WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown mayor Jeff Smith reiterated Friday that he does not intend to name someone to the city’s second city court judgeship.
The judge’s position is opening up because city court judge Eugene Renzi was elected Tuesday to Jefferson County Surrogate Court.
Smith told 7 News Friday that he’s been advised by legal counsel that it’s up to him to find a replacement.
“It’s the mayor’s appointment, since it’s a full-time position. And that the appointment would obviously just be for the remainder of Judge Renzi’s term, which would be a one year appointment," the mayor said.
The vacancy will leave Judge Anthony Neddo as the city’s only full-time judge.
State law currently requires Watertown to have two - and because the city has two fulltime judges, the state court system is forcing Watertown to build a second courtroom, at a cost of $3 million. City officials have tried to find a way for the past several years to avoid building the courtroom and spending the money.
“We’re talking millions and millions of dollars. When, even pre-COVID it was something the city couldn’t afford. Now, with COVID and everything, it’s just something that’s unreasonable," Smith said.
Legislation passed by both the state assembly and senate would return Watertown to the status it had for decades - one fulltime and one part-time judge. The city hopes - though it is by no means guaranteed - that going back to a part-time judge would eliminate the need for a second courtroom.
Right now, the law is on Governor Cuomo’s desk. He hasn’t said whether he’ll sign it. He has until the end of the year.
In a statement, state Senator Patty Ritchie, who shepherded the bill through the state senate, said she’s continuing to advocate for the governor to sign it. Assemblyman Mark Walczyk told us he has no reason to believe that won’t happen.