DANVILLE – With only two casino proposals, and those without all the criteria addressed, the Danville City Council Tuesday night approved Mayor Rickey Williams Jr.’s recommendation to extend the Solicitation of Interest, or request for proposals, deadline to Aug. 21.
Ward 7 Alderman Steve Foster and others suggested it be extended to Aug. 31, but Williams said this extension was a compromise.
Williams said they’ve been asked by a couple more entities, including Craig and Kim Campbell, who are part of another group, to extend the time for proposals.
Council members had more than a two-hour, sometimes heated, discussion in hearing from aldermen and more than a dozen audience members. The comments ranged from being in favor of a downtown riverfront casino to keeping the casino on the east end to help that area of the city and just to just do what’s best for the city.
Council members heard from former local banking representatives Craig and Kim Campbell who are part of a group that wants to put the casino downtown. Craig Campbell said they have four options that have not been fully engineered in the downtown area, including partly over the river, a small footprint and building up from the riverfront area and another with cosmetic civic center changes.
Williams, who said he’s not read all proposals yet, said he hopes for even more proposals with the deadline extension.
“I know for certain at least two other entities that do wish (to submit) and haven’t submitted,” he said.
He added the more competition, the better, and to benefit the city.
A council vote failed to extend the deadline to Aug. 31.
Aldermen also argued about the whole casino process from the start and how it appeared it was a done deal to use the Mervis Southgate property.
Ward 6 Alderman Aaron Troglia said there was “heavy bias to the Mervis site” and he also questioned the city using Vermilion Development’s Dave Cocagne as a development adviser and partner. Cocagne has worked with Mervis Industries and doesn’t have casino experience. Troglia said Cocagne finally admitted he will be paid through having an equity position with the casino.
Williams said other items the city wants from a casino developer is to provide $20,000 to $25,000 in funding to the Fischer Theatre and possibly David S. Palmer Arena at least twice to provide shows there and shuttles to take patrons. They also will ask the casino developer to donate to the United Way.
He said he doesn’t want to push the casino proposal deadline too far back to allow for public meetings, any approval of zoning needed and not to jeopardize the operator submitting the application to the state by the end of October.
Several audience members supported the casino locating downtown.
“I have no preference where the casino is located,” Williams said. He said the $6 million to $7 million in annual revenue is what he cares about.
He said concerns about a downtown location include the flood plain area by the riverfront and Danville Area Community College and others not fully realizing the tax money right away with the downtown Tax Increment Financing District.
Ward 3 Alderwoman Sharon Pickering also brought up former Mayor Scott Eisenhauer who has said the price of infrastructure downtown also would be expensive and he thinks it should go along Interstate 74.