North Yarmouth selectmen back former school site for new Wescustogo Hall

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NORTH YARMOUTH — The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 Tuesday to focus the effort to rebuild Wescustogo Hall on the site of the former North Yarmouth Memorial School.

The panel then unanimously authorized the Wescustogo Hall Building and Design Committee to continue its work, with an eye toward reducing costs for the proposed structure, and returning to the Board of Selectmen in March with a progress report.

The committee last month recommended sending voters two options for replacing Wescustogo Hall: either rebuild the former Grange at its original Route 115 location, or build at the Route 9 site of NYMS, which School Administrative District closed and transferred to the town in 2014.

The committee was “pretty much evenly divided” when taking a recent vote on which site it prefers, Chairman Brian Sites told selectmen, which led to the group’s recommendation to put both options in front of the town.

But selectmen, first at a workshop Tuesday and then at the regular meeting that followed, were reluctant to send voters competing options – as they did with dueling Village Center development questions in November 2015.

“Whatever we do, we have to be very clear, very transparent in every step of the way,” Selectwoman Anne Graham said. “I think that when we put forward two designs, it just gets far too confusing.”

Selectman Alex Carr and Chairwoman Jeanne Chadbourne echoed Graham.

But Selectman Paul Napolitano, although he agreed putting one design to a vote would be the most straightforward option, said he received “tons of phone calls in the last 72 hours, and emails, and people are all over the place. They want two options, some want three options.”

Napolitano, who voted against the NYMS placement option, said the town should have a solid idea of how much it would receive in insurance proceeds from the original Wescustogo Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 2013, before moving forward.

Sites countered that the discussion is not about designs, but about concepts, emphasizing that the project is still in the early conceptual stages – about 15 percent complete – with estimates likely to change.

“At this point, the designs aren’t at a place where you can sit down with an insurance company, and say, ‘what can we get for this,'” he said. “In order for us to get there, we need to have one location that we worked on, that we can put a design together.”

Barrett Made, a Portland construction company, has working on two plans for the new Wescustogo Hall.

In the NYMS option, much of the 1976 school building would be demolished, but the stage, gym and kitchen area would be preserved and renovated. The new hall would be erected just south of the building, and connected through a lobby. The new building would face Route 9.

The NYMS option, which includes funds for the renovation, has a rough construction cost of $4.4 million, along with $264,000 for design and engineering and $150,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment. With a potential $545,000 in insurance proceeds from the loss of the original structure taken into consideration, the total 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 Barrett Made’s report. Shared site work, parking, systems, and construction mobilization contribute to the difference.

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

The North Yarmouth Board of Selectmen on Tuesday supported the former North Yarmouth Memorial School site as the location for a new Wescustogo 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.