SHERIDAN - Steps toward remodeling the former St. John Bosco Church building into the new Sheridan courthouse are being made.
The state Department of Environ-mental Conservation issued a permit for the town to install a new septic system for the building. At a regular town council meeting Thursday night, the council voted to allow Public Works Supervisor Jeffrey Feinen to accept the lowest bid for the equipment.
"I sent RFPs (requests for proposals) to the only two companies that I know of that sells them," Feinen told the board before it resolved to accept the lowest bid.
Sketches for the courtroom layout have also been designed. Judge Lydia Romer submitted a rough drawing to secretary Julie Szumigala, who worked with councilman Charles Dillenburg to bring the drawing closer to scale. The two took measurements of the building interior and Szumigala adapted Romer's drawings to a 2-foot scale on graph paper.
The design includes two courtrooms within the building, one with a jury room, judges' chambers and a jury box. Existing pews from the former church will be used as courtroom seating. Room for clerks, storage and other facilities are included in the preliminary plans.
At meetings over the summer, it was noted by the board the courtroom capacity cannot exceed 100 people or building codes will require the installation of a sprinkler system, a significant expense not part of the budget. During an August court session, attendance approached 100 or more attendees, which concerned some town council members. However, in September, Romer told the OBSERVER the August court session is only large because the court did not hold session in July, and the high attendance was from making up for an additional month's worth of court appearances. Romer said attendance normally averages around 60 persons on the dockets for the two courtrooms and two judges, Romer and Justice Peter Smith. Court was not held in July due to availability of lawyers, attorneys and members of the district attorney's office during a time when many vacations are scheduled, according to Romer.
Town Supervisor Louis Delmonte said the board is waiting to hear from Romer regarding what facilities are mandated to be constructed within the courthouse. Requirements for handicap accessibility and other features are required to be installed.
"We're waiting for her to tell us what needs to go in," Delmonte said.
The court typically hosts 150-200 vehicle and traffic ticket cases in addition to several to a dozen or more small claims, penal law, misdemeanor and other cases per month. The revenues from court proceedings average between $20-30,000 in fines on a monthly basis. The current court location on Route 20 at Center Road is small and lacks sufficient parking. Many people attending court park on the shoulder of Center Road on the south side of Route 20. Romer said it can be dangerous to cross Route 20 after court ends when it is dark outside and cars are coming in the 40 mph zone, where many drive much faster. Romer had to park across the street during a September court session because a lawyer parked in a space reserved for one of the two judges.
"It's dark out. Let's hope I don't get hit," she said.
The new court location at the former church site has a very large parking lot with some lighting. When court is in session alongside town council meetings, it is believed sufficient parking will be available for both purposes.
It is unknown when the plans will be ready to present to the engineering firm working on the renovation.
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