UTICA, N.Y.-- Officials with Mohawk Valley Health System say they are one step closer to building the downtown hospital.
"The Public Health Planning Council gave us final approval with contingencies on our certificate need application," Scott Perra, MVHS CEO and President said.
The New York State Department of Health council approved the Certificate of Need required to build the hospital Thursday. Their approval won't be finalized until the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process is completed and all of the property is acquired.
The SEQR process, which began in February, is expected to be completed in early Fall of 2018. It is only then that MVHS can begin the process of acquiring land through eminent domain.
"We technically can't take any of the parcels until the SEQR process, we've talked about that before, is completed," Perra said. "That's still on target for the fall, maybe September, Octoberish is the last date we have on the SEQR process. The SEQR gets completed and then we will be in a position that if we need to exercise eminent domain, we will be exercising eminent domain at that point in time."
Perra confirmed Thursday that 10 of the 35 property owners in the hospital and parking garage footprints have signed paperwork to sell.
For those who have not responded to MVHS's offers or flat-out refuse to sell, the city of Utica and Oneida County will become the lead agencies on the eminent domain process.
For properties under the city's jurisdiction, the Urban Renewal Agency will take the responsibility of enacting eminent domain.
According to one member of the URA, the committee was largely unaware of this fact until the joint city-county decision was released Wednesday evening.
"People started to call me and wanted to know what was going on," Robert DeSanctis, a URA member said. "I said I really don't know because nobody talked to me about this decision as to who was going to take on the effort of eminent domain. The mayor sits in on a lot of those meetings. He wasn't there at today's meeting and I was going to ask him about this."
DeSanctis, also a common council member, said eminent domain was not discussed at Thursday's URA meeting.
Over the summer, MVHS will need to submit another Certificate of Need to the NYSDOH in order to merge Faxton St. Luke's with St. Elizabeth Medical Center, which are currently in operation under two different state orders.