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Archive for Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Tribe, Tonganoxie to discuss casino

February 21, 2001

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— Mayor John Franiuk isn't willing to roll the dice and allow an American Indian tribe to build a casino in Tonganoxie yet. But he is willing to step up to the table for a look.

The Delaware Tribe, which has dropped plans for a $52 million casino complex near the Lawrence airport, has been invited by the Tonganoxie City Council to make a pitch to develop the casino in Tonganoxie.

Tribal chairman Dee Ketchum will meet with the council at 7 p.m. Monday at city hall. The meeting is open to the public.

Franiuk said he was interested in the potential economic benefits of a casino.

"Tonganoxie is an emerging city," Franiuk said. "We're growing, and I'm looking for economic development in any shape or form I can get."

Ketchum will present a proposal on the development his tribe has in mind. Needs and expectations from both sides will be on the table, Tonganoxie City Administrator Chris Clark said.

Clark, Franiuk and City Planner Linda Zacher attended a meeting earlier this month between Ketchum and Leavenworth County commissioners. The meeting piqued the Tonganoxie city officials' interest.

Franiuk said he saw Monday's meeting as an excellent opportunity for the council to hear what the tribe had to offer the city in terms of financial commitment.

The planned complex, to be built on land the tribe would buy, would be exempt from property tax, though the city could reap sales tax revenue from the casino hotel, museum and entertainment center goods. Ketchum has said that in lieu of taxes, the tribe would be willing to offer payments to benefit police and fire and other government agencies.

Clark said he would be interested in hearing more about such an arrangement.

"The city has a fairly open mind on the proposal," Clark said. "They're withholding judgment until after they have heard what the tribe has to offer."

Since the proposed casino met opposition in Lawrence last year, the tribe has expressed interest in locations in Leavenworth County. Ketchum has alluded to meetings with another city, but did not say where. Ketchum did not return phone calls for comment Tuesday.

The Oklahoma-based Delaware Tribe has expressed interest in Tonganoxie because U.S. Highway 24-40 runs through it.

"That makes us a prime candidate for them to look at," Franiuk said. "But we want to know what their commitment will be to us before the council commits to them one way or another."

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