Oneida lawmakers eye possible Thruway connection

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ONEIDA — The Oneida Common Council is eying the New York State Thruway as a source of growth for the city — it just needs an exit.

Ward 3 Councilor Jim Coulthart brought the proposed project to Tuesday’s Common Council meeting during new business.

“I’d like the city to consider this project in establishing a New York State Thruway interchange here in the northern part of Oneida,” Coulthart said.

“There was at one time in the city master plans from the 1970s that there was a proposed interchange.”

Mayor Helen Acker said the then-Common Council turned down the 1970s interchange because they “...wanted to be a better community,” and the interchange went to Canastota instead.

“Without the need for toll booths and the new tag readers, it’s entirely possible for the only city in Madison County to have its own interchange,” Coulthart said. “We are equidistant from the Verona exit and the Canastota exit. So it seems like it’s doable...”

Coulthart launched into a history lesson, citing Sands Higginbotham, the founder of Oneida, who negotiated with the Syracuse-Utica Railroad to allow rail access across his 200-acre parcel. An understanding was reached that trains coming through to take on fuel and water in town would stop for no less than 15 minutes.

“I think this [rail line] gave us Oneida, and I think transportation via the New York State Thruway can help us revitalize Oneida,” Coulthart said.

The Ward 3 Councilor added that this is being brought up now since the New York State Thruway is working on modernizing its infrastructure, and federal, and state infrastructure grants are becoming available.

“Oneida already owns pieces of existing streets on the north and south side of the Thruway,” he continued.

The benefits of Thruway access Coulthart listed included increased traffic to Oneida, new business opportunities such as gas stations and fast food, better access for emergency services such as police and ambulance, better access for local businesses with truck freight, and more.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a non-partisan issue,” he said. “It’s about Oneida. It’s not about Republican Oneida or Democrat Oneida. It’s about Oneida.”

Coulthart said he planned to start making calls starting next week to the likes of U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer’s office, Sen. Rachel May’s office, Assemblyman John Salka’s office, and the Madison County Supervisors.

Acker agreed with Coulthart that a new Thruway interchange has the potential to revitalize Oneida and that she’s started making calls.

“I agree with you [Jim], and I’ve already met with (state) Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-47, Rome) about this very thing,” she said. “With the new technology, New York State is looking for multiple areas throughout the area they can open up, and we’re on their radar.”

“And I’m 100% for this,” Acker continued. “I think it would be a great boost to our economy. It will take some time — multiple years — but we should start now.”

Regular agenda

A public meeting was held on a proposed local law to regulate solid waste in the city — namely, trash cans and garbage bags left out for too long that might attract unwanted pests. It also targets unwanted junk, such as scrap metal, old appliances, furniture, and the like.

It also requires residents to use strong garbage cans, with tight-fitting covers that are not only tethered to the can but watertight, air-tight, and rodent-proof.

The main point of the law that has upset residents is that trash can’t be put out until 9 p.m. the day before collection.

One Oneida resident said she was against the 9 p.m. curfew, citing safety concerns.

“I know several older residents who are against going out at 9 p.m. at night to put their garbage out,” she said. “And in the winter, it’s going to be icy and dangerous for them.”

She instead asked the Common Council to target those in the community who are breaking what’s already on the books.

Another Oneida resident was concerned about the enforcement and how the public would be made aware of the changes.

Director of Code Enforcement Bob Burnett said if the local law was passed, Oneida residents would have one month’s grace period. Oneida residents would be informed of the garbage changes via the city website, social media, and local newspapers.

And even after the one-month grace period, Burnett said residents would get a warning and that it wouldn’t be an automatic citation.

“The biggest portion of this is the new cans and that you can’t just put garbage bags out,” he said.

As far as the 9 p.m. time for garbage, Burnett said that this has always been on the books — longer than he’s been at the city.

“I don’t think anyone’s realized until this came out that it’s always been 9 p.m.,” Acker said. “But that does seem like something that should be discussed with the council.”

There was general agreement among the city council that an earlier time would be preferable for the senior citizens of Oneida.

The public hearing was closed, and the local law will be voted on at the next Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the city chambers.

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