The Wescustogo Hall & Community Center in North Yarmouth is nearly complete. Four people involved in the project toured it Sept. 12. From left are residents Darla Hamlin and Linc Merrill, Bruce Hourigan of the Barrett Made design and build firm, and Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Keith. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

NORTH YARMOUTH — Linc Merrill likes what he sees at Wescustogo Hall and Community Center. 

“I wanted to get the community meeting space back, in a way that was similar to the (original) Wescustogo Hall,” Merrill said, adding that he feels the new structure captures the spirit of the one it replaces. 

The old Wescustogo Hall has played a longtime role Merrill’s life. He joined the Wescustogo Grange Hall Association in 1976 at the age of 18 and was involved in that association’s transfer of the original Walnut Hill Road structure to the town in 1997. He was among a community shocked and saddened to see the venerable building destroyed by fire in 2013. 

A new, 19,500-square-foot community center – built onto a pared-down and renovated former North Yarmouth Memorial School at 120 Memorial Highway – is on track to be turned over to the town Oct. 1, according to Project Manager Bruce Hourigan. 

School Administrative District 51 closed North Yarmouth Memorial School and transferred it to the town in 2014. Merrill was among residents who opposed a 2015 town referendum calling for the school to be redeveloped as a municipal and community campus, and helped lead an alternative ballot question that pushed for Wescustogo to be rebuilt as stipulated in the 1997 agreement with the town. But he supported the school’s gym being retained, and the new Wescustogo being built next to it and connected through a lobby. 

The original school had no gym, so Wescustogo was the hub for community events, Merrill remembered. 

“This synergy is perfect,” he said of the marriage of the revamped gym and new Wescustogo. “And I think the space is beautiful. It’s open, and it’s airy, and it’s very light.” 

The new Wescustogo Hall will fit about 300 people and can be partitioned off into three sections for individual activities. 

The project remains on time and on schedule, said Hourigan, who attended the school in the 1980s. A grand opening “Celebration of Community” ceremony is set for Saturday, Nov. 2. 

Voters in June 2018 narrowly approved a $3.4 million bond for the work; the nearly $286,000 first debt service payment is in North Yarmouth’s fiscal year 2020 budget. 

The Friends of Wescustogo aims to raise $250,000 for the project, of which nearly $33,000 has been raised to date, Darla Hamlin, chairwoman of the ad hoc group, said during last week’s tour. 

More than $8,000 comes from sponsor donations and golfers signed up for the group’s upcoming benefit golf tournament at Toddy Brook Golf Course on Sept. 26. 

“They don’t have to know how to play; they have to know how to have a good time,” Hamlin said. She can be reached at 831-0160, and the Town Office at 829-3705 for more information. 

Another $14,000 of the Friends’ raised funds comes from sponsorship of barn boards, to be incorporated into Wescustogo’s lobby wall paneling. Other ways to donate are posted at northyarmouth.org/friends-wescustogo/pages/donation-options. 

mosaic art display of the original Wescustogo, composed of photos of residents and supporters of the project, is another campaign vehicle. 

Naming rights is another option. A $100,000 contribution allows someone to name the gym; it is $75,000 for the community room, $25,000 for a Wescustogo wing, and $15,000 for the kitchen. 

The town is required to borrow enough money to complete the project, and what comes through fundraising “will have a positive impact on the bottom line; any excess of bond funds after the project is complete will be put towards interest and then principal,” Town Manager Rosemary Roy said in March. 

The 43-year-old gym at the former North Yarmouth Memorial School has been renovated, with new flooring, paint and lighting. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

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