Jay Supervisor and Essex County Board Chairman Randy Douglas.
Jay residents will not have to wait until November to exercise their voting rights.
The town will hold a permissive referendum Wednesday, Oct. 16, with polling from noon until 8 p.m. at the Town of Jay Community Center on (11 School Lane in Au Sable Forks) and the Amos and Julia Ward Theatre (12 Parkside Drive, Jay).
At issue is whether the town should be allowed to move forward with a plan to reduce its town justice office from two justices to one at the end of this year when the term of Justice Robert Minogue comes to an end. A “yes” vote will eliminate one justice position, and a “no” vote will not eliminate one justice position.
Minogue is currently seeking re-election to the potentially soon-to-be eliminated position, along with candidates Rosemond Lincoln-Day and Rodney Dockum.
The town council voted in July to move forward with the matter before a petition circulated by current town council candidate Fred Balzac was received in August to send the issue to a vote.
Town Supervisor Randy Douglas, who also chairs the Essex County Board of Supervisors, voiced concerns over the vote.
“I honestly feel this is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Douglas said, referring to the $2,803 price tag associated with the polling. “The town of Jay Board did our due diligence in making this determination that one justice could handle the current average criminal case load.”
Balzac had said he felt that the issue needed to be addressed by all of the voters within the town which is why he moved forward with a petition.
“That is a big part of it,” Balzac said. “I heard about the resolution days before the August meeting and I thought that it would automatically be on the ballot. When I heard that it was not, I asked the board if they would put it on the ballot and they declined.”
Douglas said he felt the board had done its due diligence when making their decision.
“I conducted a salary survey of all towns in Essex County regarding their justice position/positions,” Douglas said. “The Town Board made this decision only after Judge Dan Deyoe stated that he could handle the case load if Judge Minogue’s position was eliminated. This decision by the Town Board was based on the needs of the town and as a cost-saving measure.”
Douglas said the town court is only in session once a week, with the judges handling cases on a rotating basis.
“Currently, court is not held two times per week once by each judge as many constituents may have believed,” he said.
Balzac feels that there is a “strong argument” for having two.
“In a small town like Jay, you can have a conflict of interest. It’s an easy enough problem to have,” he said. “We had only one town justice before and there had to be a good reason why they decided to go to two.”
This is the second permissive referendum to be filed within the past two months in the region, as voters in the village of Keeseville filed a petition forcing an Oct. 22 vote on the plan to dissolve the incorporated village.