There are better ways to spend $10 million

Published Nov 16, 2017 at 4:00pm

How do you waste $10 million?

Give it to the city government.

Why in the world would we spend $3 million on an outside skating rink at City Hall? For what? Open skating? Wouldn’t that take away from the Kennedy Arena open skating program? As a hockey parent I can tell you very few people use the time for open skating as it is.

Why don’t we use that $3 million to add a second sheet of ice or half sheet of ice. If you add a second sheet, you can now have larger tournaments, not just for hockey, but indoor lacrosse, soccer and other indoor sports. 

The improvement to City Hall and the Green is needed for winter festivals and a four-season destination. Wasn’t that the idea behind all the money wasted for a Navigation Center on the canal? And what did that do? Nothing. It attracts no one.

In fact, Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods and Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations) recently took a trip on the Erie Canal. Did he stop at Rome? No. He stopped in Utica, Marcy, skipped Rome and went to Oneida Lake. So much for the Navigation Center attracting people and making it a destination.

Has our city government ever heard of Amazon? Well, Amazon is looking for a place to build up to a one-million-square-foot facility and wants to hire 50,000 people. Most of the jobs are high paying.

Why don’t we take $500,000 and hire the best and brightest developers and planners to put a plan together and go after Amazon?

We have what no one else can offer, an airport. We also have unlimited land in and around the airport. We have a low cost of living. We have a ready and willing workforce.

We also have what Amazon’s owner is very interested in: drones. Doesn’t he want to deliver packages by drones? What better place to develop the drone program than here? It’s already on base. He could join in the program.

Oh, a collateral way to make money and bring a different group of talented people into the area? Then we don’t need to tear down the parking garage to make mixed-income housing because we will need new houses and restaurants, hotels, entertainment centers, car services, and stores in place of mixed-income housing. We would then need updating of the infrastructure, thus resulting in more construction jobs. By the way, do we really need mixed-income housing? We have hundreds of houses and apartments in the city of Rome that are not filled. What we really need is people with jobs.

Our neighbors in Utica were given $300 million by the governor to consolidate and build a new hospital in downtown Utica. They are fighting it like crazy. I have an idea, give it to us in Rome.

Here is a suggestion how to use the money. Let’s build a hospital right off the runway primarily devoted to transplants: hearts, kidneys, lungs, legs, arms, eyes, etc. What do we have to offer? Again, something no one else has, an airport.

Picture this . . . a heart is on the airplane and they are an hour out. They can call the hospital and tell them to open the chest to remove the heart, the airplane lands, they walk off the plane and take the new heart on the elevator and the new heart is in the building and ready to be implanted with no delay. This cuts down on travel time, infection and length of surgery.

So what collateral businesses would we need? Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, janitors, food service, computer specialists, morgue, rehab centers, long-term temp housing, rental cars, hotels, restaurants, labs, physical therapists, and on and on. We could also have a nursing program right at the MVCC Rome campus in walking distance to the hospital along with internships that would allow us to keep the best people from leaving rather than seeking employment elsewhere. We would also need a medical school with an extended Rome campus of a prestigious school such as Cornell or Columbia.  

So where would we put it? At the old State School or prison off Route 365; about 1 mile from the new hospital. It already looks like a college campus.

Where would we get the money? We can use what’s left over from the $300 million to start and the college could finish the building costs. Now we have a top medical school in the area. What collateral services do we need? You get the idea.

I would also connect this transplant hospital to the Veterans Hospital to help repair the damage done to our brave men and women of the military. Why can’t we be the hospital to mend these bodies? With all the new robotics technology for limbs, why can’t they be developed and tested here? We already have the VA Clinic on base. We could also get federal funding to help develop those programs. We have microchip technology programs in the area and at the schools along with biomechanical programs. Wouldn’t that go along with the medical school?

Now, I understand that the money is earmarked for the downtown projects but as part of a revitalization initiative I am sure we could spend that money to attract businesses to that area.

I have pitched these ideas to a few politicians and I get the same answer: I’m not sure it could work. Well, you didn’t try. I would rather use $500,000 and try to get a whole economic development plan as outlined above and fail, than to build a mini Rockefeller Center. It is easy to say, it can’t work or that will be hard to do, but if you can’t or won’t, then step aside and let someone else take the lead.

— John Leonard, Rome