By Seth Daniel
Mayor Martin Walsh confirmed this week that the Wynn Everett money paid to the City in the form of an existing $1 million check and the upcoming annual $2 million community mitigation payments will stay entirely in Charlestown, but will be given out through a City Hall – and not a community – process.
The mayor had alluded to his desire not to spread out the mitigation money citywide last week, and his office confirmed that this week to the Patriot Bridge. A $1 million check that has been held in escrow at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) for more than a year is already slated for Charlestown non-profits – per order of the MGC – but the negotiated $2 million annual community mitigation funds in the recent Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) were not slated specifically for Charlestown in the agreement.
This week, those monies were also pledged to the Town.
“Wynn will pay mitigation money to the City of Boston and the City will be setting up a system by which organizations can apply, and proposals and qualifications will be reviewed,” read a statement from the Mayor’s Office. “At this time, it is expected that the funds will be managed in the near term by the City’s chief financial officer and we are currently working on putting a system in place. This applies to both the $1 million that was in escrow and the $2 million annually in community mitigation. Funds will be dedicated to the neighborhood of Charlestown.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan said he thanked the mayor for his work on the agreement, and said he would lean on the needs assessments done by MGH and CSAC for best use of the money.
“Regardless of your views on gaming, we have a transformative opportunity before us,” said Ryan. “The mitigation package negotiated on our behalf is immense. However, it should not distract us from the enormous amount of work that needs to done. First and foremost is fixing Sullivan Square. Second is making sure that our residents compete for the jobs and small business contracts that are available at the casino. It would be a shame to wake up 15 years from now and realize we blew through millions of dollars, and have a casino filled with employees from other communities. Our community has completed numerous needs assessments through MGH and Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition that can help us determine how mitigation money will best be spent to lessen people’s fears around the potential negative impacts of a regional casino.”
Setting up that centralized process was a key announcement that ended some mystery about who would have control of the money – whether a community organization such as the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) would get the money to award as they see fit. The CNC does have a process in place for mitigation money and the awarding thereof. It has handled money from the Central Artery/Tunnel project years ago and the recent Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital project.
However, not everyone agrees with that process, and it was predicted that competing groups in the Town might become divided over who had control of the Wynn money – especially since it was revealed that the annual payments would be dedicated to the Town as well as the existing $1 million check.
The announcement of a centralized, City Hall process for Charlestown to access the Wynn money likely eliminated such infighting.
The annual $2 million mitigation payments are in place according to the SCA for 15 years.