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Schenectady nears agreement on adding a new courtroom

Schenectady nears agreement on adding a new courtroom

Fourth courtroom will be added, says state
Schenectady nears agreement on adding a new courtroom
One of Schenectady City Hall's courtrooms is pictured in 2013.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY — The city and the state Office of Court Administration are nearing an agreement on state-mandated improvements to the city’s court facilities. 

A fourth courtroom will eventually be added, according to Office of Court Administration (OCA). Currently there are two courtrooms at City Hall and one at the Schenectady Police Department.

“There is an agreement when it comes to the chamber space and security at Schenectady City Hall,” said OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen on Tuesday. “Regarding the fourth courtroom, which would be located in the Schenectady Police [Department], talks are still ongoing with an anticipation of it being resolved in the coming months.”

McCarthy briefed the City Council on progress on Monday, but didn’t mention specifics regarding the precise configuration.

“We’re going to make modifications within the existing footprint,” McCarthy said. 

The mayor has previously said the mandate has the potential to cost the city “in the range of $3 million.”

The city is responsible for the costs, but details on a precise dollar amount remain unavailable. 

McCarthy didn’t return a phone call on Tuesday seeking comment. 

City Court will also eventually serve as the hub for a new human trafficking intervention court, the OCA said in July.

Currently, four City Court judges cycle through a daily churn of misdemeanor criminal cases, motor vehicle and parking infractions, civil actions, small claims and landlord-tenant disputes at the three court rooms in City Hall and the Schenectady Police Department. 

The state court system also allows for the city to use a courtroom in Schenectady County Court to host some of the proceedings.

OCA previously said the scattered nature of the facilities is not ideal and said the city should provide additional space.

The mayor previously attempted to eliminate a judgeship position, citing declining crime and court filings, but the City Council overrode his objections and voted to keep the fourth position earlier this year, a measure supported by OCA.

Engineering staff are currently assembling estimates and a timeline for some elements of the project, including relocating a locker room for court officers in City Hall and renovating the present locker site room into a jury room, according to the city Engineering Office.

McCarthy told lawmakers on Monday the City Council didn’t need to allocate extra funds in next year’s capital budget, which the City Council must adopt by Nov. 1. 

“I am presenting to you that we do not have to put any money in the capital budget,” McCarthy told City Council President Ed Kosiur.

Kosiur asked for evidence of the agreement in writing. 

“We’ve been doing this for many, many years,” Kosiur said. "I just want to see something in writing from anybody that something is going to happen.”

City Judge Guido Loyola will retire in December, which prompted McCarthy's initial push to eliminate the position. City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico is running unopposed for the seat in the Nov. 5 general election.

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