Sex offender issue discussed at community meeting, many questions go unanswered
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A monthly community meeting in North Utica quickly turned into a heated discussion about homeless sex offenders staying at area hotels.
The main topic of discussion was the Davis Motel on Herkimer Road. That's where owner Linda Turner was murdered in November of 2011 by violent repeat sex offender Robert Blainey.
The new owner wants to re-open the motel, which means there would be a possibility that Oneida County could pay to house sex offenders there. The state requires Oneida County to find temporary housing for sex offenders once they are released from jail and local hotels are commonly used for that purpose.
According to state law, their temporary location is not a matter of public record or listed as a current address as long as they only stay there fewer than 10 days.
Friends of Linda Turner say the possibility of allowing sex offenders to stay on the property brought them to the meeting Monday night. "It's extremely offensive," said Cheryl Azzarito, friend of Linda Turner. "I felt disgusted when I heard it after everything that happened there. I mean if you're gonna have a motel or hotel or your efficiency apartments that's fine but to purposely take money to house sex offenders when the thing that happened there is just offensive."
"What happened there was a tragedy and it was ridiculous," said Nicki Jones, friend of Linda Turner. "I know the man is just trying to run a business and that's understandable. I have no qualms if he was going to sign something saying that he would not take vouchers to allow sex offenders to stay there."
"To see the hotel open again and people in and out of there, that's a good thing," said Azzarito.
6th ward Councilor Samantha Colosimo- Testa took the lead of the meeting Monday night. She had just found out the Davis Motel issue was going to be discussed on Monday afternoon and quickly did some research of her own. She says she doesn't think the new owner is opening the motel back up with the intentions of housing sex offenders there, as some were led to believe, but she says there is always the possibility that it could happen. "The potential is there, definitely," said Colosimo- Testa. "And I talked to the county today and sat down the county executive and his chief of staff and I asked them if that (housing homeless sex offenders) was ever brought up and they had reiterated to me that was never brought up. I don't know where it came from."
Colosimo-Testa says the problem needs to be fixed at the state level. She has been in contact with local and state lawmakers to see what can be done about the sex offender situation. She also plans on reaching out to lawmakers in Onondaga County to see how they handle housing homeless sex offenders on a temporary basis. "This is a scary situation because you don't know who is living next to you," said Colosimo. "You don't know what people are capable of and I think the constituents in my district are holding their guard up because they don't want it to happen again. Once is enough and I can understand where they're coming from and I think everybody understands where they're coming from."
Because of the short notice of the topic of the public meeting, a lot of people left with unanswered questions, simply because many of the city officials who could answer those questions were not there. One man who lives right next to the Davis Motel property on Herkimer Road says he does not understand how there are tenants on the property right now. He says there is a codes or zoning issue that needs to be addressed.
Colosimo- Testa is trying to organize another public meeting with the proper officials so all of these questions can be answered. She is hoping to do that prior to May 14th. That's when the zoning board will vote on whether or not to allow the new owner of the Davis Motel to operate the property with six motel rooms and 16 efficiency apartments as requested. Many are asking that the new owner sign a per-requisite that says he can use the property in that manner as long as he agrees not to accept vouchers from the county to let homeless sex offenders stay there.
The public is invited to the Zoning Board meeting which will be held on May 14th at 5pm inside the Common Council Chambers at City Hall at 5 p.m.
If and when another public meeting is scheduled prior to that date we will pass it along.