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