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Tuolumne Supes Support New Me-Wuk Casino

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Tuolumne County Supervisors Tuesday agreed to support the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians plan for a permanent casino. County officials called it an “ambitious” project, which is slated to be complete next winter in Tuolumne City.

Tribal Development Director, Lester Lingo, said the 160,000 square foot facility will include a 24-lane bowling alley, gaming, a family restaurant, a sports bar, a signature restaurant, and more.

“It would be called the ´Black Oak and Family Entertainment Center´…or something along that line,” said Lingo.

“Our ultimate goal would be to build a destination resort,” he said. According to Lingo, that “destination resort” would include the new casino, a 150 room hotel, the development of the former West Side Lumber property, and a health clinic. He said the tribe wants to hopefully integrate “whatever building we do at West Side into the city of Tuolumne.”

Lingo said 200 parking spaces are being added. That brings the total number of stalls to 650. Tribal officials say parking is the biggest issue at the casino.

The county will also take bids from contractors, likely this spring, for a county road that will allow patrons to access the casino and serve as a bypass. Under an agreement being arranged now by county legal staff, the Me-Wuk´s will pay for the cost of the road. Officials from the county and the tribe hope that the new road and the new casino will be complete simultaneously.

What will happen to the building that now houses the casino? “We have the temporary building open now, we´re not exactly sure what its use is going to be,” Lingo told the supes. Officials did say, however, that the temporary building will be refurbished to fit in with the look of the new facility.

Another of the tribe´s long term goals is to make the Tuolumne Valley totally accessible through the use of trails “by foot or bicycle,” Lingo said.

County administrator C. Brent Wallace is still putting together a final 2003-2004 budget, and says the costs of the project for the county will have no effect on the general fund.

The county, like the state, is dealing with a deficit. “This issue here today doesn’t solve that deficit, it just provides revenue to be able to provide a service that is needed for probably the most significant project that´s been in this county in decades,” Wallace said.

Tuolumne City has lacked an economic engine for quite some time. As far as the county budget is concerned this is a “wash situation,” said County Supervisor Dick Pland. He pointed to the needed jobs that the casino will provide. “It´s all for the good of the public interest, and let´s be really clear that it´s not adding to the general fund deficit and it´s not going to cure it.”