Residents of East Windsor have struck down a measure that would put an annual payment of $3 million from the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes into a reserve fund. The money is being paid to mitigate the effects of visitors coming into town for a casino the tribes plan to build.
A majority at a Tuesday night meeting voted to have the payment go into the town’s general fund. Steve Dearborn, a Republican member of the East Windsor Board of Selectmen, got what he wanted.
“I want to wait and see," he told WNPR. "I don’t believe we’re going to have the issues that everyone is saying that we’re going to have. And we were told that we could do what we want with that money.”
He wants to put the money toward repairing the town’s infrastructure, which would include paving roads and renovating the town’s police department. But he thinks that hiring more police officers out of a reserve fund would be premature.
William Loos voted with Dearborn. He used to be a fire chief and has lived in East Windsor his entire life.
“We have a town charter that takes care of all of our problems, so any money that’s spent in this town is going through the people," he said. "I’m for the town. I want to keep the taxes down in town.”
Democratic Selectman Jason Bowsza doesn’t like the wait-and-see approach and thinks that the money going into a general fund is a bad thing. He said it actually lessens the tax obligation which in turn would mean less money generated in property taxes.
“I think this is a situation where we could be cutting our nose to spite our face,” he said.
For each of the next five years, the MMCT venture formed by the tribes would pay an additional $5.5 million in property taxes. That means it is pouring about $8.5 million into a town with just over 11,000 people and a budget of $37 million.
Earlier this week, a spokesman for Governor Dannel Malloy said that a refusal by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to support the East Windsor casino would slow down a potential groundbreaking.
But Dearborn isn’t worried and believes the project is going forward, citing the fact that land has been sold for new hotels and houses of people in the area have been bought out.
"They did a 'no vote' which means a 'yes.' It becomes 'yes' if they don’t vote on it," he said. "I plan on being the first guy to place the first bet when they open the doors at the ribbon cutting," he said.
In November, Dearborn and Bowsza will seek re-election.