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Effort to acquire downtown Utica properties for new hospital begins

Payne Horning
Chris Tringali, pastor of the Turning Point Church in Utica, expresses his frustration with representatives from the Mohawk Valley Health System about the need to relocate his church for a new hospital.

The Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) sent out letters to the owners of the 45 properties located within the proposed footprint for its new hospital in downtown Utica. It's one of the most contentious aspects of the project since the properties include historical buildings and existing businesses.

Several people who attended a public forum for the new hospital last week expressed their frustration over the matter to MVHS officials present, including Pastor Chris Tringali, who says it will cause his nondenominational church on Columbia Street to close.

"My building was a burnt out, evacuated building when I bought it and I got it for a steal," Tringali said. "If you take what I have right now and you put it one block over, you’re going to double or triple the price to put it there - and that’s without any improvements. That’s just a purchase."

Credit Google Maps
The Turning Point church is located on Columbia Street in downtown Utica, within the proposed footprint of the Mohawk Valley Health System's new hospital.

According to Tringalil, MVHS has offered his church $85,000 for the property, but he says that won't be enough to purchase a new building and cover the related relocation costs. 

One of the attorneys working on behalf of MVHS, Kathleen Bennett, says they are open to negotiating the price with property owners.

"There is some wiggle room to acquire property voluntarily and basically avoid future eminent domain, future litigation, to avoid that situation," Bennett said. "There is some ability to go above appraised value."

But Bennett says since the money used to purchase the properties is coming from New York state's $300 million grant for the project, they will be limited on how much they are allowed to offer.

"We’re not always going to make everybody happy in this context because we only have so much money and with state money, there are certain limits on how far beyond you can go beyond appraised value," Bennett said. 

Bennett says MVHS doesn't have the power to condemn properties, part of the eminent domain process. But the company can partner with the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency to make that happen. However, Bennett says that's a last resort. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.