Cumberland receives $19K gift for firefighter fitness gear

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CUMBERLAND — Sixteen years to the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the town received a donation for fitness equipment to help keep its own firefighters safe.

The anonymous gift of more than $19,000 covers an expense budgeted in the town’s $4.1 million bond for renovation and expansion of Central Fire Station. The donation came unexpectedly, Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday, when the Town Council unanimously accepted the gift.

In an unsigned letter to Shane, the donor said the gift was “in honor of the 343 New York City Fire Fighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on this date sixteen years ago.”

The donor recalled a public hearing held in November 2016, where Fire Chief Dan Small discussed the need to renovate the 366 Tuttle Road station. The chief noted then that 59 percent of line-of-duty firefighter deaths across the country in 2015 were due to stress, overexertion and medical issues, the donor stated.

“The Municipal Leadership and the Community At Large must demonstratively encourage and strongly support the physical fitness of all of our first responders,” the donor said about why they wanted to donate the necessary equipment.

“It’s astounding, and it gives me a lot of goosebumps when you get these folks who come forward and say I’d like to help out, and this is what I’d like to do,” Shane said at Monday’s meeting. “This is another one of those examples of what a generous community we live in, and how much respect and how much people care about our firefighters.”

As part of the fire station project, due to be complete next spring, the town had intended to build a fitness facility to help its emergency responders be “better in their jobs, and better in their lives,” Shane said.

The fitness room will include cardio and weight-lifting equipment, Small said, adding that the gear has “already been pre-designed. The room will accommodate it with added windows, and things like that … to attract people to come in and use (it).”

The chief added that he hopes members of the fire and police departments alike would use the room.

The second floor of the expanded building – nearly three times the size of the original 1968 structure – will house apparatus bays, administrative areas and community paramedicine space; the third will have living quarters, a day room, fitness and kitchen areas. Training and medical equipment, an emergency operations center, and a kitchen and community room will be on the first floor.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A fitness area will be part of the expanded Central Fire Station in Cumberland. The town has received a nearly $20,000 anonymous donation toward exercise gear.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.
  • Bill Dehais

    Let me first say I have no problem with a gift to the town nor with the town accepting a generous gift. I do however have a problem with an “anonymous” gift being accepted by the town. Anonymous gifts are rarely really anonymous. A governmental unit accepting an anonymous gift leaves the Town Council and Town Manager in an unacceptably awkward position and violates principals of ethical government transparency. These folks don’t seem to understand that an anonymous gift can be construed as a bribe, either to atone for past transgressions, or to seek influence in future matters. The donor should understand that as well. The town is not a non for profit charitable entity. It is a Government with Taxing authority, Police and regulatory oversight duties for land use, building, business licensing etc. In that world transparency is critical. I was not able to attend the meeting but I watched the recording tonight. There was not one word of discussion after Councilor Storey-King made the motion to accept the gift and authorize the town Manager to accept the gift and issue s gift receipt for tax purposes to the “anonymous” donor. Unanimous approval without discussion. There was much appropriate discussion of the generosity and thoughtfulness of the gift. Not a thought about how accepting an anonymous gift could be viewed. This council does not seem to have a clue or doesn’t care about transparency. Not saying the gift is a bribe or inappropriate, in all likelihood it is neither. My point is the council should be wise enough to not allow a circumstance where there is potential for any question about that. They failed the test.

    • DLS

      I hate agreeing with this because I am 99.9% sure the motivation was honest and pure.

      Perhaps it would have been “cleaner” if it had gone to the non-profit Cumberland Fire Association, for the purpose of purchasing the equipment?