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River Market Hilton

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Sources tell the Insider that McKibbon Hotel Management and Moses Tucker Real Estate will build a Hilton Garden Inn at 4th and Commerce Streets in Little Rock’s River Market district, behind the Tuf-Nut apartment building.

The “Garden Inn” is Hilton’s mid-priced concept, according to industry reports. In that way, it is similar to the Courtyard by Marriott, which McKibbon and Moses Tucker brought to the First Security Bancorp building in the River Market in 2004.

To North Korea

Little Rock-based Poe Travel is getting national attention for a 10-day tour of North Korea it is offering for September.

The agency has been waiting for years to acquire the rare North Korean tourist visas, according to marketing director Tony Poe. Only a few other U.S. travel companies can sell travel to that country.

Poe Travel also recently received approval from the U.S. State Department to sell direct trips to Cuba to Americans with the proper credentials. (The agency organized the first group of American civilians to tour China after the Nixon detente in 1975.)



Head start for House

Two Democrats who share digs when they’re in Little Rock for the legislative session are after the same prize: 2009 speaker of the House. State Reps. David Dunn of Forrest City and Robbie Wills of Conway are being courted to run; George Overbey, D-Lamar, is also thought to be a possible candidate.

The vote won’t take place until January 2008, but early positioning is becoming commonplace as term limits make it easier to predict seniority. One legislator noted that it was about this time in 2004 when state Reps. Benny Petrus and Will Bond started expressing their desire to run for 2007 House speaker. (Petrus defeated Bond for the position in January.)

Dunn and Wills currently are running unopposed for second terms.



Sewer news

The Little Rock Wastewater Utility, to persuade neighbors of a new $50 million sewer plant to be built in West Little Rock that it will not offend the eyes or nose, plunked down $10,586 to send 11 people to visit a similar Vancouver, Wash., facility in early April.

One of the travelers was Eugene Pfeiffer, who sold the utility the land off Hwy. 10 on which the plant will sit. Pfeiffer told utility head Reggie Corbitt, who was also on the trip, during a stop at Portland that he’d upgraded his airline ticket to first class at the utility’s expense. Corbitt later checked to make sure Pfeiffer did not actually put the upgrade on the utility’s bill. “I think he was trying to get my goat,” Corbitt said.

Owners of property near the plant, utility employees, architects and Vice Mayor Barbara Graves also flew out. CDM, the engineering company hired to build the plant, picked up the $3,000 expense tab for food and lodging.

There is still a push for a membrane-fitted plant that would run $5 million more than the step-feed system examined in Vancouver. At the request of the city, the Sewer Committee delayed acting on choosing the plant type at its meeting April 19.

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