Library Debate Reaches Gulfport City Council

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Citizens working to save the old library on the waterfront in downtown Gulfport took their fight to the city council Tuesday.

The group called "We the People" wants to save the storm-damaged building from demolition. They say the structure is sound and could be used as a combination library and community center.

The residents have collected hundreds of petition signatures to support their cause. They recently took their arguments to the Harrison County Supervisors. Tuesday afternoon, Gulfport City Council members heard their concerns.

"Make sure that we've done everything we can to save this building," said library supporter Debra Peterson, "Help the public to understand why we're losing this building."

Elizabeth Bitner was straight forward with her plea to the council.

"What do we want from you? What are we asking you? We're asking you not to tear down the building. That's what we're asking. That's not just us, these are hundreds and hundreds of people who would eagerly sign a petition," she told the city council.

The council also heard from two former mayors.  Both Bob Short and Leroy Urie sided with the library supporters and urged the council to save the structure.

But despite some eight people speaking on behalf of the group's concerns, not everyone shares those views.

Michael Hewes addressed the council with a much different take on the issue.

"Contrary to the press and contrary to what you may hear, there's a strong contingent of people who believe this library should be taken down. I am of that belief," he told the city council, to a chorus of groans from the pro-library building group.

City council listened to both sides, but took no action on the controversy.

The City of Gulfport recently deeded the old library building to Harrison County, with the stipulation that the building be torn down.

Harrison County is seeking bids on the demolition work.

The "We the People" group vows to keep up its fight.