COMMISSION DIRECTS STAFF TO COORDINATE CASINO WORK SESSION

COMMISSION DIRECTS STAFF TO COORDINATE CASINO WORK SESSION

At their regular meeting on April 26, the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners instructed the county's Legal staff to set up a staff work session with the tribal leaders of Jemez Pueblo and the senior staff of Circle P Investments, owned by Santa Fe developer Gerald Peters.

The work session will allow staff from the three entities to further discuss specific provisions of an intergovernmental services agreement signed by the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners and the Jemez Pueblo Tribal Council last December.

Since taking office in January, both Commission Chairman William J. McCamley and District 2 Commissioner Dolores Saldaña-Caviness have expressed concern about not having had input into the agreement. Both District 1 Commissioner Oscar Vásquez-Butler and District 3 Commissioner Paul B. Curry – who voted against the agreement last December – said they have ongoing concerns. District 4 Commissioner D. Kent Evans, who voted in favor of the agreement last December, said he remains supportive of the casino proposal.

County Attorney John Caldwell advised the commissioners that the agreement is a binding contract, but Jemez Pueblo has expressed its willingness to work through any concerns and to continue an intergovernmental dialogue while the tribe’s casino proposal works its way through the Environmental Impact Analysis now underway by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

During a segment for public comment on the casino issue, both Dist. 52 State Rep. Joni Gutierrez and Former Las Cruces Mayor Ruben Smith spoke in favor of the casino proposal, and urged the commissioners to work with Jemez Pueblo and Circle P Investments to see the proposal through to reality. Several residents of Anthony also spoke in favor of the casino proposal. All spoke of the creation of new jobs and clean economic development as a result of the project.

Speaking against the casino proposal and questioning certain sections and provisions of the agreement was Las Cruces attorney Manuel Arrieta, who represents the anti-casino coalition known as the Committee To Protect Doña Ana County. Two other residents – one from Las Cruces and one from Tortugas – spoke out against the casino proposal, saying it would ruin the culture of the Mesilla Valley if it is constructed.

The staff work session envisioned by the Board of County Commissioners will allow a number of issues to be addressed by the parties to the agreement. Among those issues are: 1) Whether the agreement will bring sufficient revenue to the county to offset the true costs of increased services to the Anthony area; 2) Whether the Jemez Pueblo’s limited waiver of sovereignty is sufficient to protect the county’s interests far into the future; 3) Whether all casino employees – temporary, part-time and full-time – will be included in the Pueblo’s promise to provide 100 percent of health care costs for employees; and 4) Whether the incorporation of Anthony and/or the construction of a competing casino would have a detrimental affect on the county’s ability to protect its interests as envisioned by the original agreement. Another issue that might arise at the work session is the regional social ramifications of a large-scale gambling enterprise.

The work session will be attended by District 2 Commissioner Dolores Saldaña-Caviness representing the Commission. The final schedule and location of the staff work session is dependant on coordination of schedules. The work session is not envisioned as a public event.

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Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229.