There was a rather lively discussion toward the end of last week's Town Board meeting that, at least in my case, was not surprising at all. At issue was the reduced operating hours the Cicero Justice Court Clerk's Office. Currently the office operates on a scaled-back schedule of 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and closed on Friday. Keep this in mind should you need to visit that Office.
The shortened schedule makes it difficult for many to pay fines, discuss tickets, get a driver's license suspension lifted, obtain eviction notices, and many other court-related matters. This difficult situation rests squarely on those who voted last fall to cut a part-time court clerk position, a move that I strongly opposed.
And I was not alone.
Former Town Justice Carl Putzer also opposed the staff reduction in the court clerk's office and warned it would adversely affect the way the court deals with the public. Unfortunately our arguments were not successful and instead the budget which I opposed slashed the court clerk's office regardless of how it affected the public. While I appreciate the desire to reduce the cost of government, cuts must be done with thought and planning. It's a perfect example of the old adage "penny wise, pound foolish." Because of this ill-thought choice to cut a hourly part time job, the town now pays added overtime costs to keep the court clerk's office open on it's limited schedule. Perhaps the saddest point to be made is the fact that it didn't have to be this way.
Shortly before the town board voted to cut the part-time clerk, I suggested that a credit card machine be installed in the court clerk's office to process traffic fines and other fees the office collects. Courts equipped to handle credit cards collect more fines and other revenues more timely than Courts that, like Cicero's, operate on a cash-only basis. The simple ability to process credit cards could have easily produced enough money to cover the paycheck of a part-time clerk and keep our court clerk's office operating normally.
Simple creative ideas can solve major issues and prevent frustration or inconvenience for residents.