La Center council candidates discuss plans
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La Center’s questionable financial future is on the mind of many residents, and a big topic of discussion among candidates for city council.The biggest issue facing the city is “finding another source of business to offset the cardrooms,” according to Larry Lewton, 67, one of two candidates running for Position No. 2 in the city.His competitor for Position No. 2, Jon Stimmel, 38, wrote in an email that changes to La Center’s budget and income are the most urgent issues the city is facing.“It is my hope that budget cuts are the absolute last resort to solving budgetary shortcomings, but if the local tax base cannot be raised through new business and other revenue streams, cuts will be unavoidable,” he wrote. “We have relied upon the local cardrooms for a long time, but this is not likely to be an option with the addition of the Cowlitz casino.”The tribe opened its Ilani Casino Resort April 24 just west of the city limits, putting La Center’s finances into question since cardroom tax revenue has historically made up a large portion of the city’s general fund. The New Phoenix Casino in La Center closed March 26, leaving the city with two cardrooms: the Palace Casino and Last Frontier Casino.