By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The discussion continues among the Town Council about moving to a probate court in a different district.
Recently, several council members toured the probate court in Bristol and Farmington.
Located on the third floor of Bristol City Hall, Probate Court Region 19 includes Bristol, Plainville, and Plymouth.
Bristol is moving forward with a plan to move its probate court facilities from City Hall on Main Street to the Beals Senior Center on Stafford Avenue. This project is expected to be completed in August, said Town Manager Robert Lee during a recent Town Council meeting.
Lee said Plainville’s share of the cost of the renovation is estimated to be close to $125,000 to $130,000. Operationally, Lee said it would cost Plainville an estimated $3,000 to $3,500 if it joins the Farmington probate court. Currently, the town pays around $7,000 a year to the Bristol court.
Under current state statutes, the town cannot move to another probate district until the term of the current probate judge has been completed, which will not occur until January 2019. If the majority of the Town Council decides to proceed in that direction, special legislation would be necessary.
Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese, who took a tour of the probate facilities in both districts, met with the judge at the court in Bristol.
“They certainly are cramped,” said Pugliese, adding how the court’s future location at the senior center will double the space it currently has.
When taking a tour of the probate court in Farmington, council members questioned whether the space there would be sufficient to serve Plainville, said Pugliese. But the judge there assured the town that the space would not need to be expanded to accommodate Plainville. The judge told council members that the court would just need a new fireproof file cabinet.
“Judge Daly reassured us that they did not have to expand their space in Farmington to accommodate the Plainville folks going there for probate services,” said Pugliese.
Pugliese added that the driving distance from Plainville to Farmington “will not impose any more difficulty for people” if the own is able to switch probate courts. Located about seven miles from the Plainville Municipal Center, the Farmington court district currently serves at least 35,000 people.
“It’s in the Farmington Town Hall, which is easily accessible,” said Pugliese. “It’s easy to get to, it’s clearly marked.”
During the meeting, at least several council members supported the move to the probate court in Farmington, including Quinn Christopher, Dan Carrier, and Deborah Tompkins.
“I think Farmington looks good and I do have some concerns with the future operating costs if we stay in Bristol,” said Tompkins. “They can be a huge increase to us.”
Vice Chairperson Scott Saunders also considered moving Plainville to the probate court in Farmington.
“I’m concerned about the costs even though Bristol has done a great job for Plainville,” said Saunders. “We need to move forward.”
“It may be practical to consider Farmington as an alternative,” added Pugliese.