When COVID-19 started raging out of control in the Spring, local government officials had to scramble to keep even basic services in place, including Court facilities. In the Town of Macedon, that meant looking for an alternate location to hold Town Court, while at the same time observing New York State COVID-19 safety mandates. The Town Complex was no longer a viable option and the backlog of cases was growing.
In July, a decision was made to repurpose the vacant Chase Bank building located in the West Wayne Plaza on Route 31 approximately one mile east of the Town Complex. Negotiations began, plans were drawn, and on August 25 they were able to hold the first Town Court session in the new location. Town Engineer Scott Allen led the project and provided a tour of the renovation.
There are remnants of the bank that remain, including the vault and the drive-thru window, complete with bullet-proof glass and a working drive-thru window drawer. The plan is to eventually use the drive-through window for anyone who would like to pay a fine or conduct a similar, simple transaction and the vault will be used to store Court records, as it is fireproof. Other than those few bank features, it looks like it has always been a courtroom.
It was designed to be a safe, circular process to keep people all going one way throughout their entire time on the building. People enter on the south side of the building where they are required to go through a metal detector. A state-of-the-art camera system not only takes pictures, but it also measures temperatures. All this information is electronically recorded and stored on the “Cloud”, which is a virtual hard drive.
If contact tracing ever needs to be done, the County Health Department would have access to the information needed.
The concept of how court is conducted has changed. Appearance times are being staggered, and it was decided to use small blocks of time in order to reduce the number of people in the building at one time. There are times when people are instructed to wait outside, in their cars for instance, until they are called to come in.
The wall behind the Judge’s bench has been painted a rich, dark blue and the gold State of New York Unified Court System Seal is prominently displayed. There are two conference rooms and all seating in the gallery is socially distanced, including both attorney’s tables. People can then stop at the Court Clerk’s window if they need to conduct any business, like paying a fine. They exit on the east side of the building.
The outside of the building, which had been neglected for 3 years since the bank closed, has been cleaned, trimmed and manicured. Great care was taken to keep costs down, while at the same time reusing everything possible from the existing building, including the old round light fixtures that illuminate all four sides of the outside of the building. “I am a huge fan of reusing old buildings, when possible”, stated Town Engineer Scott Allen. “I saw this as a special challenge to put this building back to good use”.
The renovations were completed in about four weeks at a cost of $95,000. A JCAP (Justice Court Assistance Program) Grant for $30,000.00 has been applied for to help offset the cost. The monthly rent is $416.66 per month and the Town pays the utilities.
The HVAC system, which needed some minor maintenance, was in good working order. The roof on the building has reached the end of its life and needs to be replaced.
According to Macedon Town Supervisor Kim Leonard, “Discussions are continuing with the owner of the West Wayne Plaza and the Town of Macedon for the Town to eventually take ownership of the building. The roof is one of the things being discussed.” The Town Court relocation has also increased traffic in the West Wayne Plaza, which has been a welcome result.
Judge Tom Crowley was a bit skeptical at first.
“I was really concerned about the size of the space. Plus, having to haul all the files there and then haul them back can be difficult. But, going forward, after it has been completed and we are there full time, it will be great.”
Judge Ron Reinstein, when he was presented with the proposition, saw a lot of potential in the project. “I was crazy excited. After numerous revisions, we ended up with a project that I couldn’t be happier with”.
He wants to give kudos to Kim Leonard and the Town Board, Scott Allen, Macedon Police Chief John Colella, the Court staff and everyone else who was involved in making this happen.
There are still some details to be worked out regarding the ‘report to’ location. Court is now being held every Tuesday at the new Courthouse located at 1890 Route 31 in Macedon. Eventually, all Court functions, including the Judge’s chambers will be there full-time. The outgoing message on the Town Court’s voicemail instructs people to report for Court on Tuesdays at the new Courthouse. Otherwise, the Town Court Office at the Town Complex is open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM for all other business and the telephone number is 315-986-5932 x208.
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