RP council mulls casino mitigation funds
Rohnert Park to receive $8 million guaranteed, $2 million in flexible non-guaranteed funds
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By Mira Brody  March 14, 2014 12:00 am

Discussion has begun among Rohnert Park City Council members and the city’s senior analyst, Bryce Atkins, concerning the use of casino mitigation contribution funds. 

Atkins, who drafted and presented preliminary goals before the council this week, has been in charge of the mitigation account since its creation in March of 2013. The City of Rohnert Park will receive $8 million in guaranteed funds from the casino and $2 million in flexible non-guaranteed funds, which depend solely on the success of the business.

“We now need to shape how these mitigations are going to be used,” said Atkins at the city council meeting on Tuesday, March 11.

Although the hope is to rectify any impacts the casino may cause to the city, it remains unclear exactly how the city has been or will be impacted because of the nature of the casino, as well as its looming expansion into a full-service resort. So far, the proposal contains five goals.

“The vision in this document is the same as the cities vision plan,” says Atkins. “The task force is recommending that the plan have a shared vision with the city because the contributions should be a part of the strategic plan.”

The Mitigation Task Force’s developments are currently in discussion and will be applied to the fiscal years 2015-2017. Whichever plan eventually succeeds will remain close with the cities values of being a “thriving, family friendly community that is a safe, enjoyable place to live work and play.”

“The casino operations may put stress on the city that may impact our sense of community,” said Atkins, outlining Goal A. “The intent is to strengthen those bonds and retain a sense of pride.”

Councilwoman Pam Stafford held concern for those affected by the opening of the casino and hopes those organizations could be included in those aided by the mitigation funds.

“I know with one of our non-profit organizations that I spoke to, Rebuilding Together, they had actually almost immediately felt a drop in funding through their bingo game night that they hold weekly as soon as the casino opened,” she stated. “Those are funds that they depended on to fund their program. I can see that we might have to be helping some of the non-profits in our community.”

It became clear during the discussion that it would soon become vital to educate the public on what the funds could be used for and retrieve strong, clear community input.

“We’re being asked to discuss and move forward with this, and I would suggest that we’d need to go out into the community,” Councilman Jake Mackenzie said.

“I want to make sure that we’re looking at all the different types of communities,” said Councilwoman Gina Belforte. “Not just residential, but business communities, the school district. I want everybody to feel like they have a chance to be heard.”

With $8 million a year coming into the Casino Mitigation Fund, concise preliminary plans are vital in order for these funds to be utilized correctly for the city’s best use. 

The task force will soon make efforts to reach out to the community in order to best apply these funds.

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