A check from Wynn Everett for $1 million to aid Charlestown non-profits and to begin planning for a traffic solution in Sullivan Square is being held in an escrow account by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) this week after the City of Boston refused to accept the check on Wednesday.
The $1 million required initial payment comes as a result of an agreement pounded out by the MGC and Wynn prior to the awarding of the license in September. The MGC and Wynn spent the entirety of one day working on a mitigation/protection agreement for Charlestown that resulted in a final, and more generous, offer from Wynn that could total $76 million and is at least $56 million.
According to the License Agreement, the $1 million payment is to be used for “support of Charlestown’s non-profits, parks, after-school activities, senior programs, job training programs, cultural events and related activities that promote Charlestown’s heritage, quality of life, recreational and cultural activities.” The money was to be presented by Wynn to the City of Boston and then the City would work out a way to distribute it to Charlestown organizations.
Other uses for the money were to be for staffing and other public safety initiatives related to increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and improvements to facilitate water transportation in the Boston Harbor.
“We believe the $56 million package for Boston, which is primarily dedicated to Charlestown traffic solutions, will be critical in solving the decades-long problems of Sullivan Square,” said Bob DeSalvio, president of Wynn Everett. “The package is comprehensive in that it also includes vendor and employee commitments consistent with our other Surrounding Community Agreements. This initial payment, so closely following the acquisition of our land parcel, is still another step that keeps us on track to make our 5-star resort a reality.”
The meat of the check controversy lies in the fact that Boston has no Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA), which is what prompted the MGC to work out the package prior to the licensing award as Charlestown was left with few specific protections from casino-related impacts.
Wynn officials and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria have repeatedly said that Wynn tried to negotiate an agreement with Boston, but were frequently stood up or had meetings cancelled at the last minute. DeMaria indicated at a press conference on Tuesday in Everett that Steve Wynn himself tried to negotiate with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh – with no results in the end.
“They should have participated in the Surrounding Community Agreement process and they didn’t,” DeMaria said. “I know Mr. Wynn went to talk to Mayor Walsh and I know members of the group have tried to meet with Boston too. I don’t get it.”
Wynn officials were hesitant to publicly address the issue at the same press conference on Tuesday, but have been on the record before the MGC in saying they have made many efforts to work with Boston and have gotten little cooperation.
Boston, however, has a completely different story and has said that Wynn did not negotiate in good faith with the City. Mayor Walsh said such on Monday in announcing a lawsuit against the MGC. Boston also contends that it is a Host Community and not a Surrounding Community.
It has also denied that Wynn has tried repeatedly to meet with its representatives, a fact that Wynn officials, once again, wholeheartedly refute.
Wynn does have a rocky past in negotiating with some surrounding communities, as Chelsea had to go to arbitration with Wynn over its SCA and ended up on the losing end of that ruling – and stated publicly that it was very unhappy with Wynn. On the flip side, though, Malden negotiated happily and successfully with Wynn and touts its SCA.
All of that seems to be the background for the refusal of the check on Wednesday.
The Mayor’s Office didn’t immediately return a request for comment to the Patriot-Bridge.
However, Councilor Sal LaMattina said he supports the move and believes the $1 million check is an outrage.
“The mitigation package for the Charlestown community should be equal to the package awarded to East Boston, if not better,” said LaMattina. “East Boston was due to receive $18 million annually. The $1 million is a slap in the face to the people of Charlestown. They will be impacted more than any other neighborhood and they deserve the same if not more than the $18 million that East Boston would have received annually.”
Tom Cunha, chair of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC), went on record saying, “I have no problem with the City of Boston turning down the first round of mitigation money until the litigation between the City of Boston and the MGC has played out.”
The package of $56 million minimum on Boston’s behalf was imposed by the MGC to cover impacts from the Wynn project, including traffic mitigation for Sullivan Square in Charlestown. Wynn agreed to the package and it was then included in the project’s licensing agreement.
The Boston/Sullivan Square mitigation package includes:
- $1 million upfront payment
- $24 million in total annual payments to the City of Boston
- $25 million toward a long-term traffic solution for Sullivan Square in Charlestown
- $6 million in short-term Sullivan Square traffic mitigation
In addition, up to $20 million in fees may be assessed by the Commission if the project fails to meet its traffic projections – which brings the potential total to $76 million.
The package also includes a commitment by Wynn to spend at least $15 million in annual purchasing from Boston businesses and $225 million over the term of the license. The company will also hold vendor and career fairs in the City of Boston, to educate and attract future construction and operational vendors, and to appeal to potential resort employees who live in Boston.