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Council to decide on convention center

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WILMINGTON -- The convention center was one of the most hotly contested issues in the Wilmington city election this year. It is also a topic on the City Council agenda Wednesday night. Council members will be deciding whether or not to spend money to begin construction. There have been high hopes for the project in the work for decades. The project has been met with some roadblocks, most recently the hotel company Armada Hoffler backtracked on their proposal to build a full service hotel next to the convention center. When they would only agree to build a lower grade hotel instead the contract was nullified. The hotel portion of the project was then re-bid and currently, the city is still in talks with five different hotel companies who might be interested in building here. Wednesday night City Council will decide whether or not about $6 million should go to begin laying the convention center groundwork. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says, despite differing opinions, he thinks the project will go forward. Saffo said, "Obviously we're going to debate the issue. Everyone has an opinion, my personal opinion is that I'm going to vote for it and I've talked to several other council members that have indicated the same thing." City officials say the room occupancy tax is footing the bill for this multi-million dollar project. Mayor Saffo says he wouldn't feel comfortable voting for construction to begin if this was going to require local tax payer dollars. Saffo says if it's approved, the money voted on Wednesday will go toward laying the cement foundation and beginning to build the parking deck. He says construction could start right way, which is important because the convention center legislation has a June 2008 deadline for construction to begin.

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