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More help offered to businesses affected by proposed downtown Utica hospital

Payne Horning
Mohawk Valley Health System COO Bob Scholefield discusses a plan to assist the property owners whose buildings are located within the 25-acre footprint of its proposed hospital in downtown Utica.

The public and private groups behind a new hospital in downtown Utica are offering additional assistance to the property owners who are located within the proposed footprint of the project. It comes amid criticism and confusion about what will happen to the affected properties.

As the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) moves to clear the way for its 25-acre facility, the company is approving up to $1 million of its own money to subsidize the cost property owners will incur for their move. Roughly 23 properties in the footprint will be eligible for up to $40,000 each. Decisions will be made on a case by case basis.

The announcement was made last week in Utica, along with an offer to repair any environmental damage on a site that the property owner did not cause. MVHS COO Bob Scholefield says the ideas were formed in discussions with property owners.

"Today's announcement goes a long way in answering the questions that property owners have asked us in the past about relocation and the environmentals," Scholefield said. "So we fully anticipate that, for many of them trying to make their decision of whether to sign the offers will now be able to do so as we have answered those questions."

But questions do remain. Some of the properties inside the footprint still have not received offer letters from MVHS, like Wilcor International, a vacation supply distributor business that has been located in downtown Utica for nearly 40 years. One of the owners, Karen Corrigan, says even the extra relocation subsidy will not be enough to tear down their many showrooms and rebuild them somewhere else.

"The guy that’s moving it may be able to pick up the stuff and bring it from one location to another for within that 40,000, but not to build the fixtures, not to put the flat walls up, not to build the displays," Corrigan said. "That wouldn’t even come close."

The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties is creating a facilitator position to help businesses identify options and funding for their relocation. But it's still not enough for some property owners who say they have no plans of moving and will fight the acquisition in court.

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.