On Friday, Hard Rock International and the Big E announced they will be partners in the Western Mass casino race. On Monday, officials in a neighboring community voiced their concerns about those plans.
Three days after that announcement, Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen has formed a three-member committee to help him better understand how a west side casino would impact his community
"I've had both pros and cons," said Cohen. "I know my concerns and those are the concerns that I have to represent all of our community. I'm going to see how well they do listen to us."
"I think the goal of this committee is to make sure that Agawam's interests are protected," said Agawam town clerk and the chairman of the newly formed committee, Richard Theroux.
Agawam officials acknowledge that they're not the ones who get to vote on the casino.
"We could say yes casino or no casino, it means nothing that casino is not sited in the town of Agawam," said Theroux.
But officials say they're going to take their invitation to talk to executives at the Big E and Hard Rock to address the issues the committee finds.
"I think we're going to all work cooperatively and work together to see what works best everybody," said Cohen. "But, I certainly will present the information as it's presented to me."
As of now, public safety and traffic are among the top two concerns. But another big issue Cohen is concerned about is how a casino would affect Six Flags.
"Hard Rock, as we know, part of their plan is to build a venue and to have performances there," said Cohen. "That can cut into Six Flags. The traffic congestion can cut into Six Flags. They have been good to our community, they are a large taxpayer."
The committee plans to look into the Six Flags issue.
In a written statement to CBS 3, President and Chief Executive Officer Eugene Cassidy responded to Agawam officials' traffic concerns, saying:
"Agawam will be the 2nd largest beneficiary of the regional entertainment casino resort project proposed on approximately 40 acres of the Eastern States Exposition 175-acre campus. West Springfield, as the host community, will be the biggest beneficiary of tax revenue, but Agawam, as an adjoining/surrounding town, will ultimately participate in some form of a revenue sharing agreement which will generate tax revenues for that town.
"The Big E and Hard Rock are working on a comprehensive traffic mitigation plan that will improve traffic in both Agawam and West Springfield and the casino project will be the catalyst for providing funding to improve the traffic situation for both communities which previously has not been addressed due to the lack of federal and state funding available to resolve these issues.
"With the state's announcement today, of a $1 billion funding gap available for state and regional transportation improvements, the casino project at Eastern States Exposition will be a catalyst for traffic improvements that will be undertaken in both West Springfield and Agawam. Our project will not only improve traffic in West Springfield, but it could even serve to mitigate Agawam's existing traffic issues associated with Six Flags New England.
"If the casino project goes to Springfield, both Agawam and West Springfield will not receive any substantial revenue sharing and both communities will continue to have traffic problems in their communities."
Copyright 2013 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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