Museum & Biloxi discussing ways city can help other than money

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It is not the news that local museums wanted to hear. In a speech on Thursday, Biloxi Mayor A. J. Holloway said the museums should not to expect the city to pick up the tab for their operating expenses. A day after unveiling his budget plan for fiscal year 2012,  the mayor said Biloxi cannot afford to subsidize the Seafood Museum and the Ohr-O'Keefe the way the city has done in the past.

Mayor Holloway said since he's been in office, Biloxi has donated $8 million to the Ohr-O'Keefe. However, right now the city has more pressing obligations and is looking at another year of possible employee furloughs.

Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art officials said the economy is not a pretty picture right now, and like many tourism related operations around the country, they're struggling financially. Museum leaders know local governments are also feeling the pinch.

"The city of Biloxi is in a tight spot as is most every city, so we certainly respect their position," said Larry Clark, Ohr Board chairperson.

Since Biloxi's pockets aren't as deep as they once were, museum officials said they're in private talks with Biloxi leaders about how the city might still provide assistance.

"Currently what we're doing is meeting with individual city council people with a new plan that we've developed over the past couple of weeks," said Clark. "The museum would be able to continue to operate and the city would not have to write us a check. We're hoping that through some creative solutions and some cooperation that we'll be able to do that."

During his speech on Thursday, Mayor Holloway said he'd like to see museums secure more private donations. Ohr officials said they're going after every dollar they can.

"We will have raised very close to half a million dollars by the end of the year," said Clark. "I think the community is behind our museum. Maybe more so than a lot of people think. If you haven't been out, you need to look before you decide that this is not something that's good for the coast."

"We're very optimistic that we're going to be able to continue to operate and bring people to the coast and not be a financial burden on the city," Clark said.

The Seafood Museum has an ambitious rebuilding plan, and has received city money over the years.

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