SALEM LAKES — The Salem Lakes Village Board put in motion Monday a timeline under which the terms for two municipal judges will expire in the same year. The move is a step toward possible elimination of one judge in 2021.
The motion to approve the charter ordinance was approved by a 5-2 vote. It was opposed by trustees Bill Hopkins and Ron Gandt, who favor eliminating one judge seat, which is vacant anyway, now.
“I am opposed to having two judges, when if fact we barely have enough work for one right now,” Hopkins said. “I’d rather see the money go somewhere different than paying for a judge we don’t need.”
Gandt said no one has been able to explain why the village needs two courts.
“There is no reason for it, none,” Gandt said.
The two courts are the result of the merger of the town of Salem and the village of Silver Lake. After the merger, the board voted in 2017 to merge the court into one. This was to be effective in April when town judge Mike Langel’s term was to expire.
In March, the Village Board repealed that ordinance. This created an empty judge seat as it was too late for it to be added to the April ballot.
Those who supported repealing the ordinance said they believed the merger of the courts would coincide with an election for the sole judge post. Hopkins and Gandt voted against repealing the ordinance.
Village attorney Richard Scholze said the village can appoint a judge to the two-year term, but must wait 60 days from the passage of the charter ordinance.
Both judge terms are set to expire in 2021, Scholze said. The Village Board will still have to vote by the end of 2020 to go back to one court if it wants the two sitting judges to vie for one remaining seat.