Biloxi council members want more done to help museum open - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi council members want more done to help museum open

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Biloxi city council member is asking the city to reach deeper into its pockets to help get the new Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art open. Ed Gemmill said he was asked by Ohr-O'Keefe officials to present two resolutions at Tuesday's council meeting. He believes this kind of spending will help the local economy in the long run.

Right now the new Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art is a work in progress.

"It's pretty close to get it's doors open," Gemmill said. "There's two things we need to do. We need to put the doors on and put the open signs on."

Gemmill said the city stopped paying the Ohr-O'Keefe a $10,000 a month museum management fee after Katrina destroyed the site downtown. He wants the city to reimburse the museum with three years worth of back payments.

"It's approximately $300,000 give or take a few," said Gemmill. "That's not written in stone anywhere. We just want to see it open. Anything that we can do to help get it open."

The councilman would also like to set up a new management contract with the Ohr-O'Keefe for $20,000 a month. He says it would send a message to potential investors.

"We would show support throughout the Southeastern United States and throughout the United States the Biloxi is not scared to step out," he said. "With the Marine Life potentially looking for a spot on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We need to welcome them with open arms right now."

He continues, "Right now we need some activity on our peninsula to get these things going again. Any time you put that type of attraction, the museum down there, that's going to help grow the economy."

 Of course, the big question is can the city afford it? Gemmill said he's not yet sure.

"We're still ahead of the pre-storm sales tax revenue. That's doesn't mean that we can necessarily afford but we can't afford to have those buildings and that campus sit down there empty," he said.

The Ohr is slated to open three buildings in the fall. Council member Ed Gemmill says he doesn't want a payment increase to the museum that would hurt city services or donations to non-profit agencies. He said he's considering calling for a workshop to look at the matter.

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