Area officials seek support for Wynette museum

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed into law legislation authorizing the state to issue up to $196 million in bonds to finance various building projects across the state.
Many of the proposals have received a great deal of attention, such as $96.5 million to be spent on the eight university campuses and $25 million for the state’s 15 community college campuses.
Also included in the package is at least $10 million for nine metro Jackson-area projects, ranging from $1 million for the zoo, to $250,000 for Parham Bridges city park to $4.9 million for improvements to U.S. Highway 25 in the Flowood area, to $1 million for upgrades to Lake Harbour Road in Ridgeland.
Many Northeast Mississippi officials said in the coming years they hope to secure bond proceeds to help finance the construction of the Tammy Wynette Museum in Tremont. Wynette, a country music legend who died in 1998, is a native of the Tremont area in Itawamba County. She was married for six years to George Jones, who died Friday. They recorded several hit songs together.
This past session, legislation that passed the House included bonds to help build the museum in the home area of the woman who has been dubbed “the queen of country music.” But the project was not part of the final agreement between House and Senate leaders that was signed into law recently by Bryant.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said in the past, “I have always been a little resentful of all we do for Jackson. But it is our capital city and we need to be respectful of that.”
Holland and others said it is important to help projects in the capital city because if it thrives it helps the entire state.
By the same token, Holland said it also is important to fund projects like the Tammy Wynette Museum.
“We are beginning to learn that tourism is where a lot of our economy is,” he said. “We are blessed by many of the performers and artists that we have. We need to showcase them every chance we get. Tammy Wynette is the queen of country music, and she is from Itawamba County. This fight is not over.”
Mayor Glyn Robinson said land has been acquired for the project “right in Tremont” on U.S. Highway 178. “We’re trying to raise money right now,” he said, adding state funds would help with the project.
Robinson said there is a ready-made base of visitors for a Tammy Wynette Museum. Besides the many fans who would make a special trip to Tremont to see a museum honoring the music legend, there are regular bus tours that visit the Muscle Shoals, Ala., area and Memphis recording and music venues with a stop off in Tupelo for the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum.
Robinson said Tremont would be an easy stopping-off point for those music fans. “We’re right on the music trail,” he said.
Rep. Donnie Bell, R-Fulton, said the Museum would generate tax revenue that would help not only Tremont, but the state.
“It would be a big deal,” he said.
Of the bond package, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said, “We had a mixture of metro-area projects funded in the bond bill, but the projects bonded were situated throughout the state. This does not include the allocations on our college campuses that would obviously include Lafayette, Oktibbeha, Lowndes, Leflore, and Claiborne.
“It also does not include the $25 million allocation that will be distributed to our 15 community college campuses located throughout our state. In addition, a large number of competitive revolving loan programs that benefit towns and counties throughout Mississippi were funded.”
In 2011, the state provided bond funds to make improvements to the Elvis Presley Museum in Tupelo. A key in obtaining state funds often is the ability for the project to garner funds to match the state monies.
“Each project funded in the bill has the potential to boost Mississippi’s economic growth, and many proved their sustainability by obtaining funds from private or federal sources,” Reeves said.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com