Smoke and Mirrors
Gulfport Changes Wording over Library it Doesn't Own
by Keith Burton - GCN 9/18/08
A majority of the Gulfport City Council this week voted to amend the wording of a previously passed measure over the future of the former Harrison County Library in downtown Gulfport. The library, which suffered severe damages from Katrina over three years ago is to be replaced and relocated as part of a Harrison County project.
This past December, the city council adopted a resolution which stated in part that, "Harrison County shall demolish and clear the existing damaged structure on the abandoned site..."
With the City Council's action this week, that language will be removed.
It was Councilwoman Barbara Nalley who made a motion to get rid of the wording about demolishing the building. Her action follows a growing and organized effort by some Gulfport residents who want to save the old downtown library. The group has even appealed to the state to have the building designated as a historical structure, even though it is a modern building constructed in the 1960's.
What some in Gulfport still fail to realize is that the city has no real say in the outcome of the former building. Gulfport doesn't own the building. It never has.
Gulfport has never built a library of its own, as every other city in Harrison County has done.
Gulfport, years ago, benefited from the taxpayers throughout the county in their library. The city only provided the land that the building was constructed upon. After Katrina, when the county found that it had to own the land to get FEMA to help pay for a new library on higher ground, the Gulfport City Council, with the support of the administration of Mayor Brent Warr, voted to cede the land to the county.
If the city was interested in building a library that it would actually own, there is nothing that could stop that, if that is really what they wanted to do. The building doesn't need to be torn down if the city will re-acquire the building and land from the county, which could be accomplished. If the city really wanted to restore the building as a library, that is all they would have to do, and find the money to do all that.
What is clear is that Gulfport's political leadership is more willing to mislead the public over the old library's future, than to take on building their first city-owned library, even if it is the old downtown library across from the harbor.
The county's new library that will be built in Gulfport's Orange Grove area will serve the city as a whole, but it will still not be Gulfport's library. Why the rest of the county's taxpayers should subsidize a library in Gulfport should be something people throughout Harrison County should question.
The smoke and mirror game underway over Gulfport's library conceals the fact that once again, Gulfport gets a library at no cost to its citizens. You can thank the Coast's major news media, and their bias for Gulfport, for not bringing that fact to the public's attention in their reports on the library. Why the county should still be involved in building a library for Gulfport is the real question. The taxpayers in Biloxi, Long Beach, D'Iberville, and Pass Christian would like to know.
Real leadership in Gulfport would have seen Katrina as a reason for the city to acquire the library and its building from the county. But that is not what has happened.