Mississippi State University president, Dr. Charles Lee, told the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors the project demands that
space be used in the former Newberry's building adjacent to Marks Rothenberg and the Opera House for the air conditioning and heating units, plus restrooms and other improvements. Lee said the money now in hand would not cover the cost.
"Given these circumstances, we would respectfully ask your consideration of an additional $2 million for the project," said Lee.
Dr. Bev Norment, who supervises the project for the university, also made a plea.
"As far as the Americans with Disabilities Act, restrooms, elevators, stairs, there's going to be some 11,000 square feet that's used for that.," said Norment. "That's the equivalent of one full floor in the Marks Building."
District Five Supervisor Ray Boswell questioned the request.
"What you're asking us to do is instead of selling $3 million worth of bonds, you want $5 million worth of bonds. Is that right?" asked Boswell. "That's going to be a pretty hard sell to the taxpayers with the economy at this point."
Boswell indicated he did not endorse the historic value of the project.
"Forgive me if I'm wrong but I think we ought to have been spending this money out somewhere building a new facility instead of downtown," Boswell said.
Norment told the board it should look at the project as if it was a new industry coming to Meridian because of the visitors the conference center would attract. He received support from District Two supervisor Jimmie Smith.
"We have to invest in our community as a whole and we have to look at those investments for the future," said Smith.
The board took no action, saying it would take the request under consideration.
Lee said he's also asking Mississippi's senators and Cong. Chip Pcikering for more federal help.
Sen. Trent Lott said Thursday he would try but it would not be easy.
"It gets harder to get continuing money for a project like that, going back to the same well a second, third or fourth time," said Lott. "But it's a worthwhile project. I've worked with Cong. Pickering and Sen. Cochran in the past to try to be helpful. We'll see what we can do this time."
Lott said he would confer with the delegation in search of additional funding sources.