FPES, Peru select board hold workshop

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PERU — The Peru Board of Selectmen and the Friends of Peru Elementary School held a workshop Wednesday to negotiate a management contract for FPES to manage the old Peru Elementary School as a community center.

“I think that we’ve made progress,” said Carol Roach, who acted as board chairwoman. “I think was a good first step.”

In November, Peru voted to move $170,000 out of the town’s surplus fund in order to bring the building up to code, allowing it to be used for business, gatherings and other purposes.

The article also states FPES is to manage the building under a multi-year contract.

FPES proposed entering into a three-year contract, a period of time that would make the building more likely to receive grant funding, according to FPES President Nick Waugh.

The timeline would also elminate the need for annual negotiations between the board and FPES. Because of this, Selectwoman Lynda Hebert suggested having the contract automatically renew after the expiration date unless there is a 45-day notice from either party.

“I don’t believe FPES should be collecting any rent,” Selectman Kevin Taylor said. “Nothing has come back to the town ever financially, and they’re still, as a private organization, collecting rents from people that are in our building.”

FPES said any money coming in went back into the building.

“What are you guys going to do if we just get totally disgusted and we leave?” Waugh asked the board. “You need our help.”

Yvonne Allen, program director at FPES,  said, “If we leave as the management group, there are renters that do not want to deal directly with this board, and that income could go.”

An inspection by the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office found safety code violations within the building, which meant an end to theater shows and a thrift shop at the former school.

Servant’s Heart Food Pantry, Rumford Seniors and a Girl Scout unit are among organizations still operating at the building. Before the inspection, the community center was almost self-sufficient, according to Norman DeRoche, vice president of FPES.

“I think the community would be much more behind it if there was some sort of money going back into surplus,” Taylor said.

The next step in the contract negotiations between the board and FPES will be an executive meeting.

“We’ll bring in our attorney and our third-party inspector for clarification on issues raised this evening,” Roach said. “Bottom line, we want to help the select board make this thing work. We’re trying to make something good for the community.”

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Members of Friends of Peru Elementary School address the Peru Board of Selectmen on Wednesday during a workshop at the Peru Town Hall to discuss a management contract for the school. From left: Selectmen Lynda Hebert and Carol Roach, FPES President Nick Waugh, FPES Vice President Norman DeRoche, FPES Program Director Yvonne Allen and FPES Treasurer Anne Stickney. (Abigail Austin/Sun Journal)

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