|By Carley Dangona
Logo courtesy of Hard Rock International
WEST SPRINGFIELD Mayor Gregory Neffinger announced last week that he rejected both requests for proposals (RFP), and instead decided to directly hire Kopelman & Paige, P.C. (K&P) from Boston as legal consultant for the town in its race for the Western Massachusetts casino bid.
He said K&P was the "best qualified" and had the best interests of the town in mind. "We have four 'house doctors' engineers available through the Department of Public Works that we can use for peer review. By utilizing our resources, we will spend less money," Neffinger said.
Upon hearing the announcement at the March 18 Town Council meeting, Brian Griffin, councilor and chair of the council's casino sub-committee, said, "I agree that the engineering costs of the RFPs were exuberant. The consultants need to be hired as soon as possible."
During the citizen speak out portion of the meeting, resident Jeff Powers spoke out against the idea of a casino coming to West Springfield. When he first learned about the proposal, the classic line "You got trouble" from "The Music Man" entered his mind.
"I usually don't speak up, but when an idea this bad comes along I have to say something," he said. "I'm not in favor of a casino in West Springfield. I'm not in favor of one in Springfield, Western Massachusetts or Massachusetts. I feel we've been sold down the river by our state house, our senate and our governor on this bill. It's really not the silver bullet everyone seems to think it is."
Powers continued, "I have spoken with many people in town about this and everyone tells me the same thing, 'don't worry the voters won't let it happen' I'm not willing to take that chance. The top 10 cities in the United States with the highest unemployment all have casinos. If gambling is so good for unemployment, why does Nevada lead the country in the unemployment rate?"
During his time, he distinguished between gaming and gambling. "Let's call it what it is. The buzzword is gaming, but it's gambling. Gaming is what my nephew does on the Xbox."
Mark Rivers, president of Bronson Companies, was on hand to answer questions for the council. Rivers is the developer for the Hard Rock International resort casino project.
"We pledged to participate and have been at every meeting so far," he stated. "Information is our friend and ally. Communication and listening are very important. The process continues to move on track."
Rivers asked for councilors, town officials and residents alike to recommend people and places for him to meet with. "The door is always open, the cell phone is always on," he said.
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