Outspoken Biloxi citizen questions seafood museum payments

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A tight budget means Biloxi's Seafood Industry Museum will have to get by with less money from the city next year. The city council voted Tuesday to change the city's management contract for the coming fiscal year and pay the museum 20 percent less than this year.

If you've ever gone to a Biloxi City Council meeting, you've probably seen Mary Rose Leahey. She's known for asking tough questions and now she wants to know who's accountable for Biloxi tax dollars in regards to the Seafood Industry Museum.

Biloxi City Councilmen say all parties involved appear to be okay with the city's decision to reduce payments to the seafood industry museum by 20 percent. But Leahey begs to differ.

"For five years, this council and every council before it since Hurricane Katrina, has given $60,000 a year to the seafood museum as a management fee to manage a non-existent museum. Figure the cost citizens. It's your dollars," Leahey said.

Economic hardship has forced the city to make a number of budget cuts, which have affected groups like the seafood museum.

"The contract was never amended for last year. So what we did, we just basically finished out last year, finished out the contract. The new contract will reflect the twenty percent cut," Councilman George Lawrence said.

Though the museum already collected some payments. Because the contract was never changed, the city still had to fulfill its financial obligations. Leahey isn't happy about that at all.

"Instead of getting $60,000, they would be getting $48,000. And they should be happy with their 48. But you see, they're greedy. And there's hardly any accountability. How can it cost $60,000 to run a 2x4 museum in the mall when the city pays all the bills? Electric, insurance, telephone. Anything like that, the city pays. This $60,000 is gratis. Where is that money going? Your tax dollars. That's what needs to be found out," Leahey said.

City Council members say their reason for enforcing the cuts is because they have the citizens' best interest in mind. The new budget will go into effect October 1.

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