Council to voters: Reject court move
City lawmakers oppose relocation of Family Court to town of Ulster
KINGSTON >> The Common Council is urging a “no” vote on next week’s ballot proposition to move Ulster County Family Court from Kingston to the neighboring town of Ulster.
During a meeting Tuesday, the council voted 8-0 in favor of a resolution urging voters to reject the Family Court referendum. The resolution was a lastminute addition to the council’s agenda, but one member said it was important to address.
“We believe that it sets a bad precedent, that there’s the potential to use this move from Kingston to the town of Ulster to move other government services,” said Alderwoman Lynn Eckert, D-Ward 1.
Eckert said the proposed move is based on a faulty feasibility study that did not consider other viable locations in the city of Kingston.
Eckert, who proposed the council resolution, said moving Family Court from 16 Lucas Ave. in Kingston to the countyowned Business Resource Center on Ulster Avenue in the town of Ulster would be far more costly than the county simply buying the current leased building and renovating it.
“And, for all of those reasons,
we think it’s a bad decision, not just for the voters here in Kingston, but for the citizens throughout Ulster County,” Eckert said.
Alderman Tony Davis, DWard 6, said attorneys who practice in the Family Court prefer the Lucas Avenue location and that there is concern about the availability of parking at the Business Resource Center, which is in a complex that houses numerous county employees.
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble endorsed the council’s action.
“I agree with the Common Council,” Noble said after the meeting, adding that allowing the court move could be the start of a “slippery slope.”
Noble also said the city could work with the county to find a different location for Family Court within Kingston.
State law mandates that county court facilities be in the county seat, which in Ulster County is Kingston. Moving a county court out of the seat requires approval by the county’s voters.
Ulster County has been under pressure since 2013 to provide adequate facilities for Family Court. In 2014, Deputy County Executive Robert Sudlow told lawmakers the Lucas Avenue building’s owner had developed a $7 million renovation plan, though that number was changed to $6 million in 2015. That price included the purchase of the building.
In 2016, the idea of renovating the building was no longer being presented by Ulster County Executive Michael Hein’s administration as an option.
The cost of renovations at the town of Ulster site also has been a moving target, with a first study suggesting a $4.7 million price tag, while a 2016 study pegged the cost, in 2018 dollars, at $10.4 million.
In addition to adopting the Family Court resolution, council members plan to use advertising to urge a “no” on the referendum. They plan to place a newspaper ad and use social media and the city website.
Ulster County Family Court currently is housed in this building at 16 Lucas Ave. in Kingston.