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One Guilford commissioner wants $225,000 in county money for the museum he is helping to build.


Guilford Commissioner Melvin ``Skip' Alston wants the county to contribute $225,000 over the next three years toward the civil rights museum that he and others are working to open at the site of the old Woolworth store in downtown Greensboro.

And he's pushing hard to see the first installment of $75,000 added to next year's county budget before commissioners adopt it June 23.As now proposed by County Manager Hector Rivera, the $280.5 million 1994-95 budget contains about $2 million for nonprofit agencies and community groups - about $241,000 more than this year. But it includes nothing for the group planning the museum, which is led by Alston and Greensboro City Council member Earl Jones.

Rivera is taking another look at Alston's proposal, but he said this week he will leave the matter up to the commissioners. And even Alston's fellow Democrats are at least somewhat reluctant to put local tax money toward the private museum.

The Greensboro City Council last week agreed to give the museum $225,000 over three years, but that money will come from federal grant money already flowing to the city, not local tax revenue.

``There lies the difference,' Commissioner Joe Wood said. ``They're not hitting the taxpayers to fund this.'

The Woolworth store is recognized as the birthplace of the struggle to integrate restaurants and other public places. In February 1960, four students from N.C. A&T staged a sit-in at the store's white-people-only lunch counter.

Alston is trying to sell the museum as a way to give downtown Greensboro an economic boost, and he is estimating that it will attract about 350,000 visitors a year - about the same number attending the recently opened National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, according to organizers there.

``This is not a black issue,' Alston said. ``This is a community issue and an economic development issue.'

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