Wescustogo Hall proposal could go to North Yarmouth vote next June

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Voters as early as next June could decide on a reconstructed Wescustogo Hall and renovated North Yarmouth Memorial School.

That’s the goal of Brian Sites, chairman of the Wescustogo Building and Design Committee since its launch nearly two years ago.

Fire destroyed the former Grange on Route 115 in 2013. Parking limits at that site, which neighbors the Village Green, largely led the town to explore an alternate location for the building.

The former North Yarmouth Memorial School property on Route 9, which School Administrative District 51 closed and transferred to the town in 2014, was supported by the Select Board in January to be the location of a new Wescustogo.

The Wescustogo committee met Dec. 7 with the Select Board in a workshop to ensure alignment between both panels as the project evolves.

Barrett Made, a Portland-based design and build firm, has been working with the town to design a community center composed of a partly demolished – and renovated – NYMS, and a new Wescustogo connected through a lobby.

Despite some talk of doing the project in phases, those gathered at the joint workshop determined that the whole endeavor should be done at once, Sites said Dec. 8. The design of the new Wescustogo will be tweaked to hearken back more to the look of the original structure, albeit an updated version.

Planned capacity for an emergency warming center there could decrease from 300 to 200, reducing the size of the building footprint, Sites said; potential sizes for the structure are still being determined.

“If you reduce the size, you reduce the cost,” he noted.

The Select Board is targeting a project cap of no more than $3 million, of which no more than $2 million would come through bonding, Chairman Peter Lacy said in an Oct. 3 letter to Sites. The rest could come from about $480,000 in remaining insurance proceeds from the original Wescustogo, and the balance through fundraising.

Although Sites had hoped in October that the project’s design process would have reached 75 percent by now, it is still around 25 percent, since his committee’s work with Barrett Made has been on hold, given changes in membership on the panel and a need to ensure consensus between the committee and Select Board.

Still, Sites said, “Things are happening, and what I imagine is, now that we’re on the same page with the Select Board, things will start happening really fast because then we’ll enter that construction design phase.”

Progress could ramp up at the start of next year, with the Select Board potentially having a proposal in hand by March to place on the June ballot, Sites explained.

“Our goal is to have everything wrapped up in the spring,” he noted. “Have the costs, have the design, have the construction documents ready to go.”

With a successful vote, the project could go out to bond in the fall.

Should the town reject the proposal, the Select Board must establish a Plan B for the former NYMS, Sites said. Otherwise, “what we have is a building sitting in the middle of town that’s not being maintained.”

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

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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.