State, county and local officials recently toured the new Moriah town court facility. From left are: Nancy Sunukjian, acting director of the state office of justice court support, Moriah Justice Brian Venne, State Sen. Betty Little and Kevin McGraw of the state justice court assistance program.
The town of Moriah’s new court house will be used as an example for future court projects in New York State.
The Moriah court, which was expanded and renovated by Champlain Valley Tech students, is an outstanding example of shared government services and innovative thinking, according to Nancy Sunukjian, acting director of the state office of justice court support.
“We are always looking for ways to advise local courts on better ways to do things,” Sunukjian said. “This is a great idea that we can use as a template for other towns. This is something we can, and should, replicate statewide.”
Sunukjian was joined by other state, county and local officials in a tour of the new facility recently.
The project, originally expected to cost $170,000, was completed for about $50,000, according to Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava. Most of that expense was covered by a $42,000 grant from the Justice Court Administration Program, which is overseen by Sunukjian.
“It’s very impressive; it’s a real success story,” Sunukjian said. “It looks fabulous and I hope it’ll encourage other towns to make requests for funds. We want to help our local courts.”
There are 1,100 town and village courts in New York, Sunukjian said. About 400 received JCAP funds in 2011.
Champlain Valley Tech students constructed an 864 square feet addition on the Moriah court, helping the town meet a state mandate and giving the community an updated structure.
New York State had mandated court expansion in Moriah since 2008.
The town had plans to erect its own modular building to house its court and police department adjacent to the town hall at Park Place in Port Henry. That project was shelved when the cost soared.
Town trustees then considered several short-term solutions to the court situation, before deciding to ask CV Tech to construct an addition.
Sunukjian and others on the tour praised Moriah Justice Brian Venne for his leadership throughout the project.
“This is an outstanding example of a local government — supervisor, town board and justice — working together to find available resources to meet a local need,” State Sen. Betty Little said. “Reaching out to CV-Tech was looking outside-the-box. That kind of thinking led to something better with less expense. I’m proud of what’s been done here.”
The expanded and renovated court, which opened last year, is a welcome addition, Venne said. He noted the old space was cramped and attorneys often were forced to meet with clients outside the building.
The Moriah court is the third most busy in Essex County, Venne noted, handling about 60 cases each session.
“This was a real community project and I’m grateful to the Office of Court Administration for its assistance,” Venne said. “We now have a true hall of justice that provides the proper decorum for a court. I’m very proud of this court.”
Kristy Sprague, Essex County district attorney, agreed.
“It’s nice to have such a professional setting,” she said of the court. “It’s a privilege to practice in this court.”
Scozzafava pointed out the new court is also serving as a meeting room for the town board.
“It’s a great facility and it’s getting a lot of use,” the supervisor said.
Venne hopes to secure future JCAP grant funding to construct a jury room in the basement of the court building, add air conditioning, replace doors and get new windows.
“We have this wonderful facility,” he said. “Now I want to make it even better.”