Housatonic Probate Court to get new home
Published 9:15 am, Wednesday, November 15, 2017
NEW MILFORD — Town Council members agreed recently that the Housatonic Probate Court has outgrown its space in Town Hall and should move to a building on Bridge Street.
In addition to the lack of space, confidentiality and security concerns were cited as the main catalysts for the move, which has been discussed for years.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Councilman Walter Bayer.
Last year, town and court officials considered moving the probate court to 25 Church St., but the plan fell through. The new plan would move the court to 47 Bridge St., which housed the Parks and Recreation Department before it moved to the newly opened John Pettibone Community Center.
At a meeting last week, town and court officials touted the benefits the Bridge Street building offered, including separate rooms for attorneys to meet with their clients in private, a waiting area, more security, more filing space and a separate hearing room.
At the current space, groups have to wait in the hall by the building’s main entrance, which many said wasn’t conducive to the needs of the court, especially given the sensitive nature of the cases Probate Court handles. Hearings can also be heard through the walls.
“I’m shocked by the amount of volume that goes through there and it’s essentially a closet,” said Councilman Tom Esposito.
Judge Martin Landgrebe said the plan is to pull the old judge’s bench, witness stands and railroad benches for the new courtroom to help create a more professional environment. The larger space will also allow parties who aren’t getting along to have more space, Landgrebe said.
The smaller meeting rooms also provide court staff a chance to pull children from hearings and meet with them in private or keep them from one of the adults involved in the case if needed.
“There’s no privacy (currently),” Councilwoman Mary Jane Lundgren said. “That’s a really big issue.”
Councilman Frank Wargo said improving the security was a big concern for him. The security plan is still being created.
“Right now, we can’t serve their office,” he said.
The other towns that make up Housatonic Probate Court — Bridgewater, Brookfield, New Fairfield and Sherman — still have to sign off on the move.
Landgrebe said they have shown those town officials around the new space and they seemed to be pleased with it.