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Fredericksburg City Council seeks details about U.S. National Slavery Museum before granting more financial incentives
By PAMELA GOULD
Members of Fredericksburg's City Council say they might waive some construction-permit fees for the U.S. National Slavery Museum and even consider direct financial aid, but most first want museum officials to be more forthcoming about their project.
"If they're gonna ask us for some things, which I've said I support, I do think at the same time they should be more open with the community," said Councilman Matt Kelly.
"I think they're missing an opportunity here--an opportunity to educate the public and promote it."
The museum is required to file an annual report with the city as part of the terms of a $1 million loan a previous City Council approved in 2002. But the latest report, completed March 28, does not detail how the city's money is being spent.
In interviews with the mayor and all six council members over the past two weeks, they said they had not yet pressed the museum for those details. Four of the councilmen wanted more precise information as they prepare to address issues they anticipate coming before them this week and in the future.
"I would think it would be in the museum's best interest to give us as much information and the public as much information as possible so we could feel comfortable we're investing in something that has a reasonable chance of being successful," said Councilman Tom Fortune.
Councilman Hashmel Turner, however, said he feels he's well-informed because he continually seeks out museum officials to ask his questions.
"I'm pretty much up on the information because I talk to the people involved--so maybe that gives me an upper hand," he said.
The Free Lance-Star last month asked museum officials several questions about the progress of the project, but was told they would not respond.
The museum released a copy of its 2004 tax return, but only after first refusing to accept the newspaper's written request for it. Federal regulations require that such returns be made public.
The city was simultaneously sent a copy of the return, which the museum is required to provide to the city under the terms of the loan agreement.