Don Roach, left, moderates Thursday’s informational meeting of the proposed 2024-25 Peru budget at Dirigo Elementary School. Select Board members Katie Lawrence, center, and Arthur Clifford sit next to the podium. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

PERU — The Road Department dominated conversation Thursday during the informational meeting to discuss the proposed 2024-25 municipal budget held at Dirigo Elementary School.

Only 10 people attended the hour-long session to discuss the 41-article warrant and the proposed $1.51 million budget.

It’s been a tough year for the Road Department, as the town garage burned to the ground Jan. 27, 2023, with all contents destroyed — including all four snow plows and tools.

While the new department garage is being built at the same Center Road site, the temporary garage for the town road crew and trucks is on the property of the Dixfield Discount Fuel facility on Route 108.

Resident Carol Roach asked if the insurance money received is enough to cover the town’s cost in bringing back their highway department. “Does this warrant before us address the issues of sufficient funding to bring our (road) department up to where it needs to be to protect us as a town?”

Select Board member Katie Lawrence responded, “At this time, with insurance funds, we’re looking at around $260,000 for the buildings, $60,000 for tools.”


Lawrence added there’s still insurance monies to be received in these areas, maybe another $100,000.

“And with a loan that was approved for us to use, we should be able to get everything completed,” she said. “After reviewing the rest of the estimates, I’m confident in the fact that we should not have to take out the full $400,000 of the loan to get the road department back to where it was, and hopefully in a better situation going forward.”

Lawrence said there should not be a need for a special town meeting to raise additional money for the Road Department.

A lot of the discussion Thursday involved an article asking if the town will authorize the Select Board to appoint the town’s road commissioner, with this change taking effect July 1, 2026 and remaining in place until amended or repealed at a future town meeting.

Board Chair Gail Belyea said she raised the proposal, supported by the majority of the board, adding that it has failed at least twice previously. Asked if the appointment would be made annually if the article passes, she said that had not been discussed.

Don Roach, moderator for the meeting and a Finance Committee member, said their committee voted again the proposal. “I don’t think it’s a good idea at this time,” he said.


Current Road Commissioner Brad Hutchings, elected to a three-year term in June 2023, has resigned, effective June 30.

Hutchings voiced opposition to the appointed versus elected road commissioner. “If you had a town manager, it would be a different ball game. But a board of five that’s sporadic on attendance, that doesn’t help,” he said.

Belyea responded, “I disagree, but you’re entitled to your opinion. I put it on the warrant to see if people agreed.”

The board was also asked why it changed the Road Department summer operations budget.

Hutchings presented two figures — one was $377,000 and the other was $379,000. The board amended article 11 to read $368,563.

“With the new road commissioner coming in, we had discussed how that was going to play out,” Lawrence said. “We were totally against pay raises. We wanted to see how this election played out, where we ended up with employees and then come together. Then if there wasn’t enough funds in there for the new commissioner to get the wages where they liked them to be, then there’s always the option for a special meeting.”


She said Hutchings’ figures included raises.

The board also changed the $275,000 presented by Hutchings for the Road Department winter operations to $261,875.

Town Clerk Debra Coudrain said the proposed 2024-25 municipal budget is $1.51 million, down from the current budget of $1.62 million.

Asked what accounts for the difference, Belyea said the proposed budget has no raises and does not include $100,000 raised in the last budget for the town’s revaluation, which is underway and due to be completed July 1, 2026.

There are two, three-year positions to be filled for the Select Board. Board Chair Gail Belyea is running unopposed for her post, while no one submitted nomination papers for the second seat, for which Patrick Houghton decided not to seek another term. Coudrain said they will choose from write-in votes to fill Houghton’s position.

For Road Commissioner, Tyler McDonald took out papers for the three-year position, with former Road Commissioner Lee Merrill running as a write-in.

Voting on the referendum ballot will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 11 at the town office.

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