Peru annual town election voters to decide two Select Board races
PERU >> Residents on Saturday will choose among four candidates — including one incumbent — for two seats on the Select Board.
The first race pits incumbent Select Board Chairman Verne Leach against resident Bonny DiTomasso, who proposes "a different type of leadership."
Leach, a town native and machinist by trade, said he has learned much over his three-year stint on the board, making him a better candidate than he was when he successfully ran in 2013. He prides himself on accessibility.
"Everyone in town knows my door is always open, whether at Town Hall or home," Leach said. "I want to hear from residents; I work for them."
DiTomasso, a 10-year Peru resident and career banker, property manager and current employee of Elder Services of Berkshire County, took a contrary view.
The current town leadership, DiTomasso said, is not welcoming to public input, and said her candidacy represents "a real opportunity for collaboration between the Select Board and the community."
DiTomasso said grants are not being pursued, delinquent taxes are not being collected and Peru still lacks crucial internet infrastructure, she said. Annual Town Meeting in 2015 voted to support pursuing a broadband agreement through WiredWest.
"I feel that more active leadership from the Select Board would provide community with all kinds of resources we're not getting right now, to address very real concerns," she said.
DiTomasso hit Leach on "failing to come out and publicly support the vote of the people" on WiredWest.
"If I was elected I would very much support the will of the people and pursue the fiber-optic network for our community," she said.
Leach said he does want better internet in town, but he is holding out for a cheaper option, rather than commit to WiredWest — which will cost Peru $1.1 million.
"Wireless technology has greatly improved and can provide FCC broadband connections now, whereas before it could not," he said. "One of benefits of is residents could have broadband by the end of this year, instead of waiting a long time for the installation of fiber optics years down the road and [state grants] could cover most of the cost, if not all of it."
In the other race, Kimberly Wetherell and Edward Munch will vie for a two-year seat on the board.
Wetherell is a 10-year Peru resident originally from New York who owns and operates and landscaping and gardening business. She currently serves on the Conservation Commission.
The town cannot borrow because it has not been audited and lacks a credit rating, according to Wetherell.
"This town has been governed like a treehouse club," Wetherell said. "I want to go into Town Hall and say, 'You have to be on the up-and-up if you want to work here.'"
She added, "I have the ambition, I'm concerned about the town and I think I can make needed changes."
Wetherell said the town lacks long-term planning for budgetary expenses and other matters, in part due to a relatively inactive Finance Committee, missed out on more than $300,000 in delinquent taxes last year and badly needs an audit. If elected, Wetherell vowed to address these and other concerns.
Munch, a former Select Board member and member of the Planning Board and Conservation Commission, stressed his opposition to divisive politics.
"I just want the town to run smoothly," Munch said. "We're a small town; we should all get together and find a way to agree upon what's the best path to pursue for everyone, not just a few."
He added, "We have one clique locked in on one side and another clique locked in on the other, and someone has to get in the middle and mediate between these groups of people. I've worn just about every hat for this town at one point or another and I think I can do it."
The town lacks many options for new tax revenue to control the tax rate, but Munch said he hopes to examine ways to increase revenue on state-owned lands in the town, of which there exists more than 6,000 acres.
A Lenox native, Munch has lived in Peru for 40 years.
Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.
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