The Massachusetts gambling commission held the first of two public hearings on Wednesday to address the impact a proposed Raynham slot machine parlor might have on bordering communities.
Stephen P. Crosby, chairman of the commission, led the afternoon meeting at Oliver Ames High School in Easton, which drew dozens of elected officials, former employees, and longtime friends of Raynham Park owner George Carney.
Almost all sang the praises of the popular businessman, who is working with Greenwood Racing on the $227 million entertainment complex at the former dog track on Route 138.
Carney’s application is one of three for the state’s sole license for a slots parlor. Hearings were also held earlier this week near Leominster and Plainville, where the other slots parlors were proposed.
Most speakers hailed the 1,000 construction jobs and 800 permanent positions a slots parlor would bring to Bristol County, which has a 9 percent unemployment rate.
Carney was characterized as a keen businessman and true friend who held on to as many longtime employees as he could when the state outlawed dog racing in 2010.
“I’ve known him for close to 70 years,’’ said Charlie Tartaglia, owner of George’s Café in Brockton. “He is the epitome of community.”
Julie Flynn of West Bridgewater said she worked for Carney in college and later, after she had children,
“Slots would be a great opportunity for adults right out of high school looking for a path,’’ she said.
To date, only Easton and Taunton have been designated by Raynham Park as surrounding communities, or municipalities that can negotiate mitigation to offset traffic and other woes. Easton wants $1 million a year, the same amount as Raynham, the project’s host community.
Raynham Park’s own engineering study shows that 50 percent of potential traffic will travel Easton’s roads, said Colleen Corona, chairwoman of Easton’s Board of Selectmen. “We believe that underestimates it. We are looking forward to a fair mitigation agreement.”
At least eight other communities hope to work out deals with Raynham Park, including West Bridgewater, which will see 40 percent of the generated traffic on its roads, said Town Administrator David Gagne.
“The Raynham Dog Track was once a vibrant, connected local enterprise that was a wonderful neighbor,’’ he said. “But without surrounding community status, the town can’t support the project.”
Municipalities that have not been designated surrounding communities by applicants by Oct. 31 can petition the state Gaming Commission for status.
The hearing also drew union representatives, who said Carney’s application is missing the statutory requirement of labor harmony.
Former employees of American Waste Service, a company owned by Carney’s son, Chris, protested before the meeting, saying that the company, which handled trash removal for four area municipalities, did not pay its employees a prevailing wage.
A lawsuit is pending in Norfolk Superior Court.