The Kenmore Association, which has been renamed George Washington's Fredericksburg Foundation, has agreed to pay the first of four $200,000 installments it owes to Stafford County, Executive Director Vernon Edenfield said.
"We will be making the $200,000 payment before Dec. 31," Edenfield said.
The foundation oversees the operation of Washington's boyhood home, Ferry Farm, and has come under increased pressure in recent weeks to make the payment. On Dec. 14, the Stafford Board of Supervisors wrote a resolution demanding the money, while Supervisor Alvin Y. Bandy (R-George Washington), who leaves office at year's end, declared weeks ago that receiving the payment would be a final priority of his 28-year tenure.
"That takes care of my part," Bandy said. "I wanted to be sure I didn't leave a lot of loose ends."
Delivery of the payment, which was originally scheduled for Dec. 31, 1998, has been muddled in negotiations for almost a year. Although some county officials expected the payment at the end of last year, the nonprofit association argued that it was not required to hand over the money until several provisions were completed.
The last of those provisions--an audit of the county's dealings with Ferry Farm--was finished in October.
Nevertheless, Edenfield and others have pushed for further delays because they say the organization needs the money to continue to expand the tourist attraction. Edenfield also has argued that the county would gain a greater return on its dollar in the long term if it allowed his group to reinvest the money.
But county officials have said they are in no position to make such a deal because Stafford is strapped for cash, and they promised the public they would regain the funds. In recent weeks, though, officials have expressed a greater willingness to negotiate the final three portions of the payment--after the initial installment had been made.
Officials have said they may be willing to forgo the other payments in return for providing free admission to students in county schools or other historical education efforts.
The debt dates to 1996, when the Kenmore Association bought the historic site after a long public battle to save the property from Wal-Mart, which intended to build a shopping center on the land.
The payment comes at a time when Ferry Farm is gaining national recognition and more official backing. Earlier this month, a state foundation that seeks to preserve cultural and historical landmarks awarded the foundation a $225,000 matching grant to preserve and expand the attraction.
Just last week, the National Park Service voted to recommend that Ferry Farm become a National Historic Landmark. That designation would assure the site's protection and increase its visibility and help its fund-raising efforts, Edenfield said.