2014-03-07 / Community

Hot tub hero bubbles up in South Portland

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council has accepted a $10,000 donation from Highland Avenue resident Marshall L. “Jack” Gibson to be used toward the purchase of a new 12-person hot tub at the community center on Nelson Road.

Gibson, 84, founded what would become Commercial Paving and Recycling Co. in 1945, at the tender age of 16, after starting work at age 13 in the South Portland shipyards during World War II. He sold the company in 2004 and, for the last few years, has reportedly made monthly $10,000 donations to each of the 175 municipalities with which he did business for nearly six decades.

Installed in 1979, South Portland’s public hot tub was in regular use, particularly by senior citizens, until it fell into disrepair and was decommissioned in 2001.

“In my six years on the council, the hot tub has been a fairly common complaint from a lot of residents,” said City Councilor Tom Blake, who spearheaded a $100,000 replacement effort last year, at the start of his mayoral term.

According to City Manager Jim Gailey, PVC pipes embedded in the concrete surrounding the pool area cracked over time, making it nearly impossible to keep the hot tub filled with water.

“I used to love going in that hot tub as a kid,” he said, at the March 3 city council meeting. “It was used by residents of all ages. But water was escaping out onto the ground and it was decided, with no real solution then on the horizon, to close it and save on the maintenance costs to keep it up and running.”

According to Blake, a new hot tub, when funded, will not go on the same footprint, but will be installed someplace else in the community center, allowing for what he called “additional ancillary improvements” to the building.

However, fundraising still has a long way to go.

In January, $5,000 was given to the project, split equally by Matthew Teare of Falmouth, director of development at Sea Coast Management Company, and two businesses, Developers Collaborative Predevelopment andSBLegacyLending,bothlocatedat17 Chestnut St. in Portland.

That, along with Gibson’s donation, brings the total raised to date to $17,800.

“Within the next month,” Gailey said, he will present his annual capital improvements budget to the city council, which will include an additional $20,000 for the hot tub rebuild.

That will leave $60,000 left to raise for the hot tub committee, which on Monday toured the Embassy Suites hotel in Portland to view models similar to the one members would like to purchase.

“We are falling a little short of our goal at this time and I’m asking the community if anybody has any ideas of how we can reach our goal by this June, [or] if they want to do a fundraiser or anything else at all,” said Blake, adding, “We would very much dislike to put this off another year.”

One fundraiser already lined up will occur on May 29, when the Portland Players extends its run of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” by one day, dedicating proceeds to the hot tub project.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” said Councilor Linda Cohen, “but lots of donations at $10 would all add up.”

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