Safety Concerns Put Labor Day 'Fill The Boot' Planning In Bourne On Hold

Planning for the Bourne Fire Department’s annual “Fill the Boot” fundraiser benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association has been put on hold by the Bourne Board of Selectmen.

At the board’s meeting Tuesday night, August 12, members voted to deny the firefighters’ request for permission to create a toll booth lane at which drivers can make voluntary donations. The board cited safety concerns raised by Bourne Police Chief Dennis R. Woodside and Lieutenant Richard J. Silvestro as the reason for denying the request.

The Fill the Boot campaign has firefighters greeting motorists, shoppers and others, and asking them to donate money to help in the fight against muscular dystrophy. Bourne Fire Lieutenant Gilbert N. Taylor appeared before the board Tuesday night and asked for permission to locate a toll booth lane on Saturday, August 30, from 10 AM to 3 PM, either in front of the Buzzards Bay fire station or at Five Corners in Bourne Village. Lt. Taylor said that cones and signs would be set up directing drivers who wish to donate into the toll booth lane. Any firefighters on or near the street would wear high visibility vests as a precautionary measure, he said.

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Lt. Taylor told the board that firefighters have been involved with fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association since the charitable foundation’s inception in 1953. The International Association of Fire Fighters website reported that the organization and its members have donated nearly $275 million over the years. Lt. Taylor said the Fill the Boot campaign is conducted by more than 100,000 fire departments across the United States. Here on the Cape, fire departments in Sandwich, Dennis, Yarmouth, Hyannis, West Barnstable and Barnstable will all be conducting their own Fill the Boot fundraisers over the holiday weekend, he said.

Lt. Taylor said that he was aware of the concerns of the police department and he has had discussions with Chief Woodside. The lieutenant said that Labor Day weekend was selected for the collection campaign for two reasons: tradition (the campaign is held nationwide over Labor Day weekend) and because traffic at that time is already slow and hardly moving. He added that, in the 60 years the event has been held, there has been only minimal incidents of injury, and the MDA carries insurance for firefighters involved.

The lieutenant’s assurances did little to set aside the concerns of the board. Member Linda M. Zuern said she had serious concerns about firefighters being in the middle of the street and “slowing traffic down when people are upset enough they can’t get where they want to go.”

Members agreed that the fundraiser has merit, but preferred to see firefighters follow the advice of the police department and detour drivers off the street and into a parking lot where they would make a donation.

Lt. Taylor argued that detouring people off the road would not work because people do not want to get out of line in heavy traffic.

“It’s not like a car wash, where you pull someone off the road who will get something in return,” he said.

Selectman Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis suggested that both sides get together and try to reach a compromise on where and how to run the event.

Selectman Donald J. Pickard moved that the firefighters’ request, as presented, be “regrettably denied.” He further moved that if after both sides have met and come to an arrangement, and Chief Woodside provides townadministrator Thomas M. Guerino with a memo indicating a suitable location has been found. “that the firefighters can go ahead on that date without this board having to meet again, if it is suitable to the police department’s needs.”

Mr. Pickard’s motion was approved unanimously.

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