Council appoints committee to look at West Slope Indian gaming plan |

Council appoints committee to look at West Slope Indian gaming plan

Susan Wood

The South Lake Tahoe City Council is still exploring its options in how to react to the threat of a proposed Indian casino in Shingle Springs siphoning tax revenue from city restaurants, shops and motels.

It appointed Tuesday a subcommittee of Councilmen John Upton and Mike Weber to gather more information on the matter, which has come under the microscope since El Dorado County opted a few weeks ago to drop its $3.5 million legal fight against the Miwok tribe and its developer in exchange for almost $200 million from the tribe over 20 years to offset the losses.

The city is considering engaging the county on the South Shore city’s impact or legally assisting a neighborhood group called Voices for Rural Living in its battle due to go to trial in April.

But the city may do more – perhaps short of pursuing its own lawsuit.

“I don’t know if we can or will,” Mayor Hal Cole said. “We were disappointed (the county settled). These are issues that have not gone away.”

The city has been reeling over the county’s decision since the local government told the city in a report it stood to lose at least $40 million if the casino goes in. The county had asked the city to file a letter as a party of interest to the Placerville-based government’s suits through the years, and South Lake Tahoe obliged in January 2003.

As a result of the settlement, questions arisen from the city ranging from the effect on employment and declining school enrollment to the city’s perception it was left out of the picture during negotiations.

“I still haven’t heard anything from anybody,” Councilman Ted Long said. He wrote a letter to county board Chairman Jack Sweeney taking issue with the city’s absence in the process.

To the county’s defense, Councilwoman Kathay Lovell explained the county didn’t involve the city because it settled in closed session.

“That’s why they didn’t involve us,” she said. “It was inevitable. They put up a good fight. It was not our battle.”

Still, most in the room agreed they foresee an impact on the South Shore economy – including Heavenly Mountain Resort Chief Operating Officer Blaise Carrig, who stuck around after the chamber discussion to express his concern.

“This is a significant issue,” he said, urging the city to be proactive. “They say competition is good when it raises the bar. It’s bad when it drains the pie.”

Park it yourself?

In other business, the council decided to refinance $6.9 million in bonds to manage a shortfall and finance requirement from the Heavenly Village parking garage. The refinance detailed by PFM Group consultant Robert Gamble would provide the city $100,000 a year in cash flow at an interest rate between 5- to 5.3 percent. As a result, the city’s debt service would drop to about $530,000 a year, Gamble added.

With the parking garage underperforming, the city may revisit the topic to determine whether to apply an automated management system there. It pays out about $80,000 a year for Standard Parking to man the facility.

The City Council also chose to hire an engineer for $49,922 to develop the design of the Harrison Avenue bike trail project under a state grant through the California Tahoe Conservancy.

If you go

What: El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 10 a.m., Oct. 24

Where: Council Chambers, Lake Tahoe Airport, 1901 Airport Road

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