ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – When it comes to migrants here in the Mohawk Valley, Oneida County Executive, Anthony Picente, issued another executive order last week — this one denying housing vouchers for New York City’s homeless population given to them to use in upstate communities; On top of the order still prohibiting the housing or transport of migrants without permission from the county.

However, some say housing migrants in Utica is still a possibility. A candidate for Oneida County Legislator, James Zecca, held a press conference last Friday, during which he reported that there has been, “much talk surrounding the idea that once the St. Elizabeth Campus is closed, the location will be used to house illegal migrants.”

Here’s the real story…

Zecca told the Daily Sentinel that it was “intelligent speculation” behind his claims regarding St. E’s. Oneida County Executive, Anthony Picente says…it’s actually the opposite:

“Well, I don’t think there’s anything intelligent about it,” said Picente, “I think it’s clearly designed to frighten people or to just stir up things that are not occurring.”

“There’s really no place for this,” he said, “but that’s the difference between someone running for office and someone being in office – understanding what the lay of the land really is and what can and cannot be done.”

And even if it were to be true, the move would be blocked by Picente’s ongoing Emergency Order.

“And if they had paid attention to that rather than try to scare people on the surface with something that is not going to happen then,” he said, “It’s just political ploys at its worst.”

We also reached out to MVHS who provided us with this statement from CEO Darlene Stromstad:

“The allegations made by Oneida County Legislative Candidates James Zecca and James Herchek that the St. Elizabeth Campus will be used as a site to house ‘illegal migrants’ is a complete fabrication with no basis in fact or truth.

MVHS has been very transparent on the process to determine what the St. Elizabeth Campus will be used for following the move to the Wynn Hospital on Sunday, October 29, 2023. MVHS partnered with the City of Utica and selected a development group lead by Buffalo-based law firm Rupp Pfalzgraf to lead the development of a reuse plan for the St. Elizabeth Campus. That process is underway, and more details are available here.

These actions are a clear attempt by Zecca and Herchek to draw attention to their respective campaigns by creating a sensationalized, yet very untrue, narrative. This is a significant waste of everyone’s time.”

I also asked Picente how he feels knowing that a member of his party is spreading this rumor.

“Well, I don’t think this is a party platform,” he said, “I think my agenda and my administration has been very clear on where we are on various projects and various issues.”

“I don’t agree with their stance on a variety of issues so that’s where the differences come even within a party,” he continued, “and it’s not a position of the party, at least the party that I represent.”

And it’s important to note that I did reach out to candidate James Zecca for comment but did not hear back.