Tuesday afternoon, the Gulfport City Council voted unanimously to approve three separate items involving the construction of that project.
The preliminary dirt work contract for the aquarium project was awarded to a familiar name. W.C. "Cotton" Fore won that portion of the work with a $1.1 million bid.
The contractor will demolish two buildings on the property, install drainage, and haul in thousands of loads of dirt.
The council did add one stipulation to the dirt work.
“Under the condition that the truck route excludes the use of 15th St., and that the exclusion be part of the contract,” said Councilman Ricky Dombrowski.
Council members then voted unanimously to approve the $93 million budget for the aquarium project.
“This is a monumental day for us, but there's so many days that are critical to the advancement. We just approved the initial dirt contract. We approved the budget, so we're just moving forward,” said Mayor Billy Hewes. “It's been very methodical, and we should see some actual physical change on the property very soon.”
A third aquarium-related vote did raise concerns with one council member. That involves using $2.7 million in Community Development Block Grant money, or CDBG, to develop a transition area between the aquarium project and downtown Gulfport.
“I'm told no when I go after it, because it's not the right type of CDBG. So, I need some help in explaining to these folks who are asking for help when they're flooding or their streets haven't been paved,” said Councilman R. Lee Flowers. “I'm going to put a big chunk of change down with the aquarium.”
“The short answer to that is that this is the last of the Katrina disaster funds. In order to qualify, we had to tie it to an existing project,” said Gulfport CEO Dr. John Kelly.
The CDBG money will be spent on a project called “street scape three,” a continuation of an ongoing street scape improvement project. This latest plan will provide a transition area between the aquarium campus and the downtown business district.
The preliminary dirt work at the aquarium site is expected to begin in just a few days.
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