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Friday, August 12, 2011 - 2:42pm

Chatham Officials Move Hotel Forward

Chatham County Commissioners want more study into a proposed convention hotel in Savannah.

The hotel has generated heated opposition because of possible public support.

The financing hasn't been worked out yet, but a memo commissioners approved today says, private developers expect to get public support.

That possibly could mean a county-backed bond for tens of millions of dollars.

County officials say, no private investor will build the hotel without public financing.

Attorney Tom Bordeaux representing MHI Hospitality LLC, a hotel group, says, that amounts to unfair competition.

"There's something the private enterprise is supposed to do. There's something the public is supposed to do," Bordeaux says. "And subsidizing a hotel isn't what the public is supposed to do."

County officials say, the public only would finance meeting space, not hotel rooms.

They say, Savannah is losing convention business without the hotel.

Peter Simmons of Local Union 188, representing steam fitters, plumbers, welders and HVAC mechanics, says, the hotel would create jobs in construction and operation.

"We need jobs in this city. We need jobs. We need to put people to work," Simmons says. "And one of the best ways to do that is to take advantage of the tourism industry. And that is building an addition over at the Hutchinson Island hotel."

Commissioners Friday approved $25,000 worth of new studies into hotel, including the possible impact on existing hotels and the performance of similar public-private hotel arrangements in other areas.

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