After much debate, the Pensacola City Council approved the University of West Florida plan for the Admiral John H. Fetterman State of Florida Maritime Museum and Research Center during a special meeting on Feb. 2.
The meeting was called after the Community Maritime Park Associates approved the plan on Jan. 22. The University needed a decision before Feb. 8, which was the deadline for the federal New Market Tax Credits that are crucial for funding the museum.
As it stands now, the university has received $4.5 million in private donations toward the construction of the museum. UWF President Judy Bense said she hopes enough tax credits are purchased that the museum can receive $13.4 million.
Bense said no University funds would be used for the construction of the museum.
“It will be all new money, or we’re not going to build it,” she said.
After the construction is completed, there will be recurring yearly costs of $5.4 million for programs, faculty, staff and operations of the museum and the research facilities. The University has not come forward with a plan to meet these costs.
Elizabeth Benchley, director of the Archaeology Institute, said that she was pleased to see positive support for the museum, but that she understood the people who questioned the lack of funding.
“I agree with the people who express reservations, because it’s kind of risky moving ahead without all the funding in place,” Benchley said. “But if we wait for everything to be just right, we would be 20 years down the line.”
Bense said moving ahead with the museum is a calculated risk that is necessary to “provide the students and faculty with opportunities they would have never had a chance at.”
“This is a lesson to students in how to move a university forward and how to take advantage of an opportunity without having absolutely everything you need,” Bense said.
The $20 million museum is expected to be 42,000 square feet, with the ability expand it up to 62,000 square feet. On the outside, it will be designed to look like a ship at the wharf.