PERU – Bitter words were exchanged between
several Peru selectmen and residents at an informational meeting on the
town budget Monday.

Selectman Rodney Jamison accused fellow
board members of lying about the figure spent on town office
renovations. Last fall, the town office moved from the Peru Center Road
to the former Peru Elementary School on Main Street.

“I have a
problem when they state that renovations cost us $17,393.50,” Jamison
said. “I don’t know the total cost, but I can tell you right now it was
more than that. Something’s happening, I don’t know what.”

Chairman James Pulsifer took offense, noting that what Jamison was talking about didn’t pertain to the article at hand.

“Rodney,
I’m sorry you feel that it was, but it has nothing to do with Article
8,” he responded in reference to the annual meeting warrant article on
town office operations.

“It was done as cheaply as possible,” he said in reference to the work.

“You wasted money,” Jamison shot back.

Several
residents took exception to having a meeting where residents were
unable to amend the amounts in the warrant articles. Despite the
selectmen’s attempts to explain that the informational meeting was
required under the town’s referendum system, many of the roughly 20
present were unmoved.

“This meeting is a waste of time,” Bob
Dolloff said. “You should have consulted with residents before putting
the articles on the ballot.”

Pulsifer emphasized that
townspeople had voted to go to the referendum at the polls, rather than
having an open town meeting. Town Clerk Vera Parent explained that the
only way to change the current system would be a public vote to go back
to the open meeting to voting on articles.

The Peru road
department is looking to make a $70,000 payment in this year’s budget
on a new plow truck. An additional $70,000 will be needed during the
2010-11 budget year to purchase it.

Dolloff asked if the town had looked at purchasing a used truck through state surplus.

“What’s
the point of buying more used trucks?” asked Selectman Burchard “Bill”
Scott. “What I’m telling you is, we’ve got four used trucks already. We
need a new one.”

Road Commissioner Joe Roach said that the town
needs to get into a rotation where it’s not spending a sum of money
every year toward the purchase of new trucks.

“I’m telling you, if we don’t get the ball rolling now, we’re going to get into an emergency situation,” he said.

Selectmen voted no recommendation on the article, while the Finance Committee recommended a “no” vote.

There
are also capital bridge projects up for citizen consideration. The deck
on Sicotte Bridge needs replacement, in addition to the guardrails on
Chapel, Shackby and Thomas Brook bridges.

A warrant article asks
voters if they wish to utilize up to $18,000 from the reserve bridge
account for these projects. The account has a balance of $49,000.

One
of the referendum articles asks citizens to increase the property tax
levy limit of $180,815.32 for the Town of Peru set by state law in the
event that the approved budget will result in a tax commitment more
than the property tax levy limit. The explanation included with the
article stated that the new plow truck was the reason for the increase.

Finance
Committee member Tim Holland said that the explanation was misleading
because any number of warrant articles could have contributed to the
increase.

Pulsifer, though, asserted that the truck was the main issue.

Some
of the meeting attendees questioned the need for an article asking for
$10,000 in maintenance fees for the main Peru Elementary School
building that doesn’t house the town office. With the town’s facility
in a brick building in back, there were questions about continuing to
put money into the other former school building.

“A lot of
people want to save the building,” Holland noted. “But we’ve got to
find a way to finance it without using tax dollars.”

The town is
still looking for a tenant for the building. A committee charged with
recommending a course of action for it is expected to make its final
recommendation in time for the 2010-11 referendum.

Other amounts
that residents will be asked to raise and appropriate include
$95,620.95 for Peru’s share of the Northern Oxford Regional Solid Waste
operations; $21,378 for Med-Care Ambulance Service; $85,046 for Peru’s
share of Oxford County tax; $50,000 for town officers; $131,000 for
road department operations; and $31,200 for fire department operations.

In
order to reduce the number of ballot questions, the selectmen grouped
common articles into one category. This was done for the fire
department, town office operations, miscellaneous, cemeteries, and the
road accounts.

Selectmen gave a 2 percent cost-of-living pay
increase to town employees for 2008-09 and froze wages for the 2009-10
fiscal year.

Residents go to the polls to vote on the town budget at the town office June 9.


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