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City Council gets last report
Slavery Museum submits final annual report to city.

Date published: 4/7/2006

By EMILY BATTLE

The United States National Slavery Museum has submitted its final annual report on how it spent $1 million Fredericksburg gave it through a 2002 agreement.

The report submitted is identical to a September report from the museum on how the city's $1 million had been spent over the years since the agreement was signed.

At that point, the entire $1 million had been spent, and the museum submitted information stating how much of the money had been spent in six broad categories.

The September report also included a table that stated how much of that money was spent in 2005 in each of those categories--promotions, educational projects, programs, offices and various engineering and environmental plans.

At that point, some City Council members questioned some of the expenditures. In particular, questions were raised about why the museum's administrative expenses jumped from $50,000 in 2004 to $393,000 in 2005.

Mayor Tom Tomzak and Councilman Matt Kelly had a series of meetings with museum officials in late 2005 and early 2006, and in January, Museum Executive Director Vonita Foster sent Tomzak a two-page letter listing job descriptions for 11 employees hired in 2005.

Council members and city staff traveled to Washington, D.C., in February to attend a presentation that museum founder and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder gave at the National Press Club.

Since then, Tomzak said discussions with the museum have been put on the back burner as council members focused on the river easement and other city issues.

Tomzak said Wednesday that he still hopes the council can sit down with museum officials sometime in the future, but that he is satisfied with the museum's reporting on the $1 million.

"I was very confident that they have done what they should have done," he said. "We still want to have a good rapport with them."

Kelly said staying in touch in the future will be important.

"We agreed we'll get together for a meeting with the council to discuss issues of how we can work on communications," he said.

Foster could not be reached for comment.

The museum is to be built on 38 acres in the Celebrate Virginia tourism complex in Fredericksburg. In 2002, the City Council approved an agreement that gave the museum $1 million through an "agreement for the provision of governmental services."

At the same time, the city created the Celebrate Virginia Special Tax District. Through that district, the businesses in Celebrate Virginia are paying back the money the city gave the Slavery Museum, with interest.

So far, $465,659 of that money has been collected. In May, the city is expecting a tax payment of $177,673. It is expected to recoup the entire sum during the 2007 fiscal year.

The city manager's budget proposal for next fiscal year recommends using nearly $140,000 of the revenues from the tax district to help the city's Department of Tourism and Business Development better market the new Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center in Celebrate Virginia, and to promote attractions in other areas of the city to visitors to the conference center.

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