More than $2 million has been sitting in a bank account at City Hall for nearly a year waiting for a new process to be agreed upon, and more money from the casino funding to be dispersed in new and different ways around the Town.
For the past several years, the Town’s non-profits and organizations have been applying for and receiving grants of up to $10,000 from a pot of $1 million paid during the licensing process in 2016. The community has whittled down that pot of money ever since with great success, but now the real money has arrived.
As part of the Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) with the City of Boston, Wynn Resorts was to pay $2 million per year into the Charlestown Community Fund starting on the day the casino opened. With it opening one year ago this week, the first payment came in September, and now the City and the Fund’s Managing Committee is ready to begin a new process for distributing the $2 million with new rules and new funding of projects as well – and not just the non-profits who have been the only beneficiary to date.
“This mitigation fund will be a great opportunity to continue to assist Charlestown non-profits while also providing an impetus for larger projects in Charlestown,” said Rep. Dan Ryan, “I thank Mayor Walsh’s office and other committee members for setting up a process that allow us to get these funds where they belong.”
Councilor Lydia Edwards said she hopes the first round of the new money will go towards helping the non-profits and organizations that have been trying to address the impacts of COVID-19 on the community.
“This $2 million is a welcome investment in the Charlestown community during a time of great need,” she said. “I’d like to see most of the money go to non-profits in Charlestown that are doing work on the ground during the pandemic. We’ve seen people step up to make sure that the food needs of families and seniors are met and children have remote programming to keep them learning and safe. We should make sure they have the resources they need to continue doing this work. I’m also hopeful that water transportation could help revitalize the Little Mystic area and mitigate some of the traffic impacts of the construction on the (North Washington Street) bridge.”
The first step in the new process was to hold a meeting of the Managing Committee. That took place on May 12. A vote was taken at that meeting to approve a proposal for the grant program and move forward with the first grant round for the new money.
Right now, the City is trying to organize how that first round would be administrated. City officials said they are hoping to share the updated plan for the new program, as well as an application for a first Spring/Summer round, in the coming weeks.
This time around, there will be new rules for who can access the funding, as it is not just for Charlestown non-profits now. The four purposes outlined for the money include:
•Supporting 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;
• Improvements to the facilities within the City to facilitate water transportation and to fund staffing and other public safety initiatives related to increased use of water transportation in the Boston Harbor related to the project;
•Staffing and other public safety initiatives related to increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the City related to the Project following the opening date, and;
•Any other impacts include any transportation infrastructure impacts and the Sullivan Square Infrastructure Project.
Wynn Resorts is scheduled to have to make another payment to the City for the Fund this month, but have until sometime in September to make that payment. Up the road in Everett – where they have a much more robust Host Community Agreement – Wynn Resorts was not able to make a 3rd Quarter payment to the City of around $6.5 million due to being closed down and continuing to pay employees fully. Instead, they had promised the City of Everett they would pay for the 3rd and 4th quarters by June 30. That is being closely watched.
It remains to be seen if the lockdown and closure of the casino will have any impact on its ability to make the second annual payment of $2 million into the Charlestown Fund.
That, also, is being closely watched.