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Museum gives city more data
City gets more information from Slavery Museum, as meetings focus on moving past questions about the $1 million.

Date published: 1/26/2006

By EMILY BATTLE

Fredericksburg City Council members received more information Tuesday on how the United States National Slavery Museum spent $1 million the city gave it through a 2002 agreement.

Mayor Tom Tomzak gave council members a memorandum that museum Executive Director Vonita Foster sent him on Dec. 29.

It addresses why office expenses paid with the city money jumped from $50,025 in 2004 to $393,416 for the first nine months of 2005.

To explain the increase, Foster listed the staff the museum employed in 2005.

The list includes 11 specific job descriptions, including two education assistants, the executive director and her assistant, fundraising staff, a collections specialist, program manager and various other assistants.

Foster wrote that money was also used to pay consultants for design, marketing and public relations services. The memo also notes that some of the money paid for office needs like phone lines.

The memo was a response to questions asked at a Dec. 28 meeting between museum officials, Tomzak and Councilman Matt Kelly. Kelly and Tomzak met again in January with museum representatives, and Tomzak said discussions are ongoing.

"They were really good meetings," Tomzak said. "It shows an ongoing effort between the council and the Slavery Museum to go forward with this."

He said that aside from discussing outstanding questions about the $1 million agreement, he and Kelly have been talking with the museum about improving communication in the future.

Right before Christmas, City Council members got into some heated discussions over how much information they were entitled to about how the museum spent $1 million the city gave it through a 2002 agreement.

That contract between the city and museum founder L. Douglas Wilder gave the museum money to provide "governmental services" to benefit the Celebrate Virginia project.

The $1 million is being recovered with interest through a special tax on landowners in the development.

Tomzak said his talks with the museum have focused on getting past the issues surrounding the $1 million.

For example, he said some discussions have focused on how to make sure construction of the three-story, 250,000-square-foot building goes smoothly.

"This is going to be a unique building," Tomzak said. "It's going to require a lot of staff supervision."


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