Monday, August 6, 2007

Just A Little More Time

The Hotel Utica saga continues.

Hotel Utica co-owner Joseph R. Carucci said Monday the taxes and loans he and his partner owe to Oneida County, Utica and the federal government will be paid.

He would not commit to a timeframe, however.

"Sometimes it just takes time to catch up," Carucci said.

Yeah, sometimes you just need a little time. How unreasonable of everyone to insist Mssrs. Carucci and Gaetano actually pay back their debt on any kind of schedule. Of course, Mr. Carucci leaves out the somewhat important detail that he's not just a slow pay, he's in default. If this were you or I our creditors would be dunning us on a daily basis after we missed a single payment. 30 days past due? Off to collections.

The Hotel Utica? Their loan is 1897 days past due, and counting, according to my back of the envelope calculations.

He spoke on the same day that the region's congressman said that Carucci and hotel co-owner Charles N. Gaetano must meet their obligations to taxpayers.

Those obligations include repaying the $5 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan that helped the historic hotel reopen more than six years ago, U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, said.

"It was never meant to be a gift," Arcuri said of the hotel loan. "It is inexcusable for them not to be paying any of the money they owe us."

We can only hope that Congressman Arcuri will take this opportunity to send a strongly worded letter of condemnation.

Utica is diverting a half-million dollars per year in community revitalization funds to cover the federal loan payments the hotel hasn't making on any kind of regular basis.

Carucci said the hotel's owners are working on keeping up on the payments.
"Of course, we're trying to restructure things and reorganize," he said. "We're working on it on a daily basis to make sure we keep up with things."

Despite several attempts since 2002 to rework the taxpayer-backed loan, the owners of the hotel are still struggling to make regular loan payments, records show.

They've now been using the "we just need a little more time" excuse for seven years.

Seven. Freakin'. Years.

Really, does anyone even believe they're serious anymore? Well, other than Ed Hanna and Tim Julian?

None were made between August 2006 and May of this year, records show. Hotel Utica also fell behind on its county, city and city school district taxes, a July 29 O-D report found. Four days after the O-D revealed the situation, the hotel hand-delivered a check for more than $130,000 to cover its 2006-07 school taxes.

The hotel claims an occupancy rate of 70 percent, which is above the nationwide average of 63 percent.

So the Hotel has a stellar occupancy rate, a nearly booked up events calendar, a constant stream of meetings and conferences...and it's still not paying up? One doesn't have to be a CPA to wonder where, exactly, the money is going.

The hotel is constantly booked during large events, and there is no reason it shouldn't be paying its bills, Arcuri said.

In the future, Arcuri said he'd like to look more carefully at how federal money is loaned to private facilities such as Hotel Utica.

"We don't want it closing, but we want to make sure the people there are being responsible," he said.

Yes, you certainly want the recipients of taxpayer dollars to be responsible. Speaking of which, I seem to remember that the Players of Utica presented Mr. Arcuri with a detailed plan for the completion of their currently abandoned shell of a building. A plan that, sadly, no one but the Player's inner-circle and Mr. Arcuri seem to have seen.

Arcuri said the Players have submitted to him a detailed plan outlining the theater's construction completion. Details of the plan could not be learned Monday.

The Players have raised about $800,000 so far to cover the cost of the building's shell, foundation and infrastructure. Workers have yet to begin phases 2 and 3, which include plumbing, electrical work, lighting and carpeting, Players' past President Michele O'Neil said Monday.

O'Neil said fundraising efforts are ongoing but would not elaborate. She also would not comment on the potential federal funding.

This would seem to be the ideal time for everyone to learn how that fine organization plans on spending the $100,000 of taxpayer money Mr. Arcuri procured for them.