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Moriah court project on hold

PORT HENRY - Plans for a new court house in Moriah are on hold.

Citing the national economic recession, Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said this is not the time for a new project.

"We're putting everything on hold," he said. "These are very uncertain times."

Steven Gold of the New York State Office of Court Administration told the Moriah town board in June the present 12x14 foot room that serves as Moriah town court is inadequate and must be addressed.

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.

The state Office of Court Administration had promised Moriah nearly $50,000 for the $300,000 construction. That meant the town would need to borrow for the project.

"Municipal bonds depend on the market, like stocks," Scozzafava explained. "Right now the interest rates are right.

"The (state) comptroller put out a memo recently urging municipalities to put bonding on hold," he added. "That's what we're going to do."

Besides, the supervisor noted, the $50,000 from the state Office of Court Administration may no longer be available.

"They (the Office of Court Administration) have their own problems and they're willing to work with us," Scozzafava said.

"The whole thing is up in the air," he said. "I'm not going to borrow money with interest rates as high as they are. It wouldn't be fiscally responsible for me to do that."

Scozzafava acknowledges the Moriah town court space is inadequate.

"The court is functional as it is," he said. "Does it meet state regulations? No."

Town trustees are now looking for a short-term solution to the court situation. That may mean renting space.

"We're looking for space that may be available in the private sector that will satisfy the Office of Court Administration," Scozzafava said. "We're exploring our options. The whole key is affordability."

Originally expected to cost about $170,000, estimates for a new court building are now as high as $500,000 because of state regulations and mandates. Scozzafava believes the final cost - when a court house is constructed - will be about $300,000.

Moriah had been hoping to construct a joint municipal building with the village of Port Henry to house town court and police along with the village fire department. That plan fell apart last spring when a suitable location and timetable for construction couldn't be found.

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