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Hospice postpones sale of Watertown property

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The Hospice Foundation of Jefferson County Inc. postponed a planned closing Wednesday on the sale of its Washington Street property after an objection was raised by real estate developer P.J. Simao that the nonprofit organization was not receiving an adequate amount from the sale.

Diana K. Woodhouse, chief executive officer of Hospice of Jefferson County, said despite the pending sale’s being approved by both the state Supreme Court and the state attorney general, the foundation board decided to hire an attorney to provide “a third-party review” of the transaction to alleviate any concerns in the community that the sale was not fully scrutinized.

“We decided to just have one more neutral party take a look at it,” Mrs. Woodhouse said. “We want to make sure all the legal i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.”

Mr. Simao, who has helped Hospice raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, took issue with, among other things, the proposed sale price being less than half what a state-certified real estate appraiser said the property is worth.

The foundation, which provides financial support to Hospice of Jefferson County, has entered into a contract with N&G Rentals LLC, Watertown, whose managing member is Watertown accountant Jerry R. Gardner, to sell the two-story, 5,500-square-foot brick building at 425 Washington St. for $150,000. Mr. Simao contends that a 2011 appraisal set the property’s value at $365,000, while the city has assessed the tax-exempt property at $335,400 and estimates its full market value at $376,000. The foundation purchased the property in the early 1990s for $290,000.

The building sat unsold for more than a year and a more recent opinion of the property offered by a second certified appraiser, who did not conduct a full appraisal of it, found that the building needs about $150,000 in upgrades and renovations to become suitable as professional office, thus putting the $150,000 sale price in line with its full market value.

Mrs. Woodhouse said Wednesday that Hospice has not yet found an attorney to conduct its review. Among other considerations for the foundation board would be any potential consequences for backing out of an otherwise legal contract to sell the property, such as possible costs of litigation should the matter wind up in court.

Mrs. Woodhouse said Hospice is still planning to close on the sale “by the end of the year.” Hospice no longer needs the property following construction of an eight-bed residence, including office space, at 1398 Gotham St. Proceeds of the sale will defray costs of constructing the Gotham Street facility.

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