Residents speak on referendum involving town justice position

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Two residents asked the Cortlandville town board Wednesday for an analysis of the projected savings the town would incur if one of two town justice positions is eliminated.

This comes after the town decided to set the proposal out to a referendum in November.

Town officials responded, noting they will explain the rationale behind the move when the town’s next newsletter is released on Sept. 15. The town has been looking to abolish the town justice position for months

At a special meeting last week, town attorney John DelVecchio read aloud a resolution, which stated the second town justice position was approved in February of 2013.

“The town board increased the number of town justices for the town of Cortlandville local criminal court from one to two,” he said. “And whereas, since the adoption of that resolution, the court has incurred substantial financial losses as a result.”

The financial losses came from the decreased number of arraignments at the town level. Arraignments are now processed through Centralized Arraignment Part (CAP) courts.

CAP courts aim to foster efficiency and ease logistical and administrative burdens by assigning off-hours arraignments to local criminal court judges according to a rotating, predetermined schedule, according to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. This ensures a judge within the county is always available to handle an arraignment.

“The town board has determined that it is in the best interests of the town to rescind the town justice position created in the February, 2013 resolution to improve efficient and effective operation of the court and to better serve the people of the town,” DelVecchio said.

Bob Martin, a town resident, questioned the town’s analysis at Wednesday’s meeting.

“What is the (town) supervisor's real agenda? Why (summon) a special meeting? What are the projected savings? And what are the other cost savings that were considered?,” Martin said.

Gerry Ruggiero, another longtime resident of the town, applauded the town’s decision to submit the measure to abolish the position as a mandatory referendum in November. He also wondered about the potential benefits of doing away with the town justice role.

“I have to actually study or do a cost analysis study to see if it is the right move,” he said. “If it's the right move, I'm voting yes. If it’s not the right move, I'm voting no. My mind is not made up yet.”