Council OKs casino resolution

By R.J. VILLELLA

April 4, 2006

 

Massillon City Council voted 7-2 Monday in favor of a resolution of “interest” for the proposed resort-style casino the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma wants to build on the former Republic Steel site.

The two council members voting against the measure were Donnie Peters and Katherine Catazaro-Perry. Peters said he voted his conscious, and Catazaro-Perry said she wanted to have a public hearing on the resolution.

But the meeting was full of twists and turns and moments of suspense as council debated the resolution, which buys them 90 days to study more of the issues involved in the development.

Council had a special meeting with Chief Charles Enyart and Mason Morisset, lead counsel for the tribe, on Friday, and many of the council members in attendance stated then they were relieved they could sign a resolution instead of the more binding intergovernmental agreement.

But in council discussions Monday, several members wanted to change the resolution of “support” to one of “interest.”

“I’m not there (resolution of support) yet,” said Catazaro-Perry. “I think we should table it.”

Councilman Dave McCune expressed similar concerns stating some language in the resolution was too strong in support.

More than 80 percent of the resolution was drafted by Law Director Perry Stergios. Morisset added a few clauses Friday, and most of the changes council wanted to make Monday were to Stergios’ original draft.

Councilman Ron Mang made a motion to table the resolution until Sept. 1, clearly missing the 90-day deadline extension of the intergovernmental agreement.

That caused some council members to speak out and developers Steve DiPietro and Ray Williams to cringe.

“If council would have voted to table the resolution,” DiPietro said. “We would be talking with other cities and counties tomorrow. They’re lining up should council pass up this opportunity.”

Williams said if the resolution was tabled that would have essentially sent a message that there isn’t enough interest in the project, which tribe representatives have claimed will bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the city.

But before the measure was tabled, Councilmen Tim Bryan, Paul Manson and Chuck Maier spoke out, saying the resolution was necessary to keep the door open.

“We can make the language less strong,” Bryan said. “I won’t vote for tabling.”

“Neither resolution commits us to anything,” Manson said. “They’re not enforceable.”

“I want us to be at the table,” Maier said. “I just can’t commit yet to the agreement.”

That’s when Mang told council his motion to table was a bluff, to draw those in support of the resolution out.

“Ron must be a good poker player,” DiPietro said. “He had me fooled.”

After the vote, Williams and DiPietro said they were pleased with how things turned out.

“We’re absolutely delighted Massillon City Council has granted a resolution demonstrating a level of interest in the project,” Williams said. “Jobs are important to Massillon, and the (turbo-prop aircraft) manufacturing associated with the project is important to Massillon.

DiPietro said he doesn’t understand why, if council still has questions, they don’t ask.

“I’ve e-mailed them all to please put their questions in writing and I’ll get them answered,” he said. “So far only Councilman Dave McCune has taken advantage of that. He asked the chief be brought in, and we did that.”

However council ultimately votes, Massillon residents could see something on the ballot.

Darlene Klink, a Ward 5 resident, told council she has signatures of 800 people who are against a casino, which could lay the groundwork for a citizens’ referendum.