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Museum, planners at odds
U.S. National Slavery Museum, FAMPO disagree on application, endorsement for grant funds.

Date published: 12/9/2005


The U.S. National Slavery Museum is preparing its third request for federal transportation funds.

And, as each time before, museum officials and the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization are at odds over the regional group's endorsement.

The issue is not whether FAMPO supports building the museum in Fredericksburg--it does, administrator Stephen Manster said yesterday.

The issue is whether some of the limited funding available to the state and region should go to a facility that has access to other resources and that, in a traditional sense, is not about transportation, he said in explaining some members' concerns.

Beyond that, Manster is recommending that the board not endorse this year's grant application because it does not meet criteria FAMPO established for applications. He noted in a memo to the FAMPO board that museum officials provided no documentation of their claims of other financial support for their project, something addressed in the project-endorsement criteria.

Specifically, they did not produce documentation that museum board member Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, would provide matching funds of $194,600 for this year's grant. Nor did they document "cash and pledges for over $50 million" for the museum.

The immediate dispute, however, is whether the museum needs another FAMPO endorsement.

Museum officials were scheduled to attend this week's FAMPO meeting to discuss their request. Instead, museum assistant James Damron sent a letter asking that it be removed from the agenda, saying he had learned no second endorsement was needed.

Technically, that's true, according to Wade Chenault, VDOT's manager of the transportation enhancement program. Once a group gets approval, a new endorsement is not needed unless the project changes significantly.

With the museum, the question is whether an endorsement given by FAMPO in September--retroactive to last year's application--applied to future applications, too. Damron's letter suggests he views it as a blanket endorsement.

Without FAMPO's endorsement, and inclusion of the museum project in its Transportation Improvement Program, funds wouldn't be released to the museum even if approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The museum is to be built on 38 acres within the Celebrate Virginia tourism development. It is slated to open in October 2007 with a replica slave ship, estimated to cost nearly $4 million, as its centerpiece.

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