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El Dorado County cashes in, thanks to casino

By: Raheem Hosseini, Telegraph Correspondent
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By Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent Tribal gaming operators sought to pave over a decade of bad blood with El Dorado County officials who opposed their casino development by presenting millions of dollars toward new carpool lanes along Highway 50. The ceremonial check presentation took place last Tuesday morning during the Board of Supervisors meeting in Placerville. The check represented the first of 20 annual payments by the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians to extend high-occupancy vehicle lanes between Bass Lake Road and the intersection of South Shingle and Ponderosa roads along the well-traveled highway. A total of $7.7 million was presented at last week’s meeting, the vast majority of which — $5.2 million — is earmarked for additional carpool lanes. A $2 million payment will go into the county’s general discretionary fund and a $500,000 payment represents sales tax collected on retail goods. The tribe also made a second payment of $125,000 toward public safety costs. “We are very proud of the contributions that we have made to the community since we opened Red Hawk Casino,” tribal Chairman Nicholas H. Fonseca said in a release. “Over the course of the past year, we have donated to a diverse group of organizations including those in the Native American community, the Asian American community, local organizations in and around El Dorado County, veterans and public service organizations.” The county is owed a minimum of $191.6 million over the 20-year life of the intergovernmental agreement, $104 million of which is specifically earmarked for Highway 50 improvements. The county spent 10 years battling the tribe’s efforts to build the casino, before agreeing to the terms of the settlement agreement more than three years ago. To date, the county has received $8.2 million from the tribe as part of the September 2006 settlement agreement that cleared the way for construction of Red Hawk Casino in Shingle Springs. “The agreement spells out a number of different payments, most of them due on the 365th day of operation,” explained Mike Applegarth, the county’s senior administrative analyst. The Dec. 15 presentation essentially marked the one-year anniversary since the casino opened and the approval of the intergovernmental agreement between the tribe and county, Applegarth added. “So (the check presentation is) symbolic in that nature.” Except for a portion already identified for law enforcement, the general fund payment can be used for a number of county obligations, Applegarth said.