From Geoffrey Cameron, Chairman of the Trustees
You were written to by Mike Cumper on 15th February, at which time we had agreed between us that he would take over from me as Chairman on 1st April.
This however has for various reasons not happened, and I am writing to you now both to explain why, and to bring you up to date with situation at the Hall following the recent flooding.
We now know that the damage caused to the Hall by the flooding is in fact very considerable, and having met with our loss adjusters, and having taken legal advice, it is clear that that as it will take many months for the claim to be settled, and as our insurance policy is in the name of the current trustees, the loss has to remain in their names as at the date of flooding until the claim is settled.
Accordingly we have decided to delay the change of management until all formalities with regard to the insurance claim have been completed.
I am most grateful to Mike for agreeing to take over from me as Chairman, and all being well we both hope it will be possible for this to happen later in the year.
You will all wish to know how much damage has been caused by the flooding, what has been done so far to dry the Hall out, what level of work is required to bring our facilities back into use, and when we will be able to open our doors again.
Having had heavy duty commercial drying out equipment in the building for some six weeks the situation is that
whilst on the surface it appears to be reasonably dry, there remains an unacceptable degree of dampness both in the sub floor, and more worryingly in many of the walls.
Accordingly having very recently met with both our loss adjuster, and the surveyor and architect we have been authorised to employ at the expense of the insurers to manage the necessary renovation works, it is now all too clear that we will not be in a position to re-open for at least three to four months.
I am sorry 1 have not been able to provide any firm information before now, but you will appreciate we have been in the hands of our insurers, who I am pleased to say are being extremely helpful and reasonable.
It is of course up to them to decide what level of work is necessary to bring the facilities back to the condition they were before the flooding, and we have in turn had to appreciate they have not until now been in a position to establish the full level of damage caused.
Indeed earlier on they had believed the Hall had dried out to the extent that the wood block flooring that covers most of the ground floor could be saved, but once the drying out equipment had been removed it soon became clear that the level of humidity was still unacceptable.
Accordingly the decision has been taken to remove all of the wood block flooring and to inspect, and if necessary open up the walls where damp is still present so as to ensure that dry rot is not allowed to take hold, which we are led to believe by our advisers is a very real danger.
Having at long last received the green light from our insurers to proceed with the necessary replacement and renovation works, we yesterday met with both our surveyor who is to negotiate and agree the necessary contracts with the loss adjuster, and with our architect who is to draw up plans for the various works so as to be in a position to go out to tender.
We have also with the agreement of the insurer appointed a contractor very experienced in the field of insurance claim works to strip out all the flooring, and open up the walls where necessary.
This exercise is due to start immediately after Easter, giving us the month of May to agree tenders for all contracts with the insurers, with a work schedule anticipated to start on the 2nd June, if not before, and to finish in the last week of August so that, if all goes according to plan, we will be in a position to re-open in time for the commencement of the next masonic season on 4th September.
What can we expect when we move back in, accepting of course that our insurance covers replacement as was?
The answer I can assure you is very much better than before the flooding.
In addition to covering the costs of replacing the wood block flooring throughout the ground floor, the insurers have agreed to redecorate the walls at least up to ceiling level.
It is our intention to completely renovate and redecorate the whole of the Hall, and in particular to improve and modernise both the bar area, and the dining room facilities.
You will recall from my report at the last AGM that the Trustees made a grant to the Hall of £40,000 to upgrade various facilities, and since then the Middlesex Masonic Development Fund to which we all contribute decided to make grants to all of the Middlesex Centres, and we have recently received a grant from them for which we are most grateful of £20,530 in recognition of expenditure made the previous year.
All of these monies, and more if necessary, will be used to carry our planned works through, for clearly this extended period when the building will be empty is an opportunity not to be missed.
Whilst we look forward to next September, it is unfortunately all too true that we have in the meantime been greatly inconvenienced, and will be for the rest of the current masonic year.
I am most grateful for the cooperation of you all at this difficult time, and in particular I am grateful for the assistance you have received from Gary Wise, and Paul Darling-Wills with regard to alternative arrangements for meetings, and from Tony Jones, the Provincial Grand Secretary, with regard to the formalities required when meetings have been abandoned.
Please continue to liaise with them for the time being.
I have covered the situation and arrangements for the buildings side of the claim, so what of the loss of income/business interruption claim.
Whilst the claim for loss of income re catering and bar sales are concerned is not uncomplicated, the effects on you all of lost rent paid in advance for meetings either not held, or held elsewhere are clear – You will most definitely not lose out, and I have already agreed with our insurers that we will be funded so as to ensure you will be compensated accordingly.
Two other matters – First, once building work starts on 22nd April the Masonic Hall will become a building site, and as the contractor’s compound the car park will accordingly be closed, especially as it will be filled up with both large containers for storage, and skips.
Pedestrian access will be maintained so as to enable meetings to continue as at present in the two upstairs Temples.
Secondly as I believe all Lodges, Chapters and other Degrees meeting at Staines now correspond with their members on line, I would be grateful if all Secretaries could forward this letter on to them so that everybody is in the picture, and knows the proposed timetable for completion of all works – I will of course be providing regular updates as to progress throughout the spring and summer.
In once again thanking you all for your support and forbearance at this so difficult time for all of us, I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee for their help, especially our hard working Secretary and Trustee, Jim Taylor, who working closely with me throughout has helped carry the major burden since we both first trudged round the flooded rooms of the Hall in our wellington boots.
Chairman of Trustees
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