The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to give $100,000 to the Freedom Museum Inc., a tax-exempt group seeking to build a permanent homage near Manassas to 20th century American soldiers.
The taxpayer gift marks the largest single donation so far to the fledgling museum, which will celebrate its grand opening July 4 with a temporary exhibition at Manassas Regional Airport.
Museum organizers also are preparing to launch a fund-raising campaign with the goal of building a permanent facility nearby.
State and local officials plan to conduct a study of the project's potential location, costs and economic benefits.
Chuck Colgan Jr., a Vietnam veteran who has spearheaded the campaign, said the museum group has raised more than $100,000 from private donors since the idea was first floated a year ago.
The museum's annual budget this year will be about $400,000, most of it from local and state agencies, he said.
"I don't think any of us believed a project could move forward with such breathtaking speed," Colgan told supervisors before yesterday's vote.
Colgan and other organizers envision the Freedom Museum as a lively portrait of America's military history from the Spanish-American War in 1898 through the two World Wars to the just-ended NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.
Executive Director Avery Chenoweth, a retired Marine colonel, said the attraction will be the hub in a "corridor of history" extending from Leesburg to Williamsburg, focusing both on soldiers and the families they left behind.
"We are not a museum that is going to glorify war," Chenoweth said. "We are going to honor those who had to fight those wars and those who didn't make it back home."
In addition to standard historical exhibits, organizers say the facility will include aircraft, tanks and other machinery and will feature regular air shows and other demonstrations designed to attract repeat visitors.
The museum has garnered support from numerous veterans groups, and Allan Cors, of Nokesville, has offered it the full use of his extensive collection of military vehicles.
"I see this as an activity center," Cors said. "This is an educational facility. This is a place where things will be happening constantly. . . . The idea is that you build the nest and the birds will come."
For the time being, however, the attraction will be a small-scale exhibit located in leased space at the Manassas airport.
After the July 4 kickoff, the museum will hold a celebration, including an air show and tank demonstrations, from Aug. 13 to 15.
In addition to the Prince William donation, the museum has received gifts or pledges of $75,000 from the State of Virginia, $50,000 from the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative and $25,000 from the Prince William Industrial Development Authority.
Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) vetoed an additional $75,000 in surplus money that had been earmarked for the project by legislators earlier this year. He has said the money could be included as part of next year's state budget.
The Prince William Park Authority, which has contributed amore than $17,000 to the cause so far, will oversee the expenditure of all public funds for the museum, according to the resolution approved yesterday.
Also yesterday, supervisors agreed to give eight acres of land near Gar-Field Senior High School to the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department, which plans to build a fire station on the site.
The board also was slated to decide last night whether to renew its controversial teenage curfew ordinance and whether to tighten restrictions on group housing.