Renovate, rebuild or move: North Yarmouth weighs future of Town Hall

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NORTH YARMOUTH — While it mulls future development at the former North Yarmouth Memorial School property, the town is also looking into what to do about the Town Office.

The town moved into the building, built in 1993 as a four-story home, in 2001. The 10 Village Square Road structure has several crucial needs, including compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, that must be met in order to function properly, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said in an interview Jan. 12.

“We have three levels,” along with an attic, she explained. “No elevators.”

The first level houses the town meeting room, a former basement, with cubicles off to the side for the town assessor. On the second level is Roy’s office, which used to be a garage, and is connected to a cramped vault. The third level is home to the town’s daily public operations. Up another set of stairs is the spacious attic space.

“Everything’s not on one level,” Roy said. “We really need something, that for a municipality, just like a business … is functional, where we’re all on one level.”

An indoor ramp does allow people in wheelchairs to access the main door of the offices, but the counter is too high for access at that level. The door leading down to Roy’s office, one floor below, also swings out into the path that a visitor would take from the door to the counter.

While the post-and-beam building made for a “beautiful and unique” home, “functionality doesn’t quite work” as a public town facility,” Roy said.

Due to the lack of a sufficient external insulation barrier, common with newer buildings, heating the building can be costly, and moisture can creep in, the manager explained.

“The building all over is very porous,” she said, adding that “the outside land … was not graded away from the building, it runs into the building. We have leaks.”

Mold issues have prompted the town to place air purifiers throughout the structure. While re-sealing the tiles over the cement bottom floor is necessary, the town is holding off on putting too much money into the building until officials figure out what to do with it.

The Town Office Renovation Committee has a variety of options on the table. First, true to its name, is renovate the building. Another is to rebuild it on the same site. There are also many residents who support relocating the Town Office to the former Memorial School site, where a Wescustogo Hall rebuild and renovation of the school’s gym, stage and kitchen space is being explored.

A November 2014 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 whether to repeal it, Roy said. Renovation “would call for a lot of repair work, when you really go through the building and you look at its setup,” Roy said.

“It’s really a nice building, but it’s meant to be a home,” she added.

Road Commissioner Clark Baston, who sits on the renovation committee, said Jan. 12 that the panel had decided the day before that remodelling was not practical.

“Even if it was in good shape, and not questionable with timbers and mold,” he said, “it’s a post and beam, and you can’t renovate because the posts are in the wrong place … We just felt it would be more practical, a better building, if it was not this building.”

Roy said she hopes to bring a recommendation from the renovation committee to the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 7.

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

This view of the North Yarmouth Town Office from the back shows three levels. Below the attic is, at left, the main office area; down and to the right is the town manager’s office. Around the corner to the right is the town meeting room.

The North Yarmouth town manager’s office used to be a garage when the Town Office was built as a residence in 1993. The other municipal offices are up a set of stairs.One of several sets of stairs at the North Yarmouth Town Office — the building lacks an elevator — this passageway leads from the main office area up to the attic. A beam interferes with the flow of the railing.The North Yarmouth Town Office “need” and “want” lists don’t appear to be getting any shorter.Office space, storage and a kitchen area compete for room at the North Yarmouth Town Office.

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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.