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County Council still reviewing Pinnacle's proposal for Lemay casino

Despite the wishes of two councilmen, no decision has been made yet by the County Council on a casino proposed for the former National Lead site in Lemay.

Councilmen took advantage of an executive session last week to ask more questions and obtain more information about Pinnacle Entertainment's proposal to develop a casino in Lemay. Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, still is "on the fence,'' regarding Pinnacle's proposal.

Democrats Kathleen "Kelly'' Burkett and Mike O'Mara, both of north county, said they believed the council planned to take a vote on the matter May 18 and asked why plans to consider Pinnacle's proposal had changed.

"I was under the impression we were going to make some type of decision today on this," she said noting that she did not realize until the afternoon of the May 18

meeting that was not the case.

"What is the reason and why are we doing it?" Burkett asked Council Chairman Mange, R-Town and Country.

Mange replied, "My intent is to give this back to the council and then the appropriate resolution or appropriate ordinance has to be brought forward by somebody. We, as the Committee of the Whole, I see us as trying to gather information, hold public hearings ... My intent was not to do this today. But the council has to decide whether ..."

Burkett repeated that she did not know a decision had been made not to vote on Pinnacle's proposal that day. Mange apologized to her, saying that he believed he consistently had told councilmen his plans for the executive session.

"Well, you didn't tell me," Burkett said.

O'Mara walked out of the meeting saying, "... The two of us didn't know what was going on until the end of this meeting. Did we?"

Campisi told the Call he agreed with Mange. No vote should have been taken during the executive session May 18 because there are too many unanswered questions, he said.

"I want to be able to tie down everything that has been said to us that they said they were going to do — I want it all in writing," he told the Call. "I don't have it yet ... I just haven't received anything I need yet to make a decision."

Councilmen again met with St. Louis County Economic Council and Pinnacle representatives last week.

The following are some of the questions asked during the May 18 meeting:

• What is the likelihood of a casino site on the Illinois side of the Jefferson Barracks bridge?

• What is the status of the $1 million grant the Port Authority received for the remediation of hazardous waste at the former National Lead site?

• What is the financial strength of Pinnacle Entertainment?

• How would the Lemay Comprehensive Plan be affected by Pinnacle's proposal?

Councilmen requested information regarding how payments in lieu of taxes would function in establishing a real estate tax-free school district non-profit foundation. Councilmen also sought clarification of Pinnacle's obligation to develop the proposed access road, to remediate the site and to build retail, community and aquatic centers, a bowling alley, ball fields and the other non-gaming enhancements.

Economic Council Chief Executive Officer Denny Coleman explained to councilmen that the preferred roadway the company would like to construct would come off Lemay Ferry Road, follow the right of way along the River des Peres, bridge over the railroad tracks and then access the casino at the former National Lead Site.

Regarding environmental remediation, Coleman said $5 million had been estimated to clean up the site and Pinnacle has budgeted $10 million for the site. Pinnacle would have to spend at least $20 million on environmental remediation before it could back out of its commitment, according to the lease.

The community facilities, such as the aquatic and community centers, will be constructed in separate locations, away from Pinnacle's casino, Coleman said, but it will be the Department of Planning's responsibility to determine appropriate sites for the community facilities.

Community facilities will have to be built after no more of one year of casino operation or no more than one year after the Lemay land has been delivered to Pinnacle, according to the lease.

Noting that the lease states $20 million will be set aside for the roadway and community facilities — including a requirement that mandates at least $4 million be spent on the aquatic center — Odenwald asked how the company would account for overages.

"What happens if your roads come in at $16 million and you spend $4 million on the aquatic center, what about these other things?" Odenwald asked. "... What if there isn't money left?"

The lease states that Pinnacle Entertainment is obligated to build the community facilities even if those costs exceed $20 million, but Odenwald requested that Pinnacle devise a budget outlining specifically how much money would be spent on all of the community amenities that have been promised.

"We were shown these nice pictures," Odenwald said. "I want to know is that really what is going to be built if they're short on cash ... I want to know what is going in. What is the obligation for these facilities?"

Coleman told Odenwald that if there is any gap in funds for the community facilities, the acquisition of the land for the facilities could be paid for by rental income to the Port Authority.

"I want to know what Pinnacle is paying for," the councilman said. "What has been presented is Pinnacle is providing these community facilities. So don't tell me it's being paid out of some other revenue being generated down the road. I want to know, do we have a budgeted amount as to what these community facilities are going to cost and how they are going to be paid for? Or are we just saying that OK, if there's a shortfall, then because they'll be generating these tax revenues down the road, they'll be paid for?

"That is not how it has been presented to us to date ... Where is the money coming from if the $20 million doesn't cover it? I guess that is what I want to know. Is this something that Pinnacle is going to be obligated to do or do we have to come up with the money?"

Mange agreed with Odenwald, also requesting that some sort of budget be formulated for the ball fields, the shell outdoor auditorium, the community center and the other amenities.

Whatever the cost for those facilities, Mange said he wanted to make sure that the county would not pay for any of it.

"Pinnacle is going to pay for all of it," he said.

No more public hearings are set on the Pinnacle proposal and it is unknown when a councilman or councilmen will author a bill or resolution in support or in opposition of the proposal.

The Missouri Gaming Commission intends to consider gaming licenses for the St. Louis metropolitan area in mid-July.

Campisi told the Call the council is in no rush and has not set a deadline for itself to come up with a recommendation other than some type of opinion will be issued before the July meeting of the Missouri Gaming Commission.

The Gaming Commission was scheduled to meet Monday — after the Call went to press — to gain input from government officials, special interest groups and the public on the proposals for new casinos in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

The following companies are proposing casino developments:

• Harrah's — One proposed facility that would be located in St. Louis County near the Jefferson Barracks Bridge in Oakville.

• Isle of Capri — Two facilities with one that would be located in downtown St. Louis, while the other would be constructed near the Jefferson Barracks Bridge.

• Pinnacle Entertainment — Two facilities with one that would be located downtown, while the other would be constructed at the former National Lead Site in Lemay.

• Riviera — One proposed facility that would be located in Jefferson County near Barnhart.

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