After Meeting, City On Road To Second Courtroom

After Meeting, City On Road To Second Courtroom

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After a meeting Monday between the Watertown city council and Judge James Tormey, the city is on its way to meeting Tormey's demand for a second courtroom.

But questions remain, and the city's decision isn't final - yet.

"We decided to do it here at city hall," said Mayor Joe Butler Jr. "It's about do we want it fully secured, partially secured and do you want to relocate codes and the city's clerk's office upstairs."

Tormey, the judge who oversees courts in Jefferson and Lewis counties, is requiring the city to have a second courtroom to accommodate a second full time city judge. Watertown has had a second full time judge since 2014.

For years, the city made little progress toward a second courtroom, prompting Tormey last week to say he had "lost confidence" in city government

Monday's meeting was supposed to defuse tensions between the judge and city hall, and give some idea of how the city would proceed.

Butler said the current plan is to build a second courtroom near the existing courtroom on the first floor.

But again, the need for a second courtroom was questioned.

Council members say the two judges work fine with one courtroom and the expense to build something new could be too much for local taxpayers.

"As far as I know, it's coming out of my pocket and every other taxpayer in the city, which I think is totally inappropriate," said Michael LaDue, a Watertown resident who attended Monday's session.

Statistic reviewed by 7 News show that over the last five years, roughly 60 percent of the cases going through city court are motor vehicle cases, essentially, traffic court.

So with these concerns, why pay the high cost for another courtroom?

Judge Tormey says new workloads make it necessary.

"Whether it's needed now is not a question, We have opioid courts, we have veterans courts, mental health courts, domestic violence courts, things of that nature. There's plenty of work for that second judge," Tormey said.

Between now and the Friday deadline, council members want Judge Tormey to also look into other options, like using an empty Supreme Court courtroom across the street from city hall in the State Office Building. They also want to know if there's funding available, to help with the $5 million cost of the project.

(7 News Photo: Judge Tormey addresses city council.)

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