Biloxi Council on concerns over possible human remains at Tullis - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi Council on concerns over possible human remains at Tullis site


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – "The northeast corner of the site, there was a news article in the 1930s that reported a historic burial was found there," Biloxi archeologist Jessica Kowalski told the Biloxi City Council Tuesday.

She explained why the old Tullis property on Highway 90 may be historically sensitive.

"Tullis might be a different case. I mean the deposits might be more extensive. It has a much deeper time depth," she said.

Biloxi City Administrator David Staehling shared a recent letter from FEMA that WLOX obtained last week. It pointed to concerns of relocating the Maritime and Seafood Museum to the Tullis site.

"FEMA has expressed concerns about the funding and the time limits and the risks of this project. We got to deal with it. We can't make that go away. It's federal funding," said Staehling.

FEMA has allocated $3.4 million for the museum. The agency has already conducted two surveys on the property.  Museum leaders said the only way to know if there are buried artifacts and remains on the site is to conduct another dig around the areas where the pilings for the museum would go in.

"And if there's burial grounds there, well, there is and then it'd be necessary to build it someplace else. But let's prove it," said museum board member Richard Breslin.

Several council members agreed.

"Do the dig.  Get it done. That's all.  Get it done and it'll solve the problem. FEMA not going to pay for it, fine. We'll do something else," said Biloxi Councilman George Lawrence.

But when a Biloxi resident raised questions about the project, it led to a heated exchange.

"The area might be clear for the pilings, but where are you going to put your sewer and water?" Mary Rose Leahy asked.

"First, I'd like to question the expertise and experience of Mary Rose and her municipal management," Biloxi CouncilmanTom Wall said.

When Leahy stepped closer to the microphone, the council president urged her to sit down.

"Well, he addressed me. I'm complying. I'm replying. He wants to know where I get my expertise. Where did you get your expertise sir?" Leahy asked Wall.

The rest of the meeting was calmer. City leaders said they will meet with FEMA, Native American representatives, and state parties involved in the project. They'll have to agree on how to proceed and what should happen if workers come across any human remains.

"You can go up and down the beach in Harrison County and find the same things anywhere you can to look. I'm really sorry that they're holding us up with this thing. It's just ridiculous," said Wall.

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