UTICA, N.Y. - The executive vice president and chief operating officer for Mohawk Valley Health System says he still frequently answers one question: Is the hospital a done deal?
"I made the joke that we dig up a dinosaur fossil and it stops the project, otherwise our plan is to build this hospital on that 25-acre location in downtown Utica," Bob Schofield said.
Despite blueprints and more solidified plans presented at Wednesday night's common council meeting, the council president questioned several key aspects of the project.
Michael Galime could not attend the meeting, but he released a statement ahead of time, raising concerns over the parking garage and the fact that planned medical office buildings are not included in the site proposal. He said, in part:
"At the time of the parking garage debate MVEDGE provided the UED committee numbers based on MOB development and parking garage use. Neither of the medical office buildings proposed at that time are on the current site proposal. How much will the proposed smaller MOB provide, if it is built? MVHS and EDGE have stated we are in control of PILOTS. Will a developer consider the project without one? The numbers for lost property tax and proposed new tax income are no longer valid, and need to be refreshed. A bigger question is why are we not negotiating an agreement with MVHS to pay the lost revenues to the City, School, and County, allowing Utica to start on a level playing field. This would be the only way any of the potential proposed benefits would actually pan out."
"Are we going to share in the revenue of that to offset all the payments that we've got to provide to help build this garage?" Mark Williamson, council member at large said.
Schofield did not specify whether or not Utica's public entities would financially benefit from the parking garage. He claims the details cannot be worked out until the memorandum of agreement for funding the project is finalized between the city and Oneida County.
"There are still a lot of questions related to the county and the city's memorandum of agreement for the parking garage," Schofield said.
"Frankly, we are anticipating the professional office building will replenish that tax-loss plus, plus."
Galime also implied the communication between MVHS officials and property owners in the Lafayette-Columbia street neighborhood is strained.
"The private property and business owners. Have they been communicated with effectively?" Galime said in his statement. "At this point, the answer is no."
Schofield says the offers on their properties are forthcoming.
"We do not own the properties that the hospital is going to be placed on," Schofield said. "The appraisals were completed in the end of 2016 and we received them back, the approved ones, back in November. Property owners will receive their letters and offers this week."
Some property owners are refusing to leave, and Galime fears the ramifications of their refusal.
"For two and a half years, the property owners, businesses, and lessees have had to endure complete uncertainty while MVHS has worked with government officials and a paid marketing firm to promote this proposal to the public," Galime said in the statement. "What happens if after this time of uncertainty, people rightfully do not want to move? What will be the answer? This should be a grave concern of District 1 representation."
"I'm willing to use every dollar I have," Joe Cerini, a property owner and member of No Hospital Downtown said. "Giving a property to a non-profit under eminent domain, there's legalities there."