority of the total justice court budget.

According to estimates compiled by Culver, based on the last three years of justice court revenues from Southampton and East Hampton town courts, which currently handle Sag Harbor cases, the village can expect $118,303 in revenues. Coupled with the estimated $15,000 a year the village will need to expend to send police to Southampton Town’s Hampton Bays justice court, he predicts the village could see an annual income of $7,703 with the creation of Sag Harbor’s own court. Culver added those figures do not include the monies Sag Harbor contracts with the towns to handle their caseload.

“I think some of the figures are on the high side and I think we highballed it on purpose to be overly cautious,” said trustee Tiffany Scarlato.

Culver noted the cost of implementing a justice court is minimal as the village can use the existing board room and offices for the court.

“If we do this and after a year we think it isn’t working out, it will be easy to pack it up,” he said. “We don’t’ have a lot of fixed costs.”

The village is in the first steps of creating the court, currently hosting an ongoing public hearing on the creation of the village justice position, which village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said would likely be appointed at first, and at the next available village election would become an elected seat.

As at last month’s hearing, former village trustee Marshall Garypie decried the village’s efforts, questioning the cost of the court and the expansion of village government during such tough fiscal times. Garypie continued by asking the board to put the issue in the hands of village taxpayers via a vote.

While at last month’s meeting board members said they believed a village vote on the justice court would have to be set up via a permissive referendum – where a petition signed by residents would demand a ballot line for the justice court creation – this month, Thiele said the village could put the issue up for vote. However, he said it is unusual for municipalities to elect to hold a vote on a matter normally left to permissive referendum.

Garypie argued once the court was created, positions would likely be expanded over the years and more costly to village residents, citing the growth of Southampton Town positions in their own court.

Mayor Brian Gilbride countered that the court could, and would, remain small and noted the village currently fights to receive revenues from the towns. He added the court would likely operate twice a month during high season and once a month the rest of the year. It would handle traffic tickets, code and zoning violations and non-felony offenses.

After Garypie left the podium, and quickly exited the room, Trustee Scarlato added the court could also hear civil cases under $3,000 and landlord tenant disputes. The hearing remains open.

 

In other news, Sag Harbor Community Rowing had its license to operate at Cove Park in Redwood extend by the board of trustees, although its hopes for a modular dock on the site were dashed.

“I think you have done a good job showing support for the rowing club,” said Culver, adding the board is concerned with allowing the construction of a dock on public parkland. With the growth of the club, added board members, trustees may consider that application in the future.

“We want to encourage that this is accessible to the public in general,” said trustee Robby Stein of Cove Park.

Also on the waterfront, the village is considering setting up kayak racks at Havens Beach and other waterfront locales in Sag Harbor in order to boost revenues to the village’s harbors and docks, which could be looking at a $50,000 deficit in expected revenues for this fiscal year. Culver and Harbor Master Bob Bori are expected to present the board with a fleshed out concept in coming months. Gilbride added the board will also explore what the village charges for resident and non-resident slips.

The board also agreed to send letters to the New York State Liquor Authority regarding requests for liquor licenses at 16 and 62 Main Street, the site of the darkened JLX Bistro and Grappa Restaurant. Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano said in addition to both sites being in the midst of investigation by the SLA for violations, both spaces are also embroiled in legal battles over who has the right to operate there.

Former Trustee Blasts Sag Harbor Justice Court

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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.

Sag Harbor to Establish Village Justice

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Following next month’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, the village will be one step closer to establishing its own justice court, after it holds a public hearing creating the office of village justice.

On Tuesday, January 12 the board introduced the measure, which will be up for public hearing on Tuesday, February 9 at 6 p.m.

“The Board of Trustees of the Village of Sag Harbor has determined that it will be in the interest of the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the Village of Sag Harbor for the village to have its own justice court to adjudicate local traffic, criminal and building and zoning matters,” reads the public hearing notice.

With the creation of the office of village justice, the board would seek to have one justice elected and one appointed only to serve when the elected judge was unavailable. The elected village justice would serve a four-year term. With the acting justice appointed on a yearly basis with compensation for both justices to be decided as the village enters its budget hearings later this winter.

In related news, the board of trustees agreed to sign a contract with the Town of Southampton to handle traffic tickets in the village with the stipulation they could cancel the contract should Sag Harbor officially create its own justice court.

According to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, Sag Harbor is ending its fiscal year in healthy shape with a “reasonable” surplus, although he added village administrator Sandra Schroeder will be looking into grants to ensure Sag Harbor has enough money to handle snow removal throughout the winter following the blizzard in December and subsequent storms.

According to the auditing report, compiled by Lundy & Co. CPA’s, the village’s financial management and estimates have been reasonable, but the firm has made recommendations as Sag Harbor trustees enter their budgetary talks for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Among the recommendations are that the board adopt an annual investment policy, that the village adopt formal policies for cell phone use and employee seminars and that trustees adopt a formal fraud policy, although none of the suggestions were tied to specific behavior by village employees but made simply as a precautionary measure.

Accessory Apartments

After only receiving, and granting, one request to legalize an existing, attached accessory apartment as a new village measure to increase the stock of affordable units in Sag Harbor, board members are considering expanding the law to allow separate, existing accessory units under the law.

According to trustee Tiffany Scarlato, the board should also look at beefing up code enforcement for all illegal accessory units in the village.

“There are safety issues and there are tax issues,” said board member Robby Stein.

Scarlato said she would reach out to Sag Harbor village attorney Anthony Tohill and Sag Harbor village planning consultant Richard Warren to discuss the possible change, which was looked at when the village re-wrote its zoning code last year.

“There are a lot of issues that go along with that,” she said of allowing accessory units that are not attached to a main residence.

“Maybe it is time to nudge,” said Gilbride about increasing code enforcement in the village.

“We are not that stupid that we don’t know they are out there,” said Scarlato.

Resident and business owner Nada Barry wondered what incentives were being offered to those looking to legalize units, noting cost can become a factor when bringing an apartment up to code.

“Maybe they would come forward if they knew there was help,” she said.

Scarlato noted that the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, while currently without monies, but with credit, was designed to provide that assistance.

“My view is they are using something they are not supposed to be using,” added trustee Tim Culver. “So why are we subsidizing them?”

In other village news, the board announced that Grievance Day will be held in the Municipal Building on February 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. for any Sag Harbor Village resident looking to argue their tax bill. The village election will be held on June 15 between noon and 9 p.m. at the firehouse on Brickiln Road.

Lastly, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano was approved to hire Nicholas Samot as a permanent full-time police officer at a salary of $43,040.