Area Communities Await Casino Money

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Thursday could be a big day for dozens of local government agencies.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is scheduled to award $21 million of casino revenues to area projects.

Like gamblers at Mount Airy Casino Resort, local communities hope to hit the jackpot and get some of very dollars lost by the gamblers over the past year.

In Monroe County, Barrett Township Police Chief Steve Williams wants casino money to replace its canine SUV which has 90,000 miles on it.

"It becomes a liability once you start putting that kind of mileage on a car," said Chief Williams.

Township Supervisor Ralph Megliola wants casino money to link an emergency generator to the municipal building so operations could continue during a power outage.

"The police need this to run their command center," said Megliola. "We need it at the township level to run everything out of the front, and to use as a shelter."

A community group wants to turn the old Barrett Township Library into a senior center. A grant of casino money from Mount Airy revenues could go a long way toward making that happen.

"Holy gosh, look at that!," exclaimed Chuck Leonard, shocked at how many projects are applying for casino money. He is the executive director of the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation. That agency applied for money for 17 projects, including a new cancer center at Pocono Medical Center and the redevelopment of the Buck Hill Inn.

"There's no other way of saying it, this program is critical to the ability of some of these projects to even go forward," said Leonard.

Before federal and state budgets got air tight, Congress and Pennsylvania state lawmakers often found the money to pay the lion's share of these projects. Not anymore.

"You can talk and ask and write letters and plead, and they (the federal government) are cutting more than we're cutting here," Leonard added.

In Barrett Township, casino money may be the only hope for emergency power, or a new police vehicle.

"This vehicle here is about five years old," said Chief Williams. One hundred fifty-five projects are seeking casino money grants in our area.

Here is the breakdown of casino money to be awarded by the Pennsylvania Department Community and Economic Development:

From Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs: $12.2-million, all in Luzerne County.

From Mt. Airy Casino: $3.6 million to Monroe County projects.

From Mt. Airy Casino: $5.9 million to projects in Lackawanna, Wayne, Carbon, Pike, and Northampton counties.

Roughly 25 percent of the projects applying for the grants actually receive them.