Funding for Biloxi Seafood Museum could be in jeopardy - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Funding for Biloxi Seafood Museum could be in jeopardy

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Documents obtained by WLOX News raise concerns about relocating the Maritime and Seafood Museum to the old Tullis Manor property in Biloxi. The history of the four-acre beach front property could hold-up plans to rebuild the museum.

The documents include a letter to Biloxi Mayor AJ Holloway. FEMA and MEMA pointed out that two surveys of the old Tullis property found that it "contains many intact cultural deposits" and there is a high chance of encountering Native American burial sites. Consequently, FEMA feels that could lead to "substantial increases in cost of building at this site, as well as extensive time delays."

"So that's going to drive up the cost number one. And number two, it's going to add more time to the project. You may run into something that you can't work around, where you're going to have to stop construction and you may jeopardize your funding," said Biloxi Spokesman Vincent Creel.

That federal funding totals $3.44 million. The city could also lose that money if it doesn't meet completion deadlines.

"There's a lot of unknowns is what MEMA and FEMA are telling us," said Creel. "They're not telling the museum. They're telling the taxpayers of Biloxi: Be aware of this as you go down this path."

The museum's executive director said the only way to find answers to those unknowns is to conduct another archeological dig.  Robin David wants FEMA to only test those areas where the pilings for the raised structure would go in.

"Find out what's there. Let's do the dig and if it's fine, break ground and let's build. If it's not, if they find something of significance, then we'll address that at that point," said David.

David said the museum board has even agreed to spent up to $28,000 to pay for the survey.

"So we can move forward and get past the hurdle instead of everybody just throwing their hands up in the air and wondering, 'Oh well. What if?'  Well, we can 'what if' forever. We want our museum built," David said.

"There have been extensive archeological digs on the property for years and years. A burial has never been found," she added.

Creel said it cost about $200,000 to conduct an archeological survey of the Visitor's Center north of the Biloxi Lighthouse.  He added that it could cost at least $500,000 to excavate or possibly remove any artifacts and remains found on the Tullis property. The mayor will present the status report to the city council at next Tuesday's meeting.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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