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New justice court offices could be coming in Southold

08/14/2015 9:00 AM |

SHCourt

The offices of the Southold Town Justice Court offices may finally be getting an upgrade, much of which could be paid for through savings on energy, town engineers have said. 

During a presentation to the Town Board last month, engineers Jamie Richter and Michael Collins presented a plan to pay for renovations of the Justice Court offices, which are now housed in a pair of portable units connected to the back of Town Hall.

The town is considering replacing those portables with five new ones placed perpendicular to the main building, jutting out an additional 12 feet into the parking lot, Mr. Richter said.

According to Councilwoman Jill Doherty, the board’s liaison to the Justice Court, the new offices would include a jury room, more bathrooms and a separate entrance for judges. The six parking spaces behind the current court would be lost, but could be added elsewhere on town property.

Ms. Doherty said the town would also build a new side door into the Town Hall meeting room for use when court is in session. Those arriving for court appearances will enter via that door and pass through the court’s metal detector.

That’s a marked improvement from the existing court offices, officials said. Currently, according to a previous Suffolk Times report, jurors deliberate in a conference room piled high with boxes of old files and the court’s safe sits in a corner.

“It’s been this way forever, but it’s time to change,” Ms. Doherty said.

Previous plans to build an entirely new court carried a price tag of about $3 million. That proved too expensive, so Mr. Richter and Mr. Collins found a new funding source: energy credits.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Richter said the town would engage a utility company to conduct an audit of several town buildings and determine where upgrades could enhance efficiency and reduce energy costs. Brookhaven Town recently completed a similar program, he said, adding that the company would likely conduct the audit free of charge.

Mr. Richter said Town Hall, one of the buildings that would be inspected, needs a new heating and air conditioning system. Loans would also be made available at a lower interest rate than bonds.

The savings from any energy-efficient upgrades would help cover the cost of installing the new court offices, Mr. Collins added.

“What it really allows us to do is to tap the expertise of these outside companies,” he said. “Whatever you paid for the project work over the lifetime of the improvements would make you cash neutral.”

The town will now put together a request for proposals based on Brookhaven Town’s recent actions, Mr. Richter said. The total cost of a potential new justice court office would be determined after the utility company energy audit.

Ms. Doherty said construction could begin in 2016 and would require court offices to move to a different location for only a few weeks.

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