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Slavery museum fee waiver up in air
City Council votes to delay U.S. National Slavery Museum's request for fee waivers.

Date published: 7/13/2005

By PAMELA GOULD

The Fredericksburg City Council last night deferred a decision on whether to grant construction-fee waivers for the U.S. National Slavery Museum until it can get more information.

Council members Tom Fortune and Kerry Devine said they wanted to better understand the "viability" of the project before acting on the request that would amount to about $30,000 in lost revenue.

The 4-3 vote followed determination that a delay in approving the waiver to first meet with museum officials would not negatively impact the project. Mayor Tom Tomzak and council members Hashmel Turner and Debby Girvan voted against deferring the decision.

Museum Executive Director Vonita W. Foster requested the waiver in a March 24 letter to City Manager Phillip Rodenberg, calling the city one of the museum's "primary partners" and stating that it will "benefit accordingly for years to come."

In a July 8 memo to the mayor and council, Rodenberg recommended approving a waiver of building and planning fees, noting the action could serve as "an economic development incentive for the timely construction" of the museum.

In the memo, Rodenberg also pointed out that the city "occasionally grants a fee waiver for projects where the city has a financial interest" and cited school construction projects and the Thurman Brisben Center homeless shelter as examples.

Building and Development Services Director Mike Naggs initially provided a rough estimate suggesting the fees would total between $40,000 and $50,000. Water and sewer fees cannot be waived.

Fortune suggested sending museum officials a letter asking them to answer four of the questions posed to the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center including the estimated construction cost; total fundraising goal and sources of funds and major gifts to date; and the status of building design plans and a construction schedule.

Girvan instead suggested setting up a dinner meeting with the museum's board for the fall.

Turner noted that he was trying not to get emotional about the project and said museum officials have said they feel they are having to "go above and beyond" what's asked of others with city projects.

Councilman Matt Kelly said he supports the project and is simply asking the same things he asked of the Fredericksburg Area Museum and is currently asking of developers wanting to buy city property to put up a hotel.


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