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Farmington weighs new town court

By: Mike Murphy//January 28, 2013

Farmington weighs new town court

By: Mike Murphy//January 28, 2013//

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Speeders in the Ontario County town of Farmington soon may be able to use a drive-up window to pay off the fine as part of a new, larger and more secure town court.

Because of population growth, the Thruway that zips through, and the number of visitors who come for the Finger Lakes Gaming and Racino, the town court for years has been experiencing larger caseloads — most of them because of traffic and drunk-driving cases, said Town Justice Morris Lew.

A new court — and drive-up window — will help justices keep up with the increased workload, he said.

“We’re excited about it,” said Justice Lew, who is beginning his 11th year on the bench. “It’s convenient for customers, and it’s a very safe environment for our clerks who handle money. It’s a win-win.”

Officials say the court may be open as soon as next year, although engineering and planning work is just beginning. The Town Board last week OK’d moving funding from a multi-use facility account to one dedicated for the court project.

The town has been looking at a new courtroom for years, and about $450,000 has been set aside for the work, Supervisor Ted Fafinski said. The town will not have to borrow money to pay for the new structure, Fafinski said.

“We knew this was coming someday,” Fafinski said.

The court operation is run in Town Hall, which was built in 1977.

The existing courtroom holds 30 people. Court is in regular session Monday nights, and justices can hear anywhere from 70 to 100 cases. That’s not including special sessions that may be scheduled.

“We need to do something,” Fafinski said.

Sometimes, the lines go out the door at Town Hall, and people may have to wait in the cold. Also, attorneys and clients confer in crowded hallways because there is nowhere to meet, Justice Lew said.

Such a crowded atmosphere also creates a safety issue.

A new facility would address those issues as well as provide for ample parking.

“It will be substantially more professional than the courtroom is now,” Justice Lew said. “It really makes a lot of sense.”

The town had looked at moving the court to a former highway garage location, but instead will build a facility near a new highway complex rather than “mess with something that could be costly,” Fafinski said.

“It was a shop, let’s face it,” Fafinski said.

The town is awaiting cost estimates, but is expected to cost anywhere from $600,000 to $700,000, Fafinski said. Town crews would be able to do a lot of the site work, and utilities such as water, sewer and electric are available.

“I’m just excited we’re moving forward,” Justice Lew said.

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