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The Two Sides of the Downtown Hospital Coin

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Since the inception of the proposed Downtown Hospital Jim Brock and Brett Truett founded their organization #NoHospitalDownTown. Now, the project is coming to a head as Oneida County and the City of Utica are battling over who is going to pay for what portion of a much needed parking garage. Both sides of the Downtown Hospital argument joined us Thursday morning on First News with Keeler in the Morning to present their cases.

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We begin with Jim Brock and Brett Truett. Jim Brock is a property owner in South Utica and resident of the city and Truett owns a property downtown and lives here as well. They brought up a number of concerns they have which led to the foundation of their group and its continuing fight.

There are a number of reasons why they are against it, but they were very vocal about a few. Jim Brock says, “The problem with the downtown location is, it has never been about healthcare.” Brock went on to say that his group is not against healthcare. Their preferred location for the hospital would be the already existing property St. Luke’s Hospital sits on. Brock believes it is about infrastructure.

One of the other big issues No Hospital Downtown has consistently had is what they say "The problem with the downtown location is, it has never been about healthcare"is a lack of transparency. Brett Truett expanded on that by saying he feels the headline about the parking garage is “political theater.” Truett says, “I think they’re starting to hear from the public, nobody wants it downtown for lots of different reasons.” He went on to say that there are some people who don’t even know where downtown is.

When it comes to the transparency issue, Jim Brock says, “We’ve spoken to groups. The number one concern everyone has had from day one is we never had a voice, we never had any input, this was done behind closed doors.” This is the main reason for their starting the No Hospital Downtown Political Party. In November a number of candidates who are opposed to the hospital project will be on that line in their respective races. With the party, Brock says, “We have given the community an opportunity to vote and weigh in and they should have had that from day one.”

Another issue the No Hospital Downtown group has is cost. That includes cost they believe will grow due to the belief that the police station and court house will be taken to build. Despite the hospital receiving $300 Million from the state, Truett believes that’s not a pot of money being rolled into the city. Truett says, “The parking garage is local debt. I own multiple properties in this area and I will be paying two tax bills.” He wants people to see the financial impacts of these plans.

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Later in the morning Bob Schofield of Mohawk Valley Health System and Steve DiMeo from Mohawk Valley EDGE joined the discussion on the topic and were asked to respond to some of the main concerns of No Hospital Downtown.

In regards to the focus of MVHS, Bob Schofield says the project is indeed about healthcare. Schofield says, “I worry about patient care. Although I believe we have two outstanding healthcare facilities, they could be better. A lot of things that we need to do to make them better is involved in our infrastructure and our ability to recruit talented staff.” He goes on to say that it’s difficult to get someone fresh out of residency to come and work at two different buildings that are not state of the art.

Steve DiMeo from Mohawk Valley EDGE was in to answer a lot of the economic concerns posed by No Hospital Downtown. One of the big questions answered by DiMeo is that the "I worry about patient care. Although I believe we have two outstanding healthcare facilities, they could be better. A lot of things that we need to do to make them better is involved in our infrastructure and our ability to recruit talented staff"Utica Police Station and Courthouse will not be taken by the hospital project. He did concede however, that the police maintenance garage will be needed as part of the footprint. DiMeo also addressed the issue of whether or not the city could afford to contribute more than $500,000 to the parking garage that is needed. DiMeo says, “I went through and looked at the city’s finances. I sat down with the Comptroller’s Office, took their numbers, overlaid the various scenarios that were discussed and really crafted a plan to show how the city could handle this.”

DiMeo also went into great detail providing information from the ‘secret document’ that summarizes how the City of Utica would benefit financially in added taxes and annual debt service. Ultimately, DiMeo believes this is how you compete in a new economy. He says, “Let’s get this done. You need more collaboration by units of government.”

You can hear both full interviews from both sides in the body of this article.

Oneida County Executive Says Downtown Hospital Project Is 'At RIsk'

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