The board of the Friends of Fort Knox was surprised by a Bangor Daily News editorial that questioned the stability and management ability of the Friends. We wish to assure our membership and the public that the Friends are as solid and enduring as the Maine granite of the Fort itself.
Today, the Friends have more unrestricted cash on hand than at any time in its existence. This is a remarkable turnaround from just a few years ago, when an arbitrator ruled that the previous board of directors was operating in violation of its own bylaws and members who were removed by a vote of the Friends’ membership refused to leave.
When the new board took over in late September 2006, members discovered that there was only $17,000 remaining in the operating account, down from more than $100,000 13 months prior. In short, the old board was quickly approaching insolvency.
Since the inception of the organization, the Friends have been responsible for raising more than $2.5 million for Fort Knox repairs and hundreds of thousands of dollars of donated in-kind services.
Since September 2006, the Friends of Fort Knox have restored four 24-pounder flank howitzer cannons original to the fort; repaired the fort’s exterior lights; installed parking lot lights; reopened the southern demi-bastion of Long Alley and the cistern rooms of the enlisted men’s quarters (which had been closed to the public by the Bureau of Parks and Lands due to bricks falling from the ceiling); and embarked on a long-term masonry repair project.
Under a contract with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Friends staff collect entrance fees, sponsor interpretive tours, staff the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, conduct school tours, track attendance, market the fort and observatory and provide bookkeeping services. In addition, the Friends sponsor numerous special events throughout the season that increase attendance at Fort Knox and the observatory. In fact, the Friends have been increasing attendance at Fort Knox for years through our special events.
In regard to LD 509, the Friends board of directors voted to neither support nor oppose Rep. Michael Celli’s bill to transfer all management functions for Fort Knox to the Friends. The board would consider taking over all management functions at Fort Knox if asked by either the Legislature or the Department of Conservation.
Should the Friends be asked to increase their management services at Fort Knox we can assure the BDN that there would be no risk of mismanagement or danger to this wonderful state historic site. In fact, for those of us who have volunteered our time, funds, emotions and sweat to better Fort Knox, we find the BDN’s suggestion ill-informed.
The Friends’ mission continues to be to preserve Fort Knox and enhance its educational, cultural and economic value for the people of Maine. We will gladly fulfill that mission under whatever terms the people of the state of Maine decide.
Chris Popper is chairman of the Friends of Fort Knox board of directors.