NORTH YARMOUTH — An alternative design proposed for the former North Yarmouth Memorial School property, which could be ready by December, will incorporate a new Town Hall.
The town is already considering building a new Wescustogo Hall, to replace the structure destroyed by fire in 2013, at the Route 9 site of NYMS. School Administrative District 51 closed and transferred the school to the town in 2014.
Also part of the proposed plan is the demolition of much of the 41-year-old school building, while the stage, gym and kitchen area would be preserved and renovated. The new Wescustogo would be erected just south of the building, named the North Yarmouth Community Center, and connected through a lobby.
Meanwhile, issues at the Town Hall at 10 Village Square Road – which was built in 1993 as a four-story home – has a variety of issues. They include a lack of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, which requires the installation of an elevator; air-quality and mold concerns due to air and water leaks in the building, and flooding in the basement, where public meetings are held.
Andy Walsh, chairman of the ad hoc Town Hall Renovation Committee, told the Select Board in February that the building’s “poor layout” has created problems such as a lack of space, a need for a larger vault, and insufficient office, conference room, break room/kitchen and bathroom spaces. He also said maintenance and utility costs are issues in the building that has housed town offices since 2001.
Walsh’s group determined that renovating the building “would be ineffective and a waste of money,” and instead recommended looking to the NYMS site for construction of a new Town Hall.
With the town already juggling the potential reconstruction of Wescustogo Hall at NYMS, the Select Board postponed further study of a new Town Hall.
But ongoing issues in the post-and-beam building prompted the renewed discussion.
At the Select Board’s July 5 meeting, viewable at vimeo.com/224407109, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said town employees have become sick because of the air quality, and mold prompted her to place air purifiers throughout the building.
Although re-sealing the tiles on the bottom floor is necessary, the town has held back from putting too much money into the building until officials figure out what to do with it.
Roy last July hired Environmental Safety and Hygiene Associates to conduct an air quality test. They suggested steam cleaning or replacing the carpets.
Roy later called in SafetyWorks!, a service through the Maine Department of Labor, for another opinion; one of the consultants reportedly became sick immediately after entering the building.
“There’s nothing they can do to force us to do anything about (the situation),” Roy said. “But she (the SafetyWorks! consultant) has a genuine concern for the employees, the staff here.”
The manager said she is “at a standstill with this. I’m asking for a little guidance.”
The Select Board by consensus asked Roy to seek pricing on short-term solutions, such as buying dehumidifiers.
The panel on July 5 also authorized Barrett Made – a Portland construction company that is nearing completion of a design for Wescustogo Hall and the Community Center – to stay on and create an alternate proposal that would include a new Town Hall on the property. Conducting the projects together could create savings in labor, construction and financing, Roy noted July 6.
That proposal could be ready by December, and if it receives the Select Board’s blessing, the matter could go to a special Town Meeting the following month, Roy said.
The Select Board unanimously supported the current Wescustogo/Community Center design, albeit asking that the size be scaled back a bit. The old Wescustogo Hall was 6,000 square feet, not including the basement, and facilitated 220 occupants. As currently designed, the replacement would allow for 300 people, and be nearly 8,800 square feet, according to Roy.
The board also voted 4-1, with Selectman Steve Morrison opposed, to set a special Town Meeting for Tuesday, Aug. 8. Voters that night will decide whether to spend $65,000 from unassigned funds in order to pay Barrett Made through December, allowing the firm time to create plans for a new Town Hall at the level which the Wescustogo/Community Center concept is currently at.
A public hearing for the Aug. 8 meeting is to be held in the Town Hall meeting room at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 18.
Voters Aug. 8 will also weigh in on whether to rescind part of the town’s November 2015 referendum decision, which called for renovating and building onto the existing Town Hall.
In voting against setting the meeting, Morrison worried that attendance would be low, given the summer timing, when many residents may be on vacation. He preferred a vote be held after Labor Day.
Peter Lacy, elected board chairman at July 5’s meeting, noted that residents would still have to vote on a final plan. “All we’re really doing (next month) is authorizing Barrett Made to go forward with a plan.”
“And you’re not increasing the taxes by it either,” Roy added.
“My concern is that this is a straw vote,” Morrison said.”This is an indication of what they’re going to vote for (later). It’s too quick for me.”
Recalling that the town has put the matter off repeatedly, Board member Anne Graham said, “It’s time to move,” adding if August vote is turned down, “that does give us a clear message. And if it’s approved, it also gives us a clear message.”
The former North Yarmouth Memorial School site could be the future home of Town Hall. The existing building’s issues include a lack of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and air quality and mold concerns.