Democrat Photo by John Emerson
WAITING: Dozens of people milled about the Thompson Town Hall entrance in Monticello Friday, awaiting an ultimately unsuccessful chance to speak with the visiting St. Regis Mohawks.
Mohawks Visit Local Leaders
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO May 2, 2000 -- Leaders of the St. Regis Mohawks came to meet privately with officials from the town, county and village late Thursday afternoon and were greeted by dozens of county residents trying to find out what was happening with the tribe, Park Place Entertainment and the proposed casino at Monticello Raceway.
Although the meeting was limited to one representative each from the Town of Thompson, the Village of Monticello and Sullivan County, the news somehow leaked out, and the Mohawks almost cancelled the meeting.
In all, the representatives from the tribe which included chiefs Alma Ranson, Hilda Smoke, Paul Thompson and sub-chief Harry Benedict met with Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, Mayor Gary Sommers and legislator Bob Kunis for almost two hours in Cellinis office at the Thompson Town Hall.
Outside, dozens of people milled about, hoping to get a chance to voice their views on the most recent turn of events that has muddied the casino waters. Restaurateur Jimmy Carpenito, who is a strong supporter of the casino at the raceway, had called many people, urging them to come to the meeting.
All we want to do is welcome the Indians to the community and to Sullivan County, said former Fallsburg Supervisor Darryl Kaplan, who mingled with the crowd outside. Why else would we be here other than that?
At a briefing following the meeting, Kunis, Cellini and Sommers briefly answered questions from a handful of people who remained after the long wait. All of them said the meeting was productive and clarified several questions that have been raised since the tribe announced they had entered into an agreement with Park Place Entertainment to build and run their casinos within the state.
They came to meet and fill us in over what has happened over the course of the last four or five years, said Kunis. Their goal is consistent with our goal having this [casino] at the track and opening it as quickly as possible.
According to a memorandum to the tribe from Michael Cox, one of their Washington, D.C. lawyers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Indian Gaming Commission briefed members of the New York State Congressional delegation on the possible impact of the agreement between the tribe and Park Place. Although Cox said he was not permitted to attend the briefing, the memo identified several areas that were discussed.
One of the key elements within the memorandum was that the BIAs approval of the tribes land trust application was site specific and cannot be transferred to a new parcel of land. The tribe and Park Place would have to file a new fee-to-trust application with the BIA Area Office.
Coxs memorandum also stated that the BIA estimated that it would take approximately three to four years to complete the processing of a fee-to-trust application for gaming purposes.
In other words, if the agreement between Park Place and the tribe results in a change of site for the proposed casino, the application process would have to start from square one and would take several more years to complete.
Another interesting point within the memorandum says that a new tribe could be substituted for the tribe at the Monticello Raceway site. A new application would have to be filed, but substantially less work would be required if the project is the same as currently proposed for Monticello.
Cellini said the tribal leaders explained that they made the deal with Park Place because they had been informed by people at the NIGC the management company proposed in the original application, Alpha Hospitality, would not receive NIGC approval. The memorandum from Cox, however, repudiated that statement.
The NIGC denied that they had advised the tribe that the management agreement could not be approved with the current developers, Cox said in his memo to the tribe.
Alpha Hospitality has not been denied so far, Cellini said. We urged them to at least wait and see if that happens before they make the change. If Park Place wants to do something at Kutshers, thats fine they can go ahead and do it, and well support it. But weve been waiting for a long time and what we want is to see that move ahead.