The Raynham Board of Selectmen still supports slot machines at Raynham Park, despite receiving a lower job-creation estimate from the town’s consultant than from the developers, Selectmen Richard Schiavo and Joseph Pacheco said.
Consultant Robert Birmingham told the board last week that the facility would probably generate between 411 and 500 new jobs, fewer than the developers’ estimate of 600.
Asked about the discrepancy, Pacheco said the jobs will be significant under either estimate, and the estimates do not include temporary construction jobs. State law requires a developer to invest at least $125 million in a slots project.
The former dog track, still used for simulcast racing, is vying for the sole slots license allowed under the state’s 2011 casino law. Developers plan to install 1,250 slot machines and revamp the property with retail stores and restaurants.
The three-member Board of Selectmen hopes to reach a consensus by the end of next week about what the members would like to see in an agreement with the developers, according to Schiavo.
“Our goal as selectmen is really to bring this together by the first week in June,” he said. “I think the general feeling is we’re very much for pursuing this.”
Raynham Park owner George Carney did not dispute the consultant’s jobs numbers. “I wouldn’t question whatever they came up with, to be honest,” he said.
Carney is working with development partner Greenwood Racing, parent company of Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, which owns Parx Casino outside Philadelphia.
Birmingham, of B&S Consultants, said the developers’ higher number may be based on the customers they hope to serve, versus the actual local gaming market. He said his company’s estimates are based on slot-machine use at Twin River Casino in Rhode Island, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway in New York, and Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
At public meetings, residents have said they worry about traffic congestion on roads near the site, which is located in the northern part of town, not far from Route 24 and Interstate 495.
Birmingham said that the developers’ traffic study, done by Boston-based Nitsch Engineering, followed acceptable methodology, and that traffic could be less than the estimates. In a slide presentation to the selectmen last week, he recommended Raynham Park install traffic counters in the driveways to monitor how many trips the facility generates, and a system that would allow police and fire vehicles to reach the facility faster by preempting traffic signals in an emergency.
His presentation also suggested that if traffic is as high as the developers estimate and it creates congestion on the Interstate 495 southbound off-ramp, Raynham Park should widen the ramp to create a double left-turn lane.
In an interview, Birmingham said no public transit runs along Route 138 in front of the track, and he would recommend offering shuttle service between Taunton, Easton, and the facility. It should at least serve employees, if not customers, he said.
The consultant’s report to the selectmen also recommended the new slots facility make payments to the town to cover a variety of expenses, including road, water, and sewer improvements; additional police and fire service, and reimbursement for related elections and Town Meetings. It advised the town to seek payments into a community fund for organizations supporting youth, civic events, recreation, and veterans; and into a diversity fund for a language program for middle schools in the Bridgewater-Raynham regional school system.
Birmingham said language education has been an issue in Connecticut, because some children of casino employees speak English as a second language. A new program in the middle schools could include language classes and cultural sensitivity education, he said.
Regarding public safety, the consultant’s presentation suggested that if the Massachusetts Gaming Commission determines local police will have jurisdiction over the site, Raynham Park should fund additional police and fire personnel to staff a 24-hour on-site duty station, a police transport vehicle for detainees, two police cruisers, additional communications and background-check capacity, and an additional ambulance— all for the first phase of development. The second phase could bring additional requests.
Former selectman Don McKinnon, who served on the board for 39 years, said in an interview that local police should have jurisdiction in order to keep a close watch over excessive drinking and similar problems.
He would not vote for a full casino, he said, but as things stand now, he plans to vote for the slots facility.
“The casino, I think, changes the character of your community,” he said.
McKinnon also said that he knows many people who oppose slots at Raynham Park, and that the consultants seem to be presenting a mostly positive view.
“I don’t think they’re necessarily there to give you two sides to it,” he said.
Schiavo said the consultants are doing a thorough job.
If the selectmen reach an agreement with the developers, the agreement could be put to a townwide vote by October, in time for the Gaming Commission to award a license by the end of the year.