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Utica Mayor Calls Stella Criticism ‘Political'; Says Accident Led To ER Visit

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Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri is defending his administration’s handling of snowstorm Stella, and has acknowledged he ‘sure did’ have to visit an emergency room following a little accident during the storm.

Responding to a story about him banging his head on the windshield of a snow-removal vehicle at the height of Stella on Tuesday night, the ‘hands on’ mayor said, ”There’s a crack in that windshield as we speak, I can tell you that.”

"If that’s not politics, then guess what? We didn’t get a snow storm…"Joining Keeler in the Morning on WIBX Thursday, Palmieri said the historic nature of Tuesday’s snow fall, and some 150 vehicles abandoned or stuck in streets, hampered DPW efforts to clear the city.

He also called City Councilman Joseph Marino’s criticism of his oversight of the city’s response ‘political’.

Earlier on during the show (audio below), Marino said the city’s resources were not deployed to the level ‘the people deserved.’

”I don’t think it was true that they got out there with the plows too late. I think that they deployed the emergency services’ plows too late,” Marino said. ”I think that they called the state of emergency in the middle of the storm. It probably should have been done sooner.

”[The city] called a regular snow emergency when we knew we were gonna get hit with snow, we let cars on the road. And by the time we called the state of emergency at 7 pm the night of the storm people were backed-up a half-mile, a mile in some places. It wasn’t great planning,” the fourth-district councilman said.

Utican Shares Frustration with Utica Response To Snowstorm Stella

But, Palmieri said he’d spoken with DPW Commissioner David Short through the weekend and on Monday to plan for handling what was forecast. Stella’s shift to the west resulted in a storm of ‘historic proportions’ for Utica, and accelerated in a way the mayor said he never recalled seeing before.

”We received over 30 inches of snow. We happened to be in the bulls-eye, along with Binghamton and the Hudson Valley” Palmieri said.

Applauding members of the DPW, the parks department, and fire and police departments, the mayor said the city’s fleet of plows was in full force beginning as early as 6 AM on Tuesday. Additionally Palmieri said he had frequent communication with Short, and Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, whom he asked for additional resources.

Palmieri said he helped police officers push roughly a dozen stuck vehicles and ”we were contacting the tow truck companies because of their failure to come out and remove vehicles so our plow trucks could get by.”

During his appearance Thursday, Marino also shared a story of gathering Utica fire fighters to clear James and Mohawk streets. He said the city did not, but should have authorized overtime for the police and fire departments. And suggested the city did not utilize the staff it had available.

”When we have police officers and fire fighters sitting in the stations waiting for something to do, when everyone should have been all hands on deck, that’s really an issue,” Marino said.

Of the firemen who assisted him with digging out cars, Marino said, ”thankfully when I went down there, they were ready to rock and roll the minute I got in there.”

And, when asked if Palmieri should be applauded for being ‘hands on’ during the storm, Marino replied: ”I don’t know what [he’s] doing on the passenger seat of a plow that belongs on a hill when you should be trying to command this thing and steer the ship. I don’t know if that was the best place for him. The mayor ended up getting hurt and that’s unfortunate, and I hope he’s doing wonderfully right now because I don’t wanna see anyone get hurt.”

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Marino further questioned whether the mayor should have stayed in the city on Wednesday, rather than attending Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s visit to Griffiss International Airport in Rome to announce state resources were on their way to Utica and the Mohawk Valley.

But Palmieri made clear he thought it was important attend.

”How would that have looked, for the mayor of the city of Utica – who has a command center which is staffed by Dave Short, along with police, fire and everyone else – not to be there? When the governor is asking ‘What else do you need?’ ”

”If that’s not politics, then guess what? We didn’t get a snow storm,” Palmieri said.

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