In early August, Southold Town closed on the former Capital One building for $3.1 million, intending to make the building the new home of Justice Court. The court shares space with the town board at its current location at Town Hall.
At an August 28 work session questions were raised by the Department of Public Works and the police department about whether it was more sensible to leave Justice Court at town hall and move town hall services into the bank building. But Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the possibility had already been considered and the building will house Justice Court as planned.
Jamie Richter, the town engineer, pointed out that by changing the location of the court instead of town hall in its entirety, both entities will experience minor disruptions during the transition.
“We could fit the Town Clerk’s office, the Assessor’s office, the Tax Receiver’s office, and put them in the new building, but we’re not going to get another large meeting hall,” Richter said.
The acquisition began in March 2018, when the town adopted a resolution to secure $5.5 million, the number estimated it would take to purchase and renovate the building to offer the court a permanent and exclusive home. The town has $1.9 million dedicated to upgrades and an extra $500,000 in contingency funds.
The building, located on the corner of Main Street and Youngs Avenue, currently houses the Southold Town Annex, which the town has been renting for approximately $64,000 a year, according to Russell. The original plan was for the annex to remain in its current location in the bank building with Justice Court occupying the front area previously housing Capital One.
In March, Russell said the cons of buying the building included new debt and the additional work and maintenance the building would require because it’s an older structure. However, Southold ended the 2017 fiscal year with $1 million more in the fund balance than anticipated.
“The estimated debt service for $5.5 million is about $380,000. That means we’re going to be adding about $315,000 of new spending in budget for next year. It’s a substantial amount to offset, but we think we can,” Russell said earlier this year.
But that is a number Russell says was determined to be the least costly of all the options the town explored for the court, including alternative properties for sale, for rent, and for lease, or constructing a new building.
“We’ve worked so hard to develop a good credit rating and we still maintain the highest credit rating we’ve had in the history of this town. Why do that if we’re not going to take advantage of it and buy when the opportunity presents itself?” he said in March.
The building comes with 93 parking spaces that will remain in municipal control and the purchase requires an increase in staff for the Department of Public Works.