The Meridian City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to begin condemnation proceedings for the Threefoot building in downtown Meridian — just in case a deal to develop the property and turn it into a hotel falls through.

Councilman George Thomas, who represents Ward 1, said the condemnation process would be used as a last resort.

"This gives the mayor the authority, if necessary, to condemn the building," Thomas said. "But we don't want that to happen. We want (the buyers) to go ahead and do what they need to do, which is get the project started."

Papers were signed in a contract between the owner of the Threefoot building, Alabama developer Howard Robbins, and a Jackson developer on Friday. The buyer has 60 days to close on the property.

Ken Storms, Meridian's chief administrative officer, said there had been no new developments since Friday.

He said Mayor John Robert Smith was scheduled to return from Washington, D.C., late Tuesday. Smith will hold his semimonthly press conference today at 10 a.m. in the council chambers of the Meridian Police Department.

When renovated, the historic Threefoot building will house a 200-bed hotel, shops and dining facilities. The hotel will support the adjacent Riley Center, which is scheduled to open in late summer.

If for some reason the purchase of the Threefoot building falls through, the mayor can condemn the building and the city will take over the renovation project through eminent domain.

In other business Tuesday, the Meridian City Council accepted a check for $1,000 from the Vienna Moms in Vienna, Va., to the Rebuild East Mississippi Project in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The city also donated property at 1927 33rd Ave. and 1813 33rd Ave. to Habitat for Humanity in connection with the city's acquisition and demolition project in the new Project Pride area.

Council members also approved a resolution supporting the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors in its quest to ask the state Legislature to raise the cap on the 911 surcharge attached to cellular, residential and business phone lines. The increased fee, supervisors say, would help fund budget shortfalls in the E-911 budget for the upcoming year.

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