North Yarmouth group to hold Mud Ball fundraiser for Wescustogo project

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NORTH YARMOUTH — The Friends of Wescustogo have a long way to go to reach their $250,000 fundraising goal for the Wescustogo Hall and Community Center that is now under construction.

But the group hopes next week’s Mud Ball will provide a push.

The event will be held at The Barn on Walnut Hill, 655 Walnut Hill Road, from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6.

The new Wescustogo, which replaces the former Grange that burned down on Route 115 in 2013, is being built at 120 Memorial Highway (Route 9), and attached via a lobby to a renovated and partially demolished former North Yarmouth Memorial School.

Barrett Made, a Portland-based design and build firm, has been building the 17,000-square-foot community center. Voters in June 2018 narrowly approved a $3.4 million bond for the work.

The Mud Ball is “our first real community fundraiser, where we’re trying to bring the community together,” Friends of Wescustogo Chairwoman Darla Hamlin said at the site March 27.

Admission to the event, which is a nod to mud season, is $10. Music is being provided by Captain Bangaroo.

“I look at it as more of a networking social event; neighbors getting together with neighbors, (and) hopefully talk about the project,” Hamlin said. “It’s not like it was in the ’50s, where the community came together and they were able to pound a nail in. … We have to be creative in how we get the community involved, and this is one way.”

The Friends have several ideas in mind, such as naming rights. A $100,000 contribution will allow someone to name the gym; it’s $75,000 for the community room, $25,000 for a Wescustogo wing, of which two out of three are available, and $15,000 for the kitchen.

A mosaic art display of the original Wescustogo, composed of photos of residents and supporters of the project, is another part of the campaign. People can contribute one picture for $50, two for $100, and a third for free through July 15. The final result will be revealed at the center’s grand opening.

The print will be 48 square feet, made up of photos that are 1 1/2-inch square. The mosaic can comprise about 3,000 photos, and the Friends look to raise $102,400 if all spaces are sold.

Photos can be emailed to fow@northyarmouth.org or mailed to Friends of Wescustogo, c/o Town of North Yarmouth, 10 Village Square, North Yarmouth, ME 04097. Original pictures will be returned.

Barn boards, engraved with someone’s name and placed on the lobby walls, can be sponsored for $250 each. Donors can submit their own, or the group can provide them.

The Friends have raised $7,000 in cash, with another $25,000 as “a strong maybe,” Hamlin said. But with the organizational process behind the campaign complete, “I expect you’ll see the momentum grow.”

The ad-hoc Friends committee has a two-year term that expires June 30, 2020. The town is required to bond enough money to complete the project, and what comes through fundraising “will have a positive impact on the bottom line; any excess of bond funds after the project is complete will be put towards interest and then principal,” Town Manager Rosemary Roy said March 27.

Funds involving naming rights, or large donations, must be completed by completion of construction, she added. Other forms of fundraising, such as the barn boards, could continue for several years.

Meanwhile, the structure is “pretty well closed in,” Matt Ahlberg of Barrett Made said March 27. Siding was being put on, all the windows had been installed, and most interior wall framing was complete.

Insulation is to begin in the coming weeks, and electrical, plumbing and site work are on the horizon, Project Manager Bruce Hourigan said.

It’s a full-circle experience for Hourigan, who attended third through sixth grades at NYMS in the late 1980s.

Watching the transition from school to community center has been “pretty awesome,” he said. “It’s really coming together now, just seeing the shape of the new structure. … It’s almost  hard to imagine these (classroom) wings that used to be here.”

Construction is due to conclude by early October.

Although unforeseen conditions earlier on added some expenses, “we are tracking on budget,” Hourigan added. “That’s what the contingencies are for.”

A 7 percent additional contingency of about $224,000 was included in the bond amount. With $1.3 million in interest added over the 20-year life of the bond, the total amount to be borrowed is $4.8 million.

The first debt service payment, in North Yarmouth’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, is nearly $286,000.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Among the people involved in either the design, construction, or fundraising for North Yarmouth’s new Wescustogo Hall and Community Center are Rob Barrett, left, and Matt Ahlberg of the Barrett Made design and build firm, Darla Hamlin of the Friends of Wescustogo, and Bruce Hourigan of Barrett Made.

The North Yarmouth Memorial School portion of the community center has been partly demolished, with the gym and other sections undergoing renovations.The building’s North Yarmouth Memorial School portion, at left, and the new Wescustogo Hall, at right, are linked through a lobby. The project is due to be completed this fall.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.