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Slot machine revenue helps fund community projects in Jefferson Co.

March 05, 2006|By DAVE McMILLION and CANDICE BOSELY

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - In Jefferson County, W.Va., slot machine revenue from Charles Town Races & Slots has brought millions of dollars into the coffers of local government since 1999 and has been used to fund ambulance and park services, libraries, civic organizations and other operations, according to county government records.

The Jefferson County Commission receives 2 percent of the track's net terminal income, county Administrator Leslie Smith said.

After the county receives $912,000 in a given year, additional slot machine revenue going to the government is split between the commission and the county's five municipalities, Smith said.

This year, the commission is budgeted to receive $4 million in slot machine revenue, according to government records.

Of that, about $800,000 will go to the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority, records state.

Ambulance Authority Director Ed Smith said most of the slot machine revenue that comes to the authority is used to pay salaries for the ambulance service. There are 11 full-time employees and nine part-time employees, he said.

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Other slot machine revenue going to the ambulance authority has been used to purchase equipment such as heart monitors, Ed Smith said.

Ed Smith said the slot machine revenue has been a boon to local government.

"We couldn't operate without the video lottery money," he said, adding that the county "would really be suffering" without it.

Another area that is expected to receive a large portion of slot machine revenue this year is emergency communications systems for the county, according to government records.

Communications capital outlays are expected to total $1 million and will be used to help replace radio systems, build a new 911 center and pay for software and other equipment upgrades, according to records and Leslie Smith.

Each of the county's five municipalities also receives money, forwarding a portion to local nonprofits and paying for capital improvements.

Money is distributed to the municipalities in weekly allocations, beginning last August.

Charles Town had received $611,893 through January, with half used for capital improvement projects and half used for operating expenses.

City Manager Jane Arnett said that in the past, money was used for the downtown revitalization project, which included streetscape improvements. A similar project to improve Jefferson Avenue is under way.

Like other municipalities, the city also contributes a portion of its money to several nonprofit organizations, including Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, the Boys & Girls Club, Old Opera House, Old Charles Town Library, fire departments and CASA, an organization that works on behalf of abused children.

Harpers Ferry had received $71,675 through Feb. 18. It primarily uses its funding to help the town's police department. A contribution also is forwarded to the town's Main Street program, which promotes the downtown area and its businesses.

Shepherdstown had received $280,613 through Feb. 24, with the money used mostly for capital improvement projects, including an ongoing streetscape project.

People also can apply for grants of up to $2,000 if they can show the project they are pursuing would be beneficial to the community as a whole, Shepherdstown Town Clerk Amy Boyd said.

In Ranson, Finance Director Steve Hudson said that most of its allocation, which he estimated to be more than half a million dollars so far this year, goes to the town's police department. The police department's annual budget has exceeded $1 million, Hudson said.

In the past, racetrack revenue was used to repave the town's streets at no cost to the taxpayers and to help restore City Hall, he said.

Officials with the county's fifth municipality, Bolivar, did not return phone calls.

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