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Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Weighs In On Sex Offender Issue In Utica, County

Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente is weighing in on the controversy over the area’s high number of sex offenders and where they stay.

”Homeless people come to us for assistance. It’s not just sex offenders, it’s mothers with families – two, three, four kids – parents, and criminals who are not just sex offenders,” Picente said.

”When someone walks into social services and has no shelter, that’s part of public assistance. People come in each and every day. We have to find them a place to stay, for a night, or more than a night…a shelter, or more permanent living.

”The cities have unique problems, Utica, Rome – the urban centers are the areas that you deal with the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill, and the list goes on and on.

”When [sex] offenders are released from jail and their on probation or parole, a couple of things can happen. The discharge from the facility is to the county of origin. We have a large population of offenders. To say ‘take them and send them somewhere [else]‘, we can’t do that,” Picente said.

”If an offender is released without parole – they’ve served their full sentence – they can live wherever they want.”

”We use hotels throughout the county to house homeless individuals. North Utica is unfairly getting this stigma,” Picente said.

He also denied that the county reached out to the new owner of the Davis Motel to see if they would take vouchers for homeless individuals.

”While we’re mandated to to care of and find shelter [for the homeless, or sex offenders], we can’t mandate that to private businesses [motel/hotels.]”

”The other issue we have here is identifying sex offenders, when they come through our doors they are homeless. As far as the law is concerned, it’s doesn’t matter if they are sex offenders, murders, or other criminal offenders. As far as assistance goes, they’re homeless. They don’t have to tell us.”

Picente also advised  that people should have equal concern for sex offenders who aren’t homeless and maintain permanent housing in the community.

Does the county or local municipalities make money off sex offenders or the homeless?

Picente says no, but the county is mandated to deal with the issue. He later indicated after the interview that cost to provide vouchers or other assistance. So when the county provides a voucher for an overnight stay for someone who is homeless, regardless of their circumstance, the county is reimbursed, but only to cover the cost of what they’ve already paid out, he said.

Addressing the issue:

Picente in his first year as county executive, he signed into law, a bill that prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,500-feet of schools, churches etc. ”It’s on the books, we’ve only had three cases over those six years that have come to us for enforcement,” he said.

Results and Accountability: What the future holds regarding economic development

”For county government, we’ve righted a ship that has been wrong for a number of years in terms of finances. We can’t grow a community that is wallowing in debt. We’ve expanded, we’ve grown, we’ve made infrastructure improvements. We’ve invested and been good stewards of the people’s money,” Picente said.

”Griffiss is growing..I’m still confident with something at the nanocenter very soon. You’re going to see growth at SUNY [IT].”

”I really beleive in the next several months you’re going to see pieces of economic equation coming together. Nano transforms central New York in so many way,” Picente said, adding that missel defense and/or an FAA tower would bring several hundred jobs to the region.

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