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Council waits to accept grant until itemization provided

Date: 3/21/2014

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM – The City Council postponed its acceptance of a $70,000 grant until it receives an itemized list of the expenditures the money is to cover.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is providing the funds to the town per Massachusetts Gaming Legislation, which requires cities and towns be compensated for any professional fees spent to study the impacts of a casino on a community to outline its case as a surrounding community.

The resolution states, “Whereas, acceptance of the grants will relieve the financial burden of the taxpayers for the cost of legal, financial, or other professional fees incurred as a result of negotiation and/or execution of host and surrounding community agreement with MGM Resorts and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino New England; and whereas, it is in the best interests of the town of Agawam to accept this grant from the MGC.”

Council President Christopher Johnson addressed the request for a broken down list of expenses with Reminder Publications. He said, “The council unanimously voted to table acceptance of the grant based on questions regarding the bills to be paid from the grant.”

He continued, “The council noted that the bills were not itemized and did not contain a detailed description of work performed, who performed each work item, the amount of time each work item took to complete and the applicable hourly rate for each work item performed. The council desires to review the itemized bills prior to accepting the grant.”

Mayor Richard Cohen said the money is needed to pay for the professional services that the town used as consultants in the process to determine the impact of the proposed casinos and for legal costs to Bacon Wilson, P.C. of Springfield.

He explained that the law firm worked alongside the Agawam Casino Committee and in conjunction with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to research the impacts of a casino on the town.

“If the council doesn’t accept the money, the community will have to pay for it [the outstanding bills for services rendered,]” Cohen said.