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Communities plan uses for up-front MGM mitigation payments

Date: 12/18/2014

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Up-front payments from surrounding community agreements with MGM have yielded differing amounts to the towns of East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, and Longmeadow. However, each community is finding ways to utilize its respective funds.

East Longmeadow Board of Selectmen Chair Paul Federici said in an interview with Reminder Publications that the town received roughly $31,000 initially from MGM and last week the town received $18,000, bringing the total to $50,000.

“That’s part of what paid for the [Michael Albano & Associates] study and some of our [arbitration] legal fees,” Federici added. “We’ve got that money in a special account, it’s going to be segregated. It’s going to be obviously part of the town funds but we’re not going to use it.”

Federici said some of the $50,000 the town received would reimburse legal fees.

After the first year when the MGM casino opens its doors, slated to open in 2017, the town will receive $75,000 annually for 15 years, he noted. During the course of those 15 years, the town would receive approximately $1.5 million.

“We’re not planning on doing anything until we find out if there’s any mitigating damages related to the casino,” Federici added. “Obviously, the purpose of that is to use it to compensate us for anything related to increase service needs. We don’t want to spend it and then find out we have needs and not have the money to take care of it.”

Federici said the annual $75,000 payment from MGM is earmarked for mitigation circumstances and $25,000 additional funds would be paid to the town to pay for legal fees or studies.

As part of the surrounding community agreements, MGM proposed one and five-year look-back studies for surrounding communities, he noted.

Wilbraham interim Town Administrator Thomas Sullivan told Reminder Publications that the town received a check from MGM for $17,000 after $33,000 was spent reimbursing the town’s legal fees during arbitration. The total up-front given to the town as part of the surrounding community agreement was $50,000.

“That money will come in and go to the general fund, which will go ultimately to our free cash figure for next year and the Selectmen want the Finance Committee to be aware and be involved in how they think that money should be spent,” he added. “There’s nothing that’s earmarked for it yet.”

The Wilbraham Board of Selectmen would then make a recommendation to appropriate the up-front payment from MGM as free cash, which would be dependent on a Town Meeting vote, Sullivan said.

After MGM opens its doors, Wilbraham would receive $100,000 during its first year and $25,000 during the following 9 years.

The mitigation funds would focus on the traffic impact of additional vehicles on Boston Road coming from Wilbraham Road in Springfield, he added.

During its arbitration process, Hampden was denied a bid to be designated a surrounding community by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen Crane told Reminder Publications that the town received $850,000 in up-front payments, which would be used for improvements to traffic and public safety.

Three intersections, the focus for most of the traffic improvements, include Forest Glen Road at Longmeadow Street, Converse Street at Longmeadow Street, and Converse Street at Laurel Street, Crane said.

Improvements for those streets would involve upgrades to traffic equipment, some of which date back to the 1980s, he added. One potential upgrade would be time-controlled signals.

“We analyzed many different ways in which the casino may have impacted the town,” Crane said. “Through all that analyses, we determined that the most significant and adverse impacts were clearly in the realm of traffic and public safety.”

Crane said the town would receive $275,000 for 13 years with a two and a half inflation adjustment as part of its agreement with MGM.

“After that, there could be statewide mitigation funds available,” he added.

As part of the one and five-year look-back studies with MGM, funds could be used towards any additional roadways found to be impacted by the casino.