By Jann Wiswall
Town of Mansfield Supervisor Bob Keis informed the board at its Dec. 22 meeting that town judge Randy Alexander is resigning effective Dec. 31. For the short term, an interim judge will be appointed by the New York State Courts’ 8th Judicial District.
Keis explained that the board has two options for the long term. One is to advertise the position and appoint a new judge. The other is to “consolidate services” with a surrounding town and eliminate the Mansfield court.
From a cost perspective, Keis said that Mansfield spends about $20,000 per year to run its court. This includes salaries for the judge and court clerk, maintenance of required software, and fees to the town prosecutor.
Typically, Keis said, the court hears 3-4 cases per month. Most are traffic infractions, hunting violations, other misdemeanors or arraignments and preliminary hearings for cases that will be moved to county or other courts. Because Mansfield does not have a police department, the court does not hear misdemeanor or criminal cases. On rare occasions, it does hear civil cases.
The court takes in roughly $1,200-$1,500 per year in fines and fees.
Over the past several weeks, Keis said he has informally surveyed Mansfield residents about the issue. Retiring Judge Alexander strongly supports the idea of consolidation, as did most others surveyed. They thought the cost savings would benefit the town.
Mansfield Court Clerk Gale Baldwin, who attended the board meeting, stated that he would like to see the court remain in Mansfield.
The strong consensus, however, was on the side of consolidation.
According to Keis, the board discussed the pros and cons in detail during its meeting and finally decided to authorize Keis to pursue consolidation of the courts with a contiguous town. The process likely will take 6-8 months.
The board’s decision to pursue consolidation is not binding and requires approval from the selected adjoining town’s board. Keis said he invites more comment from the public.
In the meantime, the Mansfield court will continue to function normally with a substitute judge.
The next meeting of Mansfield’s board will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 in the municipal building. All are welcome.