PARIS — Selectmen on Monday voted to pursue funding from Oxford casino revenue.
Town Manager Phil Tarr said he'd spoken with the fire and police departments, as well as town managers of Norway, Poland and Mechanic Falls, all of whom were concerned about costs arising from the proposed development on Route 26 by Black Bear Entertainment.
“I don't think anyone can tell what the impact is going to be, but it's going to be something," he said.
He said the four towns should lobby the delegation of Oxford County senators and representatives in Augusta to cut Paris in on the distribution of casino revenues.
The statewide ballot question passed in November dictates 46 percent of net slot machine income and 16 percent of net table game income go to the state, which divides the money among schools, the town of Oxford, Oxford County, harness racing, the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and other funds.
Tarr said more traffic on Route 26 is his main concern, as casino patrons drive here from New Hampshire and Canada.
“We have tribal units in the state that receive 4 percent basically for nothing. Here we are right in the middle of this whole operation with increased traffic coming,” Tarr said.
Paris is not among the recipients named in the referendum question that passed, but the wording can change significantly in the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee before becoming law. According to the referendum question, Oxford would receive 2 percent of revenue from table games and 2 percent from slot machines but no other municipality is named.
Tarr said there would probably be resistance from the other beneficiaries named. “I would hope we can make the case there's going to be an impact and we want to protect ourselves against those costs.”
Selectman Jean Smart asked whether there was precedent for this.
Tarr said the Legislature had adjusted the amount distributed to groups from harness racing revenues.
Smart abstained from voting on the measure, citing concerns there may be strings attached to taking the casino revenue.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Ray Glover pointed out that the referendum already set aside money for the county.
Selectman Lloyd Herrick said he didn't like how gambling was singled out for revenue sharing. “It bothers me, but we need to protect ourselves and the impact that it may possibly have.” He said he thought the tax benefits alone from having more residents with jobs would already help the town.
“If there's money to be plucked for us, let's go pluck it,” Selectman Ted Kurtz said. He predicted there would be a big fight over the take out of casino revenue from across the state.
“I say we just line up with everybody else in the state of Maine and let the Legislature decide who's going to get the money from this casino,” Kurtz said.
Tarr said the town managers of Poland and Mechanic Falls were also proposing the plan to selectmen in those towns.
An error in this story has been corrected. Selectman Jean Smart abstained from voting on this issue; she did not vote against it.