Lighthouse report details costs
MANISTIQUE – A recent report regarding the East Breakwater Lighthouse sheds some light on how much the city would have to spend to acquire the structure. The light was put up for “disposal” to eligible entities, such as the city, by the U.S. General Services Administration earlier this year.
In June, the Manistique City Council voted to spend approximately $2,500 to finance an engineering plan and to partner with the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy to potentially acquire the light.
Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, the National Park Service evaluates applications from parties interested in obtaining the light, and then makes a recommendation to the GSA. Any party must comply with conditions set forth in the NHLPA and must be financially able to maintain the historic light. Regardless of which party acquires the light, the NHLPA stipulates the United States Coast Guard will maintain various easements to the light.
As part of the application process, the city’s report from Sanders and Czapski Associates, architecture/historic preservation firm, will assist in estimating how much the city will need to spend in order to take over ownership of the light. According to the report, the estimated cost to bring the lighthouse up to requirements is approximately $155,000. This includes: stabilization and public safety improvements, interior rehabilitation/restoration, and exterior rehabilitation/restoration.
According to Ken Czapski, architect, the existing condition assessment and preliminary cost estimates outline several issues with the lighthouse, primarily in regard to public safety. Once remedied, the lighthouse could possibly be open to the public – a potential funding source previously discussed by the city.
“The … light is in structurally sound condition and is a significant historic resource,” Czapski details in his report. “Minimal stabilization work is required to protect this structure from further deterioration as ownership is transferred.”
In addition to updating the light, the city will also have to prepare a condition assessment report, construction plans and specifications, and update or restore site elements, such as exterior lighting and signage. This would bring the city’s initial cost to approximately $173,000, not including application fees.
In the next steps of the application process, the city will need to provide their plan for maintenance, use, management, and financial support of the light. The biggest hurdle – paying for updating and maintaining the lighthouse – could be overcome using numerous methods. According to the Preliminary Financial Planning Document, provided by Czapski, this could include: creating a “Friends of the Light” group, annual fundraising dinners, light tour donations, non-matching grants, city or Downtown Development Authority funding, etc.
Jeff Shook, of the MLC, explained the report is favorable for the city.
“Basically we are looking at the cost of a single family home to restore the light,” he said. “It is a very reasonable figure in the lighthouse world.”
The actual cost to restore the light may vary if additional equipment, such as a boat or barge is needed, Shook added, but the city and MLC is hoping to get all needed equipment out to the light via the breakwall or donated boats or barges. As noted by preliminary report, Shook said the next step is all about financing.
“The powers to be need to make the final commitment to fund this project so we can take the next steps,” he said. “Not much time is left in the application process to get it all written up.”
According to City Manager Sheila Aldrich, the report will be addressed at the next city council meeting, where members will likely decide whether to move forward with the application process and commit to obtaining the lighthouse. She explained the cost was less expensive than initially expected, and that the city would be able to find grants to cover some of it.
“There are a couple of grant options we already know about, and we will continue to look for grants to cover those costs and complete one piece of the restoration project at a time,” she explained. “We had an understanding that we wouldn’t be expected to do it all in one shot, but could complete it piece by piece.”
Aldrich noted that it was a relief to read in the report that the light was structurally sound – a worry from the beginning of the process. Now, she explained, the city will await the rest of the engineering portion of the application process.