Some want Birmingham hotel project delayed

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The day after Birmingham Mayor William Bell touted the need for a new $50 million hotel along with an entertainment district next to the BJCC, some said the project needs to be delayed.

Rep. John Rogers has been a long time advocate for projects for downtown Birmingham, but the Democratic lawmaker said Friday now is not the time to act.

"It just not time during hard economic times," Rogers said. "We need to know our boundaries and be sure we are economically sound."

Thursday, Mayor Bell told a breakfast meeting of Operation New Birmingham the hotel and entertainment district would be an economic boost for the area and there was no need for a delay.

"I will pull out my pom poms and my short skirt if we cut the ribbon for the Westin Hotel," Bell said.

While the project will not require new taxes, it will require $5 million a year from Birmingham for 30 years. The Build America Bonds, a part of the federal stimulus package, will be issued by the BJCC board.

Rogers does not want the BJCC board voting on the deal at this time because the house delegation plans to make a new appoint to the board in about two weeks.  In addition, Jefferson Co. Commission President Bettye Fine Collins will step down at the end of her term in November.

"Any old member shouldn't be voting on the something that is long term," Roger said. "They will be gone when it happens. Let the new members have a say how it's financed and how it works."

But the chairman of the BJCC board opposes any delay.

"I don't see any kind of delay until November until there is a potential for a board replacement because of a majority of the board is going to be is going to be there and a majority of the board is in favor of moving the project forward," Clyde Echols said.

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