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Wilder courts council: Celebrate Virginia acres pledged for slavery museum
Fredericksburg City Council and former governor discuss proposed slavery museum during meeting closed to the public.

 Silver Cos. Vice President Jud Honaker (rear left) looks on yesterday as David Anderson, another Silver representative, discusses the legality of the City Council's closed meeting. Councilmen Gordon Shelton (left) and Joe Wilson both voted to go into closed session.
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Date published: 8/10/2001

Former Gov. Douglas Wilder last night asked for the Fredericksburg City Council's support of a proposed national slavery museum that organizers may locate in the city.

The Silver Cos. will donate 20 to 25 acres of land within its Celebrate Virginia development for the museum, according to Chief Executive Officer Larry Silver. He said the land is worth $10 million to $12 million.

Silver said the site would include a 120,000-square-foot convention center, which would be privately funded.

Wilder, who heads the board of trustees of the proposed museum, said Fredericksburg is one of three sites being seriously considered. The other two are Hampton and Richmond. Jamestown has fallen out of the running.

Wilder would not say whether Fredericksburg is the leading choice.

"I'm here--that tells you," he said last night. "I don't waste time."

He said Richmond is also working hard to court the museum, and a decision on a site will be made in the near future.

"The city of Richmond is still pushing--I've made that as clear as I could," he said. "Something is going to happen real, real soon."

Wilder made a presentation on the museum to the council and others present during the closed session, including Silver, Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce President Linda Worrell and George Washington's Fredericksburg Foundation President Vernon Edenfield.

The meeting was closed to the public after an objection from The Free Lance-Star. The vote to close the meeting was 5-2, with Mayor Bill Beck and Councilman Scott Howson casting the two dissenting votes.

Howson said the nearly 31/2-hour meeting lasted so long because the council could not reach a consensus on whether to pledge Wilder its support.

"The governor made a very compelling presentation and asked for a commitment from the city. We had a very heated discussion as to what we could do in closed session as far as making that commitment to the governor," he said.

A public body, such as the City Council, is not permitted by state law to hold a binding vote in a closed meeting.

Beck said he offered the city's unofficial support to Wilder during a dinner at Kenmore after the meeting.

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