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Downtown Utica hospital opponent buys property to prevent it

Courtesy Brett Truett

This month is the deadline for property owners in downtown Utica to accept their purchase offers from the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) as the company clears the way for its new hospital. One of those buildings has been sold, but not to MVHS.

The building at 442 Lafayette Street in downtown Utica is in disrepair. Some of the windows are boarded up and the exterior is fading away. It's the very type of vacant eyesore that Utica leaders are looking forward to replacing with the MVHS's new $480 million hospital. But it's now become a pawn in one group's voracious fight to stop the construction of that hospital in downtown.

"I made an offer, it’s been accepted and I will be enemy number one because I think this is wrong," said Brett Truett, one of the founders of the project's opposition group No Hospital Downtown.

Truett says the plan is to restore the building so he can open a business there. But he also purchased the property to reject MVHS' offer and challenge in court their right to take the building through eminent domain.

"It’s a neighborhood they are trying to destroy, but they say it’s OK because it’s going to be a transformative investment in our health care," Truett said. "They could get more transformation of health care by building on the 64 acres they own."

In a statement. MVHS says they are committed to working with each property owner throughout this process. But that may be challenging since many property owners like Truett have no intention of working with them at all.

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.