North Yarmouth panel: Give voters 2 options for Wescustogo Hall

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NORTH YARMOUTH — A town committee Tuesday recommended sending voters two options for replacing Wescustogo Hall.

One is to rebuild the former Grange at its original U.S. Route 115 location; the other is to do so on the site of the former North Yarmouth Memorial School.

The Wescustogo Hall Building and Design Committee was “pretty much evenly divided” when taking a recent vote on which site it prefers, Chairman Brian Sites told the Board of Selectmen in a packed Town Hall meeting.

“Our recommendation is that we put both of these options in front of the town in some substantive way, whether that’s a special Town Meeting, a referendum vote of some sort, or some community-based mechanism that helps us get to a decision point,” Sites said.

That process should be supported with community forums and other forms of public outreach, he added.

The project is still in the early conceptual stages, about 15 percent complete, with cost estimates likely to change, Sites said.

Rob Wood, a former selectman, cautioned residents to “take a breath” and take their time with the process.

“The recommendation that it go out to referendum with both options, I think personally, is a mistake,” he said, urging selectmen to vet the choices and put one to voters.

“In a public election, where facts might get skewed, emotions might run high, I think the decision of a referendum would be much less valid than if the Selectboard made that decision, whatever that decision might be,” Wood said.

Barrett Made, a Portland construction company, has been working on two plans for Wescustogo Hall, a centerpiece of the community destroyed by fire in August 2013. One would place the structure at its original U.S. Route 115 Village Green site, and the other at the former North Yarmouth Memorial School property on U.S. Route 9.

In the latter option, much of the 40-year-old school building – which School Administrative District 51 closed and turned over to the town in 2014 – would be demolished, with the stage, gym and kitchen area preserved and renovated. The new Wescustogo would be erected just south of the building, and connected to it through a lobby. The new building would face U.S. Route 9.

Barrett Made presented rough, preliminary cost ranges for both options.

The NYMS option, which includes funds for the renovation, has a potential construction cost of $4.4 million, along with $264,000 for design and engineering and $150,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment. With $545,000 in insurance proceeds from the original structure subtracted, the total cost could be $4.3 million for the 18,500-square foot project, or $231 per square foot.

The remaining NYMS structure could total 9,800 square feet, and 8,700 square feet would make up the new Wescustogo Hall, plus the lobby and a patio.

The cost of gym renovations as a part of Wescustogo at NYMS could run between $800,000 and $1 million, while the improvements as a standalone project in the future could be $2 million to $2.4 million, according to the company’s report. Shared site work, parking, systems, and construction mobilization contribute to the difference.

If Wescustogo is rebuilt on its original site, construction could cost $2.25 million, along with $157,000 in engineering and $360,000 for a bridge (and related site work) that would span about 70 feet over Toddy Brook ravine between the old Wescustogo site and Town Hall. Voters approved funding for the bridge shortly before Wescustogo’s destruction.

With the $150,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment added, and the insurance monies subtracted, the bill for the Wescustogo site option could be $2.3 million for a 6,600 square-foot building, or $352 per square foot.

As part of that option, the neighboring Village Green would be consumed to provide expanded parking, and the Green’s gazebo would have to be moved.

The Board of Selectmen may decide Jan. 3 whether to send one or both options to voters, and whether to schedule a public hearing and special Town Meeting.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A rendition by the Barrett Made construction company shows how a new Wescustogo Hall could appear at its original U.S. Route 115 site in North Yarmouth.

One of two plans rendered by Barrett Made depicts a new Wescustogo Hall at the former North Yarmouth Memorial School property.

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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.
  • David Holman

    Option 3: Don’t rebuild Wescustago. Simply renovate the NYMS gym and kitchen with the insurance money. This is cheapest and provides a great community space.