Community Preservation Committee thinks foundation can’t finish Simes House job

The Community Preservation Committee wants the Simes House back.

In a letter to the Simes House Foundation Board of Directors, the CPC asks them to return the property to the town, stating the board has failed to meet the condition of the town meeting article that approved the project.

Town meeting approved spending $1.5 million to purchase and restore the building, with the understanding that a foundation would raise the money to complete the project. However, having completed the restoration of the building’s exterior in the spring of 2013, the foundation does not have enough money to finish the exterior, according to CPC chairman Bill Keohan.

The Simes House Foundation has about $560,000 in the bank, Keohan said. Their plan was to finish the first floor, which was to be used as a function area. The bids that came in were more than the foundation has, he said.

A dispute over a planned kitchen held the project up for about a year. Members of the board differed over whether to install a caterer’s kitchen or a commercial kitchen, Keohan said. A commercial kitchen, he said, would include an extra sink, a mop closet and a fire suppression system for the stove. The foundation decided on a commercial kitchen.

Finishing the first floor would allow the Simes House to start generating revenue that could be used to maintain the building. At the moment, there is no money for repairs and a fire suppression system has not been installed, Keohan said.

According to Keohan, the Simes House Foundation Board knows they don’t have the money to complete the restoration. The CPC, he said, has lost confidence in the foundation’s ability to raise the money it needs. Keohan said the controversial ouster of Randy Parker as president of the foundation in September contributed to the problem.

The CPC has asked the Simes House Foundation to retake the vote removing Parker, since, Keohan said, there was some controversy over the use of proxy votes by the board’s officers. The foundation has not had a general membership meeting since September.

In a letter to Simes House Foundation members, Board President Jim Peirson said the restoration is not and hold and the board hopes to resolve the issues with the CPC. The foundation’s board, he wrote, does “not believe there has been any failure to meet the conditions of the Town Meeting Article 16A”

Keohan praised the Simes House Foundation for the work it has been able to do.

The town Keohan said, could use its right to approve, or not, any grants the foundation might seek as leverage over it. The CPC, he said, has to sign off on any money the foundation gets.

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