Members of the Simes House Foundation voted to return the historic home to the town following a debate at the John Alden Club, Thursday night.
If the Board of Selectmen accept the property, the next step will be to ask Fall Town Meeting for the money to finish the project, Community Preservation Committee Chairman Bill Keohan said. He is also a member of the Simes House Foundation Board of Directors.
Keohan said it to take another $1 million in CPC funds to finish the interior of the house. That’s in addition to the $550,000 the foundation already has. That money will be used to install wiring, plumbing and a fire suppression system into the home, Keohan said.
When Town Meeting voted to spend $1.5 million to restore the house in 2011, backers promised they would raise the money needed to finish the project. At the time they estimated it would take another $500,000 to do the job. If Town Meeting declines to spend any more on the project, it could be turned over to someone for another purpose, such as housing, Keohan said.
Town Meeting Member Keven Joyce warned the board that he was skeptical about spending any more on the project. It’s going to take a very serious commitment for me to vote any further money for this project. It should be open and generating revenue,” he said. Part of the plan was to pay for maintenance of the house from rentals of apartments and office space in it.
The Plymouth Antiquarian Society approached the Community Preservation Committee to offer its services as manager of the restoration project, Keohan said.
The Simes House Foundation Board of Directors agreed to present the plant to return the house to the town after the Community Preservation Committee decided not to release any more funds for the project unless the house was returned to them. “Without the money, we’re pretty much dead in the water,” said President Jim Pierson. While the board’s proposal was to negotiate the terms of the return, foundation members, at the behest of member Karen Keane, voted to simply offer the town the land back, with the condition the foundation continue to be allowed use of the grounds for fundraising and events. Members largely felt that any further discussions would delay getting needed work done on the house. “Too much time has gone by for various reasons. that’s why they’re in this position. The community is saying lets move forward with this,” said Town Meeting Member Karen Buechs.
Keohan said taking the house back would relieve the foundation of what he called the burden of managing a construction project and allow them to focus on fundraising and programs. the foundation, he said, could possibly manage the house after construction is done.