The landmark Penfield Reef Lighthouse will get a facelift, necessitated to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Coast Guard Commander William Smith, who oversees the service's civil engineering unit, on Wednesday updated the Board of Selectmen about the rehabilitation plans for the 140-year-old lighthouse a little over a mile from the town's shoreline. The Coast Guard manned the lighthouse until it was automated in 1971.
The lighthouse, which has unsuccessfully been offered for sale by the federal government twice, remains in federal hands.
The blocky structure topped by the light, built in 1874, was battered by a 13-foot storm surge and waves that Smith estimated at 30 feet during Superstorm Sandy. The last time major repairs were done to the lighthouse was 2001.
"Panels in windows and doors were pushed in, and the built-in gutter on the roof was torn apart," Smith said. "The list goes on and on."
He said the repairs are needed to make the lighthouse safe for Coast Guard personnel to maintain the still-active beacon for navigation in Long Island Sound.
The repair project is currently out for bids, and Smith estimates the work may cost between $500,000 and $1 million.
"Much of it is external repairs, and a lot of the external historic fabric is gone," he said. "The entire area needs a lot of repair work."
First Selectman Michael Tetreau asked when the repair work is likely to take place.
"Once we have the bids in hand, which will probably be around July or August, I would expect that a lot of the work is going to happen in late summer and early fall," Smith said.
However, he said, it might not be completed prior to winter. In that case, repairs would be finished in the spring.
When the federal government first put the lighthouse on the auction block in 2008, it was offered for free to a nonprofit group, and the town attempted to win control. However, a private preservation group was awarded the lighthouse, but never actually took possession when the transfer got bogged down in litigation.
When it went up for bid again a few years later, a committee formed by the town was unable to come up with enough money to submit a winning bid. Again, the lighthouse sale to a private individual also fell through.