GORHAM — University of Southern Maine officials plan to talk to the contractor working on the renovation of its art gallery to get a better understanding of how far along the project is — and how much time and money is left to better meet historic preservation standards.

Dick Campbell, USM’s chief financial officer, told local preservation groups at a meeting Wednesday that he would update them with that information by the end of Thursday. The aim is to start coming up with a joint plan that would preserve the historic integrity of the building, fit within the university’s budget restraints and ensure the structure is “buttoned up” before any more damage is done.

USM halted renovations on the nearly 200-year-old building last week after preservationists took issue with the project and criticized the college for destroying the historic integrity of the Greek Revival building by replacing the original old-growth pine siding and windows with vinyl siding and modern windows.

The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1821 and used as a meeting house and town hall before it was purchased in 1961 by the college, which used it as a chapel before it became an art gallery.

The project, which began last winter, was needed to keep the building structurally sound after a roof truss and two support columns in the front of the building failed, revealing other problems. The exterior work was intended to make the building more energy efficient.

Judie O’Malley, a spokeswoman for USM, has said the college’s budget woes limited the project’s spending to $320,000, which precluded it from restoring or replacing the original materials. But, she said, the renovation plans aimed to replicate the look of the original structure by using custom-milled trim to hide evidence of the vinyl siding and relying on old photographs to craft the shutters.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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