By Rick Miller
After July 31, the Ellicottville Village courtroom in the Town Hall at Washington and Jefferson streets will close its doors for the last time.
Next month, violations and infractions recorded in the village of just under 400 residents will be heard in Ellicottville Town Court at the Town Center at Fillmore and Parkside drives.
The Ellicottville Village Board voted last year to dissolve the village court, which was approved in a permissive referendum.
Longtime Village Judge Jack Rogan, who has served 43 years in the judicial post, did not run for re-election.
“Jack really has done a great job for the village, especially in looking out for kids,” said Mayor John Burrell.
The Ellicottville Village Board was driving the process, Burrell said. In dissolving the court, the board had expected to end court by the end of its fiscal year, May 31. When that did not happen, Town Justice John Karassik, a village resident, was named acting village judge until the formal takeover July 31.
The other town judge is Andrew Stokes. Town Court is held on the second Monday and second Thursday.
There are 35 justice courts in Cattaraugus County, Burrell said. Most of them cost more in municipal taxes than they return, he added. The village of Ellicottville was no exception.
Burrell said the court clerk will continue to work for the village in a different capacity. Meanwhile, the town court clerk, who serves both judges, will see some extra work, as will the judges.
In addition, Burrell noted, village residents pay about 21% of the town’s general fund, which includes the courts.
Village residents will continue to pay that portion of the town’s court system, but will no longer be paying for the village court. Burrell said the town courts are more likely to be closer to the break-even point when village violations are added to the court docket.
“The two judges will be a little busier,” he said, adding, “I’ve been a proponent of looking at regional courts.” He envisions a regional court for the towns of Ellicottville, Mansfield and Franklinville.
“You have to do these things when you can,” Burrell said. “It all came about as we talked about it. I’m glad it worked out.”
Supervisor Matthew McAndrew said, with the village dissolving its court, “we really didn’t have any choice but to take it over.”
McAndrew said the village will save money, but it’s not clear whether the town will as well.
“It will be more of a burden on the town,” he said. “The downside is that there will be more work for our clerk. Until we get a full year under our belt, we won’t know about revenue. The number of cases goes up and down.”