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One day, after the Graton Resort & Casino opens and traffic in the area almost certainly gets worse, the "new norm" will come and it will be different from the present, Sgt. Aaron Johnson told the Rohnert Park City Council on Tuesday.

"Things are going to change; we understand that," Johnson said.

Between the Nov. 5 opening of the 340,000-square-foot casino just south of Home Depot and the time that new norm arrives, this will be what's normal for Rohnert Park officials trying to address the impacts of the opening of the 3,000-slot machine gambling palace:

*Congestion management plans.

*A host of new signs directing people to the casino and away from streets likely to back up with traffic.

*Contingency plans.

*Plans for "increasing levels of deployment."

*A 38-foot mobile command center staffed with officials from three city departments and five other public safety agencies.

How long will the command post and its officials stay in the city, Mayor Pam Stafford asked.

"They'll be there until they're not needed," Johnson said. When they leave, he said, "the new norm" will have become evident.

Johnson's briefing was part of a council review of six months of preparations for the opening of the $800 million casino resort, which is owned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. The city's casino mitigation task force is funded by annual payments from the tribe.

Under an agreement signed in March, should the casino's earnings meet projections, the tribe is to pay $251 million to the city over 20 years for public safety, education, traffic improvements and other services.

The city so far has received $2.8 million and has spent $342,279 of it on engineering experts and work on new traffic signals, attorney's fees and supplies, among other things; $75,690 went to pay Johnson, whose position as the traffic sergeant is new, and a traffic officer.

Not included in the budget yet is the $88,080 salary of a new analyst who is to monitor the program to address the casino's impacts.

The city has also levied moratoriums on certain new businesses that it fears will be attracted by the casino: check cashing stores, pawn shops, cybercafes and certain types of massage businesses.

"I'm so happy you got ahead of the game with those," Stafford said to Development Services manager Marilyn Ponton.

"Is there anything to stop the casino from bringing those businesses in" to the tribe's 254-acre reservation," Councilwoman Gina Belforte asked Ponton.

"I don't profess to know," Ponton said.

Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins said the widening of Golf Course Drive West, formerly Wilfred Avenue, to Stony Point Road will be done by Nov. 5, easing some concerns about traffic backups. Traffic signals also have been installed at Redwood and Business Park drives, and the casino's Business Park Drive entrance, on the south side of the tribe's reservation.

And signal lights on Golf Course Drive West and Rohnert Park Expressway have been coordinated to facilitate traffic flow — also paid for by payments from the tribe.

"I want to point out that this is the dream; this is the goal," Jenkins said of the traffic management plans. "Then there's reality."

Elsewhere in the city, other work is going on to prepare:

*Twitter accounts have been set up for residents to get traffic updates.

*Facebook pages with information about the casino for residents have been opened.

*Weeds have been removed.

*Landscaping has been cleaned up and also installed.

*Litter has been picked up.

"We want to provide the best first impression" to the thousands of casino visitors, said Tom Kelley, general services supervisor.

Jenkins also provided the council with a breakdown of 42 calls and messages the city has received on hot lines it set up to gather input about the casino.

From the unincorporated county came a resident's email expressing concern about the casino's impact on well water.

From a Rohnert Park dentist came an inquiry about what type of insurance casino employees would have.

From the city's Rancho Verde mobile home park came a resident's email saying the casino would "destroy" the area's delicate balance of agriculture, light industry, business and resources.

From New Jersey came an email and a voicemail from someone wanting to reschedule her interview to be a casino dealer.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

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