October 25, 2006

Backward Justice in Bonac?

The siting of the new justice court building does seem "counterintuitive," East Hampton Town Justice Catherine Cahill allowed last week. Less diplomatic critics have dubbed it "ass backwards."

Nearing completion, the long-awaited building faces the back of town hall property, rather than Pantigo Road. Why?

Supervisor Bill McGintee explained that the design of the structure always showed the main entrance facing the back of town hall property. The configuration was necessary in order to maintain the footprint of the old police headquarters. The addition builds from the back of the old HQ.

During a tour last Friday, Judge Cahill noted that the town had to comply with standards developed by the Office of Court Administrators. Public areas must be kept separate from places where suspects are brought in for arraignments. Design options were "hog tied" by the effort to marry the old building with the new addition, she said.

The former parking area, at the front of the old section of the building will be restricted to just staff and police. A parking lot for the general public will be located to the side of the new addition, in an area that once was used for a police impound. Cahill, who has watched the town grapple with an overcrowded facility for years, and can remember building proposals dating back a decade, said she's confident that once the building is in use, the flow will be fine.

Councilwoman Deb Foster raised the question of configuration at a recent town board work session. Admonished by colleagues who advised her the back entrance had always been planned, she said this week, "It's a disappointment to me aesthetically. But economically we did the right thing." Foster said that when it comes to town building projects in the future, she will be "less trusting" and ask her questions earlier in the process. Overall, the lawmaker said the new court building "looks better every day." It will be lovely once it is finished, both Foster and Cahill agreed.

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