The Gulfport City Council is in the process of renewing its lease agreements with the Gulfport Historical Society for two pieces of City property the Historical Society operates.
Council voted at its Oct. 18 regular meeting to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would renew the lease for the Gulfport History Museum at 5301 28th Ave. S. as well as Bryer Hall (the Gulfport Arts Center) at 2726 54th St. S. Both sites are within the perimeter of Chase Park.
The renewal is for a five-year period at one dollar per year. City staff included an additional five-year option, but at the request of Councilmember Paul Ray (Ward III), the council removed it before the vote.
City officials said the terms and conditions of the lease are similar to prior lease agreements, which date back to 1994. The City Council has, in the past, adopted resolutions approving the lease agreements, but subsequent changes to the charter now require council approve all leases for city property.
The council last approved the Gulfport Historical Society’s lease in 2012; the Society exercised its renewal option in 2017. Council amended the lease in 2020 to include Bryer Hall for the Arts Center.
The Society has managed the museum for the city since 1981, City Manager Jim O’Reilly said. Vice Mayor Christine Brown, served first as treasurer and last as chairperson for the charity, although she’s no longer on the board. [Publisher’s note: Cathy Salustri Loper, co-owner of The Gabber Newspaper, currently serves on the board of directors as president.]
The city budgeted $1,200 annually for the building, with the utility and maintenance costs paid from the respective budgets of the Cultural Facilities and Public Works departments.
The lease requires that the Historical Society name the City as a co-insured on its $1 million liability insurance policy and also that the City be indemnified. The lease also regulates the type of activities the Historical Society, a nonprofit association since its incorporation in 1981, can conduct on the properties.
“I think it’s great,” said Councilwoman April Thanos. “I think every city needs to have a place where their history is reflected. Someone is doing it for us, which is very nice. I went to the reception at the arts center and I think they’re doing a great job.”
Councilman Paul Ray agreed with Thanos’ assessment but took issue with the exact terms of the lease, specifically the option.
“We are pretty much creating lease agreements between three and five years. I would like to strike the additional five-year renewal option from the ordinance,” he said, noting that the agreement can be reviewed after the initial five years are up. “I just don’t think it looks fair to give one person three and another person 10. We need to be more consistent.”
O’Reilly said the lease could be revised to reflect that, and the motion and second were amended in that regard. The final vote was 4-0, as Mayor Sam Henderson was absent from the meeting.
The Gulfport Historical Society is a privately owned charity and is not owned or operated by the City of Gulfport.