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Lowville town, village judge steps down; only village to refill

LOWVILLE – A town and village judge here has stepped down due to health issues. However, only the village plans to seek a replacement, as town leaders are looking to move to a single judgeship.

Patricia H. Yarina, who was elected as village judge in March 2010 and one of two town judges in November 2013, said she felt she needed to resign from the two posts because of ongoing cancer treatments that have limited her workload.

“Luckily, I have other good judges with me,” she said.

Mayor Donna M. Smith commended Mrs. Yarina at a meeting Wednesday, saying “she was a great judge and was very fair for us.”

The village judgeship will be filled during the March election, with the winner to serve the remaining year of Mrs. Yarina’s four-year term.

Richard V. Defone, who has served as the village’s appointed acting and associate judge for the past several years, said he plans to seek the elected position.

Meanwhile, the Lowville Town Council on Thursday decided not to appoint someone to the vacant town justice position and abolish the post at the end of the year.

“I think it’s a perfectly logical thing to do,” town Supervisor Randall A. Schell said.

The other town judge, William R. Kiernan, has indicated that he could handle all the town cases without a second justice, Mr. Schell said.

While Lowville is the most populous town in Lewis County, only about 1,400 of its residents live outside the village, which has its own judges, the supervisor said.

Only three other towns in the county – Croghan, Denmark and New Bremen – have two judge positions, he said.

Town attorney Raymond A. Meier said it is up to councilmen whether to refill the vacant post, but the position may not be eliminated until Mrs. Yarina’s term expires at the end of this year,

Since Judge Kiernan will also be up for re-election this fall, the town may just put one judge post on the November ballot and whomever is elected would earn a four-year term, he said.

Mr. Schell said Judge Kiernan’s salary would not be changed this year but it would make sense to increase it in the 2018 budget to reflect the additional workload.

Abolishing a judge position is subject to a permissive referendum, meaning it could be put to a public vote if someone were to gather enough signatures of town voters within 30 days, Mr. Meier said. However, that typically doesn’t happen when the move is expected to save money.

When asked by Trustee Ruth I. Laribee if the town could ever go back to a two-judge system, the attorney said it would be done by the same procedure as removing the position. Town officials could still choose to appoint a second judge later this year if Judge Kiernan is not able to handle the caseload, Mr. Schell said.

Marguerite Wells from Invenergy also attended both village and town board meetings to give an update on the proposed Number Three Wind project.

State officials recently announced that the proposed wind farm, which is slated to include 35 to 50 turbines in the towns of Lowville and Harrisburg, will receive a renewable energy credit purchase agreement from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

That gives a major boost to the project, as Invenergy’s three active wind farms in the state all received similar designation, Ms. Wells said.

“It goes from the somewhat speculative to the 100 percent go, in our perspective,” she said.

Through discussions with local municipal leaders, Invenergy is planning to enter a single road use agreement with all potentially impacted municipalities, including the village, Ms. Wells said.

While the company had initially suggested the project could also include a solar component, that has been scrapped for the time being so as not to overcomplicate the state’s Article 10 review process, she said, noting panels could always be added later as a separate project.