In 2018, the town made national headlines when it elected Lincoln the goat as its first-ever pet mayor.
Town Manager Joe Gunter said Monday that the idea for pet mayors was put forward as a way to raise funds for the new playground.
The animals would be the centerpiece for various fundraisers and events. Lincoln raised about $10,000, Gunter said, while the current Mayor, Murfee, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, owned by Linda Barker, has raised $20,000.
The town contributed another $20,000.
“When I was talked into putting Murfee up to run, I thought, easy-peasy, we’ll get some T-shirts, we’ll go to the Spring Fling, we’ll sell some shirts and raise some money,” said Barker. “And then COVID struck and it was like … there go all the easy plans.”
Barker then began making face masks and selling them, thinking it’d be nice to make $100 or so.
“It took off,” she said. “We’re probably well over $5,000 just from the face masks. I’m going on about 1,000 masks so far that I’ve made, and am still making (them) because Valentine’s Day is coming up and people are asking, is Murfee going to have Valentine’s masks?”
She said she had wanted to do a basket raffle, but the pandemic forced her to adjust the usual method. She said stations were set up in the park with the contents of baskets listed, letting people participate while remaining socially distant. This alone raised $5,705.
“It was hard for me to go around to different businesses because they’re struggling,” Barker said. “We had over 130 baskets… people really dug deep. Almost all the businesses in Fair Haven donated. In Rutland, we had quite a few donations, so that worked really well.”
The town was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, she said. The town was considering not applying this year, but it only comes available every two years, and the town’s own contribution made it worth a try.
Gunter said the town applied for the grant during the last cycle, but narrowly missed the award. He said construction can begin in May, while Barker continues to raise funds.
The playground is beside the elementary school, but is open to townspeople as well as children there.
“It’s 32 years old now and it’s past its useful life,” he said, noting some of the equipment is broken from wear and tear.
He said the pet mayors and their owners have done a phenomenal job of raising funds. The town was able to get the grant with no small thanks to them and their efforts, showing the town has a vibrant, engaged community.