By Seth Daniel
The Wynn-funded Charlestown Community Trust Fund will soon be releasing applications for its first round of dispersals to community non-profits – with a target date for the first dispersal on May 31 of this year.
Councilor Sal LaMattina said within the next few weeks they would begin accepting applications from Charlestown non-profits for grants, with a deadline for applications of April 15, and the first $150,000 dispersal on May 31.
“We should be rolling it out with a web page shortly and we’ll have an announcement when that’s up and running,” said Councilor Sal LaMattina. “It will explain everything about the mitigation and there will be applications available. People can fill out applications online or if they want to call for a paper application, we can mail it to them. There will also be applications located in the community. We’re going to have two rounds per year starting this spring.”
The details were unveiled after a Feb. 7 meeting at City Hall with Mayor Martin Walsh and other members of the Trust Fund Committee, including State Rep. Dan Ryan.
“The meeting was a good introduction to the process and ideas that the City has laid out for at least the first $1 million of casino impact funds,” he said. “Mayor Walsh and his staff did a good job holding Wynn’s feet to the fire when it comes to protecting Charlestown. Because of those efforts, we have a unique opportunity. We are the only surrounding community with upfront money. My hope is that we can use these resources to not only help our non-profits with funding but also to engage their membership in future discussions about development impacts. I think the framework for this grant process will be similar to what the community is used to, with some tweaks based on community input.”
LaMattina said they have decided to have two funding rounds per year, with $150,000 given out at each round. The first round would commence this spring with the May 31 dispersal. A second round would take place in the fall.
“From the feedback we got from non-profits, we wanted the application to be simple and it is simple,” he said. “We’ll take applications very soon and make a determination after April 15…I’m excited. The application is easy and the website will be easy to use. This is going to be a very positive thing for the neighborhood.”
The initial money being given out this year and in the next few years comes from a $1 million pot of money that is dedicated exclusively to Charlestown non-profits. That money came from Wynn as part of mitigation to the community when it paid for its gaming license. However, due to legal disputes between the City and Wynn over the last several years, that $1 million check has sat unused for multiple years.
Now it is being put in the proper hands, finally.
However, another battle with the Wynn Mitigation Fund looms on the horizon. Starting in 2019 when the casino opens, the Fund will be the beneficiary of $2 million per year for 15 years. While the $1 million now in the account is strictly limited to Charlestown non-profits, the annual payments starting in 2019 have a more broad scope of uses – which worries many in the community.
Mayor Walsh has said repeatedly in the Patriot Bridge and in other publications that the annual payments will go to Charlestown exclusively. That said, many are concerned about how that will be defined. One permitted use is for water transportation. Some worry that instead of the non-profits, water transportation costs that should be in the regular MBTA budget will be shifted to Mitigation Fund. The same is true for parks, which can be funded with the Mitigation monies. Most are wary that the Parks Department in the future could see the mitigation fund as a way of reducing the regular City Budget expenditures in Charlestown.
That is a fight yet to be resolved, but at the moment, the excitement has built around the first dispersal of money to local organizations – something the Town has been waiting patiently for over the course of the last several years.
Members of the Mitigation Fund Committee include Councilor Sal LaMattina (or a representative); State Rep. Ryan (or a representative); Sen. Sal DiDomenico (or a representative); and four City Hall departments, including the City’s Collector-Treasurer; the City’s Commissioner of Public Works; the City Commissioner of Transportation; and the City’s Chief of Civic Engagement.