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Hotel, civic center building plans set to move into next phase
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 With schematic designs for the hotel/civic center complete, developers of the project are ready to begin evaluating bid proposals from construction companies.

Phil Riley, owner and president of PR Hospitality Group, who is working together with the city of Covington and Newton County to build the civic center, earlier this week said he expected to receive proposals from three construction firms to evaluate by Friday.

"If they come in close to what our target pricing is then I'll schedule a meeting with the [Joint] Task Force," Riley said.

The big question weighing on the minds of those involved is how much will the price tag for the proposed 100-room Hilton DoubleTree and 1,200 seat civic center have increased since the Covington City Council and the Newton County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution in December 2006 to take out up to $12.1 million in bonds to finance the project. At the time, the total projected cost of the project was $24 million. Funding for the project is to come from both private and public sources.

"Obviously construction costs have gone up 30 percent in the last three years," Riley said. "We know that we're going to have an increase over previous estimates done."

Riley said he expected to hold a meeting with the joint task force - comprised of elected county and city officials, members of The Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce and The Arts Association in Newton County - in the next couple of weeks to go over the proposals and possibly select a construction company.

Riley said he is optimistic that despite construction cost increases, the price tag of the hotel/civic center will still be affordable for the county and city.

"I think everyone needs to understand today that the costs are different, but I think the product that we are proposing is different," Riley said. "I think the end product will ultimately be what the city and county needs to accomplish the goals that they had originally established for this facility."