UTICA — Trying to keep track of which department is on which floor at the Oneida County Office Building over the past two decades has at times been like the old "Who's on First?" comedy routine.
That's because since 2000, the 800 Park Ave. facility has been undergoing an asbestos abatement project, that to date, has cost the county approximately $18 million and left the building in a constant state of flux.
"It certainly has been impacting the daily operations of departments at any given time," said Mark Laramie, deputy commissioner of public works. "But it's a testament to them that they have been patient with the process and able to provide services to our clients without any interruption."
Laramie estimated the cost to carry out the asbestos abatement work on the remaining floors will run the county an additional $2 million per floor.
Aside from a two-year hiatus between the administrations of then-county Executive Joseph Griffo and current Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., the work to remove asbestos that was used to construct the building in the late 1960s has been constant, and has led to the reshuffling of several departments.
The latest round of work, which is set to begin Monday, Oct. 10, will focus on the fourth floor, which houses some Department of Social Services offices.
Laramie said those offices will shift to the presently empty ninth floor until the fourth-floor work is completed next fall. Once that's done, the first four floors of the building all will contain social services intake-related offices.
At the same time the fourth-floor work begins, Laramie said the design phase of the 10th floor's work will begin.
The Board of Legislators passed a resolution last month to pay March Associates, Architects and Planners of Utica $179,000 to provide plans, specifications and asbestos abatement monitoring services for that project.
The 10th floor, which is comprised of the offices of the county executive, law department, workers compensation department and the chamber of the Board of Legislators, will shift to the ninth floor once the work on the fourth floor is complete.
Picente said when the 10th floor is displaced, most operations, such as committee meetings and conferences will be easily carried out on the ninth floor or extra space on others, but the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Legislators will most likely take place in the fifth-floor ceremonial courtroom of the the neighboring county courthouse building.
While committee meetings will take place to formalize the design, Picente said he would like to see the 10th floor make better use of its space by linking offices that work closely together and revamping the cavernous legislative chamber, which prior to redistricting held 50 legislators at its monthly meetings, but now hosts a body of 23.
"I'd like to see it maintain its character but change the layout to a more intimate setting," Picente said of the chamber and its iconic design the incorporates the names of all of the cities, towns and villages of the county. "When all is said and done, the whole building will be laid out in a much more efficiently organized manner that will make for better access to the public."
It will still be a few years before the finished product is rolled out.
Work on the seventh floor, which will bring the health department back in from the nearby Adirondack Bank building, is slated to begin in the fall of 2018 and completed in the fall of 2019.
The final phase will be the work to the ninth floor, which will install administrative social services offices, is scheduled to start in the fall of 2019 and wrap up by the fall of 2020.