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Interest of Taxpayers

Joseph P. Bottini, October 28, 2019

As is so often the case, taxpayers are not being totally protected from imprudent spending. There are many instances of public government projects that went over budget due to faulty oversight or poor planning. The latest example is the project of Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) decision for the location of a new hospital.

One almost forgotten structure was a parking garage on the east side of the State Office Building. Within a few years of its construction, it was deemed unsafe and met the wrecking ball. Was it a poor design? Was it poor (cheapened for increased profit) materials? Was it the poor workmanship? The reason for its demise is unclear, however the cost to the taxpayer is not in question.

Another public debacle that has given the taxpayers huge debt and recently found to be less than able to accomplish the purpose for its construction is the bridge at Bagg Square. To assist traffic flow and eliminate stops at traffic lights were its stated goals. Somehow, neither goal became a reality. Recently, the closing of the John Street ramp going south was an attempt at “fixing” the situation. It seems to me that a lower bridge trajectory with a round-about at the Bagg Square area would be a more acceptable design. A fountain and flowers, in season, would enhance a more pleasant entrance to downtown Utica from the north.

This would also go a long way to re-establishing Bagg Commemorative Park and opening the west entrance to Main Street.

It hurts me to describe the unkindliest cut of them all – Old City Hall. The Urban Renewal planned “La Promenade” complex with a new city hall was never fully implemented. Replacing the iconic old building on Genesee Street (designed by Richard Upjohn -premier architect of the 19th century) with a hidden non-descript building serving the needs of city government offices is less than enhancing the Utica skyline. The grand promenade is nowhere to be found with its space being occupied by the Delta Hotels-Marriott (its third name)- itself not the most beautiful edifice to grace our downtown along with a non-descript parking garage.

Now, poor Utica taxpayers are told about the newest building panacea to “fix” downtown Utica. It is called MVHS Regional Medical Center, celebrated as MVHS Transforming Healthcare from Excellent to Exceptional. The first word is Regional. If this is part of the goal, the insistence on building it downtown (urban center requirement stated) is incongruent with the name. Center implies a medical complex with a full-hospital facility having a go-to trauma unit, separate designated pediatrics department, and other amenities not included in the present design. It will be a community hospital built on a concrete slab without the potential for housing, in a basement level, utilities and laundry capability, instrument autoclave department and other services. It has been stated that there will be 200 fewer medical-surgical beds, fewer ports-of-entry for ambulances to the emergency department, and a scaled-down building design of lesser quality in order to bring the cost down as much as possible. We don’t know exactly all the hospital services that will be compromised because the internal design has yet to be made public. The above concerns show the plan is not excellent, let alone exceptional!

It seems to me that if one ordered a mansion with full below-ground levels, all bedrooms with private baths, eat-in kitchen, large dining room, large living room with built-in fireplace, a large family/game room, a piano sitting room, mud/laundry room, sun room, full attic, double stall attached garage, expansive deck, wrap around porch - and the structure delivered was a modular home on a concrete slab with no attic, basement, two stall garage, porch or deck; I don’t think one would be happy.

If the cost of promoting and marketing this hospital was added to other savings, if the project was completed at Champlin Ave, there would be more money to put into the quality of the hospital building itself. Add to the coffers the cost of evaluating and buying properties, doing asbestos abatement, demolishing the buildings on those properties, upgrading the infrastructure and reconfiguring the streets. None of the above costs would be incurred if built at Chaplin Ave. Of course, one must now add the cost of an “expert” acquired to assist the COO in promoting the downtown concept. I keep thinking, “what next?” Will we see Dr. Ben Casey on television promoting the concept for MVHS?

A good idea ought to sell itself. To need a number of “dog and pony shows,” staged gatherings and extensive advertising in print media, television and large posted signs to sell the project, in my mind, is very indicative of the poor decision this location will be for a regional medical center in Oneida County.

Email: Joseph P. Bottini, Oneida County Historian

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