The old Warren County Courthouse, now in use as a historical museum in Lake George Village, is likely to again host court sessions, as the county Municipal Center’s court complex is overburdened, and has been deemed inadequate by state officials. Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said this week that the town will be upgrading and furnishing the structure to meet state requirements.
After a half-century layoff from official duty, the old Warren County Courthouse is likely to again hold county court sessions, Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson revealed Monday July 23 at a rare joint meeting of the town and village boards.
Such court proceedings may begin on a regular basis as soon as September, Dickinson said, noting that state officials have toured and inspected the building with an intent of resuming its historic use for Warren County court and state Supreme Court sessions as needed.
Dickinson said that the town is now poised to refurbish the Victorian-style building. Such upgrades include increasing energy efficiency, boosting security and adding furnishings to meet state requirements. The looming brick building, now in use as a museum by the Lake George Historical Association, is situated at Canada and Amherst streets in Lake George.
Dickinson said that state Supreme Court District 4 Administrative Judge Vito Caruso toured the old county courthouse about six weeks ago with an entourage of assistants including a security expert — and they examined the facility with an intent to restoring its historic use.
“They were excited about it,” Dickinson said, adding that the court proceedings to be held in the old courthouse will likely be restricted to non-violent offenders.
Monday July 23, the Lake George Town Board voted to spend $950 to have the courthouse’s floorspace plotted so the state can review it and set furnishings up to meet their requirements.
For years, the three courtrooms at the Warren County Municipal Center have been overbooked, the existing facilities were deemed inadequate, and the state has been seeking a new site for court proceedings.
The court sessions are to be held on a regular schedule, Dickinson said, but not in July or August when tourists are swarming in Lake George.
Metal detectors are likely to be installed, plus the front entrance and bathrooms are to be rehabilitated so they accommodate those with mobility disabilities, he added.
During Caruso’s visit, the judge offered to provide for the courtroom dozens of antique chairs that he had stored, Dickinson said, noting that the chairs would be similar in age to the court’s historic furnishings.
The courthouse might get new twin-pane windows with wavy, antique-looking glass as well as curtains that fit in with the historic setting, he said. Floors may be redone, and chandeliers that were removed from the building in the early 1960s may be replaced, he added. The furnace now works well but may need updating, Dickinson added, noting that the building presently has no central air conditioning.
Dickinson said that reusing the old courthouse would mean the town would be investing in the valuable historic structure, preserving it for future generations.
“This is a great effort, because the courthouse is a magnificent, historic structure.”
Dickinson said that the town would also be using the courthouse for other functions — including civic events and weddings — and that the building would continue to host the artifacts now put on display by the historical society.
In other business undertaken at the joint Lake George town-village meeting, the municipal leaders:
• Pledged to work out equitable ownership of the Charles Wood Park, without committing to exact percentages allotted to the town, county or village. The town of Lake George has been seeking to buy back partial ownership of the park, and the eventual ratio of ownership by the county, village and town is still in dispute. Recently, the village has backed away from a plan allotting one-third ownership for each.
• Agreed to move forward on transferring the ownership of the land — from the village to the town — that hosts the town trash transfer station. This issue has been unresolved for a half-dozen years.
•Discussed building an addition on the village hall to host the town code enforcement office as well as the village’s. Such a physical consolidation would likely prompt discussion about merging both code enforcement departments, they said.
• Agreed that the town will pay $17,000 toward the weekly concerts, fireworks and programs that the village coordinates and pays more than $80,000 for.
• Committed to hold joint hearings on occupancy tax funding requests from event organizers. The coordinated hearing and single application process is likely to yield more equitable funding of events that boost tourism, they said.
• Agreed that the town will contribute $10,000 toward the proposed Lake George Skateboard Park, set for development in the northwest corner of the Charles Wood Park. The village has contributed $20,000.
• Discussed sharing costs of upgrades to its sewer plant totaling $900,000 or so. Last week the village voted to hire Chazen Engineering for $88,760 to devise a solution to its problem with excess nitrates in its effluent. The impact of this project -- as well as a proposed downtown hotel -- on the town's payments to the village for sewer treatment are likely to be discussed.