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Small Towns Oppose Probate Consolidation, Mandatory Regionalization
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A day after the House of Representatives passed a bill to slash the number of probate courts in Connecticut, leaders of small towns gathered in Hartford to say they don't like the plan, or the specter of forced regionalization.

Governor Jodi Rell first proposed consolidating the number of probate courts in her budget proposal. The House bill would cut the number of courts by more than half - from 117 to 50. And it passed overwhelmingly, with just 19 no votes.

The thinking is fewer courts cost less money. But the Connecticut Council of Small Towns worries their municipalities will get the raw end of the deal. Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno urged his colleagues to try to stop the bill in the Senate. 

"The only thing we know for certain is if this bill passes, we're going to faced with considerably increased costs for diminished service from an impersonal court that's going to be very, very far removed from our hometown constituents."

For all town leaders, this is a stressful time. They're not sure how local aid will fare in the eventual state budget, and they're worried that as the state looks to cut costs, the burden will get shoved onto them.

That's what Tom Marsh thinks is going with probate courts. He's the First Selectman of Chester, which he says has relatively low court costs. He worries consolidation will make his town kick in more to subsidize the costs for larger cities.

But he's lobbying in a session where regionalization is being touted by Republicans and Democrats alike. Marsh says it feels like a bipartisan attack on home rule.

"All of the representatives and senators will tell you that the most fiscally accountable form of government is the town meeting, so why would be moving away from that form of government to address a fiscal issue?"

Another vote is expected on Thursday on a bill that sets up more voluntary ways for cost and revenue sharing among towns.