Ohr Museum financing debate continues

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Determining the fate of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art has been the subject of debate for quite some time now, leaving many people wondering what the end result will be. It seems that the issue could end either way. But in either case, city council members have proven that they don't want to make any hasty decisions.

"We've asked for another attraction, another reason to get people to come here and stay in hotels. And I think the museum can do that," Biloxi business owner Ashton Travis said.

Travis wasn't alone in his stance. Many Biloxi City Council members shared similar thoughts, including Biloxi Council Member Lucy Denton.

"If we can help the museum stay open, I believe it will be an investment and an asset that we will never regret," Denton said.

Ohr-O'Keefe leaders say one reason the city should maintain the museum is because in either case, the city will be left with the property and the financial obligations that follow.

One argument had been that the property couldn't be used for anything else. But longtime Biloxi resident Mary Rose boldly disagreed.

"Everybody says, 'Well, we can't use it for anything but this.' Is there any way, perhaps, that the Mardi Gras Museum be put in there? The Seafood Museum be put in there? A Katrina Museum put in there? Perhaps something that would draw more attendance than what this Ohr-Okeefe is," Rose said.

Showing that they were opened minded, the council discussed the many benefits of maintaining the business. But some council members said promising to provide the $250,000 necessary would be irresponsible right now.

"If we had the money, I wouldn't object to it," Biloxi Councilman David Fayard said. "But we just don't have the money and this basically is just an open check. When the new building is finished, the insurance is going to have to go up."

From this point, a special committee will be formed and that group will meet with Ohr officials to try to come up with some kind of agreement.

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