Debate over Gulfport Library heating up again

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The debate over the future of the old Gulfport library is heating-up once again. That after the Harrison County supervisors voted Monday morning to proceed with plans to demolish the building.

The City of Gulfport would like to save the library and has been working on a plan to have the building ownership transferred back to the city from the county.

But supervisors have long worried about losing money if FEMA doesn't go along.

"They could come back and say we did not start the demolition. And that's what we're waiting on the fine print," said the county's Rupert Lacy, who's been communicating with FEMA representatives about the county's plans for the building.

But it's not just the demolition money at stake. It could be the millions spent to build new libraries.

"We're also taking a chance on the expenses of moving the library north. And that's a lot of cost," said board of supervisors president, William Martin.

So the board voted to proceed with demolition.

Supervisor Kim Savant was the lone vote against, saying he wanted to give the city every chance to take over the building.

"A regrettable situation we find ourselves in. Quite frankly, if they'd taken the steps necessary, this vote would have never come down. But I still felt like I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt," said Savant.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the old library building has been something of a lightning rod in the community.

There are those who said it's an eyesore and should be torn down. Others passed petitions and formed a group to save the old library, calling it a treasured landmark and a building with architectural significance.

Mary Ann Barkley is a leader of that citizens group.

"We've worked six and a half years to save this," she told WLOX News.

"I believe the supervisors had a verbal understanding with Gulfport to give it back to them after the Orange Grove library was built. They've done all of this. The city has gone overboard to please the supervisors and they have gone against everything," she explained.

"I think Gulfport and the county has done everything they can to try to save the building. But it's obvious FEMA doesn't want us to," said board of supervisors attorney, Tim Holleman.

Gulfport city council president, Ricky Dombrowski, told WLOX News, "We are going to file objections to this."

Harrison County has already awarded a bid to demolish the building. It's not known how quickly that demolition work could begin

Copyright WLOX 2013. All rights reserved.