Just as it seemed plans to build Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum were finally coming together, officials say they got some shocking news from the architects. The project is $1.5 million over budget and major cuts must be made.
"They're looking at now trying to take all our alternates back out of the package then looking at another 10 percent reduction in the overall package," Director Robin Krohn-David said. "There really is no frills in our building. We scaled it back as much as we could to still get the 19,580 square foot that FEMA approved."
The director said some of the cuts jeopardize the quality of the museum.
"The exhibits might want to fall off the wall if we don't have all this plywood backing," Krohn-David. "With some of these deducts that we're taking, we're not going to have the museum that we thought we were going to have unless we can come forward and find $315,00 to bring the deducts back."
Biloxi Waterfront Park, which would be next to the museum, is way over budget, too. Architects said to that project could create a $42,000 surplus which would be available for the museum.
Krohn-David said the museum also wants the city to redirect some FEMA money, in the form of project worksheets, that is now earmarked for the park to the museum.
"Originally since 2008 they had came to us and all of Tullis PW's along with museum's PW's were allocated to the museum to build it," Krohn-David said. "Well now they've pulled a lot of those PWs away from us to put toward the waterfront project and it wouldn't take much to adjust one of the PW's or two of them to get us back to that $6 million figure to give us a better museum package."
Museum Board Member Tanya Gollott Swoops said, "This is for our history. Our seafood industry. Our city of Biloxi that we all love, and I think we need to look at what's really important here and get in on track."
Biloxi officials must look for funding options and watch the clock. They said if a bid isn't awarded by November 20th, the funding problem will likely get bigger.
Director of Administration David Staeling said, "I had my monthly meeting with FEMA yesterday. They said get this project in motion because with what's going on with Sandy and all the other, you know, disasters, they're talking about sweeping any funds that are not committed."
Building the museum is the only financial worry, some council members expressed concern about operating costs.
"What is the long term goal, plan for this concerning utilities, staffing and operations?" asked Council Member Ed Gemmill. "The debt ratio? What are you going to do to raise money to keep it going or is this just going to be another drain to taxpayers of the city of Biloxi?"
Museum officials say under the current management agreement, Biloxi pays utilities, advertising, and insurance.
"Right now we still have the same management agreement we had with the city since 1988," said Krohn-David. "In that management agreement, the city did cover our insurance and our utilities. We have always covered our employees. I don't have any problem running the museum with the employees we have on staff and possibly adding one other staff member. We have always written grants to help support the museum. I don't foresee asking the city council for any other funding."
The city council will hold another workshop on November 20th at 10 am.
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