PERU — The Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 Monday evening to continue to study the town’s contract with the Friends of Peru Elementary School and to re-evaluate it when it expires next year.

The vote came after selectmen and the Friends of Peru Elementary School Committee met to discuss who should pay for insurance on the former schoolhouse on Main Street.

During a special town meeting Nov. 4, 2014, residents voted to have the town in charge of the building again and to spend $10,000 to help maintain it. It meant the Friends group was no longer a tenant, but would retain management of the community center.

The group pays for building maintenance through fundraisers, grants, fees from events held there and rent from various groups. There is a library, consignment shop and spaces for plays, craft activities and meetings of community groups.

Nick Waugh, chairman of the Friends committee, said when the group retained management, a contract was drafted between the town and the committee. It has been “slightly amended” over the past couple of years, he said.

The contract, which expires Jan. 31, 2017, states that “the town of Peru will carry property, casualty, and liability insurance on the property within the town’s blanket policy, which includes all town buildings,” and that “the cost of insurance, in its entirety, will be paid for by the funds appropriated by the town annually.”

It also states that “any insurances beyond the town policy needed for use of facility will have the town named as additional insurer.”

Much of the debate Monday evening centered around who is responsible for insurance coverage.

Selectmen John Witherell and Wendy Henderson said they believed when the contract states the cost of insurance will be paid for by the “funds appropriated by the town annually,” it’s referring to the $10,000 that residents approved for the schoolhouse in June 2015.

However, Chairman Larry Snowman said he believed the paragraph refers to the insurance money the town raises for coverage of all of their town buildings, including the schoolhouse.

“It’s a matter of interpretation,” Selectman Jim Pulsifer said. “(It’s) one of the problems you get into when you change the language to require somebody to take money from a certain place for a certain thing … you usually get into trouble. That’s exactly what happened here.”

He said that in past contracts, the intent was for the Friends group to be responsible for all costs for the building, including the insurance.

“If you read the contract, it implies that the money to pay for the insurance is going to come out of the $10,000 approved in June, but that’s not what it actually says in the contract,” Pulsifer said.

After a brief discussion, Witherell made a motion for the town to send invoices to the Friends group, asking them to pay for the past two years of insurance coverage.

The motion failed on a 2-2 vote, with Witherell and Henderson voting in favor, and Snowman and Pulsifer voting against it.

Witherell said he wished to see the current contract revoked and rewritten to clarify insurance coverage.

Resident Yvonne Allen said she didn’t “see how you can revoke the contract just because you interpret it differently today than when you signed it.”

Pulsifer said, “There’s no question that the town screwed up. You guys should’ve been invoiced for the insurance.”

He said he was willing to accept as much blame as anyone.

Norm DeRoche of the Friends committee said he wanted to move on from the issue, because “we’re all just beating a dead dog at this point. We’ve done nothing but move backward.”

Resident Kevin Taylor suggested the town needs to move on.

“From what I’ve heard, it seems to be a financial issue, where the town made the mistake,” Taylor said. “I think the town should pick up the cost for the past two years, and eat it, so the Friends of Peru Elementary School is not invoiced. When it’s time to iron out the contract next year and rewrite it, you can look at this situation as something to remember and iron it out then.”

He also suggested that the board have “somebody oversee the actual drafting of the contract to make sure there are no loose ends.”

Pulsifer quickly made a motion to continue studying the contract. Snowman, Pulsifer, and Henderson voted in favor, while Witherell voted against it.

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