Daily News

Springfield Mayor Announces New Casino Liaison Office

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and the Office of Planning & Economic Development have officially announced the establishment of the Casino Liaison Office.

In order to meet the requirements of the Gaming Act found under Section 96 of Chapter 194 of the Acts of 2011, a host community is required to take action to help coordinate and expedite local permitting of a gaming facility. The Casino Liaison Office will act similar to a local permitting ombudsman to help coordinate and expedite local permitting of the development. The role of this office is to work with MGM Springfield and its construction-management team to resolve the myriad issues likely to occur during the construction period and to help streamline city permitting.

This office will be in existence for a short time covering the period of construction and the first year of operation, with an expected span of 39 months. It will be overseen by Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer, and will be staffed by Al Chwalek, retired director of the Department of Public Works, and attorney James Hannifan.

The Casino Liaison Office will coordinate the efforts of the various city departments involved in the development and construction of the casino project and serve as an information resource for the developer and as a representative and facilitator for developer in the processing of its permitting, licensing, and regulatory approvals.

“Due to the size and complexity of this multi-million-dollar project, it is imperative that the city provide a direct point of contact as we move forward with the realization of this tremendous economic-development project for the city of Springfield,” said Sarno. “Both Al and Jim have direct knowledge of the development process and will be instrumental in making sure that, when issues arise, they can be dealt with directly and in a timely manner to ensure this project stays on track.”

In addition to the Casino Liaison Office staff, Sarno will also be bringing together a number of key departments as part of a casino-development team. This team will include the Office of Planning & Economic Development, Department of Public Works, Law Department, Building Department, Police Department, Fire Department, Water & Sewer Commission, and Office of Administration and Finance.

As part of this team, the city will also be re-engaging the services of a number of outside casino-related consultants. These include Fuss & O’Neil, a local traffic-engineering consultant; the Chicago Consultants Studio Inc., a Chicago-based planning firm, which will review site-planning-related issues; and Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, formerly Shefsky & Froelich Ltd., for its expertise concerning legal matters relating to the gaming industry.

The city will fund the office staff through payments received in conjunction with the host-community agreement. Outside consultants used for their expertise will be funded pursuant to the terms of the agreement, which obligate the developer to pay development process cost fees.

“As we did during the casino-review process, the city wants to ensure that we have a transparent and open process and that we also have the most qualified people to help guide one of the largest development projects in the city’s history,” Kennedy said. “This team of city departments and consultants, which will also be fully available to the City Council as part of their review, will help to play a major role in the permitting process and provide much-needed input as we look forward in anticipation of the casino’s opening in 2017.”

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