GRANBY — Granby officials are planning to add a second full-time clerk in an effort to tackle the rising number of town court cases.
Last week Granby Justice Tracy Doyle, one of the town’s two judges, asked the Granby Town Board to move to two full-time court clerks instead of the current arrangement of one part-time and one full-time clerk. Councilors approved the measure 4-0 at meeting earlier this month, and a candidate could be approved for the position as soon as the upcoming Jan. 22 work session.
Town Supervisor John Snow Jr. estimated the cost would be about $6,000 more in salary and $9,000 more in benefits, which could be made up by raising the estimated revenue for sales tax in the budget. Funding for the position would be formalized when a candidate is approved.
For Doyle, the need for additional hours comes down to how busy the Granby town court is.
“Our court, out of all the town courts in Oswego County — which there’s a lot of them — we are the busiest criminal court there is,” Doyle said.
Doyle said he and fellow Granby Town Justice Lesley Schmidt have seen as many as 125 cases in a night.
“Our normal case load is anywhere from 50 to 75 cases. … Back in the day when they had a full-time clerk and a part-time clerk, they handled 70, 80 or 90 cases a year,” Doyle said. “We’re doing that now in one night. Times have changed.”
Doyle said three part-time clerks have left the position in the last two years, including the departure of the most recent person who held the position. Previous part-time clerks left for a variety of reasons, but Doyle said the most recent took a full-time position with an attorney in Oswego.
“She decided to take that job, and I can’t blame her,” Doyle said. “It’s a full-time gig, more money and benefits. So then we lost her.”
With the part-time position vacant, officials are planning to make the position full-time.
Getting another full-time clerk in the office would help the court catch up on paperwork, Doyle said, and ultimately make headway in the records room, which needs to be organized and some older files need to be destroyed.
“There are records back there from a zillion years ago. I’ve got records that are sitting on the floor back there — and so does Judge Schmidt — that need to be put away,” Doyle said. “If you walk in my office, you can’t even see my desk. There’s a cart in front of my desk with boxes and boxes of records for myself and Judge Schmidt.”
The mountains of paperwork are in addition to regular duties, such as answering phones, letting people know their court dates and other responsibilities on the day court is in session.
“The phones don’t stop ringing with people asking ‘Do I have court tonight?’” Doyle said. “It’s crazy on Mondays (before court is in session) and it takes two people just to answer the phones. You get nothing done. It’s crazy. It’s chaos.”
For Doyle, the Granby Town Court has simply outgrown having one full-time and one part-time clerk.
“If you come to court (Monday night), it will be packed,” Doyle said. “There won’t be an empty seat in there and there will be people in the hallway. … We’re out of code every night we open the court because there’s too many people.”
Granby officials in recent years have been seeking alternative ways to deal with the influx in court cases, and are also considering relocating the town hall and converting the current building into an expanded court.
Snow said the town contracted with Syracuse-based King & King Architects to study the issue, and plans to apply for grant funding to assist in paying for any future move.