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Museum fails to file reports
A year after the city loaned it a million dollars, what's up with National Slavery Museum slated for Fredericksburg?

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Date published: 11/9/2003

By ELIZABETH PEZZULLO

Accounting of $1 million loan not provided

The U.S. National Slavery Museum has apparently violated the terms of a $1 million loan agreement with the city of Fredericksburg.

According to the terms of the March 2002 agreement, slavery museum officials were to submit an annual report to the city describing all services it has provided using the money and a breakdown of expenditures.

On Oct. 14, the city received a timeline for the project, a list of the board of directors and a copy of the museum's 2002 federal tax return, according to documents obtained from city officials by The Free Lance-Star.

Missing were both the narrative of services provided and an accounting of how the city's money has been spent.

"What is a fact is they haven't reported on the separate funds," said Fredericksburg City Manager Phillip Rodenberg. "According to the contract, we need to see that."

The agreement between the city and the museum states that if either party breaches the contract, the party not at fault shall provide written notice to the other party detailing the infraction.

At that time, the remiss party will have no less than 30 days to complete the report.

Rodenberg said he sent a letter to Dr. Vonita Foster, executive director of the museum, in August as a reminder of the contract's requirements.

Still, unanswered questions linger about the progress made at the slavery museum.

"As far as the project itself, we have heard nothing," said City Councilman Scott Howson. "We're as much in the dark as anybody about this."

But Joe Wilson, the only remaining member of the council to vote in favor of the loan, disagrees.

"It looks like they're making progress and I don't see a reason at this point to be concerned or alarmed," Wilson said.

The Silver Cos., developers of the Celebrate Virginia tourism complex, donated 38 acres at the site for the proposed museum, which is headed by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

The museum plans to open in 2007, according to its timeline. Wilder has put the cost between $100 million and $200 million.

Dr. Tom Fortune, another city councilman, said he wants to know more.

"The information available at this point is insufficient to say whether the city's money has been well spent or not," Fortune said. "Time will tell."


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