Casino remark causes stir in Monson
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
By LORI STABILE
PALMER - Comments made by Palmer's representative to the Western Massachusetts Regional Casino Task Force about Monson have bothered officials in that town.
Paul E. Burns, also a Palmer town councilor, last week talked about how he opposed having a regional vote on casinos, and said a vote should be limited to the town hosting the proposed casino. Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun wants to build a $1 billion resort casino in Palmer, should casino gaming become legal in the state.
As an example, Burns cited the town of Monson and how Palmer doesn't have a say in Monson's business now.
Burns made the comments in reference to a letter sent by the task force to legislators that outlined priorities the task force would like to see in any casino legislation. One priority was a regional vote, which is why Burns was the lone member to vote against the letter.
Burns' comments prompted Monson Town Administrator Gretchen E. Neggers to send an e-mail to Palmer Town Manager Matthew S. Streeter saying she was concerned about the "inflammatory comments in the newspaper" targeting Monson. In the e-mail, she cited Palmer and Monson's "strong history" of cooperating on regional issues.
"Unnecessary rhetoric on this volatile and emotional issue should not cast negative connotations on what has been and what we hope will continue to be a positive and constructive relationship between the towns," Neggers wrote.
Contacted later, Neggers said she was hurt by the comments. She said the selectmen will discuss the casino issue at its meeting today and will reiterate its neutrality on the topic.
Edward S. Harrison, a Monson selectman and task force chairman, said the Burns issue probably will be addressed at the next task force meeting later this month.
Harrison said he supports the concept of a regional vote. He also said the task force, which has been neutral to the casino concept, may decide to take a vote to either support or oppose casinos.
Burns said his comments about Monson were in no way meant to diminish the work of task force members. However, he said he still believes the people of Palmer, not the region, should have the sole right to vote on any proposed development in their town.
Burns noted that the region referred to in the letter includes Springfield and Chicopee.
"Whether you support or oppose the concept of a resort casino in Palmer, the idea that voters in those cities have a right to vote on economic development activity in Palmer is disturbing at best ... Allowing or encouraging such a vote sets a dangerous precedent," Burns wrote in a statement.
"We in Palmer have never insisted on having voting rights or veto power regarding zoning or development in other communities, despite their impacts in Palmer," Burns continued.
Burns said he agrees with most of the other priorities in the letter and said he didn't mean to single anybody out.
The work of the task force was praised by state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, who said he will take the list of concerns into serious consideration when the casino debate begins. Brewer said a casino bill is expected to be debated sometime in the fall.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Is it fair, that other towns or villages should have a say in what Palmer does?
How about the economic impacts, to the towns surrounding towns with casinos in them? If towns are going to bare increased financial responsibilities because of the casinos, should they have a say in the building of the casinos?
Look at Norwich and New London, do they have more financial responsibilities because of the casinos? (schools, law enforcement,traffic, etc.) The casinos in Connecticut pay the revenues to the state but have no say in how the state spends the money.
Shouldn't the Mohegan Tribal Council, instead of trying to build a casino in Palmer, make the Mohegan Sun Casino, in Uncasville, Connecticut, more profitable? What do you think?