Committee eyes better view of lighthouse
FAIRFIELD — The town may have lost out on ownership of the Penfield Reef lighthouse, but landlubbers will be able to get a better view of the historic building, thanks to the preservation committee.
The town has attempted to acquire the lighthouse every time it was put up for auction by the federal government, once it was designated as excess property in 2005 by the U.S. Coast Guard. Now the lighthouse is in a “soft close.”
The high bidder from the online auction — the winning bid was $282,345 — is working with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on a lease for the submerged lands underneath the lighthouse, according to Sara Massarello, from the U.S. General Services Administration. She said that lease must be executed prior to the deed conveyance.
The local lighthouse committee, however, had raised $13,800 in donations that would have gone toward the purchase. Instead, it will pay for a dual telescope.
Committee Chairwoman Sherri Steeneck said her group had to decide what to do with those donations, especially since anyone who had made a donation had already taken advantage of the tax benefits.
“I didn’t know if we even could give it back,” Steeneck said, so she got in contact with the state Attorney General’s Office.
After some investigation, Steeneck said they were told they could not return the donations, and they needed to go through the courts to get approval on how to spend the funds. It was suggested they go through the local Probate Court, and Steeneck said that is what they plan to do.
In the meantime, however, the committee went to the Parks and Recreation Commission for its endorsement of the plan for the telescope, two fiberglass placards depicting the history of the lighthouse, and a granite boulder with a plaque stating it was the best location from which to view the lighthouse.
The commission unanimously approved the proposal. The dual telescope would be placed at the front of Penfield Pavilion, but the exact location will be left to Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese.
“It’s a win-win-win all the way around,” Steeneck said.
The lighthouse was established in 1874, and is build in the Second Empire style. In 1990, the 51-foot-tall building, accessible only by boat, was listed on the National Register of Historic Property.
Marking a submerged reef that extends southeastward from Penfield Beach, the lighthouse sustained damage from Superstorm Sandy. In 2015, the federal government restored the exterior, for the most part, to its 19th century appearance.