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Wed., Sep. 2
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Gray suggests town court surcharges


MASSENA - Supervisor Joseph D. Gray is wondering whether Massena Town Court could become a revenue-generating source.

The town board met with court officials during a Wednesday budget workshop. Mr. Gray proposed cutting the court stenographer in his 2013 spending plan, which would save $6,500, because the town can digitally record proceedings and the village already eliminated the position.

Otherwise, town officials said there were not many areas to cut in the court office. Court officials in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting spoke of the increasing workload Massena’s three justices, James M. Crandall, Eric Gustafson and Gerald Sharlow and the three court clerks were experiencing. There were 138 cases on the Mr. Gustafson’s docket during his most recent afternoon presiding in court. He said he has also been called downtown every day this week for arraignments.

Mr. Crandall said part of the uptick is because Massena is dealing with people and problems, including drugs, it didn’t used to have. At a political forum on Tuesday night, village Trustee Francis J. Carvel said he understood heroin had infiltrated into the village recently.

“We’re getting people here from inner cities with big-city type activities,” Mr. Crandall said. “The morality just isn’t the same as when we were young.”

Mr. Gray requested Mr. Gustasfon examine whether the town could legally add a town surcharge to those heading to court as a new source of revenue.

“Can we zap them for 20 bucks every time they come here for a trial?” Mr. Gray asked. ‘Can we put on a local fee?”

Councilman Albert N. Nicola agreed with the idea.

“If you don’t want to pay the court fees, then don’t break the law,” he said.

Court officials said other levels of government already assess surcharges depending on the crime. Town Court Clerk Dora Richter said many who end up in court don’t have the financial means to afford surcharges.

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