Probate court to Monroe?

The Probate Court at Trumbull Town Hall serves Easton, Monroe and Trumbull. — Steve Coulter photo
The Probate Court at Trumbull Town Hall serves Easton, Monroe and Trumbull. — Steve Coulter photo

The Monroe and Trumbull town attorneys recently sent a joint letter to the state about potentially moving the Probate Court serving Monroe, Easton and Trumbull from Trumbull to Monroe’s Chalk Hill site.

Now that the Sandy Hook School has relocated back to Newtown, the question of what to do with the vacant Chalk Hill has attracted the interest of neighboring towns, like Trumbull. According to a Trumbull Times report, Tim Herbst, Trumbull First Selectman, is looking to move the Probate Court from their town hall due to a lack of space.

Herbst said that he would like the court to move to Chalk Hill “because it’s a vacant building and we won’t be disturbing anyone or anything.”

Probate Court primarily deals with wills, estates and guardianships.  

Local concerns

However the potential move to Chalk Hill caused a stir during the Sept. 19 Board of Education (BOE) meeting. During the meeting, BOE chairman Donna Lane said she was concerned about how the presence of the Probate Court could impact the security of Chalk Hill, as Jockey Hollow Middle School uses the Chalk Hill field and the parking lot. Superintendent Jim Agostine recognized that the BOE had previously told the town that the school district doesn’t have a need for the building. Agostine was also quick to note that a Probate Court is not the same as a school and asked how a court would impact traffic flow.

Vice-Chairman George King described the predicament to the board that the BOE does not own the building, that they don’t need the building but that they are concerned about what will happen to the building in the future.

The Chalk Hill issue is so difficult to get your arms around,” Agostine said. “Every angle has its pros and its cons and it’s difficult to say which is the best.”

Only a possibility

The Courier spoke with First Selectman Steve Vavrek on Tuesday about the Probate Court’s potential move to Monroe. At this point Vavrek said that Trumbull and Monroe will have to wait for the state’s response to the letter both town’s attorneys sent.

He said the state could reject the move and that could be the end of it.

“This isn’t a done deal,” Vavrek said.

He said that he supports having the Probate Court move to Chalk Hill as long as it is approved through the proper town channels.

“The Probate Court actually came to me. Tim Herbst has a situation where he feels his town hall is over crowded, he reached out to me to ask if Monroe would be amenable to putting the Probate Court to Chalk Hill,” Vavrek said. “I would love to see a tenant, but it has to go through all the necessary approvals.”

Vavrek said that as long as the move is approved by the Town Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission that he wouldn’t have an issue with the court moving to town.

As to the BOE’s safety and security concerns, Vavrek said he had previously reached out to the Monroe Police Department and that they told him that they didn’t have any “major” safety concerns if the Probate Court takes up residence at Chalk Hill.

Vavrek also said that if there are any costs for the court’s relocation would be split between the three towns in the district.

“That’s the key thing people are forgetting, I could say yes to anything, I could want anything but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen [unless it is approved by zoning],” he said.

If the court does move to Monroe, Vavrek said it would only be taking up a few of the classrooms at Chalk Hill.

He also noted that if the court moved in that it would not be the only tenant. Other Chalk Hill tenants include Easton’s Speech Academy, the Food Pantry, social services and some town offices.

Vavrek also mentioned that the police department is currently using Chalk Hill for training purposes.  

The Trumbull Times reported that Judge of Probate T.R. Rowe has concerns regarding the location of Chalk Hill.

“The school is located in the northern top of the district and isn’t the most conveniently placed for the court,” Rowe said.

For now the Probate Court’s move is up in the air while Trumbull and Monroe wait for the state’s response.