CANTON — The Canton Historical Society has been advised to prepare a petition for the June town meeting for voters to determine whether $60,000 given to the group in 2017 was a gift or a loan from the town.

The issue was debated at the selectmen meeting Thursday night when society member Phyllis Ouellette said the organization did not get a grant, as expected, to demolish its building and move the Masonic Hall next door onto the site. CN Brown offered the Masonic hall to the town to provide more space for a Big Apple store on Route 108.

Ouellette said she examined the 2017 warrant article and minutes of the town meeting and there was nothing about the money being a loan.

“In neither the warrant nor the minutes does it discuss a loan or repayment options or anything to that effect, and so when you look at those two official town documents I don’t see why we consider it a loan,” Ouellette said.

Selectman Don Hutchins agreed with Ouellette, while Selectmen Brian Keene and Carole Robbins said it was considered a loan to be paid back.

“It was said numerous times by (Ouellette) that it was a loan and you were going to pay it back,” Robbins said.

“From the public hearings I was under the impression that it was a loan and it would be paid back,” Keene added. “When would it be paid back, that wasn’t specified. It could be $5 a month, it could be $100 a month, but it would be paid back.”

After discussion by selectmen and several residents, Chairman Russell Adams decided the society should draft a petition with signatures from townspeople to have an article on the June annual town meeting warrant. The purpose is to have voters decide whether the money will be a gift or a loan.

In other business:

• Canton Food Pantry organizers Steve and Lisa Wills and volunteers gave out 46 hams over the Christmas holiday and 52,000 pounds of food in 2018. “It’s making a difference in the town; people need it,” Steve Wills said;

• Brian Jordan, Donna Hebert and Faith Hutchins were appointed to the Budget Committee for one-year terms; and

• The Canton Bicentennial Committee will hold a Be My Valentine party Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Historical Society building. Catered food, dancing and a cash bar will all be available. Tickets are $20 and on sale at the Town Office. All proceeds to go toward the 2021 bicentennial celebration.

[email protected]

Canton residents attend the selectmen meeting Thursday evening at the Town Office to discuss whether a $60,000 appropriation to the Canton Historical Society was a gift or a loan from the town. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Marianne Hutchinson)