Town wary as Penfield Light goes back on auction block
Updated 5:17 pm, Thursday, May 3, 2012
The Penfield Reef Lighthouse may not have slipped the town's anchor after all.
The historic lighthouse was put up for auction by the federal government last year, and while a town committee was established to raise funds with the goal of purchasing the beacon, which stands in Long Island Sound just off Penfield Beach, the committee never submitted a bid.
Fundraising only totaled about $22,000, and town officials they had been outbid by a $45,000 winning bid. However, Patrick Sclafani, public affairs officer with the General Services Administration's New England Region, said the government did not accept the high bid from that auction "because it did not meet the government's expectation of value for the property."
A new auction for the lighthouse is slated to begin June 1, he said.
With that news, the committee returned Wednesday to the Board of Selectmen and asked that the original committee be dissolved and a new one be created to work under the original charge approved by the selectmen.
"The opportunity to purchase became entangled in one element of housekeeping that the GSA did not make clear," said Sandye Mann, the committee chairwoman, "and that was that no one would be allowed to reside in the lighthouse."
The selectmen, however, denied both requests and plan to take up the matter at a later meeting.
"Why does the committee have to be dissolved and a new one formed?" said Selectman James Walsh, adding that the board could simply revise the committee's charge. "We can just amend the charge, rather than starting from scratch."
Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey agreed, adding there also needs to be a discussion about whether the town would be willing to accept and maintain the lighthouse if the GSA can be convinced this time to simply give the lighthouse to the town.
Several years ago, the National Parks Service took applications from non-profit groups interested in taking over the lighthouse and the town submitted one of the two applications received. However, the lighthouse was awarded to Beacon Preservation, which later became embroiled in a dispute over the bottom lands and never took ownership. At that point, rather than awarding the lighthouse to the town, it was put on the federal government's auction list.
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