KINGSTON — Next week’s hotly contested election will now feature yet another epic battle. The Kingston City Council decided Tuesday night to formally oppose the ballot proposition allowing Ulster County to move the Family Court outside city limits.
All the aldermen agreed that the Business Resource Center is probably a bad location for the Family Court, due to parking deficiencies, inconvenience to litigants and attorneys, plus disputes over alleged cost savings.
With one week left before Election Day, they came up with a plan to stop it. First Ward Alderwoman Lynn Eckert moved to suspend the rules, amending the agenda to insert a memorializing resolution against Proposition #1 of 2016.
Mayor Steven Noble quietly sat in the nearly deserted audience, the low attendance due to changed meeting date. Afterward, he expressed agreement with the Common Council’s decision to oppose.
“It’s a slippery slope, having things that are, by law, mandated to be in our county seat, being allowed to move outside,” Mayor Noble said. “I’m afraid of what other services our city may lose,” he noted, adding that a viable solution might be worked out with county officials to keep Family Court closer to uptown.
Eckhert echoed Noble’s assertions. “We think the move is based on a faulty feasibility study,” she said.
“Enough is enough,” declared, Seventh Ward Alderwoman Mary Ann Mills, who agreed with arguments posted by County Legislator David Donaldson on Facebook last week, warning of potential cost overruns reminiscent of the County Jail fiasco, which suffered delays and overruns.
“The evidence is clear,” Donaldson wrote on Oct. 29. “[Ulster County Legislative] Chairman [Kenneth] Ronk made up a number that was totally fabricated, just as other county officials. The real numbers and testimony [sic] came out under sworn statement in court,” he said.
Facts and figures incorporated into County Executive Michael Hein’s 2017 budget proposal, stated that utilizing BRC was the least expensive solution to correct deficiencies in the current Family Court facility on Lucas Avenue, saving taxpayers up to $20 million. Donaldson argued, however, that the rented Uptown location is listed for sale at just $2.2 million.
“The reality is that we can still stay at the present site after a renovation and turnkey buy for half what we will be paying to move to the BRC,” Donaldson said. “We need to send a message to these officials that our money matters just as does real work and examination of alternatives does.”