City of Gulfport wants old library back

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's been a source of controversy since Hurricane Katrina. But there are new plans for the storm-damaged old library building on the waterfront in Gulfport.

In the years since Katrina, some have called the building an eyesore that should be demolished. But a group called Friends of the Library has fought to preserve it. Monday, there was a victory for those who favor its preservation.

"It will not be a library. It will be a community center," Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel told Harrison County supervisors.

And with that declaration, Mayor Schloegel asked supervisors to transfer ownership of the landmark library building from the county, back to the city, with no financial obligations.

"The county can transfer the property back to the city and the city will take full responsibility for that property, from this day forward, with the county having absolutely no obligation in any form or fashion of anything financial," he told the board.

But there is a formal "memorandum of understanding" about the future of the library; an agreement reached between the various parties, including FEMA, after several lengthy meetings.

"That's not only the board of supervisors, but FEMA, MEMA and archive folks. If we can get them to sign off on this particular issue, I'm prepared to go with it," said supervisor Marlin Ladner.

Mayor Schloegel gave supervisors a letter outlining the city's obligations and intentions.

"We submit it to the people that need to approve it and see if they approve it," said board attorney Tim Holleman.

"It has been determined to be structurally safe, on two separate occasions. And has been analyzed thoroughly, so it's not a burden in any way for us to move forward," said Mayor Schloegel.

Sitting alongside Mayor Schloegel at the supervisors meeting was former Gulfport mayor Leroy Urie. He has been a strong proponent of saving this building and has been actively involved in the Friends of the Library committee.

"The city will eventually get the property and be able to renovate that building for a community center. Which is basically what our intent all the time was," said Urie.

Again, the agreement to transfer the building from the county to the city is contingent upon the approval of the other parties, including FEMA, MEMA and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

As for a timetable; that's anybody's guess. But it is a positive step forward for those wanting to preserve the structure.

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