Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has unveiled his plan for screening and selecting a potential resort casino for the city. The State Gaming Commission has allocated one license for such a facility in western Massachusetts. Sarno announced the process during a press conference today (Monday) prior to meetings with the City Council and neighborhood and civic associations. He says a competitive two-phase selection process will help determine what he says could be the largest development project in Springfield’s history.
“It means thousands of good paying jobs for residents, significant opportunities for our business community, and sustainable economic benefits for our great city.”
The first phase will begin September 5th, asking prospective developers for their experience, background and financial suitability. Cid Froelich, the City’s casino consultant, says a second 2-month long phase, beginning in early October, will require more detailed responses from developers.
“What are you going to build? where are you going to build it? How much money are you going to put up? What are the mitigating impact fees that you’re going to pay? What’s in it for the city? And as part of that process there will be a negotiation with the developers to determine how much they’re going to provide the city, both in terms of direct economic payments and what’s referred to as ripple effects…what else are they’re going to do to help revitalize out city?”
Earlier Monday Sarno held private meetings with four prospective casino developers. Those meetings are not going over well with some City councilors who say they should have been invited to sit in. Council President James Ferrera says such closed door meetings could undermine public confidence in the selection process.
“Politics does not belong in this process. It needs to be a transparent process, one with integrity and one where the process can’t be questioned.”
Sarno says the private meetings with casino developers were no different from others he’s had with other local businesses and that his administration will update the council at least once a month on the casino selection process. Sarno says he’s hoping to bring at least one proposal before city voters on a ballot question sometime next spring.