Port gets more time for application to obtain structure, but officials concerned that Geek Group is still in running
Port Washington officials received good news and bad news regarding their application for the city’s lighthouse this week, Mayor Tom Mlada said.
The good news is that the deadline for the city’s application to obtain the lighthouse from the federal government has been extended to Jan. 21, giving officials more time to beef up the form, Mlada said.
But the bad news is that the Geek Group, a Michigan-based nonprofit agency aimed at fostering people’s interest in science and engineering, still plans to submit an application for the lighthouse, Mlada said.
As a matter of fact, Mlada said, the Geek Group had also sought and been granted an extension on the application deadline by the National Park Service.
City officials had hoped that the fact the Geek Group did not send a representative to an inspection of the lighthouse indicated the organization was no longer interested in acquiring the structure.
Chris Boden, president and chief executive officer of the Geek Group, would not comment Tuesday on whether the group planned to submit an application for the lighthouse.
In July, Boden said that if the group acquired the lighthouse, it would open it up to its members to do environmental and alternative energy research.
“We’re not going to tear it down,” he said at the time, adding the Geek Group realizes the importance the lighthouse has to the city. “We have a deep appreciation for that. That’s why we’re not going to do anything stupid. We’re very community oriented.”
The Coast Guard declared the lighthouse surplus property earlier this year. It was then placed on a list of properties to be divested by the federal government. Only two groups, the city and the Geek Group, are vying for ownership of the structure.
Although acquiring and maintaining a lighthouse would be expensive — the estimated cost of repairing the porthole windows came in at $18,000, Mlada said — for Port officials, the decision to seek ownership of the structure was relatively easy. The Art Deco-styled lighthouse, which has graced the harbor since 1935, is a city landmark.
For many people, a trip to Port isn’t complete without a visit to the lighthouse, which is a symbol of the community used on everything from the city logo to postcards.
Mlada said the deadline extension will give the city time to refine its application.
“We need to make this application as robust as possible,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into this, and I want to make sure what we submit reflects that.”
He noted that the city is seeking letters of support for its application to show the backing the city has received in its quest for the structure.
The city has already invested significantly in the lighthouse, Mlada noted. It is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to stabilize the breakwater leading to the lighthouse and investing a significant amount of time and money in that venture, and making improvements that will allow more people to access the structure.
Mlada said he hopes to present the Common Council with a preliminary application on Jan. 5, although the completed document isn’t due until Jan. 21.
After the document is submitted to the federal government, there is a 60-day review period before officials will learn whether the city or the Geek Group will get the lighthouse.
“I’m going to move forward with the thought that at the end of March we’re going to be offered conveyance of the lighthouse,” Mlada said.