Local government

Grand Isle courthouse open full-time

Had been plagued by police staffing shortages

Grand Isle County Courthouse in North Hero – Islander staff photo

By Mike Donoghue, Islander Staff Writer

NORTH HERO — The Grand Isle County Courthouse in North Hero should be open again five days a week by March 1, according to Scott Griffith, the Interim State Court Administrator.

Griffith on Thursday, in response to the latest series email from Grand Isle State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito, wrote that an employee from Securitas, the Judiciary’s private security vendor, will be available to help fill the needs for screening at the courthouse. 

Chittenden County Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin also has made a commitment to help, Griffith wrote.

DiSabito said resuming fulltime operations is great news for Grand Isle County residents that want to have their judicial services delivered in their home county.

DiSabito has been helping lead the charge since former Court Administrator Patricia Gabel ordered the historic county courthouse closed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays last August due to staffing shortages for security.

DiSabito, along with the three state senators and two state legislators that serve Grand Isle County, have been among the officials pushing for fulltime service to resume.  The state eventually resumed four-day service last fall, but DiSabito kept pushing for restoration of full service.

He maintained Grand Isle County should never be treated any less than all the other counties in Vermont.

“Persistence pays off,” DiSabito told The Islander when reached by phone.

Griffith said many people have been involved in the talks and he cited John Campbell, executive director for the Vermont State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs and his staff in Montpelier. 

State Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle/Colchester and Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin/Alburgh, who serve on the Senate Institutions Committee, said Thursday they are continuing to work on securing funds to ensure improvements required due to COVID restrictions can be implemented at several courthouses, including in North Hero.

Mazza said the legislators and judiciary have been working on trying to restore full court services throughout Vermont, but he was especially concerned about Grand Isle County. 

Parent, as part of an email chain, told Griffith that there will be a push to ensure proper funding for the Judiciary in the Capital budget for the upgrades in North Hero.

State Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock, R-Franklin/Alburgh upon learning about the increased service, sent a return email to Griffith thanking him.

“This is very good news and your continued work to re-open fully the Grand Isle Courthouse is very much appreciated,”  Brock wrote.

Grand Isle Sheriff Ray Allen had notified the state last April that his deputy assigned to courthouse security would be retiring during the summer and the department would not have anybody to replace him.  Allen said the state judiciary would have to take back the security contract at the courthouse.

The state did not take enough constructive steps to fill the void by the time the deputy retired.   Gabel ordered services reduced to two days a week.  The Selectboards in at least three towns in the county became upset by the loss of services and Chairman Jeff Parizo in Grand Isle began to organize a county-wide meeting.  He later punted the organizing to DiSabito and his staff.

Three key figures from the Court Administrators Office came to Grand Isle in September for the county-wide meeting with state legislators, town officials and taxpayers concerned that they could not get legal services in the county.  Among those attending was one judge and one retired judge, who were not impressed by the reduced service for Family, Civil, Criminal and Probate divisions.

By October, Griffith said a temporary plan was developed for security services for 4 days a week.  That has continued on, but DiSabito  and others kept asking when full service would resume.  

Republished with permission from the Feb. 17 Islander, the community newspaper for Grand Isle County and surrounding towns.

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