Many details missing on district court proposal, including price tag

Posted 20 April 2024 at 8:03 pm


The Orleans County Legislature is proposing a district court to all but replace the local courts in the towns of Orleans County.

The Legislature convened a committee that produced a 36-page proposal in favor of a district court.  The Legislature has been holding meetings to present this document in its various forms.  The document has been edited, I believe, three times and will continue to do so up to the election.  In reading the document there are several issues that need to be addressed before voting on the measure.

The Legislature has not come up with a price tag for a district court. What I’ve seen in emails from Legislators and the Chairwoman of the Legislature, the project, if approved, is still 3-4 years down the road. A lot can happen in 3-4 years. How can the legislators expect the public to vote for the measure without knowing what it will cost the taxpayers.

Second, for many years, all of our local courts have taken advantage of state-funded grant opportunities, securing funding through the Justice Court Assistance Program (JCAP). JCAP grants are exclusive to courts and are used to make both interior and exterior capital improvements that benefit both the court and the town buildings that host them, with a focus on ADA compliance.

The improvement projects funded by JCAP benefit not only the courts, but also anyone working in the town halls or residents who visit them. Many of the projects approved for state-funded JCAP dollars would not have been possible without the efforts of the local courts in securing these state grants.

Some examples of projects funded by JCAP include major interior and exterior building renovations, replacement generators and septic systems, new doors, renovation of office space, computer servers, security cameras, metal detectors, defibrillators, updated furniture including courtroom/boardroom seating, hearing assistive devices, and televisions for the courtroom that are also used for board meetings, just to name a few.

JCAP funds are available to towns with local courts. What happens to those funds to the towns if the County takes the courts out of local hands? Will they be taking those funds from each town as well? These, and several other questions, need to be answered before anyone should consider voting for a district court.


Wendi Pencille