Councilors put casino question before voters

LEWISTON — City voters will see a more generous casino plan on the ballot in June.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Stavros Mendros, left, Dr. Ron Chicoine, center, and Peter Robinson, the three public partners working to get a casino in downtown Lewiston, listen at a Lewiston City Council meeting Tuesday night. The council discussed putting a sales option agreement for the Bates Mill No. 5 property on the June ballot. The casino group hopes to site a resort on the property.

Councilors agreed Tuesday night to put an option to sell the Bates Mill No. 5 property on the ballot. Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment LLC partner Stavros Mendros said his group had submitted more than 1,700 signatures in an effort to put the matter before voters.

"I asked the city clerk to stop counting the signatures, because once we reached that final number we would have lost the ability to negotiate," Mendros said. "And we've wanted to negotiate all along. We want this to be a team effort, and we want everyone to win."

Councilors voted unanimously to put the matter before voters, but Councilor Renee Bernier said she wasn't happy about it.

"People need to understand that our hands are tied," Bernier said. "We have no choice on this. If we don't adopt this version, the version he's been passing will go on the ballot by default. It's out of our hands."

Voters will decide whether the casino plan continues. If voters approve, the casino group will pay the city $150,000 in several installments through December 2011. According to the original plan, Mendros' group would have paid the city $10,000 to reserve the land.

If Lewiston voters approve in June, the casino group would begin gathering signatures to put the matter before statewide voters in November 2011.

If state voters approve in 2011, the casino group would purchase the land from the city for a fair market price.

According to the agreement voters will see in June, the casino
would pay 8.6 percent of all revenues to local government. Lewiston
would get 2.5 percent — a half-percent for unspecified
infrastructure improvements and 2 percent for the General Fund. Auburn
and Androscoggin County each would get 1 percent of the revenues, with
the towns of Sabattus, Lisbon and Greene sharing another half-percent.

Efforts to clean Maine rivers would get 3 percent. The
measure would also create a downtown Lewiston renovation fund, setting
aside 0.3 percent of slot revenues. Another 0.3 percent would be set
aside to purchase alternative energy for the city.

The casino would also pay property taxes to the city. Administrator Ed Barrett said the casino would end up paying the city between $2 million and $3 million in new revenues, between casino revenue and property taxes.

"This gives us an opportunity to get something before voters we are more comfortable with," Barrett said. "We were not completely comfortable with the language that they were collecting signatures for. It would have put us in the uncomfortable position of having to campaign against that measure."

The new language gives the city the right to renegotiate its share if the state changes the revenue the casino would pay.

Mendros also revealed the previously silent partners. They include his 81-year-old mother, Florentia Mendros, and New Hampshire anesthesiologist Tim Poutre and his wife, Wendy Chicoine-Poutre. Chicoine-Poutre, a Lewiston native, is the sister of local anesthesiologist Dr. Ron Chicoine, one of Mendros' original partners. Lewiston resident Peter Robinson is the other original partner.

"There was no smoking gun there," Mendros said. "They're just silent partners and they wanted to keep themselves private for a bit longer."

Mendros said Chicoine received harassing phone calls and e-mails from groups urging him not to be involved in the casino effort when his name was first made public.

"They just wanted to avoid those same things," Mendros said. "My mom's 81. She doesn't need to deal with that kind of stuff."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Michael Hobbs's picture

How are the jobs it would

How are the jobs it would create in Oxford more needed then that jobs that it would create in the L/A area?

