Biloxi considers museum funding request - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi considers museum funding request


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  A funding request from the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum was considered by the Biloxi City Council at a 90 minute workshop Tuesday. But council members took no action on the request during their afternoon meeting.

As we've reported, the museum wants $370,000 in past operating expenses and $20,000 a month once the museum opens this fall.

Council members say they support the project and want the museum to open this November. Trouble is, the request for more money comes at a time when the city faces significant financial challenges.

"The entire City of Biloxi can benefit. People are cutting back right and left. Just remember, sometimes you have to cut. Sometimes you want to grow that budget and make things happen," Ohr-O'Keefe Board Treasurer Chevis Swetman told the city council during a morning workshop.

He said getting the museum open is critical for the tourism industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"If we had the money that they're asking for, I don't think the council would have second thoughts about doling that out right now," said City Councilman Tom Wall. "The fact is, things are so tight now, it's a real problem."

Another councilman was even more direct about the city's financial posture.

"We need the ideas now, how we can get this open. But then at the same time, realizing the city is broke. Essentially broke," said Councilman Clark Griffith.

Federal, state and local government money has supported the project so far.  Former Biloxi mayor Jerry O'Keefe has led the private fund raising efforts, including a substantial family donation.

"We're very close to having two million dollars personal O'Keefe funds in this project," said O'Keefe.

The council president suggested a special millage might be considered to support all the museums in Biloxi.

"In the future, if this city is really looking at museums, and it's becoming a large ticket item for the city, then there needs to be a special millage assessed. That we can do," said Bill Stallworth.

As for the more immediate concern with the Ohr-O'Keefe request.

"There's nobody up here against the Ohr-O'Keefe museum.  It's the level of funding that we have to come up with to benefit the city and for the museum to be able to open in November," said Councilman George Lawrence.

The museum funding request won't be considered until after a financial audit of city finances is finished next week.

Mayor A.J. Holloway says the city "is not broke."

The mayor told WLOX News, "We are financially solvent, but as I told council members last year and again last week, we need to take corrective action. We need to reduce spending. We need to stop the bleeding."

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