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Dual use of historic courthouse decried, citizen offers solution

Lake George Historical Association President Alex Parrott talks Aug. 9 about how dual use of the Old County Courthouse — now utilized as a museum — would put artifacts at risk and compromise the mission of the museum. The Lake George Town Board has recently proposed to use the building as an active courthouse for overflow state Supreme Court proceedings.

Lake George Historical Association President Alex Parrott talks Aug. 9 about how dual use of the Old County Courthouse — now utilized as a museum — would put artifacts at risk and compromise the mission of the museum. The Lake George Town Board has recently proposed to use the building as an active courthouse for overflow state Supreme Court proceedings. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Former Association Trustee Joan West picketed the meeting, and later sobbed as she told of how she quit her post last August over the controversy of dual use.

Association President Alex Parrott had told of how impromptu court sessions would interfere with museum hours and programs. Artifacts could be easily damaged as they were moved repeatedly back and forth from the courtroom — the museum’s display room.

The security of the artifacts would be compromised with the public traffic in the court, he said. He and others said the judge’s bench and witness stand were artifacts themselves, and inappropriate for use now. Supervisor Dickinson pledged full support of the museum, adding that he was in no way suggesting the museum move out. He and the board were merely exploring options in generating revenue for the town to make needed repairs to preserve the building, he said.

Les Edwards, who worked as a court officer for two years, said the building would not serve well as a contemporary courtroom.

“The Town Board should be supporting the museum rather than disrupting it,” he said. “Keep the court proceedings out of the museum.”

Various Association members criticized the board for pursuing such ideas for alternate uses — like holding weddings in the courthouse — without discussing them first with them.

“We feel side-stepped,” Association vice president Scott Bauberger said.

A half-dozen people said the communication between the board and the Association was lacking. Dickinson apologized, but emphasized the board was merely exploring ideas, and were intending to gather information before they consulted with the Association officials.

“From now on, we’ll keep you in the loop,” Dickinson said.

Two board members, Dan Hurley and Fran Heinrich, said they strongly opposed the dual use of the courthouse. Marisa Muratori said dual uses of structures was a new, reasonable trend — in theory.

“Every idea needs to be heard, whether it has merit or not,” she said.

Museum officials assured town board members, in light of their fiscal concerns, that they’d now take action to seek grants to repair the courthouse.

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