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Museum gives city more data page 2
City gets more information from Slavery Museum, as meetings focus on moving past questions about the $1 million.

Date published: 1/26/2006

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Tomzak said he has discussed with museum officials the possibility that an outside engineering firm might need to supplement the city's oversight of the construction. He said he didn't think that should be a city expense, though.

Tomzak said he has also encouraged Foster to speak with citizens and groups in the Fredericksburg area to educate them about the museum's plans.

"The museum could have done a better job with local communication," he said.

Kelly said the meetings had been "good and frank discussions," and that they focused on "all aspects of the Slavery Museum," not just the $1 million agreement.

"We all realize we need to get beyond the current misunderstandings we are having in building a stronger relationship with the city and Slavery Museum," Kelly said.

Kelly and Tomzak both said that they hope museum officials and all seven City Council members can meet sometime in the future, but that has not been scheduled.

Museum spokesman Michael J. Smith said the museum was pleased with how the talks were going, especially as it gears up to break ground on the building.

"There's going to be a lot of work to do," he said. "Keeping the lines of communication open is important."

Smith said the museum has not set a concrete date on its groundbreaking, but an event planned for Feb. 7 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., is intended in part as a "kind of kickoff" for the start of construction.

Wilder said this summer that the museum plans to open in October 2007, and Smith said yesterday that schedule hasn't changed.

Tomzak said he and Vice Mayor Billy Withers intend to go to the National Press Club event, and City Manager Phillip Rodenberg said some city staff would be attending.

Smith said he expects more than 100 people to attend. He said he has reserved two tables for officials and museum supporters from Fredericksburg.

"We'll talk about why we need a Slavery Museum, and why Fredericksburg makes so much sense, from an economic development point of view," Smith said. "Gov. Wilder wants to tell the media and the world a little more about Fredericksburg, Va."

Late last year, The Free Lance-Star filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the city to obtain copies of reports the museum submitted to the city as a result of the agreement.

The city provided a June traffic study describing entrance requirements to the museum site, along with site plans, grading plans and erosion and sediment control plans.

As for lingering questions about the $1 million from the city, Tomzak said he was satisfied with the information Foster provided.

"One of the big financial questions was office funding," he said. "I'm satisfied in seeing the increase in staff that that's a legitimate figure."

He acknowledged that the 2002 agreement that awarded the money was a complicated one.

"The document was designed so that we could entice the Slavery Museum with a $1 million loan, but it was also designed so that the taxpayers were going to get all of that money back," Tomzak said. "Should it have been done differently? Perhaps. But we can't change the past."

To reach EMILY BATTLE:540/374-5413
Email: ebattle@freelancestar.com


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