PERU — By a 3-1 margin, voters Thursday night decided to either sell or tear down the former Peru Elementary School building, which had served as the town’s community center.

Nick Waugh, president of the Friends of the Peru Elementary School, said they very much
wanted to have the community center continue. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Bruce Farrin)

The special town meeting drew 200 residents, which Selectman Carol Roach said far exceeded any annual town meeting in recent memory. The turnout was so large the meeting had to be moved from the Town Office to Dirigo Elementary School.

Before the 151-47 vote, residents debated the issue one more time. In six prior votes, townspeople supported keeping the building, including a vote in November 2018 that allotted $170,000 for a full renovation.

Thursday’s vote was to discontinue the town’s ownership of the building. Voters were set to decide whether to sell the former school or have it torn down. That vote was pending late Thursday night.

Danny Wing spoke against keeping the former school, noting that when he served on the Select Board, members did not want to put any money into the building.

Nick Waugh, president of the Friends of Peru Elementary School, which operates the facility, said they very much wanted to continue operating the community center.

Peru resident Gail Gaudin submits her vote at the special town meeting Thursday on whether to keep the old Peru school building or to get rid of it. (Rumford Falls Times photo by
Bruce Farrin)

One resident said the group should have asked for donations instead of “putting it on the town.”

Rich Childs said funding the building is “beyond the reach of our pockets.”

Finally, the motion was made to move the question. A resident followed that up by noting: “We’ve voted on this so many times. We know how we’re going to vote.”

Tenants in the community center include the Servants Heart food pantry and the Rumford Senior Citizens. The senior center also offers an opportunity for the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to meet there, as well as a number of other nonprofit and civic organizations.

Board Chairwoman Raquel Welch said a letter was sent two days earlier to the Friends of Peru Elementary School, asking the group to remove its items from the building by July 1.

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