North Yarmouth puts new Town Hall on hold

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NORTH YARMOUTH — With the town already juggling the potential reconstruction of Wescustogo Hall at North Yarmouth Memorial School, the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 8 postponed further study of a new Town Hall.

The town moved into the 10 Village Square Road building, which was built in 1993 as a four-story home, in 2001. The structure’s needs include compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said in an interview last month.

The ad hoc Town Hall Renovation Committee considered several options, including renovating the building, or rebuilding it on the same site. Many residents also support moving Town Hall to the former Memorial School site, where rebuilding Wescustogo Hall and renovating the school’s gym, stage and kitchen space as a community center are being explored.

Committee Chairman Andy Walsh, in his Feb. 1 report to the Board of Selectmen, said, “Renovating the current Town Hall would be ineffective and a waste of money.”

Those include the ADA issues, which require installing an elevator, and issues with air quality and mold due to “air and water leaks in the building envelope.”

Walsh also said 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.

Current maintenance and utility costs are also factors, Walsh said.

“We have also concluded that it would make sense to look at the Memorial School site for construction of a new town office,” he added. “We are planning to explore that avenue if the (Board of Selectmen) approves our direction.”

“I’m not surprised by any of the facts” the committee stated in its report, Board Chairwoman Jeanne Chadbourne told Walsh at last week’s meeting, according to an online video.

Selectman Anne Graham asked Walsh what committee members feel the town should do with the Town Hall building.

“We’re figuring that we’re just going to have to hobble along for now,” he responded, because “the committee came to the conclusion that it would be a mistake to try to do a new Town Hall, the community center and the Wescustogo all at the same time, because you’d be hitting the town with too big a (dollar) number.”

Town Hall could remain as is, while the Wescustogo Hall/community center project is completed over 12-18 months “at the most, I would think, because there are some reasonably serious problems with it,” Walsh added.

Chadbourne noted that part of the Wescustogo plan includes tearing down two wings at the school, and wondered if demolition should be suspended in case the town decides to move the municipal offices in to those spaces.

“In our view, no,” Walsh responded, pointing out that those wings already have issues. “Treating one lemon for another (is) not an attractive proposition.”

Selectman Alex Carr noted the importance of resolving the Wescustogo/NYMS matter before moving on to the Town Hall issue.

“I do like the report; I’m fine with it,” he said, suggesting the board “accept it, (and) table it for no action at this time.”

With the Town Hall committee due to disband automatically June 30, and its mission accomplished for now, the Board of Selectmen opted to let it dissolve. Carr suggested retaining the names and contact information of committee members, in case they need to reconvene.

A November 2015 referendum question, supported by most selectmen, pushed for redeveloping NYMS as a municipal and community campus, and selling the Town Office for housing or commercial development. A competing question, put on the ballot after a citizen petition effort, called in part for the Town Office to be maintained and renovated.

Question 2 passed 812-637, defeating Question 1, which failed 935-526.

Although the stay-put option prevailed, the town could vote on whether it should be repealed, Roy said.

She noted that renovation “would call for a lot of repair work, when you really go through the building and you look at its setup. “It’s really a nice building, but it’s meant to be a home.”

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

North Yarmouth’s Town Hall Renovation Committee has concluded that the existing structure is not worth renovation or rebuilding, and that the former North Yarmouth Memorial School site should be considered for reconstruction of Town Hall.

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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.