LEWISTON — Backers of a downtown Lewiston casino made their effort official, paying the city $10,000 toward an option on the Bates Mill No. 5 building.
The check is the first of four the Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment LLC must give the city according to an option agreement approved by city voters on June 8. According to the ballot language, the group will pay Lewiston $150,000 in several installments through December 2011.
According to the agreement, the group's first $10,000 payment was due by July 8.
"But we're happy to make our first payment a couple of weeks ahead of the deadline," said Peter Robinson, treasurer of the casino group. "We are thrilled at the vote, with two-thirds of the people of Lewiston who saw the economic merit of putting a casino here."
A second $10,000 payment will be due Feb. 28, 2011, and a $30,000 payment will be due July 31, 2011. A final $100,000 payment will be due on Dec. 31, 2011 — two months after the matter goes before voters at a statewide referendum.
Residents voted in support of the option agreement 5,041 to 2,574. The group is currently gathering signatures to put the measure on the statewide ballot in November 2011.
Stavros Mendros, manager of the casino group, said signature collectors collected 20,000 signatures at the polls on election day. So far, the group has collected 24,000 signatures. They need a total of 55,087 to put the measure on the November 2011 ballot.
"We're pleased because we didn't just get support from Lewiston voters at the polls, but voters statewide," Mendros said. "When they came forward to sign our petition, they showed their support for our project."
The effort picked up one more supporter Monday; Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert.
"I'm very supportive," Gilbert said. "I didn't come out in support of it at the time. I wanted the citizens of Lewiston to speak. They have spoken. They have spoken loudly, and now we want to see the will of the people through."
Gilbert said the casino would be positive for Lewiston and the surrounding areas.
"It will create a number of jobs, well-paying jobs and jobs with benefits," Gilbert said. "It will help to revitalize our downtown and help to clean up the river. It's doing a whole lot of good things."