Casino dollars flowing to RP
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By Mira Brody  February 28, 2014 12:00 am

For the first time since its opening on Nov. 5, 2013, the Graton Casino Mitigation Fund report was released this week during Tuesday’s Rohnert Park City Council meeting.

The council members promised extreme transparency with the public about how funds received from the Casino to the city are being used.

Aside from the thousands of jobs provided to the city, Rohnert Park entered a Memorandum of Understanding with Graton to receive $250 million over 20 years to stimulate projects such as park improvement and other joint ecological projects within Sonoma County. The fund has been closely watched and handled by Senior analyst Bryce Atkins.

“So far we’ve received 96 percent of the annual contributions to date,” Atkins said during his presentation to the council. “Which is expected in this process.”

He assured council members the city was “on mark” with funds thus far. Expenditures during the first few months of opening included: engineering, such as traffic changes and city planning; and advertising specialists and maintenance, such as city beautification and the restriping of Rohnert Park Expressway.

“Many people will be looking toward the contribution that we are getting for the city and think of it as a slush fund,” said Vice-Mayor Amy Ahanotu. “It is not a slush fund. It is important to keep people informed of these reports to avoid any misconception on how the city is spending this money or where this money is coming from.”

“There’s a whole list of stuff we can be spending this money on,” added Mayor Joseph Callinan. “Our senior analyst is here to do these reports and make sure we are spending this fund correctly.”

So far there have been $24,000 in contributions of mitigation funds, including the $30,000 preliminary fund, which included funding for additional fire safety personnel during the preliminary weeks of the Casino opening.

“I do believe the situation we have entered into now is a very controlled situation,” said council member Jake Mackenzie. “This is exactly what was envisioned. I am personally very pleased with the depths of these reports.”

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