|By Chris Maza|
EAST LONGMEADOW – The town will soon begin a study on the economic impact a casino in Western Massachusetts would present.
The town recently posted a request for quotations from firms to complete the survey, which yielded four bids from firms by the 1 p.m. deadline on Oct. 21. Residents at the Special Town Meeting that evening approved the spending of up to $30,000 on that study.
“Had the article not passed, I would expect we would have probably looked at a regional approach with other communities, but because the Town Meeting agreed with it, we can have a study that is specific to East Longmeadow,” Selectman Angela Thorpe, the board’s representative in casino-related matters, said after the Special Town Meeting.
Thorpe said the firm’s prices in their responses to the request ranged from $10,000 to $29,500, resulting in the request for $30,000.
The Board of Selectmen will choose a firm at its next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 29.
Thorpe explained to residents during the meeting that the $30,000 appropriation was for up-front costs and that the money would be reimbursed through funds collected by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission from gaming companies as part of the application process.
According to the request for quotations, “The study shall include the impacts on public safety (police, fire and ambulance services); social services; housing; schools and the business community at-large.” In addition to the request, potential firms received an addendum that stressed that East Longmeadow was interested specifically in receiving its own independent impact study and not just a peer review of the study conduced by MGM’s economic consultant.
The town has not received, nor does it know when to expect a draft or final version of MGM’s study.
East Longmeadow has submitted a letter stating its intentions to participate in the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s vetting of MGM’s traffic study.
Thorpe added that the Board of Selectmen is making an effort for the town to be considered a surrounding impact community for the proposed Mohegan Sun casino project in Palmer. East Longmeadow had already been given that distinction for MGM’s downtown Springfield proposal.
“We have sent a letter to Mohegan Sun asking to be designated as an impact community,” she said. “To my knowledge, at this point, we have not received a response. The process is just starting at this point. Their [referendum] vote is not until Nov. 5, so I guess that’s when they’ll start. I think they’re kind of behind and there was some talk of an extension [to the deadline for surrounding community agreements].”
In another casino-related warrant item, residents at the Special Town Meeting voted to approve a non-binding resolution that states, “Be it resolved that the citizens of East Longmeadow do not approve of casino gambling in Western Massachusetts.”
Board of Selectmen Chair Paul Federici told those in attendance that it was his belief the resolution would have no effect on the town’s situation regarding casinos and the purpose was to get an idea as to how residents felt about the casino proposals.
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