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Mayor touts rebirth and rebound in State of the City address

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri started his first State of the City address at the podium of the Mohawk Valley Community College stage, but soon chose instead to walk around, speaking more informally and off the cuff.

Palmieri reflected on a first year in office he says was spent clawing the city's way back from the brink of financial ruin.

"I think financially, where we've come to, we were close to a control board," Palmieri said after the address. "We're certainly not out of the woods but I think what we have, at this point, we have a structure that's moving in the right direction."

The mayor said that, in the space of one year, his administration turned a negative $3 million operational deficit into a $900,000 operational surplus, and a negative $15,000 unreserved fund balance to a $1 million undesignated fund balance.

The mayor called Utica a "city on the rebound," crediting new economic development with much of that turnaround, pointing to new business, such as Bass Pro Shops in the Riverside Plaza,  and old buildings that have new life and new jobs, including the old Bossert Site, now home to an auto supply distributor, and the HSBC building and Clark City Center.

The mayor introduced a new law aimed at cutting down on crime in and around convenience stores. The law would require the owners to obtain special permits in order to be open between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., which is when most of the crime occurs. In order to obtain a permit, owners would have to meet certain criteria, including the purchase of security systems (including cameras), a lock box and an unobscured view through the windows  -- something that could prove problematic for small stores where the windows account for much of the shelf space.

On the heels of Palmieri's address, another big day looms for the city. The mayor will release his budget proposal next week. Palmieri was noncommittal about whether his proposal would include a tax increase, decrease or whether taxes would remain the same. The mayor did say that the need to bond for things such as vehicles and other equipment caused the budget to grow, and that he wouldn't compromise public safety or services in order to balance the budget.

"It'll be a structurally sound budget, it will give us growth in the future without reducing our services. ... We've been cut as far as we can cut, at this point, and as I said from here today, we can't cut our way out of this mess, we have to grow."

The mayor releases his budget to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment on Feb. 20 and will immediately release it to the media.

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