D’IBERVILLE — The city of D’Iberville has told Moby Solangi, the executive director of Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, to start construction of Ocean Expo Aquarium by March or abandon his plans.
City manager Bobby Eleuterius tells The Sun Herald the notice from the city gives Solangi a deadline of March 13 to start building or face daily fines. If he signs the agreement now but ultimately goes to another city to build the aquarium, it will cost him $4 million under the proposed contract.
“He’s probably not going to sign that contract,” Eleuterius said.
Solangi proposes leasing city land on the southwest section of the Interstate 10/110 intersection and building an aquarium and learning center. He chose the D’Iberville location and incentives over proposals by Biloxi and Gulfport in April 2010 and broke ground for the aquarium in December 2011. The property is still vacant.
Solangi said he’s met with the new city council and city manager to discuss issues with the project.
“We’re working with the city to resolve that before we can move forward,” he said.
The deadline by the city was prompted in part because D’Iberville will have to cover the first $319,000 bond payment due in September for Ocean Expo. In 2011 the city issued a special obligation for $4 million to purchase 6.4 acres of land. The aquarium was scheduled to be complete by now and a portion of the admission fee for Ocean Expo was intended to be used to repay the debt.
Two years later construction hasn’t begun and the aquarium won’t be open by next September, when another $321,000 is due from the city.