Don't be misled!
Don't be confused by the words "located in the largest population center in Oneida County." Apply a little common sense (and maybe a common rule of statutory construction).
"Expressio unius est exclusio alterius" or "expression of one thing is the exclusion of another." Every word of a law is presumed to have been used for a purpose and every word excluded from a law is presumed to have been excluded for a purpose.
The legislature was geographically specific when it referred to "Oneida County," so if it wanted to limit sites to "Downtown Utica" or the "City of Utica," it would have said so. Since it did not, the legislature clearly intended to NOT limit sites to Downtown Utica or Utica. The legislature did, however, intend to limit sites to "the largest population center in Oneida County" as opposed to all other population centers.
Imagine that you have a large map of Oneida County and a bunch of push-pins. You stick a pin in the map where each person in the county lives (about 230,000 pins!). You would notice several groupings of pins -- population centers -- and that the largest grouping would be over southeastern Oneida County. THAT GROUPING represents the "largest population center of the county." With about 60,000 pins in Utica; 20,000 in New Hartford; 20,000 in Whitestown; 10,000 each in Marcy and Deerfield; and none to the east of Utica (because that would be off the map), if you were to pick out the middle of that grouping it would probably fall somewhere just west of Utica . . . perhaps near the St. Luke's Hospital Campus!
If anyone wants to actually do this map exercise to determine the middle of the largest population center, be my guest and send me a picture of it! The simple point I want to make is that the location specified in the law includes the St. Luke's Campus and that the Campus is convenient to everyone in the area.
So, if a public or hospital official or anyone else tries to tell you that the grant will be lost if the hospital is not located in Downtown Utica, you now know better. They are either deliberately trying to mislead you to achieve purposes outside the scope of the legislation or they themselves have been mislead. The purpose is neither "economic development," nor "blight removal," nor "Downtown revival," nor "infrastructure repair," nor any other "purpose" that could be remotely claimed to justify tapping into the tempting big pot of money, but, rather, "strengthening and protecting continued access to health care services in communities."
One group that appears NOT to have been misled is the MVHS Board. They had the presence of mind to designate the St. Luke's Campus as their "backup" should the Downtown site prove infeasible -- an acknowledgment, as the applicant for the funds, that the St. Luke's Campus both qualifies under the law and meets their needs.
Once the true costs of the Downtown site become known (site acquisition; condemnation/legal proceedings; historical/environmental/archeological studies; asbestos removal and other remediation; water/sewer line replacement; designing and constructing a facility within the architectural/historical context of Utica; etc.) and are compared with the practically shovel-ready St. Luke's site, it should be concluded that choosing the St. Luke's site would produce more healthcare "bang for the buck" and best promote the purposes of the state's legislation.
MVHS is urged to obtain an estimate of the true costs of the Downtown site ASAP before proceeding further, and to obtain it from a contractor having no connection with EDGE, the project, or anyone else from the region who may have something to gain from placing the project downtown.