CHATHAM—At its January 11 meeting, the Village Board agreed to hold a public hearing on a proposed local law to abolish the position of village justice, thereby dissolving the Village Court. The public hearing will be in February. After the hearing the board will vote on the proposed law and if they pass it, the court would be dissolved by April 5, when the current justice’s term is up.
If the board votes in favor of the local law, residents have 30 days to circulate a petition. Village Attorney Ken Dow explained at the online Village Board meeting Monday night, January 11, that if the petition is signed by 20% of village residents, normally the question of dissolving the court would then go on the village ballot. But due to changes in state election laws, there is not enough time to get the resolution on the March ballot. Mr. Dow said at the meeting that a petition would “kill” the law and that the board could not dissolve the court for another four years, when the justice’s term is up again.
Mayor John Howe brought up the issue of closing the court at the board meeting last month, saying that the funds brought in by the village court in fines and forfeitures are “pretty much a wash” with the cost of running the court. The village is in the Towns of Chatham and Ghent, each of which has a court where cases would be heard if the village court is dissolved. At the meeting this month, Mayor Howe said he talked to both town supervisors about the possibility of dissolving the village court.
Trustee Jaimee Boehme asked if the village could abolish the court now but reinstate it later. Mr. Dow said the board could reinstate the village court by passing a new local law.
The public hearing on the local law will be held February 8 at 6:45 p.m. before the regular Village Board meeting. Meetings are currently being held online. There is information about joining meetings on the village website at villageofchatham.com
Also at the meeting:
• The board welcomed newly hired Village Clerk Desiree Kelleher. Ms. Kelleher was hired in early January after the assistant clerk resigned and former Clerk Debra Meyers announced her intention to resign in December. Ms. Meyers will continue serving as village treasurer
• The board approved a bid for work on Tracy Memorial roof for about $469,000. The village received a $200,000 grant from the state for the work and Mayor Howe said there may be some private funding to help with the cost. He said the work could start “as soon as tomorrow” but he thought most likely it would start in the spring
• The village office in the Tracy Memorial on Main Street is currently closed to the public due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in Columbia County. Residents with questions or concerns should call 518 392-5821 ext. 2 or 3 and leave a message.
The next board meeting will be February 8 at 7 p.m. Visit the village website for the link to the meeting.