Meridian children's museum director seeks update on city funds for project

Submitted photo 

A rendering showing the entrance to the Mississippi Children's Museum – Meridian and the addition of the 25,000 square-foot outdoor exhibit experience.

The head of the Mississippi Children's Museum – Meridian met with city leaders Tuesday to provide an update on the project and determine how much funding the city could provide this year from an amount it previously pledged. 

Three years ago, the city – one of the museum's biggest donors – made a commitment of $1 million to be paid over six years, according to Elizabeth Wilson, the museum's executive director. 

“Your gift of $1 million to this project in 2017 was not only a financial commitment, but your gift also showed our community, our state, our national leaders how important this resource is for East Mississippi,” she told the city council. 

According to Wilson, the city paid installments of $250,000 in 2017, $150,000 in 2018 and $50,000 in 2019. 

The city council passed a 2020 budget that did not include funds for the museum.

“We have taken out a construction loan based upon this and we are moving forward with our project, counting on the city’s support,” Wilson said. “Anything that the city can give towards this project helps us. We are incurring interest…of our loan and so that is based on our outstanding pledges.”

City leaders said they would look at what was available in the budget and possibly vote on an installment of $75,000 next week. 

The city has also been providing in-kind donations, including waiving certain permit fees, according to Public Safety Director Doug Stephens.  

More than 400 donors have contributed to the 25,000-square-foot facility and the museum has been working to raise close to $500,000.

Crews began prepping for the foundation of the museum's auditorium last week and steel beams could be installed in the next few weeks, Wilson said. 

The museum is expected to open in early 2021.

Other matters

The city council also discussed a possible $12 million bond for street paving at Tuesday's work session. The issue could be on the council's agenda next week, according to Mayor Percy Bland.

“We’re just excited about that because most of the citizens here, of course, the streets, roads and bridges are their primary concern and the damage it does to their vehicles and potholes,” he said. “We’re going to try to put a package together, collectively, that will help us deal with some of those things.”

Bland said the city was also expecting to learn the preliminary cost of damage to the Frank Cochran Center, following a fire in December. 

He estimated it could be around $500,000. 

“We want to continue to use that building for special events. We want to use it as a multi-purpose building for sporting events and also entertainment events,” Bland said.

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