Utica's Mayor issued a response Monday to a late-breaking story from last week, when the city was called out by Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente for backing away from a Memorandum of Agreement as it relates to funding of a new downtown parking garage, part of the Mohawk Valley Health System's new hospital.

It in (the full text of which can be found below), Mayor Robert Palmieri says the city has been a 'strong project partner', and says 'no other local government entity has done or invested more to the support the hospital project.'

Palmieri goes on to explain the financial support already provided to the project, including the re-direction of grant money that had been secured for other things. Additionally, the mayor points to $8 million in infrastructure improvement 'to ensure the hospital project comes to fruition,' Palmieri wrote.

Included in those re-directed dollars the mayor referenced is $3 million in Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) that was originally earmarked for Utica's Kennedy Parking Garage, also in that same downtown area, pushing the city's contribution to the garage itself to $6 million. However, there seems to be a difference of opinion on how that $3 million from URI was re-directed toward the hospital parking garage.

In his letter, without mentioning the county executive by name, Palmieri said it's 'disappointment the city must address inaccurate claims and rhetoric.'

On Friday, Picente told WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning that he is the one who went to New York State in light of the city's change of heart for a 60/40 split on 30-years worth of bond payments for the new hospital's parking garage, and was able to move that $3 million to the new garage.

The MOA signed by the city and county in 2017 called split in payments for bonding the money need to build the more than $40 million dollar garage. In that non-binding agreement, the city agreed to cove 40% of those payments, with the city's  sahre estimated at the time to be approximately $400,000 per year, for 30 years.

The above photo was taken in 2019 (Gov Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Palmieri, and CE Picente) at a ceremony officially announcing a total of $10 million in URI money to the city of Utica.

The full text of the statement from Palmieri's Office is below:

Over the past month, Empire State Development (ESD) officials, including President & CEO Eric Gertler, and Mayor Palmieri spoke several times to discuss ways the city could assist in financing a new parking garage to support the Wynn Hospital of the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) in downtown Utica.

As the city’s been a steadfast supporter of the hospital project, Mayor Palmieri suggested the city contribute $3 million of its funding from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI), that was originally allocated towards repairs of Kennedy Parking Garage, to the construction of the new parking garage.

Including the $3 million URI grant, the city has contributed a total of $6 million in grant funds towards the new parking garage. The city secured these grants for other purposes; but, in being a strong project partner, decided to contribute the funds to the garage. In addition, the city has invested nearly $8 million in infrastructure improvements to ensure the hospital project comes to fruition.

No other local government entity has done or invested more to support the hospital project.

The city has not backed away from its commitment, but rather stepped up and decided to finance its commitment of the garage by reallocating its secured grant funding. In conversations with state officials, this arrangement was agreed to by all parties. It is disappointing the city must address inaccurate claims and rhetoric.

City residents should not be expected to pay any more for a health care facility that will serve as a regional asset. Moving forward, Mayor Palmieri and his Administration, in collaboration with the Members of the Common Council, will focus on the city’s needs and make the necessary investments to ensure Utica’s continued transformation.

 

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