Small cities contribute to Cove Lane project costs

By By Natalie Stewart / American Press

Three of the four cities in the “small

cities” allocation of the parish gambling revenue district voted to

contribute part

of their future proceeds from Ameristar Casino to the Interstate

210-Cove Lane project, but Sulphur is still questioning the

deal.

The small cities — Sulphur, Vinton,

Iowa and DeQuincy — will join the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, Port of

Lake Charles,

Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city of

Lake Charles, and Pinnacle Entertainment in an intergovernmental

cooperative agreement with the state Department of Transportation

and Development to contribute $20 million to the project.

DOTD officials estimate the project will cost $80 million. The department will front $40 million of the cost, and Ameristar

Casino, which is being built in Lake Charles, will pay $20 million. Bryan Beam, parish administrator, said all entities contributing to the project will see a “great benefit.”

“The interchange project will help greatly with the traffic, not only for the casinos, but for literally the thousands of

people who go back and forth between the Lake Charles area and west Calcasieu, and the plant traffic going back and forth

to work every day would utilize this interchange,” he said.

“That’s a huge benefit for everyone that comes and goes over the bridge. Jobs in the community are filled by people who live

throughout the parish.”

Beam said whether or not the interchange is developed could have a direct effect on gambling funds that small cities receive.

“The monies generated from the casinos

and the new casino, that’s a direct cash benefit right there,” he said.

“The casinos

get a lot of out-of-state and out-of-town traffic coming through,

and if that traffic isn’t accommodated, it would have a

direct impact on the number of visitors to those casinos, which

would impact how much funding goes out to all the entities.”

Beam also said the interstate project is a “rare opportunity,” with “a 75 percent match where locals are paying 25 percent.”

Vinton

The Vinton Town Council voted 3-2 to allocate part of its future gaming money to the project. Councilmen Bliss Bujard and

Paul Patin voted against the agreement.

Beam said Vinton is estimated to get $105,804 a year in gambling revenue from Ameristar — $44,857 of which would be contributed

for five years, leaving the city with $61,019 annually.

Mayor Kenny Stinson said Vinton will not lose any money it is now taking in, that the money going to the project will come

from future gambling funds it receives from Ameristar Casino.

“We’re still getting new money coming in from the new casino; it won’t take all of that new money,” he said. “We are still

receiving some money, just not the full amount. After five years we will get the full amount.”

Stinson said it’s “a good deal.”

“I understand that some people are

against it, but we have never had a partnership like this,” he said. “My

stance is ...

when we all work together things seem to work better. When all the

communities and entities in the gaming pool come together

and we support the progress that this is going to bring, it’s a

good thing. This is going to mean jobs, it’s going to ease

traffic congestion in that area and everyone in the parish uses

the interstate.”

Stinson said the investment in infrastructure will benefit the entire parish. He thinks the cities will receive more than

the projected number.

Iowa

The town of Iowa’s projected revenue from Ameristar Casino is $104,218 a year, and the town will allocate $44,113 to the Cove

Lane project for five years, leaving $60,104.

Mayor Carol Ponthieux said Iowa council members unanimously approved the contribution.

“We are still going to draw in some revenue, just not as much as if we had said, ‘No we want all 100 percent of the future

revenue,’ ” she said. “We have a lot of people in our community who work in the gaming industry. If this benefits some of

our residents in employment and what have you, then that’s going to be good for our town.”

Ponthieux said entities in the parish have to “look at the parish as a whole.”

“We can’t just look at it as just Iowa,” she said. “We have to be collaborative and look at the entire parish. We can’t be

so selfish as to think of only Iowa.”

DeQuincy

The DeQuincy City Council also unanimously voted to contribute a portion of it’s future gambling monies to the project.

Mayor Lawrence Henagan said it’s a “small price to pay for the long-range outcome.”

“There has to be a way to get people to

the casino to make it viable, or we wouldn’t be getting the extra money

that we are

going to get once it goes into effect,” he said. “It’s a small

price to pay for what we believe the long range outcome will

be for us and that’s increased revenue from the gaming district.”

DeQuincy is projected to receive

$105,974 in future gambling revenues from Ameristar Casino; $44,857 is

allocated to the project,

leaving $61,117.

Sulphur

Mayor Chris Duncan said he still has questions about the project before it’s presented to the City Council, which will vote

on whether to participate April 8.

Projections for Sulphur show the city would receive $232,105 from Ameristar Casino and would be obligated to provide $98,245

for the project, leaving the city with $133,860.

Collectively the small cities, if

Sulphur votes to participate, will contribute about $1 million to the

project over the five-year

period, or $232,000 a year.