UTICA, N.Y. -- Democratic candidate for Oneida County Executive, Michael Hennessy, took a firm stance Monday morning against the plans to build the MVHS Hospital in downtown Utica.
Hennessy says the cost has skyrocketed from the original price tag of about $485 million, with his most recent update showing a cost of about $548 million. Hennessy says that adding in the costs of the parking garage, the total bill will be closer to $750 million.
At a news conference Monday morning at Delta Hotels by Marriott, Hennessy said he would support the hospital if it were at the Faxton-St. Luke's campus.
Hennessy said he does not support eminent domain to take the properties in the footprint of the parking garage because the garage itself is underfunded.
He asked that MVHS, state and county officials hold off on development until after the election.
"It's becoming more and more expensive and the taxpayers can't be forced to be paying for a garage and also be behind with bonds in any format, because if this falls apart, if we are liable for some of this we need to know," says Hennessy.
Hennessy says the overruns in cost already show a lack of planning, and he'd like the voters to be able to decide on the fate of the downtown hospital.
Hennessy says he has agreed to two debates between now and Election Day.
MVHS responded to Hennessy's claims regarding the new hospital. The full statement reads:
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Hennessy took such a strong stance against the health system’s plans to construct a new regional medical center in Downtown Utica without having met with or discussed the details around the project with anyone from MVHS.
As we are now four years into the project and know what the design and layout of the new medical center will be, we can more accurately estimate the actual cost of the project, which will be approximately $548 million. Several factors added to the increased cost of the project and include: increased dollars spent on property acquisitions and relocation assistance; increased construction cost due to increases in factors such as labor, tariff, etc.; and additional new medical equipment costs. The initial budget estimate was done four years ago in 2015 and was just that, an estimate. The parking garage is a city/county project and its costs are not included in the medical center budget. Therefore, Mr. Hennessy’s assertion that the will be $750 million is greatly exaggerated and untrue.
We recently received approvals from the City of Utica Zoning Board, Planning Board and Common Council that allow us to move forward with abatement and demolition of our properties in the footprint of the new medical center. The St. Luke’s Campus is not an option.
The New York State Healthcare Transformation Grant is providing $300 million toward the project and MVHS is using its cash reserves, philanthropy and bonding to secure the rest of the $248 million. The bonds will not in any way impact Oneida County and its taxpayers. The financing has already been committed.
This new medical center will transform the way healthcare is delivered in our community and we greatly appreciate the support we’ve received from our elected officials on all levels.”