Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente delivered his 2024 State of the County Address to a large crowd at the Event Center at Turning Stone Resort Casino Thursday. While the speech covered a lot of ground there were three major topics he chose to highlight and they are very important to this region. They are problems to be fixed and things that can be improved upon.

1. Crime & Youth Violence

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash
Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

There is no doubt about it that this community has seen a massive increase in youth related crimes of the worst kind. The first two homicides of the year involved literal children ages 18 and younger. This is an issue that is impacting residents, police and the school community as well. Picente blamed state government in a lot of ways for this rising epidemic. Picente said,

We need to create deterrents to criminal behavior and assist law enforcement in gathering vital evidence allowing us to prosecute those who commit crimes in our neighborhoods and commercial corridors. Fights, shootings, illegal drug trade, car thefts, shoplifting, whatever the case may be; if you engage in illegal activity in this county, we will see you and we will arrest you. Enough is enough.

In an effort to combat the plight, Picente announced a $2.5 Million investment to install security cameras in high-crime and high-traffic areas to deter would be criminals from committing violent acts. This will hopefully not just deter youth and other violence, but monitor busy roadways and prove security for major events. These cameras will be installed throughout the county.

One of the other major components of future initiatives at the county level is to directly address youth violence. Picente announced $10 Million in investments to go toward the following.

  • After school programs
  • Mentoring opportunities
  • Job opportunities
  • Education and recreation programs
  • A comprehensive gang assessment study

Picente said,

These senseless acts happen far too often and impact everyone. Together as a community, we can give our children the opportunities to be whatever they want to be. They don’t have to resort to gang activity or violence. There will be more programs and places for them to learn, play, grow and make life-long community connections instilling pride in who they are, where they are from and what they have potential to be. All while having respect for themselves and others.

All of this will hopefully be a step in the right direction to help improve the future lives of these kids.

2. Mental Health

Photo by Fernando @cferdophotography on Unsplash
Photo by Fernando @cferdophotography on Unsplash

This problem is not one that is exclusive to Oneida County by any means. Picente recognizes that and he also realizes there is a monumental amount of work to be done when it comes to combating this issue. Picente stated,

Homelessness, substance use and mental health issues in our children are all because of a broken mental health system. We must do more. We cannot just continue to say, ‘There isn’t enough.’ We must change the trajectory and it starts today.

There are a number of things that were presented including early intervention efforts in the schools. Those efforts include expansion of telemedicine, a program to make rapid referrals and working with the school districts to create mental health clinics for their students.

Outside of the school level, Picente announced the intention to partner with existing agencies in the area to set up Crisis Residence Centers as an alternative to hospitalization to evaluate specific needs and get the help that's truly needed. In addition, programs were announced to help prepare those in need and the homeless for the workforce. Picente says he wants to help that workforce pipeline, "through training, internships, residencies, increased rotations and the fast tracking of educational programs."

Fort Stanwix

Google Street View
Google Street View

If you have never traveled to the heart of Downtown Rome to travel back in time, you must see Fort Stanwix. This legendary tourist attraction is in need of some attention and it is one of the major priorities for County Executive Picente in 2024. Picente said,

Fort Stanwix has always been simultaneously a point of pride and derision in Rome. I believe it is time for the County and City to engage with the National Park Service to reinvigorate the monument, build on what it does well and create new opportunities to make this the tourism attraction it should be. New programing, more events and more reasons to be there on a daily basis.

Picente believes the key to restoring Fort Stanwix and bringing more people there to visit will be to rethink of people get there are travel around it. He suggested reestablishing the street grid and re-developing the area surrounding it. It truly is one of the prides of the Copper City and it's high time it's shown some love.

Overall, the State of the County is good and major developments and investment continues to be made. You can see the full County Address in the video below.

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