Hopkins Township Monday night became the first municipality in the area to vote against filing an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Gun Lake Tribe and Gun Lake Casino.
The Township Board voted 4-1 not to adopt a resolution requested by Wayland Township Supervisor Roger VanVolkinburg to show support from local townships and the City of Wayland, confirming the casino has provided revenue sharing for their benefit. The city and the townships of Dorr, Leighton, Wayland and Martin have adopted the resolutions, though both Dorr and Leighton by only one vote because of religious objections to gambling.
Hopkins Township Trustee Bob Modreske said, “I have my issues with the casino being a good neighbor. We have the fire department issue, more traffic causing issues, the Fourth of July issues… If they’re interested in our opinions, why isn’t there a representative here (at the meeting).”
Township Treasurer Sandra Morris said, “This (request) stems from how they took the land into a trust, which wasn’t done properly.”
Wayland Township has asked all municipalities receiving revenue sharing to file the amicus brief in support of the Gun Lake Casino in a lengthy lawsuit on behalf of David Patchak that insists the land indeed was taken into a trust improperly. The legal matter now has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Township Clerk Eric Alberda said, “It (the request) is just explaining to the court the economic benefits (of revenue sharing).”
Township Supervisor Mark Evans said the matter will be decided by the high court, but, “I’m concerned about how we’ve been treated all along… The tribe asked to be removed from the tax rolls, but the request was denied.”
Though the land was taken into a trust several years later, Evans said, “A non-profit should be exempt (from taxes), but this doesn’t meet the criteria.”
Evans said he was particularly upset most recently by the tribe’s negotiating fire service with the City of Wayland and Wayland Township when its Jijak Foundation property is located inside Hopkins Township.
“I’m not opposed to the casino,” the supervisor said, “but it’s just been one thing after another.”
Robert Beck, a citizen in the audience, clashed with Evans over the issue, maintaining that the supervisor wrongly did not show up to collect and then cash the checks the casino provided, about $28,000 per year. Evans flatly replied that Beck’s “statement was false.”
The supervisor said all revenue checks to Hopkins Township must go to the treasurer, by policy of the board.
“That’s the way it was supposed to be from day one,” Evans said. “The board has not given me this responsibility.”
The conversation between Beck and Evans became so contentious that the supervisor at one point said if Beck persisted he would be asked to leave because he was speaking outside of the time allotted for public comment.
Evans, Morris and Trustee Chuck Wamhoff and Modreski all voted against the resolution. Alberta cast the only vote in support.
It is not clear how Hopkins’ lack of support will affect the Supreme Court case. The casino opened in February 2011 and most of the local
revenue sharing, in lieu of taxes, has gone to the Wayland Union school district.