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Oswego County must make more space for court facilities

Payne Horning
The Oswego Public Safety Center is currently not large enough to accommodate the growing number of court personnel and assignments.

Fifth Judicial District Administrative Judge James Tormey says there's a need for more space at the Oswego Public Safety Center. It's largely driven by the amount of new assignments the court is taking on like opioid court and the Raise the Age law that the New York State Legislature passed last year mandating 16- and 17-year-olds now be handled in family court rather than the adult criminal justice system.

"It's more than pressing, we've needed it for quite some time," Tormey said. "Every year that goes by, we add new initiatives to the court to serve the population better."

Tormey says the judicial district approached Oswego County about this need four years ago but backed off after there were concerns that the county's two nuclear power plants might shut down and take tax dollars with them.

Oswego County Administrator Phil Church says the county now needs to move its probation department from the public safety building to make the necessary space. But displacing the probation department creates the need for new office space.

"We're finding how difficult it is to come up with 12,000 square feet of office space," Church said. "We have nowhere to move them to right now. We are looking at various commercial listings and working with our IDA [Industrial Development Agency] to see if there are any office spaces available."

The Oswego County Legislature recently allocated $100,000 to hire an architect to see if the county can make the additional space by expanding the Public Safety Center.

"It needs to be within a reasonable radius of the Public Safety Center," Church said. "The reason we have a public safety center is to consolidate all of our law enforcement-related departments in one building. It creates enormous efficiencies, it eliminates travel time, it eliminates paying mileage."

Watertown is also working to arrange for more court space. Tormey recently told officials that it needed to add a second courtroom at City Hall to properly accommodate the second full-time judge it has had since 2014.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.