Picente: Parking Garage Funding Puts New Hospital ‘Very Much’ at Risk
Oneida County and the City of Utica are running out of time to come up with a funding equation for a parking garage for the proposed downtown hospital, otherwise the entire project could be scrapped.
Joining the Keeler in the Morning Show on Wednesday, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said the project is 'very much' at risk, and said the $300 million in state funding pledged by the state would likely go to another community if local leaders can't iron out details for the garage in the next couple of weeks.
He then added, ''We lost AMS, I'm not about to lose this project.''
There are lingering questions about the exact footprint of the project, exactly how many and what businesses and properties would be affected, but the more immediate question, Picente said, is the funding equation for a downtown parking garage - which is considered a must if the project is going to proceed.
The projected $40 million parking garage would need approximately $27 million in local funding, he said, adding that the area is planning to use grant funding for the rest. What remains unresolved is how much money the city of Utica would be asked to contribute annually to a 30-year bond. Picente explained that some county legislators think the county and city should split the bill 50/50, while some city officials like Mayor Robert Palmieri think the city could only afford a 70-30 split.
From his perspective, Picente said he feels the county should be on the hook for more than 50-percent.
''I do agree that the county should do more [than the city], but I don't know what that number is yet,'' Picente said, adding that a 70/30 slit would be a 'hard sell' to county legislators.
''Does the city have a burden, absolutely, but the city has a benefit,'' Picente said, citing sales tax for construction on a $500 million project, new downtown office buildings for medical offices which would be subject to taxation, along with more business activity and more people in downtown Utica.
''Every time I turn around the mayor is talking about another surplus, another surplus, we're out of the hole, we're doing this, we're doing great...Now it's time to reinvest that money and start building this city and building this community'' he said.
''I'm not about to lose this project for the stubborness of who should pay for what, this is about healthcare and we're talking about parking spaces,'' Picente said.
The county executive also reiterated the downtown hospital location is the only one currently on the table. ''There's no plan to put it anywhere else...the other site ( the current St. Luke's campus) doesn't work.''
Palmieri later joined the Keeler show saying that a state-of-the-art new hospital is paramount and 'once in a lifetime' opportunity. He did say that his administration supports the downtown hospital, but said the Utica Common Council must determine an amount that is 'financially feasible'.
Palmieri said the city could contribute up to $500,000 a year for the term of the 30-year bond. That would constitute less than one third of the annual $1.6 million bond payments that it would cost to build the parking garage.
Palmieri continued, ''This city, and this mayor will do everything in our power to make sure that this goes through, but certainly I can't give a number that I know - and the financial institutes would say - 'you can't afford it'.''