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Meridian a step closer to arts center

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Jan. 18, 2001
Meridian's hopes of edging out Jackson as the official site of the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center may have moved a step closer Monday.
Legislation was introduced that would designate Meridian as the location of the proposed new multi-million-dollar center, although no funds would be appropriated under the bill.
State Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, introduced the bill that, if it becomes law, would give Meridian the official designation needed before the center could become a reality.
In December, members of an Arts and Entertainment selection committee voted to endorse Meridian as the best place for the center, despite a recommendation by Mississippi State University-based Stennis Institute that Jackson was best suited for the center.
Since the announcement, Jackson city leaders have clamored they would continue to lobby to the state Legislature for the "official" designation as the site for the center.
Meridian officials proposed a waterfront site at Bonita Lakes, while Jackson officials want to redevelop an old landfill site on the Pearl River.
Not only does Moak's bill designate Meridian as the site for the center, but it would place the center under direction of state's Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. It would also create a fund in the State Treasury specifically for the center's construction, operation and maintenance.
Although the bill contains no specifics about where funding would come from it allows donations to be made for the center's operation and construction. State leaders have already acknowledged that, because of budget constraints, the center will receive no funding during the current legislative session.
A similar version of the bill is being proposed in the state Senate by Sens. Terry Burton, D-Newton, and Videt Carmichael, D-Lauderdale.
The bill is expected to meet heavy opposition from Jackson's legislative delegation, which has heavily lobbied the state capital as the site for proposed center.
Moak could not be reached for contact.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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