Port gets a little help with lighthouse restoration

City receives $40,000 grant for engineering but still has to pay for work

Fog shrouded the Port Washington breakwater and lighthouse. Press file photo
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Efforts to restore the Port Washington lighthouse took a step forward recently when the city was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.

The grant will help pay for architectural and engineering services for the restoration program, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.

“I’m extremely happy we got the grant,” Vanden Noven said. “The Coastal Management Program has been very good for Port Washington.”

This is the third year the agency has provided a grant to the City of Port, he said, noting it provided funding for the city’s downtown master plan, which is currently underway, and the Heart of the Harbor plaza.

In the past, he added, the Coastal Management program has also helped fund Rotary and Coal Dock parks and the Port Exploreum.

Representatives of Legacy Architecture, which conducted an evaluation of the lighthouse in 2017, and MSA, an engineering firm, are expected to inspect the lighthouse this week, Vanden Noven said.

“Once they have had a chance to look at the lighthouse, we’ll have a better idea of what the restoration costs will be,” he added.

The restoration work is expected to cost as much as $2 million, he said.

That amount, officials said, includes everything from reinforcing the steel structure, to repainting it, replacing the broken porthole windows and pouring a new concrete base that will match the recently repaired breakwater.

Vanden Noven said that the engineering work is expected to cost less than $100,000. The city hasn’t hired a contractor to do that work yet, but is expected to do so by June.

The actual work won’t begin until after July, Vanden Noven said, noting the city has to sign an agreement with the Coastal Management program first, and the program’s fiscal year doesn’t start until July 1.

The Coastal Management grant is a matching grant, and Vanden Noven said the city’s share of the cost will be covered by money in this year’s budget.

The city has struggled to find ways to pay for the lighthouse restoration since it gained control of the structure in 2018.

At that time, officials said it would cost as much as $30,000 just to fix the porthole windows and as much as $1 million to repaint the lighthouse.

Many people questioned those estimates, particularly the amount required for painting the structure. However, officials attributed the high cost to the fact  the lighthouse is covered in lead-based paint, which requires a contractor to enclose the structure and use negative pressure to contain the substance during the painting process.

The actual restoration work is expected to be done next year.

“We’re hoping to complete the work next year,” Vanden Noven said.

The lighthouse has stood sentinel over the harbor since it was built in 1935. The structure consists of a metal Art Deco tower that rests on a 20-foot-square cement base that has large arches on each of its faces.

Since it was constructed, the lighthouse has been a symbol of Port Washington, used on everything from the city’s logo to postcards. But in recent years, it has fallen into disrepair and efforts to fix it have largely gone unrealized.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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