By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO June 24, 2003 An emergency meeting of the Sullivan County Legislatures Executive Committee was held on Thursday, June 12 to discuss casino issues. Due to time restraints, the meeting was recessed to Thursday, June 19.
Committee Chair Leni Binder turned the meeting over to County Attorney Ira Cohen to review casino-related issues, including a Request For Proposal (RFP) to get a consultant to analyze casino impacts in Sullivan County. Cohen presented a resolution to prepare and distribute an RFP for firms that specialize in analyzing casino impacts. However, there was a great deal of discussion among lawmakers on what exactly was needed.
Binder stated that the former Casino Committee consisting of former Legislature Chair Rusty Pomeroy, Legislator Bob Kunis, Sullivan County Republican Party Chair Greg Goldstein, Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, and former Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Gerry Skoda never submitted a final report because a report was never authorized.
Binder has asked Skoda, who has all the documentation, to produce a final report. Once they have that final report, they can go forward with the RFP, according to Binder.
I want to exchange some ideas so we can put the final language on the RFP, commented Cohen. This will not be a full-blown, independent, environmental review. That would take months and be costly. Several studies have been performed. Whats missing is the recent evaluation. That would help us make a proposed allocation among the affected entities.
I am reluctant to add that last part, stated District 5 Legislator Rodney Gaebel. That is way premature. Some people think that once something is written, it becomes gospel. We have to reach out to the entities. The impact of the schools is tied to enrollment. We have to decide how to allocate for that. We cant paint ourselves in a corner we dont want or cant afford to be in.
Binder asked for Cohen, County Manager Dan Briggs, Sullivan County Financial Management Administration Commissioner Richard LaCondre, and Sullivan County Commissioner of General Services Harvey Smith to meet and come up with ideas for the RFP so as to create a rough copy for the legislators to review.
But the questions continued.
If we didnt get a complete report, where did the $15 million figure [in the contracts the county has with two of the tribes] come from? asked District 4 Legislator Don Trotta. How did we get to the end without the product? Im a simple person. I just dont get it or understand this.
The final document was not produced, Gaebel explained. It was a verbal presentation. There was no formal document.
The impacts are closer to $30 million, Binder added. After negotiating with the tribes, we took out some of the positive impacts. That is how we got $15 million.
Binder admitted they made a mistake in not getting a final report. Fingers were pointed at Pomeroy for not having the report done. However, the lawmakers said they did not really wish to place blame or dwell on the past.
Still . . . It would be helpful to have an analyst, Cohen said. The numbers need to be justified. It would be prudent to move forward. You will look at the RFP before it goes out. The BIA will ask for it.
The analyst will not verify the numbers, Cohen continued. They will analyze the known, identifiable impacts. They will come up with numbers from the body of work we will provide.
This has been difficult and confusing, remarked District 6 Legislator Jodi Goodman. We have assumed that the public is following this. I have talked to my constituents. No one understands this. We have to do a better job to explain it. Lets not put the cart in front of the horse. This should have all been done yesterday.
It was decided that Cohen, LaCondre, Briggs, and Smith would write a rough copy of the RFP within a week to ten days. Also, the countys director of communications, Lee Bosco, would create press releases educating the public on the issues involved. Plus a meeting was scheduled for last night between the legislators and the school boards. They will also set up a meeting with the towns and the supervisors.
But what about the price?
Before we begin this process, we need to look at these issues, commented District 1 Legislator Chris Cunningham. How much will this cost?
Bend over, quipped Trotta.
Binder announced that they would pay Skoda $2,500 for the report. That caused outrage from some of the legislators. But the figure is not definite, and with that, they went into executive session.
The meeting lasted an hour. Executive session was an extra half hour. Afterwards, some lawmakers commented that it was not definite Skoda would get the $2,500. Another meeting is expected to be called to discuss the matter further and review the RFP.