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Rohnert Park officials prepare for casino growing pains

  • Finishing touches are performed on the Graton Resort and Casino, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 in Rohnert Park. (KENT PORTER/ PD)

One day, after the Graton Resort & Casino opens and traffic in the area almost certainly gets worse, the “new norm” will come and it will be different from the present, Sgt. Aaron Johnson told the Rohnert Park City Council on Tuesday.

“Things are going to change; we understand that,” Johnson said.

Between the Nov. 5 opening of the 340,000-square-foot casino just south of Home Depot and the time that new norm arrives, this will be what's normal for Rohnert Park officials trying to address the impacts of the opening of the 3,000-slot machine gambling palace:

*Congestion management plans.

*A host of new signs directing people to the casino and away from streets likely to back up with traffic.

*Contingency plans.

*Plans for “increasing levels of deployment.”

*A 38-foot mobile command center staffed with officials from three city departments and five other public safety agencies.

How long will the command post and its officials stay in the city, Mayor Pam Stafford asked.

“They'll be there until they're not needed,” Johnson said. When they leave, he said, “the new norm” will have become evident.

Johnson's briefing was part of a council review of six months of preparations for the opening of the $800 million casino resort, which is owned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. The city's casino mitigation task force is funded by annual payments from the tribe.

Under an agreement signed in March, should the casino's earnings meet projections, the tribe is to pay $251 million to the city over 20 years for public safety, education, traffic improvements and other services.

The city so far has received $2.8 million and has spent $342,279 of it on engineering experts and work on new traffic signals, attorney's fees and supplies, among other things; $75,690 went to pay Johnson, whose position as the traffic sergeant is new, and a traffic officer.

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