Share this article

print logo

Debate on whether to dissolve Lancaster Village Court intensifies

The ongoing argument over what to do with Lancaster Village Court is spinning in circles - with all kinds of opinions and numbers being tossed about.

Village Trustee Russell Sugg said the village could save $71,990 in expenses by eliminating the one-justice court - far more than the $40,000 to $60,000 originally estimated.

Sugg said it's a duplication of services since the two-justice Town Court is in place in a new building and operates more efficiently than its village counterpart.

Others aren't so quick to buy into his proposal, which has led to intense debate on the board, including snippy personal attacks amongst some trustees.

Trustee Dawn Robinson, who is arguing the village should not rush to scrap its court for a variety of reasons, favors a thorough study by an outside firm. She and others hope the village applies for a state grant next year that could allow that to happen.

In the meantime, town figures show that the town last year spent $245,739 operating its court, compared to $278,006 in 2012 and $269,892. Those figures include employee costs and benefits.

By contrast, Village Court figures show the cost to run the court have been increasing in the last three years. In 2010-11, it cost $48,432 to run the court; and $57,788  the following year, rising to nearly $72,000 for 2012-13.

At the same time, ticket revenues are down, though police have previously indicated  it could be due to increased police presence in the village that is deterring people from disobeying traffic laws.

Others privately say police officers may intentionally be going light on tickets in the village, out of angst over their contract being unsettled.

Town Court revenues have steadily climbed since 2011 - when they totaled $181,347 and $191,707 the following year. For 2013, revenues were $231,102.

Village Court has one part-time justice and a court clerk; Town Court has two part-time justices and four court clerks.

The issue has evolved into political overtones, with some saying Sugg is angling for a run next fall for the Town Board and would likely align himself with Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli, the lone Republican on the Town Board.

Sugg, considered a maverick on the Village Board, has been "a regular" at many town meetings in the last few months and gives his own "updates" at town meetings on the court issue.

The court issue can't be addressed soon enough for Sugg. He says the village is delaying, and personnel for village court could be transferred over slowly over the remaining three years of Village Justice Paul Bumbalo's term and then be dissolved completely after it expires.

"Some employees could remain here as positions became available. Others would transition to the town or retire, if desired," Sugg said today in comments he e-mailed to The Buffalo News.

Merger or abolish? It still remains unclear what exactly is being sought. There's been reference to handling the court situation like the 2003 police merger in Lancaster.

That came at a cost, despite some calling it a success. The village pays $1 million to the town yearly in sales tax revenues to support town police operations. Another 19 years remain in the 30-year agreement. Plus, village taxpayers also are taxed to help pay toward townwide police costs.

Story topics:

There are no comments - be the first to comment