CUMBERLAND — In order to secure a fourth term as an at-large member of the Town Council, Tom Gruber must fend off a challenge from political newcomer Carlton “Will” Albright.

This election marks the first time since Gruber’s election to the panel in 2011 that he has faced an opponent; he was uncontested in 2014 and 2017.

In separate interviews, both candidates discussed the town and school budgets, whether a new primary school is needed for School Administrative District 51 and an objective they would like to tackle if elected to the council.

The town had originally proposed a $11.55 million municipal budget for fiscal year 2021 that would raise spending 6.8%, but given the economic pressures brought by the coronavirus pandemic, the Town Council instructed Town Manager Bill Shane to develop a budget with no spending increase; his new proposal is about $200,000 less than the current $10.8 million budget.

SAD 51 in April rolled out a $40.3 million spending plan for next year that is up 4.96%.

The town has postponed Election Day from June 9 to July 14, allowing more time for the pandemic to ebb.

Will Albright

Albright said he thought the developers of the town and school budgets had done well in recent years to control spending, acknowledging that “every year, taxes go up and prices go up; that’s just the way it is.”

Given the cramped space at the Mabel I. Wilson elementary school – which with its roughly 700-student enrollment has exceeded capacity by about 100 – “something has to be done,” Albright said.

He has three children between the ages of 4 and 9, the oldest of which was educated in one of the school’s three modular structures, located outside the main building.

“Which was fine, and I have no complaints with that,” Albright said. “But putting the portables there is just a Band-Aid. … The more portables we put there, the more playground space is taken away and the more green space is taken away from the kids.”

Ensuring that SAD 51’s students are housed comfortably and safely with proper space is one of Albright’s chief priorities. Whatever new construction or expansions are made, though, he wants to take into account Cumberland’s senior, fixed-income population and avoid “their budgets (being) stretched, so that their lives are uncomfortable,” he said.

Tom Gruber

Gruber, a member of the Town Council’s Finance Committee, said he is “very concerned about the budget, especially because of the lack of revenues that we’re having coming in.” The town is budgeting for a $617,000 drop in revenues, including reductions of $265,000 and $200,000 in excise tax and revenue sharing, respectively.

“It’s one of the main reasons that I’m running again,” Gruber said.

Gruber said he supports a new primary school, wanting students to “have a safe environment to go to school in.”

If given another three years on the council, Gruber said he would like to “maintain the momentum” the town has made with its Aging in Place initiative, geared toward keeping seniors active and able to remain in their homes.

“I would like to ensure that our seniors are taken care of,” he said.

He would also like to see the projects at Cumberland’s Public Works garage completed; the Town Council approved borrowing $4.26 million of a $7 million bond package last summer. Those projects include a new wash bay, a mechanic bay for the town and two mechanic bays for the school. A new, 3,600-square-foot building closer to Drowne Road would house locker rooms, offices and lunch and meeting rooms.

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