PERU — The road commissioner has launched a legal challenge against the Board of Selectmen over its decision to overrule him on closing the town sand supply to citizens.

Selectmen on Monday called a special meeting for tonight at 5 p.m. at the Peru Town Hall to discuss their next move.

Road Commissioner Lee Merrill told selectmen Jan. 16 that he would shut down the community sandbox at 85 Peru Center Road as of Feb. 1. Merrill was concerned the town would run out of sand before the winter was over, mostly because of overuse and abuse of the sandbox by residents and people from out of town.

A week later, selectmen decided the road commissioner does not have the authority to close the sandbox to the public. The board on Jan. 23 voted to instead buy more sand and to install video cameras using money from the Road Operations budget to monitor traffic at the sandbox. 

This week, Chairwoman Carol Roach shared a letter she received from Merrill’s attorney.

“I caution you that the infringement of (Merrill’s) authority would be legally actionable if you intend to proceed with the purchase (of the security cameras),” the lawyer wrote.

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“Basically, the letter states that if we use money from the designated road fund to purchase the cameras, he’s going to take legal action,” Roach said. “(Merrill) doesn’t feel the board has the authority to take money out of the road budget.”

Selectmen will decide tonight whether they will go forward with using money from the road budget to buy video cameras. Either way, Roach said, the board intends to purchase the cameras.

In other business, the Friends of Peru Elementary School’s contract with the town ended Jan. 31, and the two parties have yet to negotiate a new one.

“The town is pretty split on whether or not the community center should continue to be operated by (the Friends),” Roach said Monday night. She said the organization has taken steps to meet the terms of contract renewal previously set by selectmen, which included buying liability insurance, repairing the elevator in the community center and obtaining nonprofit status to become financially independent of the town.

The group so far has obtained liability insurance and hired an attorney to help it apply for nonprofit status.

“My concern is that the issue (of obtaining nonprofit status) has been in the last five contracts and they have yet to obtain it,” Roach said. “(But) this time it looks like they are making a sincere effort and I want to recognize that.” 

As for the elevator repairs, Roach said that may no longer be an issue. A recent look at the Americans with Disabilities Act showed that the community center may not fall under a building category in which an elevator is required.

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