A warrant article requesting Community Preservation committee (CPC) funds to do restoration work at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown was indefinitely postponed at the May 22 annual town meeting due to concerns about an altered construction quote submitted by the Vineyard Trust.
According to draft minutes from a June 3 CPC meeting, town administrator James Hagerty told committee members that less than 24 hours before town meeting, he received “troubling information regarding the accuracy of the Vineyard Trust quote.”
The article requested $175,751 to pay for 60 percent of the restoration of the Whaling Church’s front and back façades. The Trust is a private, nonprofit organization that owns and maintains historic buildings on Martha’s Vineyard including the church, Alley’s General Store, and the Flying Horses, among other things.
“The quote had been altered by the Trust to reflect a different number and wording than what was originally presented by the contractor. [Hagerty] then consulted with town counsel and CPC chair [and Edgartown select board member Margaret] Serpa, who agreed that considering they did not have all of the facts of the matter, and that town meeting was the next day, indefinite postponement was the right form of action.”
The Times obtained the three separate quotes under letterhead from John C. Anderson through a public records request.
The first set, dated Sept. 14, 2020, is a proposal submitted to the Vineyard Trust by Anderson for “the painting of the ‘Old Whaling Church.’ Front Pediment, Entablature, Complete Columns (6) and the complete back of church.” The total projected cost was estimated at $231,617.
The second set is a copy of the first with alterations made in pen that change the proposal to “the restoration work of the ‘Old Whaling Church.’ Front Pediment, Entablature, Complete Columns (6) and the complete back of church.” Changes to the prices for labor and materials are also written in pen, in raising the estimated project cost by $60,000 to $292,917— of which 60 percent, or $175,750, was requested at annual town meeting.
The third set, which was submitted to the CPC by the Trust, significantly changes the original quote submitted by Anderson, but keeps the same font and letterhead to appear like Anderson’s original quote. It changes language to explicitly state all painting will be part of restoration work, and sets the total cost of the project at $292,917.
The minutes state that Hagerty met with Anderson, who said he was not aware of changes to his quote. Hagerty also felt that two meetings with the Vineyard Trust to bring the issue to light did not provide adequate answers, and therefore felt the issue should be brought to a public CPC meeting.
Town counsel Ron Rappaport said certain types of painting were not eligible for CPC funds.
“Mr. Rappaport stated that painting is not eligible for CPC funding as maintenance, and the changes to say restoration instead, which is eligible, was concerning,” according to the minutes.
The minutes also state that Serpa was “very disappointed,” and that the money “could’ve gone toward other projects.”
Community Preservation funds are gathered through a surcharge on property taxes. The funds can be used to purchase open space, affordable housing, and for historic preservation.
Hagerty suggested looking back at all Trust invoices and reconciling them with contractor invoices.
Speaking to The Times by phone Friday, Hagerty said the town receives a significant amount of CPC applications each year, and only a certain amount of funds the town can spend. “The town took action as soon as they knew about this situation, and it’s unfortunate,” Hagerty said.
Trust president and CEO Funi Burdick and board of trustees chair Patrick Ahearn could not immediately be reached for comment.