Michael Hobbs's picture

Casino is the best use for

Casino is the best use for that land. Who else has stepped up in the decades that building has been closed? Building a Casino would greatly help L/A as a whole. Take a look at the two other metro areas in Maine (Bangor/Brewer and Portland/So. Portland) they have things that attract people to that area. What does Lewiston/Auburn have? Not a whole lot that is year round. This gives people a reason to come to Lewiston/Auburn year round and not just for watching the MaineIACs or going to the Balloon Fest. etc... You can say what you want about crime, but Lewiston has the second largest police force, also Auburn and Lewiston forces currently work together, which means better chances of handling IF anything occurs. I know people who live by Foxwoods and have nothing but good things to say about the area. Nice beautiful area and they have plenty of jobs. Instead of living in the past which is what Lewiston currently does, they need to take this oppurtunity and move into the future. The mills aren't coming back and with the high taxes the state has, businesses aren't likely to come here and retail is kinda hard to get when you like 30-40 mins from the largest city and from the state capitol. I highly encourage Lewiston citizens to pass this and highly encourage the L/A area and the state to get behind this.

Michael Hobbs's picture

LMAO. I am not Mr. Stavros or

LMAO. I am not Mr. Stavros or however you spell his name. I am just a man that has grown up in Lewiston and just wants what's best for it. If I was in fact him, I'd hope he could come up with something a hell of a lot better than what I wrote.

Kevin Murphy's picture

"Unbelieveable that anyone

"Unbelieveable that anyone would speak up for these people and say they are motivated by anything other than GREED!"

Sammy that statement could be made about anyone that starts a new business that makes money.  The purpose of any investment is to make more than you put in.  If that's your definition of greed then so be it.  What the US needs right now is more greedy people to get the economy back on track.  I don't gamble at all, but I know people that think it's fun and consider it just entertainment.  Sure there are some that become addicted.  If we banned everything that some people could get addicted to then this would be a pretty boring country.

Kevin Murphy's picture

"mc - ever notice how the

"mc - ever notice how the city has made Lincoln street wider, more of a boulevard effct?"

 

Thinkingman,  before you start calling people dumb you may want to get your measuring tape out.  Lincoln street is no wider than is has ever been.  Just the building are gone and it "looks" wider. 

Michael Hobbs's picture

Sammie, you say build

Sammie, you say build anything, but a casino. Well, nothing wants to go there. That building, that location has been empty for years this is the best oppurtunity that we have. Casinos are about making money, yes, but so is every other business in the U.S. Question is do you also complain the many state wide scratch tickets as well? Because that is also gambling. Just saying.

Michael Hobbs's picture

City of Lewiston has agreed

City of Lewiston has agreed to tear it down, with or without the Casino going there. They have been trying to tear it down for like 2-3 years now, long before a Casino was even thought of. In fact the people who are trying to get the casino here wanted to use the current structure (Mill #5). They are now willing to get the capitol that it will take to build a new structure on that property. As, for getting the land cheap, if I am not mistaken the council as already said if they buy the land it will be at 110% the current property value. Doesn't seem like a cheap deal to me.

 

I would comment on the "Seams like anouther Colisee", but I am not entirely sure that's english.

 's picture

There is absolutely NO

There is absolutely NO mention of the City building anything on site.  The entire expense of building will be the Company that wants the casino.

Nathan McCarron's picture

Put the thing out by the

Put the thing out by the turnpike where there is Interstate and Rail access.  Negotiating downtown is enough of a cluster between 3-6pm most days.   BTW, where exactly is the city of Lewiston's downtown redevelopment plan?   Is this another case of "flying by the seat of our pants" ?

 's picture

first, Lewiston is getting

first, Lewiston is getting greedy, trying to hoard most of the revenue from it.  While I agree that the casino will be in Lewiston, the city will get a HUGE increase in revenue from property taxes, which it will keep for itself, then the lion's share of the percentage of revenue.  That will rankle the area residents.

Then there's the issue of the referendum for a casino in Oxford country.  If voters approve that, they'll never go for another one so close.  If it is defeated, there will be enough hurt feelings, from tribal Indians to Oxford residents, who have tried to get a casino, many will vote no.

All that aside, it is nice they're talking about doing something with the space.  And with this ill fated referendum going forth, there will be time to find the right fit.

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

Here we go... the people

Here we go... the people would gladly vote in another mill or public housing but when there is a chance of actual revenue, forget it.

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