Legislature asked to reimburse MV EDGE for new hospital prep work

Published Jan 10, 2017 at 4:00pm

The Oneida County Board of Legislators is being asked to approve spending $250,000 to support preliminary work leading to construction of a new hospital in downtown Utica.

The quarter of a million dollars would reimburse Mohawk Valley EDGE for assistance it has already provided on behalf of Mohawk Valley Health System’s project to build a new facility near the Utica Memorial Auditorium and city police department. The complex would replace the inpatient services currently provided at the St. Luke’s campus of Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica.

Several tasks already undertaken

​EDGE has already undertaken several tasks as MVHS moves ahead with plans to construct the facility, according to President Steven J. DiMeo. Most notably, EDGE oversaw obtaining appraisals for the targeted properties that need to be acquired to enable construction. The mix of 96 parcels includes operating businesses, vacant buildings, lots and city-owned land.

In discussing the contract with members of the Economic Development & Tourism Committee last week, in advance of this week’s full board meeting, DiMeo said he anticipates the legislators will be requested to authorize an additional $250,000 for more work. He said EDGE has already spent more than $250,000 on the project.

Besides the appraisals, EDGE has been involved with preliminary engineering work, geotechnical reviews and a traffic study, said DiMeo. EDGE began working on the project in June.

The first $250,000 in county money would come from the casino funds received last year. There’s unanticipated money in this account. The source of the second installment hasn’t been identified yet.

The earliest work could begin at the sites is late 2017 or early 2018.

Project could be ‘transformational’

​“This project is a six-year project,” the economic development agency executive told the committee.

The county, and EDGE, view the county’s investment in the hospital as an economic development catalyst for the county’s largest city and the entire Mohawk Valley.

DiMeo described the project as doing something “transformational” for downtown Utica.

The state has committed $300 million to the new hospital. MVHS has said it is comfortable with borrowing $150 million for the project. Additional funding sources, including contributions, still have to be lined up. The estimated cost is in the neighborhood of $480 million.

DiMeo said the health system is filling out an application for the state funding, which the state Health Department must approve.

Not enough information?

None of the legislators at last week’s committee meeting objected to the hospital project or EDGE’s involvement, but several said they had not previously been given specifics about the contract. Several said the extent of EDGE’s work was not sufficiently explained in the material they received.

A sheet from the county attorney’s office described the service as “economic development support activities” to “provide support, expertise and other initiatives that showcases the advantages of Oneida County, the Mohawk Valley region and the city of Utica.”

There is no mention of the hospital project on the sheet or in a letter about the EDGE contract from County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. to the Board of Legislators.

“Oneida County is entering into a contract with Mohawk Valley EDGE to help support the Oneida County area,” said Picente’s letter.

Detailed information sought

Board Chairman Gerald J. Fiorini, R-7, Rome, objected to the vague wording.

“We want details from now on,” he said. Fiorini, who made it a point to attend the committee meeting and speak about the contract language although he is not a member of the panel, said legislators had been provided too broad an overview in the written descriptions.

County Attorney Peter M. Rayhill said the contract was written to be consistent with state county law.

A county investment totaling $500,000 was a surprise to many in the room, said committee Chairman Edward P. Welsh, R-19, Utica.

The committee passed the contract 8-0 with one absence. Not present was Legislator Colin Idzi, R-2, Oriskany Falls.

However, the message about a lack of details appears to have hit home.

The resolution for Wednesday’s legislature meeting — posted on the county website after the committee meeting — states “property appraisal services for hospital siting.” The contract with EDGE runs through Jan. 31.