NORTH YARMOUTH — A town referendum on whether to rebuild Wescustogo Hall and renovate a former middle school complex to create a community center is three weeks away, and a public hearing last week revealed mixed opinions on the proposal.

The $3.43 million bond for the project goes to voters June 12.

In 2013, fire destroyed the Grange’s Westcustogo Hall on Route 115. Parking limitations at the site, which neighbors the Village Green, largely prompted town officials to look to the site of the former North Yarmouth Memorial School on Route 9 as a new location.

Barrett Made, a Portland-based design and build company, has worked with the Wescustogo Building and Design Committee to develop a community center proposal that would include a partly demolished and renovated school building and the existing gym, stage, kitchen and hallway areas. The new Wescustogo Hall would be connected to the former school building through a lobby and would be viewable from the corner of Memorial Highway and Parsonage Road. A 3D tour of the exterior and interior of the proposed complex is posted at

At the public hearing, Paul Napolitano of Mill Ridge Road said, “I don’t think we can afford this plan.” He noted that town residents are already facing a tax rate increase – $1.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value – if next year’s proposed School Administrative District 51 budget passes.

He expressed concern about a Wescustogo bond being added to SAD 51 borrowing to build the Greely Center for the Arts in Cumberland, and the cost of other work on district schools needed in the coming years.

Clark Whittier of Walnut Hill Road – like Napolitano, a former selectman – spoke in support of rebuilding Wescustogo, and suggested that those concerned about the impact of school taxes should vote against the school budget instead of opposing the community center. “I’m sick of us having nothing, and the school having everything,” Whittier said.

If the project fails at the polls, “you’re never going to get anybody on a committee for any future building” and the middle school will continue to deteriorate, he said.

Katie Murphy of Mountfort Road called the issue a tough one, saying she leans toward voting “no” despite her respect for the project’s building and design group.

She referred to a March 5 capital needs assessment of all North Yarmouth facilities, produced for the town by Criterium Engineers, which rates the back wing of the school – due for demolition should the referendum pass – as being largely in “good” condition.

Meanwhile, the Town Office is in dire need of renovation, reconstruction or relocation, residents have said.

“We are seriously behind in keeping all of our facilities up to date; we’re going to be having to spend a lot of money to get them in shape,” Murphy said. She used the analogy of a house being eyed for an addition before necessary repairs in the existing structure are made.

A multi-use facility, the new Wescustogo would mix athletic and community events for all ages, along with town-sponsored activities, all to take place simultaneously in multiple sections of the 17,000-square-foot building, said Wescustogo Committee Chairman Brian Sites.

The total project cost of $3.67 million would be offset by nearly $431,000 in insurance funds remaining from the original Wescustogo Hall. A 7 percent additional contingency of about $224,000 is included in the bond amount.

Alex Lear can be contacted at 781-3661, ext. 113, or at:

[email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @learics

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