Port’s application to acquire landmark backed by National Park Service panel but final approval still pending
Port Washington’s quest to own the lighthouse that is a symbol of the city took a step forward Monday when officials learned their application for the structure was approved by a National Park Service committee.
“That’s the good news,” Mayor Tom Mlada told the Common Council Tuesday.
The bad news, he said, is that the recommendation now has to go through three layers of the federal government.
“They’re saying the process now could take one to two years,” Mlada said, adding that officials with the Park Service have told him they have never seen a recommendation on ownership overturned as it goes through the process.
Although he conceded the additional time is discouraging, Mlada said it also gives the city time to develop a preservation and maintenance plan it can implement when it receives ownership of the lighthouse.
“This is a really important historic asset for the city,” he said. “We want to showcase it.”
The city is continuing to work on improvements to the breakwater leading to the lighthouse, Mlada added.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ work on the steel cell section of the breakwater is on schedule, he said, and is expected to be completed by June 30 — just in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
“It’s really going to transform the face of that structure,” Mlada said.
Work on the entrance to the breakwater will then begin in August, Mlada said, noting the city is currently seeking bids for that portion of the project.
The Common Council on Tuesday approved a $49,000 contract with Foth Infrastructure and Environment to prepare an application for a recreational boating fund grant from the Wisconsin Waterways Commission for repairs to the far east end of the breakwater.
Ron French of Foth told aldermen that the application, which is due June 1, will seek $400,000 to $600,000 from the agency, roughly 20% of the estimated $3.1 million cost for the gateway project.
As part of the submission, he said, divers on Monday will inspect the underwater portions of the east end of the breakwater.
When Ald. Doug Biggs questioned how likely the city is to receive a grant, French estimated it is 85% to 100% certain the city will get something, even if it’s not the full amount.
The city will also be submitting an application for an emergency Harbor Assistance Program grant for that portion of the breakwater, French said.
That application will seek roughly $2.6 million for the project, he said.
Mlada said the city is seeking an emergency grant because that portion of the breakwater was considered in “failed” condition when the Army Corps of Engineers inspected it in 2013.
The goal, Mlada said, is for the city to receive enough funding that it can complete the entire breakwater project by the end of 2017.
Ald. Bill Driscoll said that it’s important for the city to continue pushing forward, noting that this final phase will also include some work on the south breakwater, which he said was in the worst shape when the Corps of Engineers inspected it.
“I think we’re pushing it with that,” he said. “It’s the only part that’s been ignored.”