By Nathan Mayberg
AKWESASNE November 18, 2005 It appears members of the St. Regis Mohawks may have miscalculated in their decision to change the site of their proposed casino to the Monticello Raceway.
A majority of chiefs, led by Barbara Lazore and Lorraine White, decided to go back to the raceway site based upon the belief that the site was further along in the review process. However, Chief Jim Ransom, long at the forefront of the tribes dealings, has opposed the change.
But Lazore and White made incorrect assumptions, according to several sources. New York State Senator John Bonacic said the Bureau of Indian Affairs has stated that the tribes application at Kutshers Sports Academy was further along in the review process than their original application at the raceway five years ago.
He characterized the tribe as having internal problems.
The application for the site at KSA has already had a public hearing, something the tribe would still need for the raceway land. In addition, the department has requested the tribe conduct a supplemental environmental impact assessment on the site due to the time lapse.
If the tribe goes forward with Monticello Raceway, they will need to sign a compact agreement with the Sullivan County Legislature before Governor George Pataki signs off on the deal, said Bonacic.
The senator is still pushing for an additional impact fee for the county through the states compact agreement. He is currently calling for an additional $10 million for the county on top of the $15 million-a-year agreements the county has worked out so far.
United States Senator Charles Schumer indicated during a visit last week that the tribe was not as far along as they thought.
Patakis office said last week that they were waiting word from the BIA and National Gaming Commission on a host of issues before they responded: "The Solicitor's letter indicates that the BIA is in the early stages of reviewing the Monticello Raceway site and that there is a significant outstanding issue whether the Environmental Assessment can support the application. Obviously, the governor cannot consider concurrence in any determination to take land into federal trust status until all necessary federal reviews are complete."
Brendan White, a spokesman for the St. Regis Mohawks, said the tribe will be meeting with the solicitor general this week to work out the issues the department has. White maintained that the raceway site held an advantage over KSA due to the two-part determination handed down by the department five years ago.