Officials want more attendance at casino meetings - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Officials want more attendance at casino meetings

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Springfield city councilors have been meeting with residents for their input on casinos.

If Springfield is chosen to host a casino, only the residents living in the ward where a casino would be built would get to vote on it.

Now some want to change that.

Mayor Domenic Sarno wants the vote to be city-wide and at the meetings a majority of residents seem to agree.

But with all the casino buzz here in the city and so many opinions floating around, officials and residents said they're surprised at how few people actually show up to have their voices heard.

Believe it or not, a small crowd of around 25 people at Thursday night's public casino meeting was actually a good-size crowd compared to most meetings officials have held in the city.

They're used to maybe a handful of curious residents or sometimes none at all.

But they say, in the end, the less opinions they hear, the worse off everyone will be.

"If we end up with a potential casino here in Springfield and it's not exactly what we wanted, then shame on us," said Council Member Timothy Allen.

The city's economic development committee has held three meetings like the one Thursday night, where residents have voted on whether they'd like to see a city-wide vote on a casino or ward-specific.

"It's going to affect the entire city, there's going to be benefits and drawbacks of having a casino here," said resident Bob McCollum.

A majority of residents agree with him.

So far of the 70 residents that have voted, 67 have said they want everyone in the city to have a say.

"I do think it should be a city-wide vote. One ward should not impose on the other seven in the city whether or not we have a casino, it should be the city as a whole," said Chris Caputo of the East Forest Park Civic Association.

While Thursday night's meeting was well-attended and tough questions were asked, attendees want to see their neighbors get more involved.

"Listen to what's going on, have some opinions, voice those opinions. You can't stand in the background and then complain about it if it doesn't go the way you want it to," McCollum said.

There is another casino meeting on Monday at city hall at 5 p.m., and the first 15 minutes is a public speak-out so officials are encouraging any residents that have questions or concerns to come and be a part of that meeting.

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