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Fredericksburg City Council seeks details about U.S. National Slavery Museum before granting more financial incentives
As of July 1, the city had recouped $281,723.38 of its loan to the museum, according to Clarence Robinson, the city's director of fiscal affairs. The money comes from businesses located in a special tax district created in Celebrate Virginia South, the developing tourism complex that is to include the museum.Council to consider request
The council is slated to consider two slavery museum issues this month.
On July 26, the council is expected to take up a request to build a structure that exceeds the city's height limit--a request prompted by a 118-foot-tall replica slave ship they want to make the facility's centerpiece.
Executive Director Vonita W. Foster's request for a waiver of fees associated with building and construction is on Tuesday's council agenda.
In March, Foster sent a letter to City Manager Phillip Rodenberg "requesting a contribution from the city of Fredericksburg to defray the costs that will be incurred acquiring application fees, permits, licenses, etc."
T. Michael Naggs, the city's director of building and development services, has estimated those fees could total between $40,000 and $50,000.
In the recent interviews, some council members said that while they recognize the museum is a private organization, they want details about the project's progress and financial status before agreeing to what would amount to a gift.
"I would definitely need more detailed information before I would agree to financial concessions or more money put to the project," Councilwoman Kerry Devine said. "It's not that there is any suggestion of misuse of funds. It's just providing a financial accounting for the people of Fredericksburg."
Councilman Billy Withers also wants more details.
"As they progress, I would like to know where they are financially and what their projections are on how they plan to raise funds," Withers said. "You get bits and pieces of that but I don't know of any general plan."
Councilwoman Debby Girvan said any time taxpayer money is being spent, she needs to be able to justify the expense. She said her chief concern is getting information in a timely manner from city staff so she can respond to all businesses wanting to operate in the city.
Specifically, she wants to know from city staff how the museum's request for fee waivers lines up with requests made in other jurisdictions.