Rene Ouellette reads a letter at the Canton selectmen meeting Thursday night. He said the $60,000 voters approved for the Canton Historical Society in 2017 was a no-strings-attached gift. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Marianne Hutchinson)

 

CANTON — Selectmen voted 3-1 Thursday night not to pursue repayment of the $60,000 voters gave the Canton Historical Society to move and renovate the former Masonic Hall in 2017.

Selectmen Don Hutchins, Carole Robbins and Rob Walker voted in favor of the motion, and Brian Keene voted against it.

The money was approved by voters in July 2017 at the request of the society, which applied for a grant but did not get it.

Some voters considered the $60,000 a loan, not a gift, and wanted it repaid.

Rene Ouellette, the husband of Historical Society member Phyllis Ouellette, read a letter he wrote at Thursday’s meeting. He said townspeople were told that “a gift of up to $60,000 was to be given … with no strings attached, to save one of Canton’s last historical buildings.”

“(Don) Hutchins made it very clear … that this would be a gift with no strings attached, if the grant did not come through,” Ouellette said.

Linda Gammon said she disputed that.

“I disagree — it was a loan,” she said.

Hutchins said he was irritated by residents who were complaining about the issue. The “bitching and complaining, this is (BS),” he said.

Keene said selectmen agreed at their most recent meeting “that it would stand as a loan unless somebody brought a petition forward to town meeting to change it one way or another.”

He said the issue was raised because auditors questioned the article on the special town meeting warrant in July 2017.

In other business, Paul Moisan, deputy fire chief and Med-Care Ambulance representative, told selectmen the town will receive an extra bill of $3,784 next week because of the higher minimum wage and no increase in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for years.

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