City Hall Selected For New Watertown Courtroom

City Hall Selected For New Watertown Courtroom

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Watertown city lawmakers have decided where to put a new courtroom.

"We're going to stick with city hall," Mayor Joe Butler said. "We're going to be downstairs."

Watertown city engineers will now head to the drawing board after council members decided to go ahead with a second city courtroom on the first floor of city hall.

"I have to look out for what's best for the city at all times," Butler said. "To fight back and to get in a match with the Office of Court Administration on this -- I prefer diplomacy and in the long run, I think it's a difficult fight to win."

The state has told Watertown officials for years they need another courtroom to accommodate the city's second full-time judge. 

Last week, 5th Judicial District Administrative Judge James Tormey imposed a deadline, saying he had lost confidence in city leaders to move forward with the project. Tormey threatened to divert Watertown's state aid toward building a new courtroom. 

The judge met with officials earlier this week and now plans will get underway. To make them work, the codes office will have to move upstairs.

The entire project is expected to cost between $4 million and $4.5 million.

"I think we can make this whole thing work," City Manager Rick Finn said, "and I think we can reduce those costs fairly significantly -- that's my guess."

Tormey says the new courtroom is needed as casework increases and the justice system continues to focus on the opioid crisis, domestic violence, and mental health.

"It's going to definitely be significant going forward," Butler said. "They're going to be busy downstairs. If you look at the opioid court in and of itself, that's going to have the same people in there every day, so it's going to be very active."

The city will seek any state funding available to help build the courtroom, but the design will come first.

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