Reasons to save old Peru school
To The Editor:
These are tough times, which made it especially baffling when voters at a recent Peru town meeting refused a no-strings attached $10,000 grant to help fund a Peru Community Center in the old Peru Elementary School.
After the vote, as the winners clapped and cheered, I wondered to myself, “What are they cheering?”
Was it that now they were safe from the danger of someone creating a Community Center in Peru? Were they relieved that they now might be rid of that “white elephant” in the center of town? Do they know what it would cost to build a new building that matches what that white elephant has to offer?
* Approximately 16,000 square feet of floor space;
* Well and septic for 300 occupants;
* New furnace;
* ADA compliance;
* Intercom system;
* Fire and security alarm system;
* Fiber optic network backbone with at least four ethernet drops in every room;
* Wireless network still in place;
* Network switch gear still in place;
* Full kitchen;
* Cafeteria with fold-out tables and benches;
Can the people who want to destroy all this really not see a future in which such a facility would beuseful for the town of Peru? How about town meetings? Peru can use Dirigo Elementary School for meetings — after filing a Building Request Form with RSU 10. But attendees at the two recent meetings complained about the parking and the uncomfortable bleacher seats.
How about community suppers? Where would they happen if the building is razed? How about emergency shelter in case of a disaster? The building is not a crumbling liability, it’s a huge asset.
Prior to last June’s vote to defund the building, we on the building committee had been operating under the assumptions of the previous vote -- a November referendum that returned huge numbers in favor of raising $15,000 per year for the building.
We were completely surprised by the June vote and it’s implications.
While we committee veterans have donated hundreds of hours to the building, we had never focussed our energies on creating a grassroots fundraising organization to cover the costs of the building. After that vote, we formed Friends of Peru Elementary School — an organization dedicated to doing just that.
We recruited a number of new volunteers, built a website (www.friendsofpes.org), a Facebook page, and just two weeks ago held our first fundraising event — a very well received Turkey Shoot. We plan to form a nonprofit 501 c3 and will seek grants to help sustain the building and the activities within it.
We will continue to seek, or create, a suitable, educationally oriented tenant. Zumba classes will return. The Peru Rec Committee, the Civil Air Patrol, the Girl Scouts, and all the other clubs will return. The town will again be able to hold large meetings in a building it owns.
But these are are all practical points. As important to FPES is something less tangible: If PES is gone, where exactly will the civic pride of Peru reside? In the squat brick building that houses our town office? In the “green space” building opponents envision for the spot where PES has stood since 1937?
Peruvians, please vote on November 8. Here are your choices: Tear down the building at a cost of at least $40,000; or, without any financial risk to the town, give a band of dedicated, and yes, idealistic, fellow citizens a chance to save PES and rejuvenate Peru’s waning civic spirit.
President, Friends of Peru Elementary