Busy court nights in Herkimer's village hall are resulting in codes violations, according to village Codes Officer Dave Kuehnle.
The Herkimer village board discussed a letter from Kuehnle addressing the issue during a meeting Tuesday evening. Kuehnle said in his letter that on court nights the hallway outside on the courtroom is congested with people awaiting appearances in court. The hall must be kept clear to allow for easy exit in case of an emergency, he said.
Mayor Mark Ainsworth said one problem is that when prisoners are brought in, they often have several family members with them. He asked if there could be a limit on this.
“One municipality tried that and got sued,” said police Chief Joseph Malone. “It's open to the public.”
Trustee Katherine Nichols pointed out the courtroom has a posted limit of 46 people.
Village Attorney Nicholas Macri said in Frankfort people waiting to make an appearance in court assemble in the old gymnasium there and are brought into the courtroom in groups.
“There's no place for that here,” said Nichols.
Malone said it might help if court appearance times were staggered. As it is, he said, on Wednesday, the court schedule is packed and on Thursday the traffic is light. Allowing people into the courtroom before the court session begins could help relieve the hallway congestion, he added.
The chief noted any changes would be up to the judges. Michael Petucci and Karl Manne serve as village justices.
Court had to be canceled the day of the shootings in Mohawk and Herkimer, adding to the congestion on subsequent court nights, Village Clerk Amanda Viscomi pointed out. She also said the village office staff has had to lock the downstairs restroom on court nights due to problems with vandalism.
Nichols said people may have to wait in the parking lot.
“This room is still limited to 46 people,” she said.
“Somebody could get clipped by a car,” said Trustee Anthony Brindisi.
Malone said the important thing is the village is addressing the problem. “It's been going on for years,” he said.
Trustee William Markey said he would take suggestions for resolving the issue to the village justices.
The board also voted to have NEP Glass install a window with a slot in the courtroom door to address security concerns. NEP Glass submitted a quote of $725. Brindisi said a bell could be installed to call court personnel to the window.