The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
City still waiting for Slavery Museum tax payment
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
When a federal judge dismissed the U.S. National Slavery Museum’s bankruptcy case a month ago, he did so in part because the museum’s attorney promised its overdue tax bill to the city of Fredericksburg would be paid within days.
But city officials say they haven’t seen a check yet, nor heard from anyone with the museum.
At the hearing in August in which the judge dismissed the case, museum attorney Sandra Robinson said an anonymous donor was prepared to pay, within days, most of the city’s nearly $300,000 tax debt to the city.
It was that tax debt that led to the museum’s bankruptcy; the city was preparing to auction the land when museum founder and former Gov. Doug Wilder filed for bankruptcy protection for the museum a year ago.
The bankruptcy case stopped the land sale, but after it was dismissed in mid-August, the city restarted the process for a tax sale of the land.
“We’re moving forward as rapidly as the law allows,” said city treasurer Jim Haney.
He said it will still take about nine months for the property to go to auction, and that Wilder or someone else could pay the tax bill any time up to the moment the auction gavel falls.
Robinson in court did not reveal who the anonymous donor was who was supposed to pay the tax bill.
A message left at Wilder’s office at VCU in Richmond had not been returned as of press time.
When federal Judge Douglas O. Tice Jr. dismissed the case, Robinson said the museum still planned to reorganize and eventually open. She said the museum had about $100,000 in pledged donations that she expected donors to release once the bankruptcy case was resolved.
She also said the museum would work with its largest creditor, Pei Partnership Architects–owed about $5 million–on a repayment plan.
Before the case was dismissed, the museum’s reorganization plan called for payments to Pei and to Fredericksburg to begin in October.
It also proposed selling part of the museum’s 38 acres at Celebrate Virginia to help pay off the debts.
That’s an issue still likely to come up in a court; the land was donated with covenants attached, requiring that the land be used only for an African-American history museum or educational purpose. Robinson has said she thinks those are invalid, while Celebrate Virginia representatives say they will fight strongly to have those covenants upheld.
The next property tax bill in Fredericksburg is due Nov. 15.
The museum can’t file for bankruptcy protection for a year.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028