Fixing current issues as well as future plans were both topics at a joint meeting between Amador County and the Buena Vista Tribe concerning operations at the Harrah’s Northern California Casino on the Buena Vista Rancheria.
Monday’s meeting was the first since the casino opened at the end of April. Issues of traffic, police and fire protection were all reviewed at the meeting. Amador County Sheriff Martin Ryan reported that the first of six new patrol deputies to be hired for the area has completed police academy training and three more were slated to start training in October.
From the casino’s opening through the month of June, the Sheriff reported a total of 11 bookings for those with connections to the new casino, including charges of drunk in public, battery and several individuals taken in on outstanding warrants. Under the agreement between Amador County and the Tribe, the Tribe provides money for additional police services, as well as reimbursing the county for casino-related stays in the county jail.
Cal Fire reported that the new fire station next to the casino is fully staffed and responding to an average of one call per day.
Traffic concerns raised by residents were primarily focused on casino traffic, including bus and truck deliveries, taking side roads in the Buena Vista area rather than the roads that have been improved to bear the increased traffic. Casino officials pledged to continue to direct traffic onto the designated roads, but did note that not all traffic in the region came from the casino. Additional directional signs on Highway 88 were delayed by the Caltrans review process, but are expected to be installed soon. Apart from the massive traffic jam on the opening day of the casino in April, no other major traffic problems were reported.
The future use of the more than $1 million per year in the county’s community fund. given to the county each year by the Tribe as part of the mitigation for the casino, remains a contentious issue. The money can be spent at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors. While the first two years saw the funds used for road improvements, members of the public at Monday’s meeting called for the money to be used for pedestrian improvements in Ione, or spent on schools, or new community parks, tourism promotion, among other suggestions.