SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Springfield and West Springfield town leaders met for the first time Thursday night since the West Side casino referendum rejected the Hard Rock casino proposal.
West Springfield residents voted not to be a host community for a casino, but they are still a surrounding community to Springfield, where MGM has proposed to build a resort casino in the city's South End.
MGM is still in the running for the sole WMass casino license, and Thursday night six city and town representatives gathered at Springfield City Hall.
It is the first time leaders from East Longmeadow, Chicopee, Wilbraham, Longmeadow, Agawam and West Springfield are all sitting down in the same room with the Springfield Casino Committee.
When MGM submits its final application to the Gaming Commission before the end of the year, they'll have to have signed surrounding community agreements. Seven seperate representatives with one unified interest.
Agawam City Councilor George Bitzas said, “I will keep an eye, and I will try to protect my town.”
Communities that surround Springfield met with the Springfield Casino Mitigation Committee Thursday night to discuss the impacts that MGM's casino proposal could have on their town.
The Town of Wilbraham borders Springfield, and just like Longmeadow, Chicopee and West Springfield, one of the main concerns is the casino traffic.
Wilbraham’s Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Bob Russell told 22News, “What if you have the Big E 52 weeks out of the year? That's what we are concerned about.”
These elected officials agree, the half a million dollar upfront surrounding community payment that MGM promised may not be enough, and they fear time's running out before the December 31st deadline.
Chicopee City Councilor Timothy McLellan said, “For us to beef up our security, you know, fire, police, infrastructure improvements going in to Springfield, coming out of Springfield.”
West Springfield Town Councilor Brian Griffin told 22News, “To date they have not met with us, and time's running short. We just want a seat at the table.”
The State Gaming Commission's John Ziemba said a developer is not obligated to sign agreements with all surrounding communities, just the ones the developer thinks will be most impacted.
However, the Gaming Commission requires the developer to set aside 6.5% of their revenue for unforeseen mitigation needs and an optional fund for towns without signed agreements.
Some of these surrounding towns like Wilbraham and Chicopee are also eager to see Mohegan Sun's mitigation plan.
Western Massachusetts residents told 22News they'd like to see developers investing in safety measure in all nearby cities and towns.
Isaiah Broga of Springfield said, “There's obviously going to be a higher crime rate. It's going to come with more jobs and what not, but there will be more crime. So they should invest in police and potential accidents and fires.”
MGM's Vice President of Global Gaming Development Mike Mathis told 22News MGM contacted leaders of surrounding cities and towns to schedule formal meetings to discuss positive and negative impacts.
This is a statement Mathis sent to 22News:
"The MGM Springfield team has been on the ground in Western Massachusetts discussing our proposal with neighboring communities for several months, even before our referendum. Immediately following our successful vote on July 16, we reached out to each of our abutting communities, and scheduled formal meetings to commence discussions about potential impacts – both positive and adverse. Our discussions have been with the leader of each municipality, or their designees. We feel confident that our approach has been transparent and proactive. Currently, we are coordinating with individual communities to advance required impact studies to assess the effect our proposal could have on a particular community.”