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Monday, July 28, 2014
Canajoharie, NY ,

Alissa Scott
From the left, Councilmen Guy Robataille and Steven Rackowski and town Supervisor Eric Mead discuss their support for the construction of a casino within the town limits.

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Residents speak against idea — Florida council on board with casino land proposal

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - Updated: 8:11 PM

By ALISSA SCOTT

For the C-S-E

TOWN OF FLORIDA -- After listening to more than a dozen local people voice both their concerns and hopes for a proposed casino in the town of Florida Monday night, the town council approved a resolution supporting its construction.

"This resolution in no way, shape or form states that there will be a casino built in the town of Florida," Supervisor Eric Mead said. "This just opens things for discussion."

The town has followed suit after Montgomery County, the city of Amsterdam and the Fulton-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, which passed similar resolutions earlier this month.

Each have been asked by state officials to put up the resolutions, certified copies of which will be transmitted to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, and Assembly-man Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam.

According to the resolution, the board has "received calls and emails of support for a commercial casino operation in the county."

"In recognition of the potential economic benefits, the board is supportive of a commercial casino being located in the town of Florida," the resolution says.

New Yorkers voted in support of bringing a casino to one of eight specified counties in the capital region in November, and so did town of Florida residents.

Before casting his vote, Councilman Guy Robataille said he wanted to make that clear.

"You voted in favor of this," Robataille said. "In this town. Yes, I truly have my own [reservations] about having it here and not wanting it here, but the people in this town want it, have voted for this. For me to say 'no,' you voted me here to do the job, you asked me to do this. I will do the job that the people in the town are telling me to."

Robataille said the vote in favor of the statewide proposal was 452 to 356.

The crowd, filled mostly with those who oppose the project, responded to the councilman saying they had never said they wanted a casino in the town of Florida — just that they would approve of one in New York.

Mark Kilmer, president of the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, attended Monday's meeting and listed several benefits of the project. He was one of a small handful speaking in support.

"I do believe that the property tax and sales tax revenues will be in, in the words of Billy Fucillo, huge," Kilmer said.

He said the town and county will share 10 percent of the gaming revenues estimated to be more than $10 million and the project will draw hundreds of construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs after completion.

"These facts, as well as more business for our current hotels and restaurants, will undoubtedly have an overwhelmingly positive impact on our region's economy," Kilmer said. "But the first step is for the municipalities to embrace this potential project and this I very strongly encourage you to do."

Mick Mullins, a broker from Mullins Realty, is promoting a pair of properties along Route 30 near the border of the city of Amsterdam and the town of Florida as a potential casino site. The two properties have separate long-time owners and are mostly comprised of open farmland with few neighbors, Mullins said. The properties comprise a 512-acre site with road frontage bordering the southern side of the state Thruway near Amsterdam's Exit 27.

Mullins, who was also present at the meeting, attempted to refocus the audience's perspective.

"What the town may want to look at as an asset to this is you're very fortunate to have this exit off the Thruway, that a lot of communities don't have," Mullins said. "Perhaps the way you could look at it is the desirability of that area within a short distance of the exit is a very small part of the town that can support a commercial operation that then enhances the wealth of the town and the surrounding areas."

Emily Marino of the town of Florida said she wasn't buying it.

"For a variety of reasons," Marino said. "Safety. Traffic. All of my research has shown a decline in real estate value. I really struggle to see how a casino a half a mile from my house would maintain and preserve a rural country road. And also, I'd just like to remind everyone of the decision 40 years ago to build the mall in the middle of Main Street and what that did for the Amsterdam community. Certainly wasn't a boast to the community."

Mead quieted the audience.

"[The resolution] isn't saying it's coming here," Mead said. "That's all I'm gonna say. All this does is open it for discussion. With that, call roll."

Councilman Ronald Phillips squeezed in a narrative before they voted. He said, back when he was chairman of the planning board, they sent out hundreds of questionnaires.

"The one thing that the people of the town of Florida said they don't want, is Route 30 south looking like Route 30 north," Phillips said. "Put everything up on [Route] 5S. Less hassles. Overwhelmingly. ... I'm wondering if they knew that if we were going to make Route 30 south into Route 30 north, if they would have voted in favor of the state putting a casino in here."

A woman from the audience shouted that the council should do its research before voting either way.

"Hold on, hold on, hold on," Mead said. "Your research can continue after this vote this evening. You vote no this evening, there is no more research, because it ain't coming back. It's a done deal."

Audience members returned with: "I'm OK with that."

"Well I know the people aren't," Mead interjected. "And I'm not OK with that. I want to see what the outcome could be. This resolution does not say a bulldozer is coming in tomorrow on Route 30 to open a casino. That's not what this states."

Town attorney Deborah Slezak offered a different perspective.

"It's like asking you out on a date, not to be married," Slezak said.

Councilmen Robataille, Steven Rackowski, Harold Alikonis and supervisor Mead voted in favor of the resolution. Phillips voted against it.

     

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