Bond Issue For Ohr Museum Not A Sure Thing

Mayor A.J. Holloway may not have the support he needs to help move forward the construction of the new Ohr-O'Keefe museum.

Holloway says he plans to propose a $5 million bond issue at Tuesday's city council meeting. The bond is to help finance the project that he says the museum is lagging behind in it's fundraising campaign. The bond would give the museum the money it needs to begin construction early next year.

However, three city council members say they are not convinced the bond is a good idea. Ward 5 Councilman Mike Fitzpatrick said he would have to research financial records before making a decision.

"Am I for it or against it? Neither way right now," Fitzpatrick said. "If I can find the money for it that's fine. I much would rather prefer for outside sources to pay for this $5 million. If Jerry O'Keefe and his family have another $5 million in their trust fund, if they could take that money and put it in that project, fine."

Mayor Holloway says the museum would be an asset for the city.

"This is going to be a tremendous tourist attraction for the city, the coast and the state of Mississippi," said Holloway. "It's just another part of the puzzle that we want to do to have a complete tourist destination here in the city of Biloxi."

Councilman Fitzpatrick turned to his constituents for advice on the bond issue proposal. He invited about 12 members of his ward to his home to discuss the bond issue and to hear what they had to say before he made his decision. What they told their representative was that the city should have priorities ahead of the museum. They claim the city focuses more on attracting tourists than the drainage problems of the people who live there.

"They're going to go home to their nice dry streets and nice homes, but we are still going to be wading through knee-high water, and I've been doing it for 20 years," Biloxi Resident Diane Lehman said.

"It's pointless to bond a $5 million museum when I would need an oar to get to that museum,"
said Tom Miller, a Biloxi resident.

Councilman Fitzpatrick says he plans to introduce a $10 million bond to fix water, sewer and drainage throughout the city on Tuesday.

by Danielle Thomas