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City Council to debate museum spending
Fredericksburg mayor to talk with Slavery Museum officials about how they spent city loan money

Date published: 12/4/2005

By EMILY BATTLE

Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak said he wants to sit down with officials of the U.S. National Slavery Museum as soon as this week to talk about how the museum used a $1 million loan from the city.

Tomzak said he hopes that he and City Manager Phillip Rodenberg can meet with museum officials to discuss the studies that the museum paid for with the loan.

The money was given under a 2002 agreement that stated the museum was to use it to provide certain governmental services to benefit the Fredericksburg portion of the Celebrate Virginia project.

The contract stipulates that the money could not be spent to build the museum itself. The $1 million is being recovered with interest from taxes generated by a special district within the development.

Last month, the museum provided a report on how it spent the money.

In addition to $547,760 in office and administrative expenses, the accounting report showed that museum officials conducted a traffic study at a cost of $3,900. They also spent $10,094 on demographic and marketing studies to determine the museum's economic impact on the community.

Although no one said the report did not meet the terms of the contract, some City Council members have said Fredericksburg is owed copies of the studies the museum paid for with the city's loan.

Museum officials said when the report was released that they didn't plan on releasing the studies.

On Friday, museum founder and Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder was asked at a press conference about the difference between his push for more information from the nonprofit Virginia Performing Arts Center in Richmond and Fredericksburg City Council members' requests for more information about the Slavery Museum.

According to The Associated Press, Wilder said the difference is that in Richmond, the city administration has demanded an accounting, while Fredericksburg's city administration has not.

City Councilman Matt Kelly, who thinks the museum should release the studies that the city's loan paid for, said he doesn't understand that logic.

"To assume that as elected officials, we don't count, I just don't understand that," he said yesterday. "If he needs some clarification that the city would like to have this information, I would be more than happy to put it before the council."


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