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Watertown will submit plans for City Court project to state

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City of Watertown officials intend to send off revised plans next week for the $1.5 million in renovations to accommodate a second City Court judge.

Engineer Kurt W. Hauk outlined preliminary plans for the second courtroom to the City Council on Monday night. The Fifth Judicial District will review the modified plans before sending them off to Albany for final approval.

“We’re going to give them the floor plan and they’ll either kind of give us a thumbs up to proceed or they may have tweaks they want us to do or make us start again from scratch,” Mr. Hauk said.

Judge Catherine J. Palermo will become the second full-time city judge after the state Legislature passed legislation last year to increase the number of judges across the state.

The modified plans feature a new configuration for the first-floor courtroom in City Hall. It switches the location of the judge’s bench, which now will face the same direction as the judge in the other courtroom.

The engineering office has been forced to work around ceiling heights of 8 and 10 feet in the new courtroom, Mr. Hauk said, adding he does not know how long the state review will take or when the project will start.

The required renovations include converting some court office space into a second courtroom; adding judge chambers and an office for another court clerk; relocating office space in another part of the court complex, and creating space for a secure prisoner holding area at the back of the building.

The actual costs could change, Mr. Hauk said.

The city is required to pay for the renovations, while the state Office of Court Administration is responsible for judge and court staff salaries.

Ms. Palermo’s full-time status becomes effective April 1; her term ends in 2018.

City Council members appointed Judge Palermo a part-time judge in January 2012, when Judge James C. Harberson retired. She replaced Judge Eugene R. Renzi after he was elected to the full-time position in November 2011.

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