Monday, June 10, 2013
Plainville Selectman Sticks Up For Her Town
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on June 10, 2013
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
Having been involved in area politics and government for the last 40 years, I have had the opportunity to meet many elected and appointed municipal officials. Some have been a disappointment, most have been dedicated citizens, and all have been interesting.
But today I have a new favorite - Andrea Soucy, a veteran member of the Plainville Board of Selectmen and a lady with a reputation for straight talk and constituent service. Recently she rose to the occasion by sticking up for her small community as some of her neighbors seek to take advantage of Plainville’s possible good fortune.
As most people are well aware, Plainville is one of several possible locations for the one gambling slot parlor to be licensed in Massachusetts. It is proposed for the Plainridge Harness Track located at the junction of Route 1 and Interstate 495, and as expected has generated a fair amount of controversy and conversation.
Unlike their counterparts in nearby Foxboro, Plainville officials opted to listen to those seeking the gambling facility and gather information both pro and con as to what the impact on the community would be first. They have not yet made up their minds as to whether or not to support it officially, and are involved in the state-dictated process to consider the application.
Preliminary reports predict the casino will eventually provide about $8.6 million to Plainville over a five-year period, and at the same time cost about $5.6 million in additional expenses. The casino law also allows for “mitigation payments” to neighboring towns if they can prove they are negatively impacted by the casino’s operation.
This has rightfully come to the attention of several of those communities as they consider the impact on their residents. Traffic, economic impact, social issues and other concerns are all fair game as towns begin the jockeying to cash in on the gambling bandwagon without having to actually locate anything within their borders.
At a recent state Gaming Commission forum on the Plainridge proposal, officials from North Attleboro, Wrentham, Foxboro and other towns gathered with Plainville officials to listen and express their concerns. And apparently, that all got to be a bit much for some of the Plainville folks.
When an official from Foxboro said there was not enough time for the hiring of their own expert to assess the impact there, Plainville Selectmen Soucy had heard enough. “You can hire the same expert who said Patriot Place would have no impact on us”, she retorted. She went on to add that few if any of the surrounding towns consulted with Plainville when they were approving their own major developments.
“That is really bothering me. It seems so hypocritical”, she stated after the forum. It sure does, Selectman Soucy – you are absolutely right.
Plainville Town Administrator Joseph Fernandes noted the casino is expected to generate about 4900 vehicle trips per day, and that a nearby Lowe’s store currently generates about 7,800 vehicle trips per day. He asked that traffic concerns be considered in a reasonable light, asking, "Does traffic on 95 back up because Lowe's puts 2-by-4s on sale?"
This is not to say there are no possible problems which could require financial mitigation to nearby towns. And it is hard to blame local officials for investigating any chance at increasing their revenues and lessening the burden on their property taxpayers.
But the fact it is legal to do this under the highly political terms of the gambling law does not make it right. Why should Foxboro be allowed to license the building of Patriot Place, which affects Plainville far more than the slot parlor would affect Foxboro, and yet that requires no “mitigation”? The Wrentham Outlets generate huge traffic jams and strain other resources, but I don’t remember any financial aid to the neighbors to lessen that impact.
It is all part of the “gambling phobia” that has enveloped the area since the Great Foxboro Casino debate (or lack of same). That is strange for an area that has hosted a harness track for most of the last sixty years.
So congratulations to Selectman Soucy for putting into words what many folks in Plainville must be thinking. Whether the slots come or not – she’s got a good point.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.